Letter from Barcelona (13): the king, the EU, and the foreign minister

The worst moments have been from the king of Spain, the EU, and the Spanish foreign minister. The moments are all linked – and they all stink, if you ask me. The king’s speech on 3rd October was shocking, to say the least. I don’t need to relate all the details here – we all heard the speech or read about it afterwards. It didn’t even look or sound like a monarch’s speech – it felt dictatorial, with an almost dangerous thumping of fists. He didn’t say one word, not one, to condemn the police violence against the Catalan citizens innocently trying to vote on 1st October. King Felipe could have been the hero; he could have defused the entire situation and become the monarch for all (more or less). He could have made a short and sweet speech, simply to say that he didn’t like what he’d seen on both sides, and that he’d expressed that to Rajoy and Puigdemont, and told them both to get a grip – but he didn’t, and he failed. He failed miserably. I think it is quite telling that he has not made any further long speeches on the matter – not even about the Catalan Parliament declaring independence on Friday 27th October, nor on the Senate voting to apply Article 155, just hours later. A week before, however, on 20th October, he did make a brief reference to the “unacceptable secession attempt” in Catalonia – on the night he gave an award to the EU – and another moment that stinks, in my opinion.

Because the EU has also failed miserably – Juncker and Tusk, specifically. Just to clarify: I didn’t vote for Brexit. I’ve always defended the concept of the European Union – but I’m seriously beginning to doubt all that now. As Alex Salmond brilliantly expressed it on LBC radio this weekend, the EU should be ashamed of its “guilty silence”. The former First Minister of Scotland said, “I don’t think the Catalan government should be in the dock, they’re pursuing the will of the Catalan people. I think the EU are in the dock on this … for their unwillingness to condemn outright the violence that we saw from the Spanish state on the people of Catalonia who were merely trying to exercise their right to vote.” He went on to say that the “guilty silence” applies to the UK government, too – yes, of course it does – and it’s because the UK is in a weak position in the Brexit negotiations.

On 20th October, the night Felipe VI made his reference to Catalonia’s “unacceptable secession attempt”, he was presenting the EU with the ‘coveted’ Princess of Asturias Award for Concord. Oh, sure. It was just hours after the European Council meeting in Brussels, where Catalonia wasn’t even on the agenda – and where Rajoy managed to avoid even speaking about the ‘issue’, despite Tusk and Merkel reportedly asking him if he’d like to.

It stinks. It stinks that the EU accepted an award from the king of Spain, just hours after still refusing to officially condemn the police brutality against innocent Catalan citizens, nor push for further explanations on the matter. It stinks that the Belgian Embassy in Madrid came under threats and “tomamos nota” pressure from Rajoy’s government, merely because the Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, had condemned the Spanish police violence, calling instead for dialogue and a ‘de-escalation’. And ditto, according to some reports, for Slovenia, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland and Holland. It stinks that Spain’s foreign minister has been on CNN and BBC, blatantly denying the police repression, calling the images ‘fake news’ and an ‘alternative reality’. It stinks that even today, that same foreign minister of a European state, can as good as pre-empt a non-existent and so far theoretical trial that Carles Puigdemont might have to face, and then even suggest the verdict, saying that “he might be in prison” at the time of the 21st December elections in Catalonia. It stinks that Donald Tusk can only say that the situation in Catalonia is “concerning”, and that “there’s no space for any kind of mediation or international action in Spain”. It stinks that Juncker can only moan about there being more work and administrative headaches if there are any other “fractures” in Europe. It stinks that Spanish diplomats are blatantly dictating to other EU states “the lines we ask you to include” in their condemnation of Catalonia’s declaration of independence. It stinks. It all totally stinks.

10 thoughts on “Letter from Barcelona (13): the king, the EU, and the foreign minister

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Juli Costa-Esteban

    October 29, 2017 at 8:21pm

    I can only say its completely true, but truth doesn’t seem to be a virtue of great worth these days.
    Thanks for this anyway. Knowing there are some decent persons in this world is comforting.

  2. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    October 29, 2017 at 10:58pm

    El pueblo de Cataluña estamos igual no entendemos que nadie nos apoye siendo un país democrático y pacifico, pero todo lo que recibimos es indiferencia y así nos dejan que España haga con los catalanes lo que les de la gana, ya nos apalearon que vendrá después? No hay justicia!!

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Sara Marti

    October 30, 2017 at 8:47am

    Thank you for sharing. Seeing the response of the EU on this matter, a lot of Catalans have lost their faith in Europe. We have come to realise that the EU is just a club of states whose main interest is to protect the economical interests of the elites. Who cares about democracy, violence or the violation of human rights? If this is EU, they’ll be actually doing us a favour to kick us out.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Graham Smith

      November 11, 2017 at 6:55pm

      Spot on, Sari. Visca Catalunya!

  4. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Glyn Bartlett

    October 30, 2017 at 1:59pm

    A succinct and accurate summation of the situation. That the EU can do this to a people and a movement that have been, up to this point, avid supporters of the EU, as you say stinks.

  5. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Mike Gunner

    October 30, 2017 at 7:44pm

    I am an English resident in Catalunya, and a proud member of a Catalan choir. We sing songs from different countries, mostly happy songs, but some sad. We sing some songs in Spanish, but especially we sing Catalan songs about this country: the land, the mountains, the woods, the sea. We have a resident song-writer. Our director raises our level to reach heights of achievement that we didn’t imagine we could. There is little triumphalism here about Catalan independence. I believe the predominant feeling in our group is sadness that Catalunya is having to go through this trauma in order to run its affairs in the way most people want. Personally I think that King Felipe has utterly failed to show himself as a king of all the people. He has only acted as a mouthpiece for the Spanish hard-nationalists. Tim Parfill has written very well on the shame of the EU and of the king, and of course of Spain.

  6. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Steve West

    October 30, 2017 at 9:07pm

    Thank you Tim, my thoughts exactly. Have you seen the letter to the British consulate on Matthew Tree’s Facebook page? Maybe you’d like to sign it. Although the truth is only relative these days those who respect it should stick together. I was also a strong outspoken supporter of the EU. No more.

  7. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    November 2, 2017 at 6:50pm


    Thanks for your words, I totally agree with you.
    I’m catalan and I’m atonished about what Spanish state is able to do for preserving its country.
    They don’t have arguments, only force… So I’m confident that we will be independent in a not defined time…
    Thanks again.

  8. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Teresa Negre Villavecchia

    November 4, 2017 at 10:43am

    Tinc 90 anys, tota la meva vida he lluitat per la justicia i em fa molt mal constatar lo podrit que esta el gobern f’ Espana, sino tambe, els ciudetans que els ham votat, en contas d’
    agrair el tan per cent que els hi arribat de Catalunya, durant molts anys.
    Per que aquets odi tan gran cap els qui us hem ajudat a viura?
    Tot el mon esta prodit. Europa tambe.
    Si som capacos de resistir sensa violencia, podrem cambiar al mon.
    Gandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luter King… i encara som capacos de continuar sen generosos.
    Estic molt trista, pero molt trista, no em cap al cap tanta maldat. Inclos en aquells, que segueixen mes la doctrina del poder com Rajoy i tots els que el voten, que la de Jesucrist.
    No son cristians, son cristiandad que sols els interesa els diners, hi anant a Misa, volen tapar ho tot.
    Per aixo no trobem ajuda, Europa i el mon esta podrit. Jesus va morir en una Creu i humillat.

  9. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Kate Preston

    November 26, 2017 at 1:59pm

    It also stinks that the Separatist politicians completely ignored the 2015 pleblisite election and continued to use taxes to plan and fund an illegal referendum with the subsequent DUI and disastrous outcome for Barcelona and the Catalan economy. The Separatist coalition led by Puigdemont has never tried to represent the Catalan people as a whole, just a section of them and as such loses legitimacy (just the same as you criticise Felipe for only seeking to calm unionists in his speech – Puigdemont has been talking only to the separatist electorate for years…). What an outrage how self seeking nationalist politicians waving flags and stirring populist misconceptions can detonate an economic bomb and make the worker suffer.

Leave a Reply to Vane Cancel reply

Your email will not be published. Name and Email fields are required.