Friday, 27 October 2017

The EU reaction to the Catalonia crisis is absolutely unacceptable

October 27th 2017 will go down as a historic day in Catalonia no matter what happens from here on in. The Catalan parliament has voted to declare independence from Spain, and the Spanish nationalist government in Madrid has responded by launching a coup against the democratic and social institutions of Catalonia. 

Within minutes of the Catalan declaration of independence the right-wing Spanish government moved to scrap the Catalan parliament, and to give themselves to power to seize control of the Catalan police (Mossos) and independent Catalan broadcast media.

The Spanish prosecutor in Madrid has threatened that everybody involved in the independence vote will be arrested and held as political prisoners like the two Catalan civic leaders Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart who are already being held captive.

Anyone with any political sense whatever must be able to see what an atrocious mess the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has made of the situation with his tactics of violent repression and continual bone-headed escalation.

When he used brute force against non-violent civilians on the day of the referendum he not only created a PR disaster for Spain, he also completely destroyed his ability to cite the low poll turnout as a reason the referendum lacks legitimacy (you can't steal an estimated 700,000 votes from ballot boxes and violently intimidate people away from the polling stations, then complain the turnout wasn't high enough).

When he continually refused to enter dialogue with the Catalan secessionists after the vote, and set about plotting a coup to abolish the Catalan parliament instead, he simply spurred them on to make their independence declaration before the Spanish nationalist coup was launched.

Sadly a lot of people who oppose Catalan independence have bought into the simplistic tribal mentality that if you oppose the Catalan secession, then you need to side with and justify the idiotic and self-defeating moves that Mariano Rajoy and the Spanish nationalist establishment have made in response.

Even more disappointingly, several politicians and institutions that should have been positioning themselves as neutrals have destroyed any hope that they can mediate between the factions by openly siding with the Spanish nationalist government in Madrid.

Just hours before the Catalan parliament declared independence and Madrid responded by launching their coup, the EU President Donald Tusk issued what is likely to be remembered as on of the most ill-considered political statements an EU representative has ever made.

His absurd proclamation that "nothing changes", his determination that the EU will only talk with Madrid, and his pathetic "hope" that the Spanish nationalist government don't resort to violence (again) are unacceptable.

Whichever way you look at it "nothing changes" is a delusional rejection of observable reality. Not only has the Catalan parliament unilaterally declared independence from Spain, the Spanish government is launching a social and political coup against Catalonia.

Spain is undergoing its worst political crisis since it joined the EU. In fact it's arguably the worst crisis since the 1936-39 civil war when the fascist  military dictator Franco seized control of the country and set about brutally repressing the Catalan people until 1975.

If this kind of extraordinary political meltdown is considered business as usual in the EU, then perhaps the Brexiters were right all along that the EU is an absolutely farcical organisation that the UK is better off out of?

Tusk's declaration that Spain remains the EU's "only interlocutor" is a catastrophic error of judgement under the circumstances. If the EU leadership had any sense whatever they'd be positioning themselves as neutral mediators not openly siding with Madrid and refusing to even talk to the Catalan political leaders, because after all, the Catalan people are EU citizens too.

Then to tack a vague wishy-washy sound bite onto the end of his statement about how he hopes that the Spanish government favours "force of argument not argument of force" is simply not good enough.

The Spanish government already graphically demonstrated its willingness to resort to violence and repression on October 1st (we all saw it happening on social media) and the EU demonstrated its refusal to condemn it, so EU figures simply hoping that the Spanish government don't resort to violent repression again is clearly no disincentive whatever.

What Tusk should have done is explain that it would be unacceptable for an EU member nation to resort to violence and repression against EU citizens, because all EU citizens are entitled to freedom of speech and freedom from state repression.

Another problem with this vague hope that the Spanish government don't resort to violence and repression is that it's stark-staringly obvious that the only way that conflict and violence can be averted now is through urgent dialogue and mediation. Something that Tusk made all the more difficult in his previous sentence affirming that the EU sides with the Spanish government and has no interest whatever in talking to the Catalans or taking on the role of the neutral mediator.

It's hardly possible to be disappointed with the belligerent, violent, and anti-democratic escalations of Mariano Rajoy and his party. He was always a fool promoted way beyond his abilities, and they were always a bunch of extraordinarily corrupt hard-right fanatics. Only a fool would have expected better from that repulsive bunch.

However, the EU stance, as outlined in Donald Tusk's Twitter statement, is absolutely exasperating. 

If they continue to bury their heads in the sand and refuse to act as impartial mediators this crisis is only going to get worse, and the EU's critics will have an absolute field day when Catalonia descends into tyranny, police violence, mass civil disobedience, the taking of political prisoners, or even tanks on the streets of Barcelona.

It's bad enough that the EU allows this kind of extreme political repression to go on just across the border in Turkey without imposing sanctions and demanding the restoration of liberal democracy, but it'll be a whole new level of wrongness if they allow this kind of repression within EU borders and against EU citizens, and insist on siding with the government that is inflicting it.

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