The Luxembourg prime minister, Xavier Bettel, said on Thursday that while it is an internal matter for Spain, the EU cannot ignore the reality of the crisis in Catalonia.
Luxembourg's PM urges talks on Catalonian crisis
The EU “cannot ignore the reality” of the events in Catalonia, Xavier Bettel said before the European Council on thursday.
Luxembourg’s prime minister made the remarks after the meeting of liberal party leaders before the summit. According to the Financial Times, Bettel said he expected the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy “to speak about that point.”
After the independence referendum on 1 October and the ensuing political crisis, the situation has worsened as the Catalan president Puigdemont did not respond to the ultimatum set by Rajoy to either declare independence or not. Instead, he called for dialogue, and said the suspension of the declaration of independence remains in force.
Rajoy has been taking a hard approach throughout the crisis, arguing that the referendum had been unconstitutional. He called a cabinet meeting for Saturday 21 October to discuss suspending elements of Catalan autonomy.
The EU institutions and national leaders have so far refrained from publicly taking a stand on the issue, arguing it is an internal matter. EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had noted at a conference last week that he did not want Catalonia to split, as others may follow suit and the EU would become ungovernable: “An EU at 27 is already difficult, but at 98 it would become impossible.”
Replying to calls that he should mediate between Spain and Catalonia, Juncker stated on 13 October that: “I won’t. If only one party asks me to mediate, I can’t. I shouldn’t.”
While Bettel, on Thursday, agreed on the matter being internal, he took aim at Catalonia’s leaders for organising an independence referendum in the first place.
“I think that the move of Catalan politicians to give the feeling that they don’t care about the law in organising a referendum wasn’t a great idea,” he said, according to the FT article, published on 19 October. “There is a law, and there is still a law to be respected, and there is a constitution, and the constitution should be respected too.”
Bettel urged a “political discussion” to resolve tensions between Madrid and Barcelona. The issue is “not on the agenda but we cannot ignore the reality,” the prime minister said.
However, Rajoy’s team has said: “If prime ministers ask about it in the hallways, he will tell them about the situation but it is not on the agenda.”
“Angela Merkel said today that she was supporting the Spanish government in the face of the secessionist challenge in Catalonia, and defended a solution to the conflict ‘that is based on the Spanish Constitution’.”
The agenda of the European Council summit contains discussions on migration, defence, foreign affairs (Turkey and the developments of the proliferation of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran) and digitalisation. Brexit will also be on the agenda.