CATALAN president Carles Puigdemont has called on the EU to act against Spain’s ‘violation’ of the region’s ‘basic rights’.
The leader said it was the European Commission’s duty to intervene, but the bloc has stood by Madrid, citing the referendum as a ‘domestic issue’.
It comes after tensions came to a head following the raiding of homes, offices and government buildings during a crackdown by Madrid designed to squash the vote.
Police arrested 14 high-profile Government officials as the national Government searched for evidence in relation to the planned October 1 referendum on Catalan independence, which has been declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
Mr Puigdemont said: “European values, civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of information and freedom of assembly are being violated by Spain’s central Government.
“It’s a situation that harks back to the dark past of this country, when democracy was not a part of the Spanish dictionary. What is happening here in Catalonia would not happen anywhere else in the European Union.
“Instead of engaging in discourse, the Spanish Government has opted for police and judges, taking us beyond the limits of a respectable democracy.
“The EU itself is built on these values and is committed to guaranteeing the rights proclaimed in the charter and in the EU treaties.
“As an EU member state, Spain should respect that. If not, it is the European commission’s duty to intervene.”
But the EU has remained cautious and reluctant to upset one of its key members.
European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said last week: “We are attached to the respect of the Spanish constitution, as of all member states’ constitutions”.
While an EU executive spokesman said ‘all questions can be addressed within the conditional order’.
A source told the EU observer: “If that is not a taboo, it looks like it very much.
“All member states are embarrassed – we don’t want to get involved.”
Puigdemont wrote for The Guardian: “The rule of law is accepted across Europe as the guarantee of our rights, but the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, is twisting our law to suit his own political ends in blocking the referendum.
“No longer will we compromise on our desire for a referendum. We won’t give up on it.”
He added: “We call on the international community to stand with Catalonia in its defence of democracy and true European values. In the meantime, our citizens must be ready to defend democracy and self-rule in the coming days with the only weapons we have: ballot boxes and a peaceful attitude.
“All we want is to carry out the greatest expression of a free democracy, and vote on Catalonia’s future. This is not about independence, it is about fundamental civil rights, and the universal right of self-determination.”