Spain is slipping into a major crisis, which is also bad news for the EU. The current showdown is hardly unexpected, especially when you’re unlucky enough to have extremists at the helm both in Barcelona and Madrid.
What has been particularly worrying, at least since the 1 October (unconstitutional) referendum, if not before, is the evident lack of dialogue. This is weird for Spain, the country with the famous saying “hablando se entiende la gente”, an elegant invitation to settle conflicts with words.
Moreover, police violence in a country still marked by almost 40 years of Francoism was an extremely unhappy detail of the story. The Commission was also very lenient on the police violence, which shocked many around the world.
This is how the three main EU institutions, all led by EPP-affiliated leaders, thought they were making a favour to their party fellow, Mariano Rajoy: by not interfering in any way.
But they may be wrong. The right to interfere is not sacrosanct. In this case, it stems from Spain’s statute, the statute of a country expected to share certain values, and from being a weak member of the eurozone.
If developments lead to the need to rescue such a big economy, (the eurozone’s fifth largest), it would make Greece look like a piece of cake.
Incidentally, Greece is led by a far-left leader so interference there was never a problem. Juncker even told the Greeks how they should vote at the referendum, so they were advised to vote the other way.
The only EU tactic so far has been to convey the message to Catalonia’s separatists that an independent Catalonia would find itself outside the EU. Is this a scary argument? Hard to say, and in any case, they were not impressed.
The Catalonia affair also highlights how useless a European institution like the European Committee of the Regions is. Ideally, it should give regions and cities a real voice in EU law-making and allow a region such as Catalonia to be a strong EU player, through subsidiarity.
But member states never divested powers to the Committee of the Regions. The EU never became a Europe of the regions and it is going to pay a high price now.
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Look out for…
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Views are the author’s