Why EU fears in­de­pen­dent Cat­alo­nia

Yorkshire Post - - OPINION -

ONE OF the key ar­gu­ments of the Re­main­ers is that the EU is the ul­ti­mate guar­an­tor of our civil lib­er­ties in the un­likely event of our demo­crat­i­cally elected govern­ment wish­ing to strip them away.

Af­ter watch­ing thug­gish Spanish po­lice beat­ing white-haired grannies to a pulp and drag­ging young women out of polling sta­tions by their hair – with the full back­ing of the EU – I think we can safely lay that mis­taken no­tion to rest.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion – un­elected and un­ac­count­able let’s not for­get – de­creed that the de­ci­sion of the Spanish govern­ment to un­leash a wave of dis­gust­ing vi­o­lence against its own ci­ti­zens – peace­ful, un­armed peo­ple queu­ing up to vote in Cat­alo­nia – was “pro­por­tion­ate”.

Mean­while the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice and the Euro­pean Court of Hu­man Rights (which, of course, is not part of the EU), which are nor­mally des­per­ately keen to med­dle in the in­ter­nal af­fairs of mem­ber states on triv­ial mat­ters, have re­mained com­pletely silent on this gross vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights. What ex­actly is the point of th­ese bodies?

The mes­sage to the peo­ple of Cat­alo­nia is clear – your rights to self­de­ter­mi­na­tion, free ex­pres­sion and with riot sticks is not the best way of bring­ing them around to your point of view.

The Spanish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy claims the ref­er­en­dum ear­lier this month – in which 90 per cent voted for in­de­pen­dence – was un­con­sti­tu­tional and his bru­tal ac­tions are sim­ply an at­tempt to up­hold the law.

He has now given the sep­a­ratists five days to clar­ify whether they have de­clared in­de­pen­dence and has threat­ened to im­pose di­rect rule on the re­gion. If the only way of keep­ing Cat­alo­nia as part of Spain is by vi­o­lence and re­pres­sion, then ul­ti­mately it will not work.

As we saw un­der the Franco dic­ta­tor­ship, the crush­ing of dis­sent can suc­ceed in keep­ing the coun­try to­gether for a time, par­tic­u­larly if Ra­joy re­tains the sup­port of the EU, but if the peo­ple do not want to be ruled by Madrid then even­tu­ally they will get their way.

And this is what ter­ri­fies Brus­sels above all else. If Cat­alo­nia splits, then why not the Basque coun­try, Flan­ders, Wal­lo­nia and Pada­nia (North­ern Italy)? And sud­denly the once-mighty em­pire is dis­in­te­grat­ing be­fore your very eyes.

So the EU will surely pun­ish the Cata­lans ( just like it is try­ing to do to the Bri­tish) to dis­cour­age any one else from do­ing any­thing that might threaten the project to cre­ate a United States of Europe.

The EU be­lieves that big­ger is bet­ter – to such an ex­tent that demo­cratic na­tion states are forced to bow the knee be­fore a vast cen­tralised bu­reau­cracy that is en­tirely re­mote from the peo­ple it rules.

Yet all the ev­i­dence shows that the hap­pi­est and most pros­per­ous coun­tries are those where the ci­ti­zens live un­der their own laws, gov­erned by peo­ple they have elected (and can get rid of ) and where de­ci­sions are taken close to the peo­ple they af­fect. All that is anath­ema to the EU.

We will know in the next few days how the sep­a­ratists and the re­gional pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont re­spond to Ra­joy’s ul­ti­ma­tum.

What­ever the re­ply it is clear that Spain, and its most pros­per­ous re­gion, are head­ing for the big­gest cri­sis since democ­racy was re­stored in the coun­try some 40 years ago.

This is bad news for a debt-rid­den coun­try that has hardly re­cov­ered from the 2008 crash and where the un­em­ploy­ment rate is the sec­ond high­est in the EU at 17.2 per cent

And a fur­ther eco­nomic down­turn in the EU’s fifth largest econ­omy could un­nerve cred­i­tors and trig­ger yet an­other euro cri­sis. Watch this space!

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