They say they are “extremely concerned” with events that have taken place in the region in recent days, particularly the arrests earlier this week of 14 high ranking Catalan officials.
Spanish authorities have recently seized control of the Catalan government’s finances, confiscated 1.5 million posters for the upcoming independence referendum and threatened more than 700 local mayors with legal action for offering council premises to hold the referendum.
In other action, Madrid detained 14 senior Catalan officials, including Josep Maria Jové, the deputy of Catalonia’s Vice-President Oriol Junqueras. They are suspected of misappropriating public funds and other offences.
Spain’s Guardia Civil raided several Catalan ministries, arresting members of the government.
This, say the MEPs, is “just the latest” in a series of increasingly “repressive” measures by the Spanish government designed to prevent the independence referendum organised for next month.
On 1 October, Catalonia’s separatist government has called a referendum on leaving Spain, and wants to declare independence if the Yes vote wins.
The Catalan Parliament enacted its own law in a vote on 6 September.
Under the controversial law, the result is binding and independence must be declared by Parliament.
However, the Spanish leadership has rejected the 1 October vote as illegal and the courts have ordered a halt.
Up to 10 million ballots for the referendum have been seized, along with promotional material and ministries and institutions in and around Barcelona have been raided, including the economy, foreign affairs, telecoms, social affairs ministries and presidency building.
A statement from Parliament’s GUE/NGL group read, “Whatever our opinion of Catalan independence or the 1 October referendum, this does not justify the use of force, repression and fear. The
Catalan people must be allowed to democratically decide their future.”
It called on the Spanish government to “end its policy of repression against Catalan society”, saying this was “unacceptable in any democratic country.”
The group wants the EU institutions to “protect the fundamental rights of the Catalan people as European citizens and not be indifferent to the events happening in Catalonia.”
Catalan MEPs Josep-Maria Terricabras, Jordi Solé and Ramon Tremosa have written to all members of the European Commission and other MEPs.
In their letter, they say, “The raids of the Guardia Civil are escalating and are unacceptable for any democratic country. Catalonia is clearly under siege.
“Catalan people are determined to defend their institutions with non-violence. The actions from the Spanish government are a clear violation of fundamental rights, the EU treaties and the EU charter of fundamental rights.”
The letter goes on, “We call on the Spanish government to stop these attacks and this clear repression on democracy and all the authorities of the institutions of the EU to stand for the rights of
Catalan people as European citizens and to not remain indifferent to the events happening in Catalonia.”
Terricabras added, “We are determined to peacefully exercise our democratic right to self-determination. Spain is disgracefully imposing a de-facto state of emergency in an attempt to stifle democracy. They will not succeed. We will vote and express our will democratically and peacefully.”
His sentiments were endorsed by Solé, who commented, “Spain has detained members of the Catalan government. They cannot detain a nation determined to defend democracy.
“They will not succeed in trampling over our democratic rights. All of Europe must see what is happening.”
Spain’s 2008 economic crisis hit Catalonia hard, leaving it with 19 per cent unemployment (compared with 21 per cent nationally). The region, which makes up 16 per cent of Spain’s population, accounts for almost 19 per cent of Spanish GDP.
However, a survey in July suggested 49 per cent of Catalans opposed independence, while 41 per cent were in favour.