The EU is not like the US, where the President and the federal administration are extremely powerful. The European Commission in general tends to express the consensus amongst the member states, and when they don’t agree, they don’t say very much.
So while I would have preferred Juncker to have condemned the police violence we saw two days ago in Catalonia in much stronger terms, it is ultimately simply a reflection on the fact that most of the member states have said very little, and they haven’t given him the mandate to do anything else.
The real question is therefore why the heads of government – Merkel, Macron and all the others – have been so quiet, because that’s the ultimate reason why the EU hasn’t said much.
It also shows that Scotland’s voice is missing inside the EU. If Scotland had voted Yes back in 2014, Juncker would have had to take the views of Scotland into account too while trying to work out a consensus position.
The thing is that so long as the EU exists, it is preferable to be on the inside trying to push it in the right direction, rather than being on the outside, criticising its every move.
It’s a bit of a paradox that the EU doesn’t know how to handle Catalonian independence when it’s the rise of the EU that has made it more attractive to be a small country. Before the advent of the EU, NATO, the UN and similar organisations, small countries always got bullied and pushed aside (or even invaded) by big countries, and it was in certain regards preferable to be part of a bigger country. For instance, Scotland arguably did much better during the 19th century than Denmark (which suffered the destruction of its capital and subsequently lost Norway and Schleswig-Holstein).
There is a certain logic to the standpoint of UKIP, namely to oppose Scottish independence and to attempt to return to the days when countries were big, powerful and unconstrained by international organisations. What I don’t get is how people can be in favour of Scottish independence and against the EU per se (as opposed to wanting to reform it), because if the international organisations disappear, an independent Scotland will suffer.
There is no denying, however, that Catalonia now finds itself in a difficult position. They need to be part of the Internal Market to do well, so they need an internationally recognised path to independence. At the same time, it’s clear that Spain won’t negotiate at all. As far as I’m aware, becoming part of the Internal Market through EFTA will also require the accept of all current EEA members, including Spain, so that won’t solve the problem, either.
I hope the leaders of the other EU countries have told señor Rajoy in no uncertain terms that their continued support is dependent on non-violent solutions going forward. If they haven’t, I expect the police violence will escalate if Catalonia as expected declares independence soon (probably tomorrow).
I also hope that the Catalonian precedent hasn’t made Westminster conclude that they can just tell Scotland that “now is not the time for a referendum” forever more. As I’ve said before, I would like to know what Nicola Sturgeon is planning to do if Theresa May never agrees to call another referendum.
In the meantime, we all need to get better at explaining to people in other countries why they should be more supportive of European independence movements, and why suppressing them with force is a very bad idea. Neither Scotland nor Catalonia can ultimately become successful independent countries without some degree of international support. That includes working on improving the European Union – it can be very infuriating, but it’s more necessary than ever.