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Wednesday, 4 October 2017 - Strasbourg Revised edition

13. Constitution, rule of law and fundamental rights in Spain in the light of the events in Catalonia (debate)
Video of the speeches

  President. – The next item is the debate on the Commission statement on the Constitution, rule of law and fundamental rights in Spain in the light of the events in Catalonia (2017/2888(RSP)).


  Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, today’s debate is carefully worded as being about the Constitution, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Spain in the light of the events in Catalonia.

In Europe, after the Second World War, then after the end of dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and Greece, and again after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we have shaped our democratic societies on the basis of three principles: democracy, respect for the rule of law, and human rights. The three need each other. They cannot exclude each other. You cannot use one against the other. If you remove one pillar, then the others will fall too.

Respect for the rule of law is not optional: it is fundamental. If the law does not give you what you want, you can oppose the law, you can work to change the law, but you cannot ignore the law.


So it is fundamental that the constitutions of every one of our Member States are upheld and respected, and this is the basis for our debate today. In that debate, we should be guided by the values set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, values which are common to Member States and citizens, and on which our Union is founded.

As Jean-Claude Juncker said in his State of the Union address to this House last month, our Union is not a state but it is a community of law. We must never lose sight of this. There is general consensus that the regional government of Catalonia chose to ignore the law when organising the referendum held last Sunday, the Spanish Constitutional Court having suspended the Catalan laws on the organisation of the referendum and issued daily penalties against those who went against its orders.

That does not change the fact that we have all seen saddening images from Sunday. Let me be clear: violence does not solve anything in politics. It is never an answer, never a solution, and it can never be used as a weapon or instrument. Europe knows this better than anywhere else. None of us want to see violence in our societies. However, it is a duty of any government to uphold the rule of law, and this sometimes requires the proportionate use of force.

We understand that people wanted to express their views. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right for all European citizens, and thus for all Spanish citizens. But one opinion is not more valuable than another opinion only because it is expressed more loudly.

As the Commission has stated, under the Spanish Constitution Sunday’s vote in Catalonia was not legal. Looking ahead, it is clear that an agreed way forward is needed in Spain. In the Commission’s view, 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. That is why the Commission has called on all relevant parties to move quickly now from confrontation to dialogue. The power of dialogue – of sitting down and talking to each other even if, and especially when, we passionately disagree – is what our Union is built on. All lines of communication must stay open. It is time to talk, to find a way out of the impasse, while working within the constitutional order of Spain.

At the end of the day, the real answers can only come from all those concerned. Those directly concerned are all 46 million Europeans who are Spanish citizens. Those indirectly concerned are all Europeans who are citizens of all the other Member States.

Jean-Claude Juncker is in touch with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who, I trust, will ensure that the situation is resolved in a spirit of dialogue and in full respect for the Spanish Constitution and the fundamental rights of citizens. This must be the goal for all of us.

Allow me to stress that the development of Spain since the Spanish people liberated themselves from dictatorship is one of the greatest success stories Europe has seen in its history.


In less than my lifetime, Spain was transformed from a nation under the boot of a dictator into a nation that leads globally in a great many areas, where every citizen has full rights protected by the rule of law, where culture flourishes and the economy grows. This is the awe-inspiring achievement of all Spaniards, including Catalans. It would not have been possible without full respect for the rule of law, respect for the separation of powers, and respect for the rulings of judges. And, let me add, nowhere is attachment to the rule of law stronger than in those nations which have memories of what it means to be deprived of it.

All this was achieved through hard work, commitment, dialogue and respect for diversity. Please let this inspire all of us to leave the path of confrontation and follow the road of cooperation and dialogue to resolve the situation.



  Manfred Weber, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, nobody can remain indifferent to what we have seen in Catalonia over the last days. We are very sorry for all those who were hurt. The news arriving from Catalonia is extremely worrisome. Citizens were hurt, but so also were policemen who were sent to stop the referendum – not by the Spanish Government, they were sent by Catalan judges to defend the rule of law.

The European People’s Party (EPP) rejects force as a political solution. European history teaches us that violence is never an answer. What is at stake today is the integrity of an EU Member State, and this justifies the debate we are having today. An EPP Group colleague, who is from Catalonia, yesterday told us: ‘I am Catalan and I am Spanish.’ It is not a conflict between Catalonia and Spain, he said, it is a conflict within Catalonia. A government without a majority of votes in the last elections is using all means for this escalation. We as the EPP, cannot accept such a behaviour. Europe is built upon the rule of law and Spain is built upon the rule of law. There is no doubt that Spain is a country that guarantees fundamental rights for all citizens. We stand by the freedom to demonstrate. For a living democracy, freedom of demonstrations is not only indispensable, it is also desired.

Nevertheless, demonstrations cannot replace a democratic decision-making process in a society. Not the protests on the streets, but the institutions in a democracy in Spain, will decide on the future of the country. Let me be very clear: mass demonstrations in Barcelona will not change the Constitution of Spain. Only democratic institutions can do so. For the moment, everybody is focusing on the separatists, but who is taking the perspective of the rest of the country into account? Spaniards from Catalonia, Aragon, Castilians, have been living together in one country over centuries peacefully and now an irresponsible government in Catalonia is splitting the country. The Spanish legal situation is clear for us: in Spain, no person in charge, not even the Catalan regional government, is allowed to disregard the law. The rights of all Spanish citizens have to be respected. It is unacceptable that a few Catalan politicians encourage civil servants, officials and citizens to break the law.

From our point of view, the referendum is not valid. The legal base was not adopted in line with the Constitution of Catalonia. It is against the Spanish Constitution, and last Sunday, the Catalan authorities were changing the electoral law 45 minutes before the so-called referendum started. This is not credible behaviour.

Another point dear friends is also clear: we need an inner-Spanish dialogue, on the basis of Spanish law. We appeal to everybody, please sit all together. Instead of further escalations, we call upon all the actors involved to engage in dialogue in Spain, but first and foremost in Catalonia itself. A peaceful dialogue in Spain is necessary. We will not find a solution to this Spanish internal conflict here in the European Parliament. This conflict can only be solved by the Spanish people itself. The EU has neither the will nor the right to intervene in a true liberal democracy such as Spain. The dialogue has to be frank. The times in Europe in which division trumped compromise, hatred won over cooperation and egoism beat solidarity, have long gone.

As a Bavarian, I know that nation states are compatible with proud regions. Europe needs both strong nation states and regional diversity. For today we appeal to the Catalan authorities: do not take irreversible steps and please keep in mind that whoever leaves Spain, leaves the European Union. This means leaving the internal market, leaving the Schengen area and leaving the Eurozone. Is this really in the Catalans’ best interest? Europe is living in historic times. This morning, we asked for more European cooperation in our debate. The European way of life does not need division, but unity in diversity. The European way of life needs not more nationalism but more cooperation. The European way of life needs not more egoism but solidarity and the willingness to compromise.

We are sorry for all people hurt. We stand behind Spain’s integrity. We support the Spanish Government and the politicians who respect the rule of law and we ask everybody for a constructive, peaceful dialogue in a European spirit.



  Gianni Pittella, a nome del gruppo S&D. – Signor Presidente, onorevoli colleghi, io penso che questa sia l'ora dell'unità e della responsabilità, non delle divisioni, non delle bandiere, non del tifo, bensì l'ora della prudenza e della saggezza. Dimentichiamo per un attimo le nostre appartenenze: dobbiamo pronunciare una parola sola: "Parad"!, "Fermatevi"!

A volte basta un gesto per cambiare il corso della storia. E quando si è sull'orlo del baratro, basta poco per cadere nel baratro; ma basta anche poco un gesto di raziocinio e di buona volontà perché il dialogo riparta, come ha chiesto il primo vicepresidente Frans Timmermans.

Mi rivolgo, innanzitutto, al governo della Generalitat catalana. E lo dico esplicitamente: una dichiarazione unilaterale di indipendenza sarebbe un'ulteriore provocazione e getterebbe benzina sul fuoco dopo l'inutile referendum di domenica: un plebiscito unilaterale imposto in aperta violazione della Costituzione democratica e dello Stato di diritto. Un governo regionale che rappresenta meno del 50% non può pregiudicare il futuro di un popolo intero.

Il referendum non era legale, lo abbiamo detto in molti e non si tratta di un'arguzia giuridica. Sfidare oggi la legalità internazionale significa contribuire a distruggere quel sistema di regole che ha assicurato la pace in Europa negli ultimi cinquant'anni, sorto proprio per proteggere i popoli più deboli contro l'arbitrio dei più forti.

E dovremmo guardare con meno superficialità al ritorno del nazionalismo in Europa. Quando si sventola la bandiera della secessione, quando le identità tendono cioè ad escludere invece che ad includere, si sa dove si inizia ma non si sa dove si finisce.

Alcuni di voi ricorderanno la frase pronunciata da François Mitterrand nel suo ultimo discorso al Parlamento europeo: "le nationalisme, c'est la guerre". È la guerra! Io non rinuncerò mai all'idea che si possa essere allo stesso tempo catalani, spagnoli ed europei, senza bisogno di creare nuovi Stati, nuove frontiere e c'è un filo indissolubile che lega Catalogna, Spagna, Spagna, Europa: l'Europa è nata per riconciliare i popoli. L'Europa è nata per portare unità e pace.

In questi giorni, mentre in Spagna si discute di secessione, in Germania si celebra l'anniversario della riunificazione tedesca. La riconciliazione: questa è la ragione d'essere dell'Unione europea. Siamo nati per questo ed è per questo che noi europei dobbiamo fare tutto il possibile perché si esca da questa impasse. Noi lo dobbiamo non soltanto perché la Spagna è parte di noi, ma perché noi siamo – o dobbiamo essere – i difensori dell'Europa, dell'essenza dell'Europa, del DNA dell'Europa.

Voglio rivolgermi anche al Primo ministro, Mariano Rajoy, senza voler fare polemica: dico con onestà intellettuale che la gestione di questa crisi poteva essere e doveva essere diversa. I socialisti spagnoli e catalani hanno offerto proposte serie e praticabili, anche contemplando la possibilità di modificare la Costituzione. Si può cambiare ma con gli strumenti propri, non in spregio delle leggi e delle regole comuni: si lavora così in uno Stato di diritto: rispettando le leggi. Possiamo avere opinioni diverse ma nessun democratico può compiacersi delle cariche della polizia e degli scontri di domenica scorsa. E quando c'è un'irruzione delle forze di polizia in modo sproporzionato, c'è sempre il fallimento della politica.

Ora c'è bisogno di uno sforzo di rigenerazione. Serve un nuovo inizio. E io voglio fare un appello alle autorità catalane: non pronuncino questa sera la dichiarazione di indipendenza perché questa pronunzia potrebbe essere foriera di nuovi scontri e di nuovi disastri.

L'appello è congiuntamente rivolto al Primo ministro Rajoy, affinché, insieme alle altre forze politiche spagnole, porti avanti con tutte le loro forze il dialogo, perché la Spagna ha bisogno della sua integrità e dalla sua unità: una Spagna forte, con realtà interne forti e autonome dentro un'Europa ritrovata.

Questa è la nostra missione.


  Ryszard Antoni Legutko, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, the European Commission repeatedly resorts to a moralistic language. We have just heard it talking about a union of values, but when we view the actions of the Commission in the handling of this particular situation in Catalonia, it looks more like a union of selective values. The double standards of the Commission is something that leaps to the eye. All are equal, but some are more equal than others. Everything depends on who is involved. Let us be honest, ladies and gentlemen, if it were another Member State rather than Spain, the consequences and the rhetoric from the Commission would have been far harsher.

I want to be clear: I do not believe the EU, or the European Commission for that matter, strengthens the EU’s unity through infringement proceedings, or triggering the articles of the Treaties or all the political point-scoring and suchlike. This polarises the debate and pushes Member States and its voters further away from the EU. I urge the Commission to practice the virtue of self-restraint, but consistently, not selectively.

Coming to Catalonia, I do believe – a rather simple-minded observation but always worth repeating – that significant progress can be made through patient negotiations. Whether and how soon an effective resolution is possible in Catalonia, I do not know, and very few people, if anyone, in this Chamber knows that. I wish to be honest with our Spanish colleagues: riot police and violent scenes have not helped but shocked and, whatever your intentions, those scenes will continue to be a part of the image of your government for some time. Let us admit it, the handling of the crisis was appalling. It was really appalling.

What are the next steps to be taken? Whether it involves constitutional reform, or the granting of a referendum or international mediation, the role of the Commission is probably as an intermediary or a go-between. It is for the Spanish Government, Spanish society and the Catalonian people to decide for themselves. However, I do caution that the passions of those citizens in Catalonia seeking a new settlement is unlikely to fade away by simply drowning out or ignoring the voices of dissent.

To sum it up, the action of the riot police, the conspicuous silence or the Aesopian language of the European Commission will not make the problem disappear.



  Guy Verhofstadt, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I have to tell you first of all that I am a big admirer of Spanish democracy, especially since that dramatic date of 23 February 1981. That was the day that Colonel Tejero attempted his coup d'état. Javier Cercas, in his famous book ‘Anatomía de un instante’, describes how, under the threat of Tejero’s pistol, three Spanish political leaders stayed upright in their seats, refusing to hide under their benches. They were Santiago Carrillo, the historical leader of the Communist Party, Adolfo Suárez, the first Prime Minister of democratic Spain, and his deputy, General Guttiérrez Mellado.

Despite the shots, not one of them blinked, an act of courage and determination that anchored forever democracy in Spanish souls. Spanish democracy was born under the pistol of the putschist Tejero, so no one among us has to give a lesson in democracy to Spain.


Now, 36 years later, Spanish democracy has to surmount itself again – to surmount this deep division and to overcome this existential crisis. It has to do so not by believing that the judiciary can solve the problems on its own, and certainly not by using deplorable violence, even though it is based on a court ruling. In other words, this cannot be done just by relying on the power of the state.

No, what we need is a renewed political vision, an inclusive dialogue, a vision that the future and the interest of all people living in Spain lies in a multicultural, multilingual, federal state embedded in a multicultural, multilingual, federal Europe. It is true that you cannot go against the law and it is also true that you cannot govern without the law, but it is even more true that you cannot solve such a deep division only with the law. You also need to listen, to try to understand each other, to have dialogue and to talk with each other. That is the only way to find solutions, and that is the real strength of good politicians and of statesmen.

To my friends in Catalonia, it is not in the interests of your citizens to pursue separatism at all costs. That the referendum was against the Constitution is not my main point. The point is that this referendum simply lacked basic democratic legitimacy. You knew very well in advance that a majority of Catalans would not participate and would stay at home, as the majority of them are against separation. It is not by accident that you did not even install a minimum threshold. So the result of this referendum was already known before it began. What do you call this? Manipulation? Deception?

Moreover, to declare independence based on the outcome of a defective referendum is totally irresponsible, not so much for Spain, not so much for Europe, but for Catalonia itself. It will cause a fatal fracture in your society, a fracture that may be impossible to heal. Who is going to profit from this gamble? The anti-Europeans who, as we know, want to destroy our union and who have already started to abuse your cause and violate our treaties today.


I urge all sides to stop the escalation and to go and sit around the table. The spirit there, around that table, has to be the understanding that the future of more than 70 European nations, the future of Catalonia, the future of my own Flemish community, lies not in brutal separation but lies in deep cooperation – cooperation inside federal structures in a federal Europe. Look a little bit – if I can ask that – to your own Basque countrymen. Look at what they have achieved, how they have developed their country, defeating terrorism and reinventing themselves, proud and autonomous.


Finally, let me say that in politics it is not shameful to make compromises. The opposite is true. I have done it all my life and I am still alive. But, moreover, when you have to make a choice between the steps forward of a compromise or the standstill due to purity, then choose the way forward, however small the steps may be. In the words of Barbara Tuchman, in her famous book – whose title is applicable today – ‘The March of Folly’: ‘Don’t throw away the greater for the less, and don’t pursue the unworkable at the sacrifice of the possible’.



  Patrick Le Hyaric , au nom du groupe GUE/NGL. – Monsieur le Président, Monsieur le Vice-président, chers collègues, si dans n’importe quelle contrée lointaine, on avait, ce premier dimanche d’octobre, empêché par la force les citoyens de s’exprimer dans les urnes, fait charger la police, violenté et blessé plus de 900 personnes, tous les dirigeants européens auraient protesté contre le chef du gouvernement responsable de ces actes, demandé de mettre ce pays au ban des nations et que sais-je encore, peut-être demandé un blocus économique.

Or, ces événements se sont déroulés dimanche en Espagne, du fait d’un gouvernement aussi froid que faible, assis à la table du Conseil européen, alors que les autorités européennes détournent le regard en laissant une nation de l’Union se déchirer.

Nous vous demandons, M. Timmermans, de condamner clairement et sans délai la violence et la répression en Catalogne, et de dénoncer la violation de la charte des droits fondamentaux.

Cette crise ne nous est pas étrangère car on ne peut accepter l’usage de la force dans l’Union européenne, pas plus que nous ne pouvons accepter les proclamations unilatérales du gouvernement de Catalogne.

Nous devons demander au gouvernement espagnol de cesser son escalade dans la tension, dans l’utilisation de la répression et de la force policière et militaire. Et nous devons demander au gouvernement espagnol, comme au président du gouvernement de Catalogne, de mettre un terme à cette logique de confrontation, qui peut mener au pire. Les premières victimes ne seront pas les responsables politiques mais les citoyens et le peuple.

Hors de toute ingérence, l’Union européenne doit proposer ses services pour faciliter le dialogue en vue d’une sortie pacifique et démocratique de cette crise, dans le respect du droit international, du pacte fondateur de la constitution espagnole de 1978, de l’histoire de la Catalogne et de l’Espagne, et du pacte des droits civils et politiques de 1966 ratifié par l’Espagne, dont l’article premier dispose que «tous les peuples ont le droit à l’auto-détermination».

Le dialogue doit donc reprendre et nous devons le favoriser. Aidons à la recherche d’un compromis, qui passera sans doute par une définition commune du statut du référendum de dimanche dernier. Oui, il est illégal, oui, il n’a pas de légitimité démocratique, mais on ne peut pas ignorer l’aspiration à s’exprimer, l’aspiration démocratique des Catalans.

En même temps, les institutions régionales doivent être respectées, ainsi que le statut d’autonomie de la Catalogne. À partir de là doit s’ouvrir une période de dialogue et de débat approfondi en Catalogne et dans toute l’Espagne, dans la perspective de la conférence constitutionnelle, à l’issue de laquelle le peuple doit pouvoir se prononcer.

De façon plus générale, cette crise pose une nouvelle fois les questions de la sortie des politiques d’austérité imposées par la Commission européenne, du combat contre les inégalités territoriales, et d’une juste répartition des richesses au sein de l’Union européenne et de chaque pays.

Elle interroge aussi notre conception de l’Union européenne: soit une Europe de la coopération et de la solidarité, communauté de nations libres et souveraines, soit une Europe fédérale de régions en concurrence, sous domination encore plus grande des puissances industrielles et financières. Notre choix doit être la coopération, la solidarité et l’union des peuples libres et souverains.

Le dernier mot doit revenir à la démocratie.


  Ska Keller, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, last Sunday will be remembered as a sad day and, I think, not just in Spain but all over Europe. We saw peaceful citizens confronted with a huge police force ready to use all the force they had. Families, pensioners, people of all backgrounds, were confronted with a state that was willing to use almost all means to stop the referendum from taking place.

The world was watching while this was happening, while the riot police met people with brutality, charging with batons and even firing rubber bullets. Polling stations and hotels, schools and city halls and streets were turned into front lines between national police and their own citizens. What happened in Spain is unacceptable. I think it will unfortunately also set the image that we all have of the situation for the future. This was massive police violence against peaceful people, and that was beyond any proportionality. Violence so disproportionate cannot be justified, no buts and no excuses. Whatever you think about the referendum, whatever you think of independence, I think that has to be clear: that violence is not a mean for solving political conflict.

And whatever the views about the referendum and everything, it is also clear that the strategy of Prime Minister Rajoy has clearly failed. He has refused the dialogue that was offered and he has used and reverted more to judicial means, to police means. But the judges cannot solve a political problem, police cannot solve a political problem. Criminal prosecution cannot work that way. It is inappropriate. What we need is a political solution, but rather than doing that Rajoy has worsened the problem. He has escalated the situation. The massive mobilisation we saw yesterday: it is not just independentists who are appalled by what happened last Sunday. I really think that Rajoy has not really been helpful in this situation.

In the future, I believe the Spanish Government must refrain from using police violence against peaceful people. It must aim to find a political solution, because the Catalan crisis is a political crisis, a political problem and therefore it needs to be solved politically, not by police force. The political solution must always mean that people talk to each other, that all sides talk to each other.

I believe the European Union has a role to play in that because the whole affair is not just an internal matter for Spain. Spain and Catalonia are inside the European Union. President Juncker cannot sit on the fence and just watch from Berlaymont what is happening and how the conflict escalates. The Catalan crisis is a European affair. It goes to the heart of the European Union’s fundamental values because the European Union is built on the conscious decision to live together on this continent, settling our differences, however great they might be, through dialogue, through negotiation and through compromise rather than through violence. It is wrong, I believe, that the Commission shies away. It is its duty as the guardian of the Treaty to get involved and help in solving this problem, to offer mediation, to offer its help. I think this is something I would really expect of the European Union. Citizens all over Europe are looking at us, looking at what we are doing in the European Union. I think it is important that we offer our help, that we promote dialogue, that we tell both sides to stop escalations. The Commission can be an honest broker here.

Colleagues and Commissioner, I think it is very important that all of us understand how grave the situation is and how easily and how quickly it can escalate even further. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. I think if we have any chance at all to do something, to do our small bit, then we should do it. I believe, Mr Timmermans, that you have a chance to do something and I hope that we will use it all together.

The Spanish and the Catalan Governments, of course, also have their responsibility. They have to agree to negotiate, to sit together, to accept mediation and to prevent further escalation. The whole crisis is a breakdown of the rules and the democratic consensus that so far ensured a peaceful and non-violent relationship between Spain and Catalonia. The right to self-determination is firmly anchored in international law, and both sides, both the Spanish Government as well as the Catalan Government, have to take the responsibility to find a common solution for how to put it into place in a peaceful and in a democratic way.

Further police violence and intimidation will not solve the problem. Many actors have called for dialogue, including all over Catalonia, such as the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, many people have called for dialogue. Colleagues here have said that this is the way forward. I think this is something we all have to agree on. The European Union is built on dialogue. We have to solve political problems by political means and dialogue is the only way forward.



  Raymond Finch, on behalf of the EFDD Group. – Mr President, I note the breaking news saying that the Spanish Government has now sent the army into Catalonia. This is not a good sign. We have all seen the media images regarding the attempted suppression of the independence referendum called by the Catalan Government over the weekend. My first question would be: why? Why did the Madrid Government feel it necessary to stop this in such a heavy-handed, brutal and, in the final analysis, counter-productive manner? It is blatantly obvious that by doing so, they have handed the initiative to the Catalan nationalists. Is the Madrid Government so afraid of its own people and so removed from political reality that it thought these actions would calm the situation?

Given that the Madrid Government has repeatedly stated, and we have heard it today, that a majority of Catalans do not want independence, and furthermore that the referendum had no validity under Spanish law, why did the government not simply state that whatever the result, the vote was null and void, and the Catalan Government was merely wasting everybody’s time and money? Instead of which we now have a template which every independence movement on our continent can use to provoke unrest. Mark my words: by their actions, Mr Rajoy and his advisers have lit a bonfire under your Europe.

The fact that the EU’s institutions and its leaders have failed to recognise the human rights abuses which have taken place and have instead focused merely on legalistic verbiage shows how shallow the foundations of this project really are. Any ruling order that can condone acts of state violence has no popular legitimacy. Those Catalans who have looked to the EU for succour will be sorely disappointed. I feel that the only way the Spanish Government can restore trust is to accept that its behaviour was ill-conceived, launch an immediate independent committee of inquiry into the violence and state, that when the inquiry has concluded, a new and binding referendum under the auspices of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights will take place. Otherwise, ladies and gentlemen, this fire will burn and it will spread.


  Marcel de Graaff, on behalf of the ENF Group. – Mr President, in July of this year the Commission and this Parliament threatened Poland with the withdrawal of voting rights because of legislation on the judiciary. The Commission and Parliament opposed amendments to the Constitution of Hungary, which included the organisation of public broadcasters. The Commission and this Parliament are fully at ease with the condemnation of laws and constitutions of democratic states when they do not obey the diktats of Brussels.

They claim that the EU is a community of values. What they do not say is that laws are subordinate to it, that democratic decisions, freedom and self-determination are subordinate to it. Freedom, democracy and human rights apply only to Member States that serve the EU agenda.

For Spain, national sovereignty and the primacy of the Constitution apply. For Poland and Hungary, they do not. This EU is indeed a community of values: of double values and double standards. If you are in favour of the EU elitist, globalist agenda, then you can do anything. When you are against it, they will combat you using all available means.

The hypocrisy of this Commission has no limits. In September last year, Mr Juncker explicitly condemned violence against Polish workers in the United Kingdom. In Spain 800 people have been beaten up and needed hospital treatment because hundreds of thousands were about to vote in a formally illegal referendum. In its declaration, the Commission stated only that violence can never be an instrument in politics. Certainly, violence does not belong in politics. And of course the state has the monopoly to use force to protect the rule of law. The state can use proportionate violence to stop unlawful behaviour or to prevent this from happening. But when hundreds of thousands illegally enter a country, would it be proportional to beat up 800 of them (so that they end up in hospital)? Would your response there be that violence can never be an instrument of politics?

I am convinced that Mr Timmermans would explode in anger and this Parliament would demand immediate action, so let me be clear: I fully support the rule of law – that is, the rule of law of the sovereign nation state, the free nation state, the democratic nation state. That is the rule of law which should be defended. However, I certainly cannot accept the hypocrisy of this Commission and this Parliament, which are concealing the advancement of their own elitist economic interest under the guise of European values.

I am completely against silencing opponents, against financing pro-EU propagandists and persecuting EU-sceptical parties and Member States, and I am telling Mr Timmermans and Mr Verhofstadt that Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union calls for respect for human dignity and equality. Equality and respect are not a right only for Europhiles and globalists: they are a right for all citizens in the EU. They should start acting accordingly.

(Applause from certain quarters)


  Steven Woolfe (NI). – Mr President, Sunday, 1 October, will forever be remembered in Spain and across the globe as the day that a forgotten history of Spanish state brutality on its people returned to its country. I watched with horror as a grandmother’s blood washed down her tear-strewn face after a beating by the Spanish police. I watched as young people, hands held aloft in peace, were smashed by black-suited armed storm troopers and their wild batons.

The shame on Spain rests mainly on Rajoy, and now also the King of Spain, for not only permitting the brutality of their police, but also – shamefully – for blaming the violence on those violated and seeking to dismiss the abused as the originators of the abuse. And what of the European Union’s response? Their first response should have been to completely condemn the violence. But no, whilst every right-minded person was outraged, they were critically silent on the violence. They sought to deflect the issue as a matter of breaking the rule of law by Catalans. This is from the EU, which recognised the independence of Kosovo without a referendum and which recognised Palestine as a nation state, even though the EU treaties did not permit it.

Twenty five years ago, Barcelona held the Olympics. The closing song was ‘Amigos para siempre’. It was written by a Brit, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and sung by a Catalan, José Carreras. It means ‘friends forever’. Well, I will tell the Catalan people: there are those who oppose violence by your police against you, and they are your friends forever, but if the EU continues to ignore the violence against your people, you will know that they are not your friends ever.


  Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, perhaps you will allow me to reiterate that, for the European Union as a whole to function, respect for the rule of law is important. If you believe that because you feel passionately about something you can then say ‘Because I feel so passionately I get to say what the rule of law is’ and you can also say ‘I feel so passionately I can ignore the rule of law’, then be aware of the fact that what you think works for you now can be used against you by others who, perhaps, might feel as passionate about their position.

The rule of law in our Union is the only thing that protects the weak from the power of the powerful. The rule of law is the only thing that protects what is small from what is big. The rule of law is the only way we can create a union of Member States and citizens where big does not dominate small, where there is equal treatment before the law of every single citizen wherever they come from.


I detect, in some of the discourses by political movements who feel deeply inspired by populist nationalism, that democracy is portrayed as a tool you can use against the rule of law, that because you are a majority the minority no longer exists. The rule of law is enshrined in the EU Treaties, signed by sovereign Member States, ratified by national parliaments and thus conferring the protection of the law on every single European citizen. I insist on this today because I know you also debated the political side, the violence and everything else, and I would refer to what was said by Guy Verhofstadt about that. From the institutional position of the Commission, however, I have to insist on this point of the rule of law.

I say this also because there is no doubt – not in this Chamber, and not even among those who are extremely critical – that the referendum held on Sunday was not within the remit of the rule of law. There is also no doubt that the only way forward is dialogue, and there is also no doubt that Spain is a country where the rule of law is respected, where the institutions are independent and where there are no impediments whatsoever for a dialogue to start immediately. The only thing you need is political will.


  Presidente. – Ringrazio la Commissione europea, custode dei Trattati, per la chiara posizione espressa in quest'Aula. Alla luce della discussione che si è appena svolta e come sintesi della posizione espressa dalla maggioranza del Parlamento, voglio sottolineare alcuni elementi fondamentali: come la storia dell'Unione europea ci insegna, in democrazia l'unica strada da percorrere è quella di lavorare insieme per la concordia e l'unità.

Nessuno, nessuno ha gradito gli eventi accaduti domenica. Ma le decisioni unilaterali, compresa la dichiarazione di indipendenza da uno Stato membro, sono in contrasto con l'ordinamento giuridico europeo e sono destinate a provocare pericolose divisioni.

Da questo Parlamento parte un appello a sostegno di una riflessione serena e profonda, che favorisca il dialogo in Spagna, nel rispetto del quadro costituzionale, compreso lo Statuto dell'autonomia della Catalogna, e che restituisca la politica alle istituzioni.

Dichiarazioni scritte (articolo 162)


  Nicola Caputo (S&D), per iscritto. – Quello che è accaduto in Catalogna parla di una storia di inadeguatezza politica e di arroganza istituzionale, di violazione delle leggi e dei diritti civili, prima che politici. In altre parole: un episodio vergognoso nel cuore della civilissima Europa. Civilissima perché viviamo in uno Stato di diritto, abbiamo un ordinamento e delle leggi che sono i punti di riferimento del nostro agire, politico e istituzionale, e non solo dei meri principi ispirativi. Ma civilissima anche perché democratica, perché esiste la libertà di parola, di pensiero, di manifestazione – come giuridicamente andrebbe derubricato un referendum incostituzionale – contro la quale ogni uso della violenza costituisce un abuso, una repressione inaccettabile, che non credo rimarrà senza conseguenze. E in mezzo a tutto questo, l'assordante silenzio delle Istituzioni europee, che non dovevano e non devono parteggiare ma sicuramente non possono ignorare il problema senza tentare una mediazione. Mediazione che deve essere ancora possibile, prima che la situazione ci sfugga di mano e degeneri ulteriormente. Anche l'Europa ha i suoi testi di riferimento, che dicono che la Spagna è membro dell'Unione e che la Carta dei diritti fondamentali, pur non essendo integrata nei Trattati, ha il loro stesso valore giuridico.


  Eugen Freund (S&D), schriftlich. – Dialog statt verhärteter Fronten! Es steht außer Zweifel, dass das am Sonntag in Katalonien abgehaltene Referendum über die Unabhängigkeit der Region keine rechtliche Basis hatte und das Ergebnis dadurch auch rechtlich nicht bindend sein kann. Genauso steht aber auch außer Zweifel, dass die gewaltsame Reaktion der konservativen Regierung Spaniens unverhältnismäßig war. Auch wenn die Stimmabgabe ungesetzlich war, darf darauf nicht mit Gewalt geantwortet werden. Die Zusammenstöße zwischen der Polizei und der Zivilbevölkerung hätten durch frühzeitige Gespräche verhindert werden können. Rechtsstaatlichkeit ist ein sehr wichtiges Gut, und das gilt für beide Seiten. Kritisiert werden muss, dass die katalanischen Behörden ihre Bürger trotz der negativen Justizurteile des spanischen Verfassungsgerichtshofs und katalanischer Gerichte zum Urnengang aufriefen. Genauso aber muss die monatelange Untätigkeit der spanischen Zentralregierung kritisiert werden. Der Konflikt zwischen Madrid und Barcelona ist nicht neu, genau deshalb kann er aber nur politisch und nicht mit polizeilichen Maßnahmen gelöst werden. Die Europäische Union muss hier vermitteln, und beide Seiten sollten das anstreben. Auch die Katalanen haben unterschiedliche Ansichten. Auch darauf muss entsprechend reagiert werden. Eine Lösung kann nur durch einen rechtlichen und politischen Dialog herbeigeführt werden – zu diesem müssen beide Seiten bereit sein.


  Ana Gomes (S&D), por escrito. – O referendo de 1 de outubro foi unilateral, não permitindo que parte significativa da população da Catalunha votasse: mas só aconteceu porque não houve negociação sobre um estatuto autonómico num quadro constitucional em que a entidade nacional catalã se possa afirmar. Eu sou europeísta e federalista, logo contra a fragmentação de Estados e nacionalismos na UE.

Mas ninguém fez e está a fazer mais pela causa independentista da Catalunha do que o governo do Sr. Rajoy, somando à recusa de negociar a repressão de pacíficos cidadãos que queriam votar, a que todo o mundo assistiu horrorizado no passado dia 1. A tragédia do franquismo que conduziu à guerra civil em Espanha está na nossa memória coletiva. Como portuguesa, não posso deixar que resvalemos para mais enfrentamento violento. A UE não pode ficar à margem, a coberto do argumento estéril da legalidade: este problema não é apenas espanhol, é de toda a UE: afetados seremos todos se a Espanha se partir ou explodir em mais violência. É premente que a UE intervenha e facilite o diálogo e a negociação, contra medidas unilaterais que só farão escalar a violência.


  Indrek Tarand (Verts/ALE), kirjalikult. – Ma olen väga mures, et niivõrd vanad kultuurrahvad nagu hispaanlased ja katalaanid on jõudnud sellisesse olukorda, et vajavad Euroopa Liidu vahendust. Sõltumata sellest, et PPE ja S&D teesklevad, et probleemi ei ole, eksisteerib ta tegelikult ikka ja seega ma nõuan presidentidelt Junckerilt ja Tuskilt ning õnnetul kombel ka just praegu roteeruvat ELi eesistumist pidavalt Eesti peaministrilt Rataselt kiiret ja otsustavat vahendusplaani, mille võiks Euroopa Parlamendile esitada hiljemalt kahekümne kolmandaks oktoobriks käesoleval aastal.


  László Tőkés (PPE), írásban. – Kevéssé ismert, hogy az október 1-jei katalóniai népszavazást megelőzően a katalán kormányzati tisztségviselők, valamint a megfenyegetett polgármesterek zaklatása idején a spanyol parlament 166-158-as arányban leszavazott egy Mariano Rajoy miniszterelnök represszív politikájának támogatására irányuló törvényhozási határozatot.

A madridi parlamenti többséghez hasonlóan Európa többi demokratikus országa és polgáraik sem érthetnek egyet azokkal az elnyomó és erőszakos módszerekkel, amelyeket a spanyol hatóságok, illetve karhatalmi erők alkalmaztak a vasárnapi népszavazáson a katalóniai választópolgárokkal szemben. Az Európai Parlament jelentős számú tagjával egyetértésben határozottan elítélem a spanyol rendőrség által elkövetett erőszakos cselekményeket. A teljes körű és tényleges kisebbségi autonómia híveként a spanyol–katalán viszony, tárgyalások útján történő, békés rendezését sürgetem.


  Carlos Zorrinho (S&D), por escrito. – Os acontecimentos ocorridos em 1 de outubro na Catalunha, pela sua substância e gravidade, são intoleráveis. Perante os factos, nenhuma das partes pode reivindicar a razão para o seu lado. O Governo Autónomo e as autoridades centrais foram cúmplices ao não evitarem a escalada da violência política e física. Urge que reatem o diálogo de forma a encontrar uma via de solução política que, respeitando o Estado de Direito democrático, permita que os catalães expressem a sua vontade em relação ao modelo de autonomia e relacionamento com o Estado espanhol. Neste contexto, as instituições europeias devem exortar ao diálogo político em Espanha, enquanto Estado-Membro da UE, e reforçar a sua vigilância para usar os instrumentos legais ao seu dispor, se isso vier a ser necessário, para assegurar o primado do direito e dos direitos fundamentais naquele País.

Last updated: 16 April 2018Legal notice