Catalonia crisis: EU's Tajani blasts those 'sowing discord'

MADRID, Spain – European Parliament president Antonio Tajani criticized those who "are sowing discord" by not following Spanish law in a speech in Spain on Friday, October 20 as the country grapples with the political crisis over Catalonia's independence drive.

"While some are sowing discord by deliberately ignoring law, I think we need to remind ourselves of the importance of respecting the rule of law," he said in his speech, with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker among the audience.

Tajani spoke in the northern city of Oviedo as the European Union accepted Spain's Princess of Asturias Concord Prize for its work in harmonizing relations between its member states.

"Nobody in the EU would ever dream of flouting the rules that have been agreed by all," Tajani said.

"The European Union does not have a police force to enforce judicial decisions; there is no need. When the Court of Justice delivers a judgement, it is applied and that's that."

Spain is facing its worst political crisis since the country returned to democracy following the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975, after Catalonia went ahead with an independence referendum on October 1 deemed unconstitutional by the courts that was marred by a police crackdown on voters.

Spain's central government announced Thursday that it would start seizing some of the Catalan regional government's powers after its leader said he could declare independence.

Rajoy will hold an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday to decide how his conservative government will intervene in Catalonia to stop its independence drive.

'Hellish mess'

Final results from the referendum suggest 43% of Catalan voters turned out and 90% of them backed independence – but 'No' voters largely boycotted the ballot which did not meet international standards.

"Let us not build borders between Europeans. All too often in the past the prospect of redrawing borders has been presented as a heavenly panacea that has resulted in a hellish mess," Tajani said.

Spain's Constitutional Court ruled earlier this week that Catalonia's referendum law violated Spain's democratic constitution of 1978, which gave wide autonomy to the country's regions but affirmed "the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation".

The constitution was approved by more than 90 percent of Catalan voters.

Tajani also recalled that the EU "stands for solidarity".

"There are net contributors in Europe as well. But prosperity for all also benefits those who provide the most," he added.

Many Catalan separatists complain that their region, which is home to some 7.5 million people and accounts for one-fifth of Spain's economic output, pays more in taxes than it receives in investments and transfers from Madrid.

Juncker used his speech to praise Spain as "a driving force in Europe".

"Spain's place is and will be in the heart of Europe. Without Spain, Europe would be poorer," he added.

EU President Donald Tusk, who was also at the ceremony, said "the law must be respected by all".

The Concord prize is one of eight Asturias prizes handed out yearly by a foundation named for Crown Princess Leonor. 

Others categories include art, sports and scientific research. Previous Concord prize winners include UNICEF and Berlin city. –