Debate on Catalonia


Committee of the Regions Plenary – 10 October 2017

Intervention by Bart Somers (ALDE CoR President)

Firstly, I want to condemn all acts of violence in the Catalan crisis. Violence can never be the answer. I am especially offended by the death threats against someone I know personally: the leader of the opposition in the Catalan Parliament, Inés Arrimadas. Threatening politicians for their opinion is unacceptable and I want to speak out my solidarity to her. That same solidarity goes to any who has suffered any violence or threats in this crisis.

If we like it or not, this Catalan crisis has a European dimension, because the risk exists that Catalans are facing the possibility of being taken out of the EU by a unilateral procedure that is clearly against the law. And for millions of Catalans it is clearly against their will.

This crisis, this tension and growing aggressiveness has to stop. The only way to do that is to go back to the legal framework, to the rule of law, the constitutional order. For a democrat and a European there is no other path.

But at the same time it is clear that such a deep crisis of confidence, such a conflict of conviction needs a political solution. It is not enough to hide behind courts, laws and judges. This conflict needs responsible statesmen who sit around the table, who listen to each other and find solutions that restore trust and cohesion.

It is a good moment to remember the words of the Spanish philosopher, Gregorio Marañon, who said after the Spanish civil war: “It is easier to die for an idea, and I would add that it is less heroic, than it is to try to understand the ideas of the others”.

To end I say to the Catalan government: do no leave the EU. I am a federalist and at the same time I believe in regional autonomy. But we live in an age where Europe and the world needs bridges, not walls. Federalism, not separatism.

And I also say to prime minister Rajoy: when millions of your citizens no longer want to be part of your country, you cannot deny it. You have a political problem and it must be solved politically.

I finish quoting the brilliant Catalan song writer, Joan Manuel Serrat, from his song Sin Piedad: “your defeat is also mine, my failure is also yours, your impoverishment is mine, my agony is yours. You need me, and I need you”