MEPs ask EU to stop Spanish threats of military force against Catalonia—or lose right to vote

(Source: News Catalonia)

Brussels, October 22, 2012
Dear Mrs. Reding,
Vice President of the European Commission
Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

We are writing to you to convey our strong concern regarding a series of threats to use military force against the Catalan population. As you know, this past 11th of September, 1.5 million people marched under the slogan “Catalonia, a state in the European Union” and since that moment, the right to self-determination of Catalonia has been part of the public debate in Catalonia, Spain, and internationally.

It is alarming that this debate has been manipulated by different sectors and at unacceptable levels, where the use of military violence appears as a threat against the Catalan people. Many have pointed out that in the case of secession of part of the Spanish State, according to Article 8 of the Constitution, the armed forces “have a mission to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain, to defend its territorial integrity and constitutional order.”

Even more concerning is that relevant public figures or those with positions in the military hierarchy use these arguments to publicly threaten and to advocate violence. Three people deserve to be named in this letter: Colonel Alamán; the Vice President of the European Parliament, Alejo Vidal Quadras; and the President of the Spanish Military Association, Colonel Leopoldo Muñoz Sánchez. These people, in various interviews and statements, interpreted said Article 8 as an open door for violent action by the Spanish Armed Forces in that case that Catalonia democratically decides to hold a referendum. All three of them called for the central government to start preparing for a possible military intervention, and Mr. Muñoz Sánchez suggested suspending not only the Catalan institutions of self-government but also the exercise of constitutional rights of the citizens of Catalonia and bringing it under a regime of government or military authority.

Paragraph 1 of Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) includes a list of principles on which the Union is founded: “principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.” Under the veil of these principles, public statements inciting the use of military violence against citizens of the European Union are unacceptable.

This type of threats effectively limit Catalan and Spanish democracy, as well as the rights to freedom of expression and demonstration of the people who live in Catalonia. In these circumstances, it is the European Union that should proactively intervene to guarantee that the resolution of the Catalan conflict will be peaceful and democratic.
The European Union is one of the places in the world that best protects democracy and fundamental rights, thanks especially to the national jurisdictional systems and, in particular, the Constitutional Courts. However, when the Courts of one state do not guarantee the subordination of the military to civilian authority, it is essential that the European Union intervene.

Furthermore, the European Union has just received the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize and specifies in the TEU, Article 2 and 3, that peace is one of its goals. It is therefore crucial for the European Commission, as the institution that oversees the Treaties of the Union, to make a public statement demanding the withdrawal from the public debate of any military threat or use of armed force as a means of resolving this political conflict, especially taking into account that no representative of the Spanish Government has publicly disqualified any of these bellicose statements, even though some of those who have spoken are active military personnel.

We bring to your attention that Article 7 of the TEU establishes a procedure for monitoring and recommendations, which can result in the suspension of a State’s voting rights in the Council, which should be used if there exists “a clear risk of serious violation and serious, persistent violation of common values.” We therefore ask you to evaluate the real risks of a possible military intervention in Catalonia and the tone used by members of the Spanish Popular Party and the Government of Spain. The European Commission should be capable of determining when to open a procedure according to Article 7 against the Spanish State if it does not respond democratically to the citizens’ demands.

Regardless of the state model that each person has, it is inconceivable that arguments typical of the Fascist times and war manifest themselves openly today. For the sake of democracy and peace in Europe, as members of the European Parliament, we ask that you call for an end to the use of threats of armed force as a resolution to political conflict inside the European Union.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Raül Romeva i Rueda,  Green/EFA, MEP
Maria Badia i Cuchet, Socialist, MEP
Ramon Tremosa, ALDE, MEP
Ana Miranda, Greens/EFA, MEP

(Translation: JN)