‘Fake law’: Professor debunks claims EU legally bound to punish Spain for Catalan violence

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Nearly 40,000 retweets for #SpainOutOfEU call, but lawyer says Europe constrained to stay out of these disputes

Image via Instagram (@aa_oeo)

EU law experts have been forced to rush to the Union’s defence, after a tweet asking the President of the Commission to take action against police violence went viral.

This weekend saw the people of Catalonia, Spain, vote overwhelmingly for independence in a contentious referendum. The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has said the vote was illegal, Spain’s constitutional court having banned it.

Shocking images then came to light of police forcefully trying to block voting, including pulling people out of polling stations by their hair. Medical officials say around 850 people have been hurt, though thankfully most of these injuries are believed to be minor.

Author Liz Castro wants to know: where is the EU in all this? In a tweet addressed to Jean Claude Juncker, she said:

And shared it was. At the time of publication, the tweet has garnered nearly 40,000 retweets and 25,000 likes.

But EU law experts aren’t sold on Castro’s reference to Article 7. University of Essex EU law professor Steve Peers went as far as to say this is “fake law”:

A scan of Article 7 shows the EU “may determine”, subject to conditions, that there has been “a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2”. Article 2 says:

The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

Neither Article 7 nor Article 2 mentions “military force” at any point.

Peers concedes that, where the Catalan referendum is concerned, the EU is left in a sticky situation. He told Legal Cheek:

Various people have either blamed the EU for the violence or blamed the EU for not stopping it. But this ignores the fact that Member States deliberately wrote into the treaties that the EU should not affect Member States’ national identity or territorial integrity. So the EU is legally constrained to stay out of disputes like these.

Criticism of the police violence should be directed solely at the Spanish government, he concludes, not at the EU.

Peers is not the only person jumping to the Union’s defence.

Steve Bullock, a former negotiator for the UK in Europe, noted the EU has, by some, been blamed “simultaneously for being an all-powerful superstate and for not controlling its Member States”. He told us: “It’s always been the case that, often, Member States take the credit, while the EU takes the blame.”

Senior law lecturer Paul Bernal took a similar line, noting:

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Not Amused

Errr … this is getting a bit odd now.

I can find no evidence of “Brexiters trying to use the Catalan referendum to say the EU is bad”. The only people suggesting this are the (tiny minority) of Europhile loons who still think the referendum campaign is on.

What happened in Spain is appalling. It has nothing to do with the EU. It certainly has nothing to do with ‘Brexiters’. It is the fault of the Spanish government who we should all condemn.

It is as equally specious reasoning to try to construct a pre-EU message out of this. Most decent people (those who voted remain or leave – which by the way is not a lifelong tribal identity) can understand that the whole world doesn’t revolve around Brexit. Those that can’t appear to be in this news story.



It runs on similar themes.

A second referendum should happen. I think it is appalling how the Tories triggered. They didn’t have to.



They did have to, because in June 2016 we had a national referendum in which the country voted to leave the EU.

Do try and keep up.



Read the post again you fool. The referendum was unnecessary but Cameron forced himself into a corner and left himself with no option (well, he could have just resigned and triggered an election instead)



“Read the post again you fool.”

I did. You said: “I think it is appalling how the Tories triggered.”

Obviously, this is appalling English, but the most natural interpretation is that you were talking about the triggering of Article 50.

If that isn’t what you meant, then learn to communicate better!


“The referendum was unnecessary”

Your point would make sense if the country voted to remain. Given it voted to leave shows it was absolutely necessary.


Wrong. We could have referendums daily or weekly on a variety of topics and issues but that does not make them necessary. Why was it necessary to hold a referendum only when a change to the status quo (leaving the EU) was being contemplated?

We live in a Parliamentary democracy (apparently), not a plebiscitary democracy, however appetising that may be for some people. There are some questions and issues which demand leadership and responsibility from those in government rather than populistic appeals and nationalistic rhetoric, which accompanied the June 2016 referendum.

PS I am not the same Anonymous as 2.04pm on Oct 2 but I typed the message at 1.39am.


No evidence Brexiteers are trying to use the Catalan referendum situation to say the EU is bad? Just have a look at the recent posts on the topic on the ‘Get Britain Out ‘ website. Plenty but plenty of comments of that nature, blaming the EU, there.





Lots of comments from Leave voters in my Facebook feed suggesting that this is a) the fault of the EU somehow or b) the EU are at fault for not doing more to prevent it or are not critical enough of the Spanish government!




The bloke above me is a simpleton.

Wow – one Facebook post.



Hypocrisy of the worst order.

The EU was happy to intervene and impose sanctions on Austria when their electorate voted for Jörg Haider’s far-right party in such numbers that they went into the governing coalition.

Is that not “interfering in the internal affairs of a member state”?

The EU should back the result.



THANK YOU! I read this article knowing the Austrian debacle wouldn’t be referred to so either the author is incompetent or has a bad memory.
The EU is a dictatorship who choose to apply it’s values as long as it benefits the political class!



It’s easy to forget that Spain was a fascist dictatorship until 1975.

Theirs is a young democracy, and there is still an outdated and authoritarian thread running through the country.

Google “Conguitos” for an idea of how backwards it can still be.



Darling Fascist Bully-Boy,

Give me my country back, you bastard.


Neil, Catalonia


Lions Ground

Professor debunks, lol. I have debunked this the moment they put the art7 claim on twitter. It’s the Lisbon Treaty taken out of context.

This post has been moderated because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.




What controversial view has been censored by the freedom-haters here?



Funny how Spain want Gibraltar whilst at the same time insisting it holds on to North African enclaves that Morocco claims as theirs. Double standards?

The Spanish should have allowed a referendum just as the British government allowed a referendum on Scottish independence.


Mrs Sayithowitis

Referendum being illegal then the vote would not make an iota to sPain as it would not count. So why then the violent beatings rubber bullet’s and removal of ballot’s? Surely not out of embarrassment! If sPain can go this far with Catalonia can you blame Gibraltar wanting nothing to do with sPain! Wow! they sure showed their true colours. We will beat you into submission you will LOVE US……Fascist Bullies! The world is looking at this abnormal behaviour. Who up for holidays in sPain next year? Franco has risen from the grave. …..Y viva los BULLies, and they call us Brit pigs. ADIOS EU.


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