MEPs from various European parties find 9-N ruling "unfortunate" and "extremely troubling"

The leaders of the socialist, green and left-wing groups in the European Parliament call for dialogue and a negotiated federal solution for Catalonia

"Extremely concerned" is how Britain’s Conservative MEP Ian Duncan summed up his reaction to the 9-N ruling. Duncan, who was an international observer during the 2014 participatory process, stated that punishing former president Artur Mas, former vice president Joana Ortega and former minister Irene Rigau is both "reprehensible" and "mistaken" and that it "does great damage to democracy in Spain as a whole". The co-president of the Green group, Philippe Lamberts, criticised the Spanish government’s "stubbornness", which he believes makes dialogue "almost impossible" and warns that the verdict "does nothing to help to calm the current political climate". Meanwhile, the leader of the United Left group, Germany’s Gabriele Zimmer, called for "mutual respect" and "dialogue."

"I met Mr Mas when I was an observer during the participatory process, and he did everything within his power to reflect the desire to hold a referendum", recalls Ian Duncan, a Scottish unionist MEP. "I believe something ought to be done to resolve the situation", Duncan declared, while calling for a "solution" in the form of a negotiated referendum in which all parties agree to "respect the result".

"Seen from the outside, the 9-N vote had no legal value, and it was clear from the beginning; it could be seen as a symbolic gesture to show that they [the Catalans] wish to rethink their entire relationship with Spain", said Philippe Lamberts, the Belgian MEP. He sees it as "a legitimate demand", while adding that barring Mas, Ortega and Rigau from office does nothing to help "calm the political climate".

Lamberts stated that "What really concerns me as a European lawmaker is the stubbornness of the Spanish authorities towards Catalonia". He argued that "genuine dialogue" could lead to a "new framework" of understanding between the Catalans and the Spanish, and it is likely that "a federal solution would be viable, if Spain were to consider talking to others and respecting their point of view… However, I feel that the stubbornness of the PP government in Madrid is making dialogue impossible and this is very worrying". He went on to say that "it is never healthy in a democracy if there are major issues which are simply ignored".

Lamberts warned that a unilateral referendum will "further increase confrontation" since Spanish law "does not provide for this possibility", and advocated a "mutual solution". Nevertheless, Lambert is concerned that "we hear more willingness to debate and negotiate from Barcelona than from Madrid. In Madrid, all I hear is clear that the constitution is clear on the matter and that’s that".

The leader of the United Left in the European Parliament, the German Gabriele Zimmers, admits that the Catalan question has generated debate "for some time" and she favours "mutual respect for the different positions" as the guiding principle. According to Zimmers "There has to be dialogue. Dialogue can never be interrupted or halted". She recalled that a federal Germany was the solution which allowed for the unification of the country following the fall of the Berlin Wall. "Federalism might have an advantage when it comes to solving political problems concerning how we work and live together in one country", she remarked.

The federal solution is also favoured by the Social Democrat group in the European Parliament. Speaking for the Catalan News Agency (CNA), their leader, Italy’s Gianni Pittella, stated that the socialists have "always" favoured "maximising autonomy and self-rule while always respecting the law and the constitution". According to Pittella, it is necessary to listen to the citizens’ demands and take them into account since "bureaucratic listening" without offering solutions "does not work".

The Liberal Croatian MEP Ivan Jakovcic declared himself to be "extremely disappointed". He went on to say that he has "read many articles" and "received many, many email messages from various political groups and colleagues from Spain and from Catalan society", in the same week that both the PDeCAT and ERC as well as the PP have sent letters to every MEP regarding the 9-N verdict.

ERC and the PDECat wrote to 751 MEPs to denounce a sentence which they see as "undemocratic", while the Spanish PP did so to declare that "breaking the law is an undemocratic act". The PP has written to all of its partners to warn them that the 2014 referendum was "illegal" and that, likewise, the referendum in autumn 2017 "will be, too".

Speaking for the CNA, Jakovcic expressed a wish that the court’s ruling "does not further deepen the crisis in Catalan society", while expressing his "solidarity" with Artur Mas. The pro Scottish independence MEP Alyn Smith (SNP), branded the ruling as "unfortunate" since 9-N was a "democratic and legitimate" exercise. "The courts are not the place to solve democracy", he concluded. Other MEPs, such as Matt Carthy (Sinn Fein), have also spoken publicly against the ruling: “This is scandalous”, he said on Twitter.

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