Frans Timmermans is someone I had never heard of until Wednesday. If you have no idea who he is, let me enlighten you. Frans Timmermans is the Vice President of the European Commission.
He’s now notorious for giving a speech in the European Parliament in which he described the brutality meted out by Spanish paramilitary police in Catalonia as “proportionate”.
He said: “None of us want to see violence in our societies, … However it is a duty for any government to uphold the law, and this sometimes does require the proportionate use of force.”
Below is a short clip that demonstrates the idiocy of Timmermans’ statement. There are literally scores of such clips on social media.
Timmermans is a member of the PvdA [Dutch Labour party]. The day after Spanish brutality hit headlines scross Europe, his party colleague Kirsten van den Hul had an article published on the party website. The article contained the following: “The massive violence that the Spanish police employed to prevent citizens from voting is unacceptable.”
Given Kirsten van den Hul’s article appeared on the Dutch party website, it’s a safe bet that her feelings are shared by party colleagues. So why did Frans Timmermans describe what his colleague had called the “massive violence” of the Spanish police as “proportionate”?
I was reminded of a story from October 2012 involving the European Commission, a Vice President and Madrid.
In an interview in September 2012, Viviane Reding, the Luxembourgeois vice-president of the European Commission – who was on a visit to the Andalusian parliament – was asked whether international law meant that Catalonia would have to leave the EU in the event of the region achieving independence.
According to the journalist, Federico Durán Basallote, Ms Reding responded to his question by dismissing the suggestion, saying international law said no such thing. He quoted her saying: “Oh come on, it [international law] doesn’t say anything like that.”
The interview led to an article in Spanish newspaper Diario de Sevilla in which Ms Reding’s comments were portrayed as strengthening arguments in favour of newly independent states, already members of the EU, remaining members.
According to Basallote, the Madrid Government was furious at Ms Reding’s remarks, which undermined the contention of the Spanish government that an independent Catalonia would be expelled from the EU and have to re-apply for membership.
The Spanish government then exerted pressure on the office of José Manuel Durão Barroso [remember him?], the President of the European Commission, to force them to withdraw Ms Reding’s comments about international law. The EC did so, and applied pressure on the newspapers which had published the story. Both withdrew their articles.
That’s where Newsnet Scotland came in. Asked by Newsnet if Ms Reding was denying saying that there was no international law which says that Catalonia would be out of the EU, Meena Andreeva, who was Viviane Reding’s spokesperson, provided a transcript of the interview.
She said: “I have supplied the English original of what Vice-President Reding said during the interview which was conducted in English language (therefore this is not a translation but the original transcribed wording).”
She added: “The newspaper which published Vice-President Reding’s interview has published a correction of their reporting on the matter and so did El Economista. The issue has therefore been clarified from our perspective and there is nothing more to add.”
What the EC did not know was that Newsnet had managed to track down the journalist who had carried out the interview. Federico Durán Basallote had recorded the converstion. Ms Reding was clearly heard to say, in response to his question: “Oh come on, it [international law] doesn’t say anything like that.”
It proved that the European Commission had lied. I still have the emails and the recording somewhere on an old laptop.
If Madrid was able to persuade EC officials to lie in 2012 on the issue of Catalonia, then it wouldn’t be that difficult to persuade Frans Timmermans to make his ludicrous and extremely dangerous statement. I hasten to add that I have no idea if this is what has happened.
Whatever the truth, the fact is that the EC has left the Catalan people isolated and defenceless. The European Commission has given a green light to Madrid to do whatever it wants. Spanish military hardware is now rolling towards Catalonia. Conflict looks inevitable.
As reckless as Timmermans’ comments are, they are as nothing when compared the sheer hypocrisy of the EC which has been banging on about the ‘rule of law’ and how it cannot interfere in a member state’s constitution.
In July this year both Timmerman and the Commission did just that when the Polish Government sought to make constitutional court changes.
The BBC reported:
The European Commission says it is launching legal action against Poland over plans to give politicians more power to sack and appoint judges.
The Commission said Poland would be stripped of its EU voting rights if it went ahead with proposals to force all Supreme Court judges into retirement.
Timmermans said the Commission would sue Poland for breaking EU rules on judicial independence and on gender discrimination – because the legislation sets different retirement ages for male and female judges.
Incredibly, the reason for the EC’s intervention was that constitutional experts felt the changes by the Polish Government risked undermining the rule of law, democracy and human rights in the country. Yes that’s right. Democracy and human rights. Ponder that.
Meanwhile it’s acceptable for paramilitary police units to brutalise hundreds of people for the ‘crime’ of attending a polling station.
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