Puigdemont will Return to Belgium on Saturday to Activate the Council of the Republic

Exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont will return to Waterloo (Belgium) next Saturday to activate the Council of the Republic following the withdrawal of his European Arrest Warrant (EAW) by Spanish Supreme Judge Llarena.

The Council of the Republic will be “a government in exile” led by Puigdemont and also formed by the exiles Ponsatí, Serret, Comín, Puig, Gabriel, and Rovira. This government will have the mission to internationalize the Catalan cause, to find “ways” to implement the Catalan Republic, and to promote the constituent process in order to create the drafting of the future Republic.

The Council of the Republic is expected to be free to act in Belgium without the problems imposed by the police and Spanish justice. The Council should represent the country’s diversity, which is why it will also have the representation of local communities and associations.

The design envisaged in principle and that in the coming days will take control of the body is to be composed of two institutions: the Council of the Republic and the Assembly of Representatives. The Council of the Republic will be the government in exile. It will meet every week and will coordinate politically with the Catalan government presided over by President Torra.

With regard to the Assembly of Representatives, this will be equivalent to the parliament in exile, in charge of any other executive powers. The Assembly of Representatives will have the deputies of the independentist parties that now represent the majority of the Catalan parliament but will add representatives from the city councils and more institutions, with the intention of constituting a Catalan national institution with greater representation. Both the Council and the Assembly will generally meet in Brussels, but the possibility of meeting in Catalonia is not ruled out, which may cause new problems with Spanish institutions.

Formally, both institutions will be private, in order to avoid becoming trapped in the legal web that Spain wants to build. Politically, its public performance will be covered by the Catalan government, which will incorporate the decisions taken by the board to the extent that it is legally possible. The council, however, will escape the Spanish repression and will be able to take on tasks that could not be carried out otherwise, as in the case of Catalan delegations abroad. It is clear that the two bodies will continue to be banned by the Spanish government, but they can be activated from the free space in Brussels practically in the same format that they had used so far. In Brussels, the drafting of the Constitution of the Republic will also be piloted from an ample popular discussion movement that receives broad input.

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Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Borrell Urges Ambassadors to Behave like the Spanish Ambassador to the US Morenés

Josep Borrell said diplomats must intervene like the Spanish ambassador to the US, Morenés, last week when he accused President Torra of being a liar and denied the existence of Catalan political prisoners during the inauguration of the Smithsonian Festival, in Washington.

President Torra and the whole Catalan delegation left the reception and accused the ambassador of delivering an insulting speech against the Catalans. Dozens of attendees immediately reacted to the offending speech by shouting “free the political prisoners” at the ambassador, before following the president out of the event.

Morenés also accused Torra of spreading “propaganda.” “In Spain, there are no political prisoners …. there are some politicians who, despite having been repeatedly warned by their own legal services, decided to bend parliament regulation and violate the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia and the (Spanish) Constitution,” he said. Borrell defended these words saying, “No ambassador should remain passive to President Torra’s attacks on Spain.”

President Torra later said that what happened was “intolerable.” He called on Spanish PM Sánchez to say whether he and the Socialist party shared the ambassador’s opinion on what’s happening in Catalonia. Since then Torra and his administration have called for the immediate resignation of Morenés because this level of insult cannot be tolerated in public institutions.

The Spanish Socialist Party and PM Sánchez defended Morenés speech and attitude on Monday, arguing that he said the truth about what is happening in Catalonia, including the non-existence of political prisoners.

Earlier this week, Borrell took a step further and urged all Spanish ambassadors to keep the same “offensive” attitude against President Torra and other Catalan high-ranking officials who give speeches abroad.

The Leader of the Spanish Ultra Nationalist Ciudadanos Party in Catalonia, Ines Arrimadas, Justifies and Promotes Attacks against pro-Independence Supporters

The leader of the Spanish ultra nationalist Ciudadanos party in Catalonia, Ines Arrimadas, accused the Catalan government on Sunday of being responsible for recent aggressions against people who wear yellow ribbons.

“The Catalan government should accept that yellow ribbons don’t represent all the Catalans,” Arrimadas said.

Arrimadas avoided condemning such aggressions, and instead, called on the Catalan government to maintain institutional neutrality by removing yellow ribbons from governmental buildings. She believes that everybody is free to wear yellow ribbons on their jackets or use other types of symbology at home, but never in institutions because according to her, yellow ribbons are comparable to symbols like the “swastika” used by the Nazis.

We’re worried about the social fracture and these acts of ‘violence’ can happen. We have been the first party to say that we must discuss how to recover peaceful coexistence and reconciliation among Catalans.” Asked if the Catalan political parties should do self-criticism, she said that C’s has proposed a plenary session to discuss the Catalan conflict and the return to Spanish constitutional legality. “We want everyone to participate, it will mean that the social fracture worries the rest of political parties.

In this way, Arrimadas avoided condemning the recent fascist attacks against peaceful pro-independence supporters. In the last few weeks, Arrimadas and her political party have been accused of endorsing these kinds of violent attacks against innocents and some of their members have been seen in nocturnal squads removing yellow ribbons from the streets in numerous cities across Catalonia.

Since Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) became the new Spanish prime minister, following a successful motion of no-confidence against the then Prime Minister Rajoy on June 2nd, C’s appears to have hardened its position against pro-independence supporters, probably expecting to recover the big social support that they once had, and have lost in hardly a week.

A few days before the motion took place, C’s was leading all the polls for new Spanish elections, reaching 28,6% of the votes against 20% for the PSOE. However, with Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) as prime minister, the tables have been turned with C’s losing nearly 8% of their support, becoming the third party in Parliament with only 21,1% of votes, behind the PP and the PSOE who went on to win the elections with 28,8% of the votes.

With those “awful” projections, C’s appears to have launched an anti-Catalan campaign aimed at getting support from traditional PP supporters. In past elections, an anti-Catalan discourse gained millions of new voters and the victory to the PP.

Hence, it is expected that C’s will continue making attacks against pro-independence supporters until the next elections take place in 2020. Chaos and an escalation in the conflict between Spain and Catalonia may give them a chance of winning the elections and becoming the leading party in Spain.

Josep Borrell, a ‘radical’ anti-independentist, who once said that the Catalan pro-independence movement was a disease, has been appointed as new Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has nominated Josep Borrell as new Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs. Borrell, who was ex-minister in Spanish socialist governments and ex-President of the European Parliament, is a controversial figure characterized by his relentless offenses against Catalan pro-independence leaders. During a unionist demonstration organized by a far-right organization in Barcelona last December, Borrell said: 

It’s a good idea, this ‘stitching up wounds.’ They have to be stitched up. It’s true: this is a wounded society and it has to be cured. But, before closing the wounds, they have to be disinfected. Because, if they’re not disinfected, things rot. The social body has to be healed, so it has to be scrubbed well with disinfectant.”

Borrell resigned as president of the European University Institute in 2012 following accusations of conflicts of interests. In 1998, Borrell accompanied convicted politicians of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) to prison who were sentenced for organizing and taking part in (GAL), a state terrorism group that acted in the Basque Country during the 80’s and caused 27 deaths.

Pro-independence parties have criticized Borrell’s appointment and accused the new Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez of fueling the conflict in Catalonia. President Puigdemont went further and said in a Tweet that the Socialist party was attempting to divide Catalan society.  

The Catalan government has been calling to open a dialogue with Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez since he became President last week in order to find a solution for the continuing political conflict between Catalonia and Spain.

Despite the appointment of a radical anti-independentist as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Catalan administration has insisted on the need to start bilateral talks with Spain as soon as possible. However, behind the scenes, pro-independence leaders recognized that there are few chances of that happening. They believe that Sánchez will follow the same strategy that his predecessor ex-PM Rajoy used during his term in office: the judicialization and criminalization of the pro-independence movement.

Brief Biography

Born in 1947 in Pobla de Segur, Lleida, Borrell began in local politics before joining the PSOE party and eventually rising to ministerial level. He was the minister of Public Works, Transport, and the Environment during the third and fourth terms governments of Spanish PM Felipe González (PSOE). In 2004, he was elected head of the European Chamber where he served from 2004 to 2007. He joined the board of the Spanish multinational corporation Abengoa in 2019 and became chair of its international advisory board a year later.

Borrell has a doctorate in economic science from the Complutense University of Madrid, and he has studied at the French Institute of Petroleum in Paris and Stanford University in the US.

PNV supports Spain’s Budget despite Promising the Contrary

On Wednesday, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) voted in favor of Spain’s State Budget despite promising its voters and the Catalans that it would never ever support it unless the Rajoy administration lifted the direct rule over Catalonia (Article 155). A PNV spokesman said, “The party made such a decision out of ‘responsibility.’ It will help improve the living conditions of the Basque people.”

In the past few months, we expressed our intention to reject Spain’s budget for 2018 if the direct rule over Catalonia (Article 155) remained in place, this was a matter of principles,” read an official statement by the party.

PNB representatives lead by Joseba Egibar recognized on Thursday that they had broken their promises over Catalonia, and the fact that they weren’t able to de-activate Spain’s direct rule over Catalonia (Article 155) because apparently they “miscalculated” their capacity of influence.

The PNV had been very critical of the Rajoy administration since he implemented a direct rule over Catalonia. However, yesterday’s decision to support Spain’s Budget by breaking its promises suggests that from the beginning, PNV’s real intentions were to take advantage of the existing political situation in Catalonia in order to negotiate a better funding for the Basque Country.

If the PNV had voted against the budget, the Rajoy administration would have lost the chamber, which might have forced a snap/quick election in the next few months.

The PNV had strong incentives to support Rajoy’s ‘corrupt’ government. The budget includes €570 million in investments destined for the Basque country. In a hypothetical new election, the opposition party C’s could have won the majority of seats in Parliament. C’s has been very critical of the high degree of financial autonomy in the Basque country and announced a few weeks ago that if it ever gets the presidency, it will break all the existing financial pacts between Spain and the Basque Country.

A spokesperson for the Basque government, Josu Erkoreka, also criticized Catalan President Torra for appointing jailed and exiled ministers, which in his personal opinion, has prevented the Spanish government from lifting the direct rule (Article 155) over Catalonia. “There is no doubt he was aware of the effect and consequences of his actions,” he said.

A wide range of political parties, including the pro-independence ones, the Spanish Podemos, and the Basque EH Bildu, have accused the PNV of breaking its promises with Catalan people and being responsible for “keeping” the PP, a corrupt party, in power.

On Thursday, Spain’s ruling PP’s party was fined 250k by the Spanish National Court for illegal funding in a case which involves accusations of kickbacks in exchange for giving contracts to a network of businesspeople bidding for venders.

Former PP treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, was sentenced to 33 years in prison and fined €44 million. The businessman and leader of the corruption plot, Francisco Correa, was sentenced to 51 years in jail. The Spanish National Court also sentenced the former PP member and businessman, Pablo Crespo, to 37 years behind bars. Twenty-six more people involved in the case were also sentenced to prison or fined.

PNV’s decision to support the Rajoy administration will definitely benefit them in the short term since they will be able to maintain a high degree of power in the Basque Country. Nevertheless, it may also backfire against them in the near future when they will need support from the Catalan administration, which feels betrayed.  They may also face problems in next elections, since most of their voters support Catalonia’s bid for independence and more importantly, democracy. It’s believed that the opposition Basque pro-independence party, EH Bildu, will get a high percentage of votes from ex-PNV voters since they have remained loyal to the Catalan people and their legitimate aspirations.

President Quim Torra

The new presidential candidate, Quim Torra (JxCat), is well-known for his fierce defense of the Catalan Republic. Ex-president of Òmnium Cultural, one of the major Catalan pro-independence organizations, Torra was chosen by President Puigdemont to lead a provisional government aimed at the construction of the Republic.

Quim Torra was born in Blanes, a small town on the north side of Barcelona, in 1962. He has a degree in law, was director of the Born Cultural Centre until 2015 and director of the Centre of Studies of Contemporary Topics of the Catalan government until last October.

Torra presented his MP candidacy for JxCat as an independent. He isn’t a member of any political party. He also formed part of the team which negotiated the government manifesto with CUP and ERC in advance of an expected investiture. His presidential candidacy comes after the Spanish Constitutional Court blocked the investiture of Puigdemont, the legitimate President of Catalonia, who then activated the plan “D,” the provisional investiture of Torra until he can be sworn in later by the legislature.

The expectation is that Torra will be elected as President of Catalonia in a second round on Monday after not achieving an absolute majority in the first round on Saturday after the CUP decided to keep its abstention in its political council held on Sunday.

Although unlikely, if the Spanish government or the Constitutional Court decides to block Torra’s investiture, there will be a new election in two months.

German Parliament President, Wolfgang Schäuble, asks Spain to de-escalate the conflict with Catalonia

German Parliament president, Wolfgang Schäuble, asked Spain on Friday to de-escalate the conflict with Catalonia.

“We have to shape globalization such that people don’t feel lost. To that end, the Spanish are advised to solve the problem in a way that the Catalans can live with,” he said.

Catalan president Puigdemont was detained and held in a German prison since last week. In response to requests that he be released, Schäuble said that his country has to respect the rules of the European Arrest Warrant.

“The decision over Puigdemont seems anything but trivial. Now it’s in the hands of the justice system, in which I have full confidence,” said Schäuble.

He also said that the German government won’t intervene in Puigdemont’s extradition case, arguing that there must be separation of powers between politics and the justice system.

Puigdemont has been in prison in Neumünster – in the north of Germany – since he was detained and taken into custody by German authorities last week, while traveling to Belgium to face his extradition case there. His German lawyer, Wolfgang Schomburg, had unsuccessfully called through the media for Merkel’s government to stop Puigdemont’s extradition.

Schomburg, one of today’s best German lawyers, believes that the German courts will reject the extradition request, but, if they don’t, he will take the case to the Constitutional Court.

A German government representative, Steffen Seibert, expressed his support for the Spanish government, arguing that this is an “internal matter” which must be resolved in accordance with the Spanish Constitution and laws.

On Saturday, Puigdemont sent his first message from prison:

“I won’t give up, and I won’t step aside when faced with the illegitimate actions of those who lost at the ballot box, nor when faced with the arbitrariness of those who are willing to pay the price of abandoning the rule of law and justice for the unity of the motherland.”