EU should get involved in mediating Catalan debate

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Self-determination is no longer a national issue, it concerns all European citizens. [Shutterstock]

As Catalonia pledges to hold a referendum on independence from Spain in September 2017, Catalan MEP Josep-Maria Terricabras calls on the EU to be involved and mediate between the two parties.

Josep-Maria Terricabras MEP is president of the European Free Alliance (EFA) group in the European Parliament and first vice-president of the Greens/EFA group.

On 11 September, for the fifth consecutive year, hundreds of thousands of Catalans filled the streets of several cities calling upon the Spanish government to agree to a referendum on self-determination in what is today the largest civil rights movement in Europe.

This political movement, dismissed by some as merely regionalist, is in fact profoundly European in nature. The values and spirit of Europe are deeply enshrined in Catalan political and social discourse. In striving for greater democracy and political dialogue, the people of Catalonia are pursuing a legitimate claim that has up until now been cynically ignored by the Spanish authorities.

These are times for politics, for big politics, these are times for courage, for daring actions. The European Union was built from scratch, after centuries of war and animosity among European countries. The greatest achievement of all was that countries that were once enemies have become partners.

That did not come easily but thanks to the courage, generosity and conviction of many men and women who strongly believed that what united us, Europeans, was far greater than what divided us. How sad it is then, that far from being “united in diversity”, Europe today seems increasingly divided by adversity.

We need daring action, intelligence and action. We need political leadership backed up with sound and realistic proposals and a clear and feasible timetable for delivery. We need European citizens to hold us to account for our actions and policies. And we need a renewed and sincere commitment from all countries that wish to be part of the EU that we will work together, in solidarity, to strengthen the European project.

Europeanism has always been an important identifying characteristic of the Catalan sovereignty movement, and like Scotland and Northern Ireland, Catalonia does not want to give up on its EU membership, but to participate and engage, as a full member, in the construction of a better and more democratic EU.

Today, a country’s right to decide its own future by self-determination, is no longer simply an internal issue for member states but is relevant to the whole European project and concerns all European citizens. It is not just about Catalonia, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but about Europe too.

Now Catalonia looks to Europe and appeals to European leaders and institutions to help mediate so that we might find a way out of the current impasse. A clear majority in Catalonia supports holding an independence referendum and our president has made it clear that this will go ahead in 2017.

The EU now has a key role to play in helping Spanish and Catalan authorities find a way forward that will strengthen and enhance not only Catalan and Spanish democracy, but that of Europe too.

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