On 4 October 2017, Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the EC in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights introduced the debate at the European Parliament, on the Constitution, rule of law and fundamental rights in Spain in the light of the events of Catalonia.
Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the EC in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights (in ENGLISH) introducing the debate on the Constitution, rule of law and fundamental rights in Spain in the light of the events of Catalonia – in Europe, after the Second World War, and after the end of dictatorship in Spain, Portugal and Greece and again, after the fall of the Berlin wall, we have shaped our democratic societies based on three principles : democracy, respect for the Rule of Law and Human rights, the three need each other, they cannot exclude each other, you cannot use one against the others, if you remove one pillar, then the others will fall too, respect for the Rule of law is not optional, it is fundamental; if the law does not give you what you want, you can oppose the law, you can work to change the law, but you cannot ignore the law; so this fundamental that the constitutions of everyone of our Member States are upheld and respected, so this is the basis for our debate today, in that debate we should be guided by the values set out in Article 2 of the Treatees, values that are common to Member States and citizens, and on whoch our Union is founded.
As Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EC, in his last State of the Union: “Our European Union is not a State but it is a community of law, we must never loose sight of this”; there is general consensus that the Regional government of Catalonia has chosen to ignore the law when organising the referendum held last Sunday (1st October 2017), the Spanish Constitution Tribunal having suspended the Catalan laws on the organisation of the referendum and issued daily penalties against those who went against its orders, that is not changing the fact that we have all seen saddening images from Sunday, let me be clear, violence does not solve anything in politics, it is never an answer, never a solution, and it can never be used as a weapon or instrument; Europe knows that better that anywhere else, none of us want to see violence in our societies, however it is off course a duty for any government to uphold the rule of law, and this sometimes does require the proportionate use of force, we understand that people wanted to express their views, freedom of expression is a fundamental right for all European citizens, and thus for all Spanish citizens; one opinion is not more valuable than another opinion only because it is expressed more loudly [applause].
As the Commission has stated, under the Spanish constitution, Sunday’s vote in Catalonia was not legal, looking ahead, it is clear that an agreed way forward is needed in Spain, for the European Commission, as Jean-Claude Juncker has reiterated repeatedly, this is an internal matter for Spain, that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain, that is why the European Commission has called on all relevant actors to now move quickly from confrontation to dialogue, the power of dialogue, of sitting down and talking to each other even if and especially when we passionately disagree is what our union is built on, all lines of communication must stay open, it is time to talk, to find a way out of the impass, working within the constitutional order of Spain, at the end of the day, the real answers can only come from all those concerned, those directly concerned are all 46 million Europeans who are Spanish citizens, those indirectly concerned are all Europeans who are citizens of all other Member States.
Jean-Claude Juncker is in touch with Mariano Rajoy, Spanish Prime Minister who will trustly ensure that the situation is resolved in a spirit of dialogue and in full respect of the Spanish Constitution and of fundamental rights of citizens, this must be the goal for all of us; allow me to stress that the development of Spain, since the Spanish people liberated themselves from dictatorship, is one of the greatest success stories Europe has seen in its history [Applause]; in less than my life time Spain was transformed from a nation under a boot of a dictator into a nation that leads globally in a great manieries, where every citizen has full right, protected by the rule of law, where culture flourishes and the economy grows, this is the all inspiring achievements of all Spanians, including Catalans; this would not have been possible, without full respect for the rule of law, respect for the separation of powers, respect for the ruling of judges; let me add, nowhere is the attachment for the rule of law stronger than in those nations where there are memories of what it means to be deprived of it; all this was achieved through hard work, commitment, dialogue and respect for diversity, please let that inspire all of us, to leave the path of confrontation and follow the road of cooperation and dialogue to solve the situation. Thank you very much.
Members of the European Parliament applauding