Expecting the EU to act outside the provinces of her political constitution and juridical system and then accuse her of having stood idle and of having betrayed her founding values, is typical of the eurosceptics. With regard to the Catalan crisis, even the most well-intentioned observers – for a set of reasons that may or may not include ignorance, sympathy for the small Catalonia fighting for her independence – voiced a joint appeal to Europe to act as mediator and support the Catalan people.
How could Europe act as a negotiator in the dispute when the Spanish government rejects mediation on the grounds that it’s Spain’s home business and when Catalan separatists reject all forms of constitutionally-based negotiations?
Should the EU bring Spain and/or Catalans to reason? Which body is tasked with such responsibility? On which legal grounds and with which tools? Indeed, the European Union, in addition to being a Union of States, is increasingly growing into a “citizens’ union”, but for the time being only inasmuch as citizens are involved in matters complying with rule of law and EU action, taking part in the legislative process through the European Parliament.
If Catalonia’s separatists claimed to be EU citizens, thus rightfully entitled to demand mediation and protection against the Spanish government’s decisions,
They would be ignoring the fact that they are EU citizens in virtue of the fact that they are the citizens of Spain, an EU Member Country.
Moreover, the Catalan members of the European Committee of Regions are also members of the Spanish delegation, representing the Spanish region of Catalonia.
There ensues that this excludes a request of intervention to the EU in support of Catalonia’s claims.
In this case, the core of the issue is not the defence of the nation-state, but rather the defence of the rule of law, hence, the defence of democracy. There can be no democracy beyond the rule of law. The extent to which Catalan separatists have distanced themselves from democracy can be seen in the arrogance characterising their declaration of independence, which ignored the rights of parliament opposition and the will of the population, whose majority appear to have turned their backs on the claims of separation from Spain.
On top of that, EU solidarity towards Spain, one of her member States, is at stake in the dispute. And it’s also a matter of subsidiarity:
The EU must not and cannot interfere in problems regarding the constitutional system of a Member Country,
at least not without a request from the interested member State; such interference would constitute an infringement of the guiding principles of the European Constitution.
Indeed, it’s evident that the Spanish Government has made serious political mistakes with regard to its behaviour towards Catalonia over the past years. Its centralist position was marked by poor sensitivity coupled by imprudent, excessive measures, that partly explain Catalonia’s reaction, but they do not justify the breach of the law. Notably, the Catalan leaders, suspended as a result of repeated infringements of the Constitution and of national legislation, that they will be called to explain in Court, were unable to conceive a lawful solution to the political dispute. Their strange behaviour could be explained as a deliberate provocation made from the start, expecting the Spanish government to react by legitimizing their revolutionary actions enshrined in the declaration of independence. The response of the government and of the justice system was foreseeable, for it followed the legal framework and the Constitutional system in force in Spain, and thus also in Catalonia. The leader of the Catalan nationalist movement could not be unaware of the consequences of their behaviour, which they are now complaining about. They are not victims of anti-democratic conspiracies concocted by the Spanish government, nor have they been unjustly persecuted or oppressed.
Moreover, the case of Catalonia has brought to the fore a general problem concerning the organization of modern States,
which, in the light of regional diversity, cannot be appropriately managed by a centralized power whose unity can no longer be guaranteed by a central authority alone. This is especially true for States with regions marked by a strong historical and cultural identity. As was the case in the United Kingdom, Italy and France, a form of regionalization that is supported by autonomous administration is not sufficient. Only a federalist form of reorganization will provide centralised States with internal flexibility and unity – which risk being lost if obsolete centralism should prevail.