“Spanish police storm Catalan government buildings to stop independence referendum”
Yes, that is the headline in The Independent on September 21st. We see how different are the relations between citizens and State in continental Europe, and in Britain.
The inhabitants of Catalonia, a region in North-Eastern Spain with capital Barcelona, have a form of semi-autonomous devolved local government, like Scotland in the UK. The Scottish local government wanted independence from Britain, so they were allowed to hold a referendum. They voted to stay within the UK. If they had voted to leave, well, Westminster would have allowed them to leave.
Likewise the Catalans under their local government wanted to break away from Spain. The Basques had also wanted to break away, and had resorted to terrorist tactics. They were defeated. The Catalans, in contrast, organised a peaceful referendum, due to be held on October 1st.
This however was not allowed! The inquisitorial Spanish judiciary decided this was unconstitutional and illegal, and so they have now – with the full approval of the central government in Madrid – sent in the lethally-armed, paramilitary Guardia Civil, who have arrested the members of the local government in Barcelona and confiscated over 1 mn ballot papers that had been prepared for the vote.
This is the way in which a Napoleonic State deals with any who wish to break away. Napoleon conquered most of continental Europe in his day, and his codes of law, and method of building a State, underlie the practice of most continental States to this day. Here is a painting by Goya showing how Napoleon exported his revolutionary idea of the “Rights of Man” to Spain, a scene from events in 1808:
Any attempt to question the prerogatives of the State were, and still are, treated with an iron fist in an iron glove. The first chapter of the Italian criminal code is entitled “Crimes against the personality of the State”. The French constitution gives a procedure for changing itself, but excludes any possibility of any part of it breaking away.
So on September 20th the central government of Madrid sent its men-at-arms, the Guardia Civil, into Barcelona’s government offices, to stop by main force, let us say by brute force, their attempt to ask the people what they wanted.
A Madrid court has imposed fines on the organisers of the referendum. If they refuse to pay them, I don’t suppose they will be shot as in Goya’s picture, but they will doubtless be imprisoned.
A country may well be entitled to consider its territorial integrity to be sacred. But the point to make here is that the EU aims to forge a new United State of Europe on the same model. Look at the EU draft Constitution, reproduced in the Lisbon Treaty, where powers are either exclusive to Brussels, or if “shared” are allowed to the member states only in areas where Brussels has decided not to, or forgotten to, legislate.
If the vote on 23rd June last year had gone the other way, the UK would have been deemed to have accepted the entire EU project, hook, line and sinker. The euro, Schengen, the Corpus Juris criminal code, the lot. No more opt-outs or rebates.
So in this model it is all power to the centre, including, crucially, the power of enforcement by a centrally-commanded, lethally armed, paramilitary riot-police force – something quite alien to us in Britain, and to our tradition of locally-controlled, normally unarmed, civilian, police forces.
The Guardia Civil is Spain’s contribution to the European Gendarmerie Force, together with similar forces from 5 other EU countries. The EU aims to build its very own lethally-armed enforcement agency, controlled from Brussels, and the EGF is the nucleus around which this will be built. The forces from the six nations are training side by side in barracks in Northern Italy, to be welded into a single force, with allegiance only to the EU.
We in Britain have just managed to get out in time. A few more years down the road, and we would have had EGF units stationed on our soil. Our referendum would have been called “secessionist” and would have been dealt with as a criminal rebellion by Brussels, as Madrid is dealing now with Catalonia’s. Romano Prodi, when President of the Commission, said in a letter to Nigel Farage, that any attempt to withdraw from the Union without following the procedures laid down in the Treaty would be considered a “breach of law”, ie a criminal act.
And to think that only in 2012 an ill-advised British Home Secretary told Parliament that “of course” we would call on “special intervention units” from our EU allies, “if needed”. They did not realise that once on British soil, the EGF would not leave if merely asked to be a British authority, for they would owe allegiance only to Brussels. We would have been under military occupation, as Catalonia now is.
That Home Secretary’s name was Theresa May.