'Imagine it was Scotland!' EU defends failure to act as a mediator for Spain and Catalonia

Posted on Oct 12 2017 - 12:03am by admin

EU diplomats said the stand-off between Madrid and Barcelona is an “extremely complicated and sensitive issue” for the remaining member states who have been highly reluctant to get involved. 

Yesterday the leader of Catalonia, Carlos Puigdemont, declared that the region will become an independent Republic but also immediately suspended a decision on when this will happen. 

The announcement was seen as a compromise with Spain and drew some of the sting out of a volatile 10 days since the Catalan government held its illegal referendum on secession. 

The vote was marred by scenes of shocking brutality meted out by Spanish police, who beat innocent people with batons and fired rubber bullets into crowds of women and children. 

Madrid has been unrepentant over the violence and has kept up its fiery rhetoric against the region, with PM Mariano Rajoy telling MPs today that Catalan independence is “a fairly tale that will not come true”. 

He also insisted that any mediation is “not necessary” because the referendum vote went against the Spanish constitution, which says the country can never be broken up, and was therefore illegal. 

Brussels however has come under intense criticism after it refused to condemn the shocking scenes, which saw around 900 people injured, and instead gave its full backing to Mr Rajoy and his use of “proportional” force. 

With the crisis escalating, some observers have argued that the EU should be prepared to step is an an international mediator to solve the dispute between Catalonia and Spain. 

But asked about this prospect today, a senior EU diplomat said other member states would be incredibly reluctant to get involved in what they see as an internal Spanish affair. 

She said: “This is an extremely complicated and sensitive issue for Member States. At the moment we’re discussing Spain, but could the UK imagine that the EU is mitigating between Scotland and London? 

“I think this is something where we need to tread very, very carefully and I think as for the position of the EU nothing has changed. We say that we respect the rule of law and we still trust in the democracy of Spain. 

She added: “I would personally think that there are some positive developments taking place right at the moment but this is for Spain to decide.”  

Scotland held its own independence referendum in 2014, in which voters decided to remain part of the UK. However, unlike the Catalan vote, Ediburgh’s poll was fully sanctioned by the British Govenrment. 

Also today the International Monetary Fund warned that the possible secession of Catalonia – a region of 9 million people that is Spain’s richest – risked destabilising the whole eurozone economy. 

The IMF’s chief economist Maurice Obstfeld said that there is a ”risk of contagion” in the “worrying” situation in Catalonia and demanded negotiations take place to stem the fallout.

He told Elmundo newspaper: “The situation in Catalonia is worrying because it creates a lot of uncertainty, both for the Catalan economy and for the Spanish economy.

“The only thing we can do is hope for both sides to negotiate. They have a lot to gain if they do.”

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