El Nacional. Carlota Caps. 14.3.2017.
Mark Demesmaeker (Belgium, 1958) is an MEP and member of the Bureau of the European Parliament. Part of the New Flemish Alliance party, the Flemish separatist party which won the last State elections, presides over the Flemish government and rules in the largest city of Flanders, Antwerp. At an EU level , it forms part of the European Conservative and Reformist group.
Demesmaeker has followed the Catalan Process from the very beginning. In fact, he was one of the international observers who travelled to Catalonia during the N-9 consultation. Now, after being informed about the 9-N sentences, which disqualify Artur Mas for two years, Joana Ortega for 1 year and 9 months and Irene Rigau for 1 year and 6 months for disobedience on having organized the Referendum, Demesmaeker criticized the Spanish justice authorities and qualified the trial as “shameful”.
What do you make of the sentence?
It’s shameful, a scandal for democracy and for Spain. I was in Catalonia during the consultation on 9 November 2014, and saw a very peaceful and democratic event, without malice. It was very peaceful and non-violent. It was people casting their vote. It’s shameful that Spain uses the judiciary as an instrument against democracy. For me, it is a very serious situation because Spain is a member of the European Union and is destroying European law. I do not feel any European reaction, and that is a shame. Democracy is not a crime, it is one of the values of the European Union.
Do you believe that the EU reacts differently depending on the country involved?
I have the impression that there are double standards in Europe and I dislike this a lot. There should be no difference. If there is a problem with Poland, they speak out. If there is a problem with Hungary, they speak out. If there is a problem with Madrid, they should also speak out.
What should the EU’s reaction be?
The reaction should be the same as used with other member states that break the principles of the Union. The reaction should be to defend the principles of the EU, for which the Union was created. What Spain is now doing is to use its judicial system and its constitution as a tool against democracy. This stink of an authocratic regime. The EU should react as it does against Poland.
Do you believe that Europe will finally intervene?
I would like to be optimistic, but I see what the European Union today, and it is a club for states and capitals. The capital is Madrid. The EU should be more than a club for capitals, it should be a union of citizens. They should understand that if you do not allow democracy, the consequences will be very bad for the EU itself. They should support the democratic causes, such as Catalonia’s or Scotland’s. The question is where we put the power, near people or far from the people. If you do not allow the emergence of democratic movements, they will lose all credibility.
Next September the Caalan Government wants to carry out a Referendum. Do you think the Government should push ahead with it even if Madrid fails to authorize it?
There is a democratic majority in favour of carrying out the referendum in Catalonia. Eight out of ten Catalans want to decide. We do not know what the outcome will be. In Scotland they decided to remain in the UK. We cannot predict any results, but the British government gave the Scots the right to decide. This is something that Madrid never did. The Catalans have the right to decide. From my point of view, there is a majority and it is a legitimate cause. There is a Spanish constitution, OK, but this cannot override democracy. If there is a majority in the Catalan parliament and a majority of Catalans, then it is legitimate to hold a referendum and the government should move forward.
With last Monday’s verdict on a non-binding Referendum in mind, do you think there would be prison sentences if the Government carried out the Referendum?
It would be incredible, it would be totally out of control. It would be the first time somebody is put in jail for allowing people to vote. To conduct a vote is not a crime. Not in the European Union. It would have many consequences. If the EU did not react then, I don’t know what would happen.