The European Commission stays silent on Catalonia despite questioning / Catalonia: Political group leaders discuss situation with Frans Timmermans

Series Title
Series Details 21.09.17
Publication Date 21/09/2017
Content Type

While for many years the Catalan region of Spain had obtained a degree of autonomy from the Madrid government, there have been calls by Catalan nationalists for further moves towards independence from Spain. This included a self-determination referendum that was held in 2014.

The Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, began a process in December 2016 to hold a further referendum and the date for this was eventiually fixed for 1 October 2017.

The Spanish government said that a Catalan independence referendum would be illegal because it was unconstitutional, and that it would file charges if any actions were undertaken to organise it.

Throughout September 2017, the Catalan Government and pro-independence supporters pressed ahead with plans to hold the independence referendum on 1 October 2017, while the central government in Madrid worked to prevent the vote from taking place.

The referendum was held by the Catalan government on the 1 October 2017. The holding of the referendum was opposed by the Spanish government and was declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

Further information:

+ The days leading up to the referendum
+ The result and immediate aftermath of the referendum
+ The reaction in the EU Institutions to the referendum
+ Commentary features concerning the referendum
+ Declaration of independence, 10 October 2017
+ The economic impact for Spain and Catalonia

To find all the information sources in ESO on the issue click here.In the context of the pro-independence government in Catalonia, and its supporters, planning a referendum to take place in the 'nation / region' on the 1 October 2017, and the opposition of the Spanish Popular Party (PP) government, with the support of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), there was much interest in how the European Commission and other EU Member States would react to the intensifying tensions during September 2017. However, any EU intervention on the issue would only cause 'a lot more chaos'.

Formally, the European Commission reiterated its long-stated line that the issue was an internal affair within Spain, and that the Commission 'respects the law and constitutional order of Spain'.

Catalonia's representative to the EU, Amadeu Altafaj said on the 21 September 2017 'I sadly miss more constructive, responsible engagement by the European institutions, in particular from the European Commission'.

Following the holding of the referendum on the 1 October 2017 the European Commission issued a statement:

'Under the Spanish Constitution, yesterday's vote in Catalonia was not legal.

For the European Commission, as President Juncker has reiterated repeatedly, this is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain.

We also reiterate the legal position held by this Commission as well as by its predecessors. If a referendum were to be organised in line with the Spanish Constitution it would mean that the territory leaving would find itself outside of the European Union'.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans discussed the constitution, rule of law and fundamental rights in Spain, further to events in Catalonia, on the 4 October 2017.

European Commission President Juncker said on the 13 October 2017 said in a speech at the University of Luxembourg: 'I wouldn’t like a European Union in 15 years that consists of some 98 states ... It’s already relatively difficult with 28 and with 27 not easier, but with 98 it would simply be impossible'.

At a press conference ahead of the European Council, Brussels, 19-20 October 2017 European Council President Donald Tusk said that the situation in Spain and Catalonia was 'concerning' but ruled out EU mediation. 'There is no room, no space for any kind of mediation or international initiative or action', he said.

In a speech in Russia on the 19 October 2017 Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the EU of hypocrisy and having 'double standards' by rejecting Catalan independence but supporting independence in 2008 for Kosovo.

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Related Links
Carnegie Europe, 03.11.17: [Opinion] EU Needs a Smarter Response to the Catalonia Crisis
Catalan News, 02.10.17: EU fails to condemn Spanish police violence
ESO: Key Source: Catalan independence referendum, 2017
EUObserver, 21.09.17: EU 'embarrassed' by Catalan 'taboo'
EurActiv, 22.09.17: Catalan referendum: The EU’s silence
Politico, 02-03.10.17: As Spain falls apart, Europe is tongue-tied
El País, 13.10.17: Juncker: 'If we allow Catalonia to separate, others will do the same'
The Guardian, 13.10.17: EU intervention in Catalonia would cause chaos, Juncker says
EurActiv, 27.09.17: Commission silent as Madrid shuts down websites ahead of Catalonia referendum
Catalan News, 29.09.17: European Parliament rejects Catalan referendum debate in next plenary session
European Parliament: Press Release, 04.10.17: Catalonia: Political group leaders discuss situation with Frans Timmermans
Politico, 02.10.17: European Parliament to debate Catalan independence vote
Politico, 04-06.10.17: Brussels defends use of ‘proportionate force’ in Catalonia
Blog: LSE EuroppBlog, 10.10.17: The Catalan independence movement is pro-EU – but will the EU accept it?
EUObserver, 13.10.17: [Opinion]: Catalonia crisis tears at fabric of EU
European Commission: STATEMENT/17/3626 (02.10.17): Statement on the events in Catalonia
Blog: LSE EuroppBlog, 09.10.17: The EU must step in if Spain and Catalonia are to negotiate an end to the crisis
Blog: Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 06.10.17: Catalonia and European Democracy
Social Europe, 24.10.17: Abuse Of The Rule Of Law In The EU
EUObserver, 02.10.17: EU Commission calls for dialogue in Catalan crisis
EUObserver, 03.10.17: EU commission's credibility eroding, says Catalonia
El País, 20.10.17: Merkel, Macron and May show support for Spain over Catalan crisis
EUObserver, 19.10.17: [Opinion]: Commission employs double standards in Spain
BBC News, 19.10.17: Catalan crisis: EU leaders rule out involvement in crisis
Politico, 19.10.17: Putin accuses EU of ‘double standards’ on Catalonia and Kosovo
The Conversation, 19.10.17: Why the European Union’s hands are tied over Catalonia

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