“The violence used was deplorable”. These were the words spoken by Daan Everts, the Dutch diplomat who led the team of international observers who travelled to Catalonia to oversee the referendum on independence. “The use of violence is regrettable”, he insisted, but as a good diplomat, Everts did not comment on whether a situation like Sunday’s in Catalonia had ever occurred in any democratic EU member state.
“I will provide a more thorough assessment once I have received all the reports from our observers across Catalonia”, he said. The international mission was expected to publish their report on Tuesday.
In contrast, Bart Laeremans —another international observer from Flanders— did not dodge the question. “It is incredible that this should happen in a country that calls itself a democracy”, he stated after being expelled from a polling station by Spain’s riot police and seeing, with his own eyes, how ballot boxes were seized by police using batons. Clearly upset by the scene, Laeremans spoke to Catalan public broadcaster TV3 and said that “this will destroy democracy and it is a violation of the EU’s charter of fundamental rights”.
In total, about twenty international observers monitored the vote in Catalonia last Sunday. Some arrived early in September. “We have studied the Catalan referendum law, whether there has been political dialogue or not, and the administrative issues, as well as the legal ones”, Everts explained. Further observers joined his team on Sunday, after arriving in Barcelona last Thursday and deploying all over Catalonia. Everts remarked that “they are all experts with a great deal of experience supervising elections” and he went on to explain that The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies had asked him to put together this team of professionals. The Centre has also covered the costs of the mission. The observers come from a wide range of countries, such as Holland, the US, France, Germany, Denmark, Montenegro, Poland and Italy.