In recent weeks, the dispute over Catalonia’s quest for independence from Spain has captivated the attention of many parts of the world. There is concern about further outbreaks of violence if the government in Madrid and the Catalonian independence movement cannot resolve their differences. This has led commentators to call for the European Union to step in and mediate. But such hopes are not well founded. The EU has neither the tools nor the will to tackle the separatist crisis in Spain. Here’s why. First, the conflict over Catalonia’s status comes at a less than ideal time for the EU. Officials in Brussels are consumed with thorny negotiations over the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, the continuing flow of migrants to Europe, and challenges to the rule of law in Poland and Hungary, to name just a few issues. There is crisis fatigue in the EU and limited enthusiasm for trying to put out another fire.
Second, the EU is not equipped, for legal and political reasons, to tackle separatist disputes like the one in Catalonia. As journalist Natalie Nougayrède points out, the EU cannot dictate how member states organize themselves or interact with their regions. Article 4.2 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, which revised the key constitutional treaties of the EU, states that the EU will not interfere with key state functions such as “territorial integrity” or “maintaining law and order.”
This means member states still largely dictate the policies of the EU and the member states have shown no willingness to back the Catalan separatists. This stems, in part, from a feeling of solidarity with the state of Spain. Some of the major powers in Europe are also distracted by major domestic challenges, be it Brexit for the United Kingdom, reforming the labor market in France or negotiating a new coalition government in Germany.
Full Article: Why the European Union’s hands are tied over Catalonia.