Brussels could do more to mediate the constitutional crisis in Spain, and its rejection of Catalan’s independence declaration is a blow to similar movements across Europe, Olivier Berthelot of the Brittany-based Parti Breton told Sputnik.
Amid a constitutional crisis following Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont’s declaration of independence, the EU should step up to mediate between supporters of independence in Catalonia and Madrid, Olivier Berthelot of the Brittany-based Parti Breton told Sputnik.
“Unfortunately, we see that today this joint home is turning into a joint prison, since Europe isn’t responding to requests for mediation from supporters of independence,” Berthelot complained.
The European Commission has sided with the Spanish government, describing the independence referendum held October 1 as “not legal” and an “internal matter for Spain.” The EU’s budget commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, described the situation as “very disturbing,” adding that “one can only hope that there is soon a discussion between Madrid and Barcelona.”
“Mediation by the EU would only be possible if we were asked, not if we aren’t asked,” he said, the German news agency dpa reported.
The majority of Catalan independence supporters are pro-EU, Berthelot says. He drew parallels with the independence movement in Brittany, where Parti Breton is campaigning for independence from France.
“Catalans support the EU, just like Bretons do. The majority of Brittany residents want to live in a joint home called Europe,” he promised.
“It’s very sad that the democratic process has not been followed by dialogue, although the Catalans, like the Bretons, are peaceful people who are ready for dialogue and ready to listen. These are very sensible people,” Berthelot said.
“They are simply told that a common European home is a common home, that this is not a question of citizenship, even though previously they talked about European citizenship in particular. ‘If you leave, you will be deprived of your European citizenship and they will also try to take away the flagships of your economy from you.’ These kinds of things make you think.”
Berthelot thinks that independence movements in Catalonia and Brittany could learn a lot from the example of Scotland. Voters there voted for devolution 20 years ago and the country has its own parliament with the power to make laws in areas such as taxation, welfare and elections, while remaining a part of the United Kingdom.
“In Scotland, for example, they started small: twenty years ago, the Scottish National Party got barely 3% of votes. They just tried to explain to people that Scotland needs more powers, more autonomy – and they got their own parliament. They showed their fellow citizens that it was good for them. Even if they did not achieve independence (the no vote won in the last referendum), they have peaceful relations with the British, who have recognized them as a nation. But the Spaniards refuse to do the same for Catalonia and the French don’t want to do the same for Brittany,” Berthelot complained.
After Spain’s Constitutional Court declared the Catalan referendum void, the Spanish government dispatched two police forces to enforce the court order along with Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra police force. Hundreds were left injured in clashes between police and protestors, including 19 national police and 14 Civil Guards.
Despite efforts to prevent the referendum from going ahead, turnout exceeded 43 percent. More than 2.28 million voters, or 90.18 percent of those who voted, supported the secession of Catalonia from Spain.
Puigdemont addressed the Catalans on Tuesday, telling them that he wants to “follow the people’s will for Catalonia to become an independent state,” but added that it was important to reduce tensions surrounding the vote.
The Catalan President therefore proposed to suspend the effect of the independence declaration in favor of continuing talks with Madrid. The Spanish government, which could decide to suspend the region’s current autonomous status, gave Puigdemont five days to clarify whether he actually declared the region’s independence or not.