Philip Sime

European press on Catalonia: “Suddenly, Brexit doesn’t seem so bad”

European press on Catalonia: “Suddenly, Brexit doesn’t seem so bad”
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"Look on the bright side...Brexit no longer seems so serious"

Chappatte in Le Temps, Switzerland

The events in Catalonia dominate Europe’s press this morning, seen as the biggest political crisis to hit the country since the attempted coup d'état of 1981.

The Madrid-based El País says the invocation of Article 155 was done so ‘legally and transparently’ and does not constitute an act of aggression against Catalan self-government or the rights of Catalans. Rather, El País views Madrid’s response to the crisis as ‘legitimate and necessary’ in the face of the challenge posed by Catalonia’s ‘irresponsible and reckless’ political leaders. It calls a ‘quick, legal and legitimate’ return to self-government in Catalonia.

El Mundo compares Catalonia’s independence declaration to the ‘tragedy of October 1934’, a reference to the revolutionary uprising in which hundreds were killed and the autonomy of Catalonia suspended. It accuses Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the Catalonia assembly, of ignoring the rights of the opposition, the voice of the majority and failed to display ‘honour and decency’.

ABC says it would be a mistake to recognise yesterday’s events as a declaration of independence as the Catalan assembly ceased to be a democratic parliament when it pressed ahead with an ‘illegal’ referendum. The paper throws its support behind the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, describing the invocation of Article 155 as an ‘inescapable obligation’ and calls on the government to ‘arm itself with confidence in itself and in the justice of the cause’.

Meanwhile, right-wing tabloid, La Razón, views the declaration of independence as the culmination of a process that has ‘devastated Catalan politics, torn society apart, and left Catalonia as a region in the hands of a group of anti-democratic nationalists who are undermining the spirit of the European Union’. The paper calls on all Spaniards to ‘close ranks with the Government of the nation’.

La Vanguardia, Catalonia's leading newspaper, says it is 'hardly possible to imagine a more important day’, going on to praise Mariano Rajoy for the way in which he moved to protect the electoral rights of Catalans. La Vanguardia stands by its long-held stance that fresh elections would be the best way to resolve the impasse over independence. The newspaper also warns of an exodus of companies from the region, falling foreign investment and a deterioration of Catalonia’s international image.

El Periódico de Catalunya warns that the application of Article 155 could have ‘very harmful consequences’ for Catalans and calls on all parties to work towards a solution ‘by means of dialogue’. The newspaper believes that Carles Puigdemont bears the ‘ultimate responsibility’ for the suspension of Catalonia’s autonomy. The editorial characterises yesterday’s declaration of independence as the product of ‘years of escapist propaganda’ based on ‘invented grievances, exaggerations, half-truths and fallacies’.

Catalonia’s pro-independence El Punt Avui splashes with a photograph of jubilant separatist crowds along with the headline: ‘Hello, Republic!’. The newspaper criticises the Spanish Senate for its ‘harsh application’ of Article 155 and warns that, in the coming days, ‘control of the streets and finances’ will be key to the future of ‘the new Republic’.

Elsewhere in Europe, France’s Le Monde welcomes Mariano Rajoy’s decision to call a general election in the region as it ‘gives the floor to the Catalans themselves’. The paper dismisses the ‘independent Republic’ declared by Carles Puigdemont as a ‘fiction which lived only a few hours’. The situation is ‘too serious’ for Spaniards to indulge in ‘excesses of joy or anger’, Le Monde says, adding that such a crisis at the heart of Europe could harm the European Union.

Indépendance de la Catalogne - © Chappatte dans Le Temps, Suisse >

— Dessins de Chappatte (@chappatte) October 27, 2017

Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung suggests that Mariano Rajoy’s actions will make it difficult to ‘curb the conflict’, warning that arrests, strikes, boycotts, mass protests and even violence could now follow.