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.