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.

Imminent Internal Restructuring of ERC and PDeCAT

The failure of the negotiations for the formation of a new government between pro-independence parties in the last two months, has forced ERC and PDeCAT to carry out a deep internal restructure.

Numerous influential groups within PDeCAT are demanding that the leadership call for an ideologically extreme congress aimed at establishing a new strategy. They argue that PDeCAT is not defending the mandate of the latest election: the immediate implementation of the Catalan Republic. They also accuse the current party leadership of betraying Puigdemont, arguing that they only defended his candidacy at the last moment, which ultimately led to his resignation and the nomination of the jailed Jordi Sánchez as new candidate.

ERC has also announced that it will soon hold an ideological conference aimed at unifying the party and choose a new strategy. This move comes after numerous ERC representatives from numerous cities across the country publicly showed disagreement with the leadership of the party. They argued that ERC has given up on construction of the Catalan Republic due to their fear of repression by Spain. That is why they are also demanding that all the leaders of the party who are scared of ending up in prison must step aside and allow new members who are willing to disobey Spain to implement the Republic.

Sources close to the leadership recently said that they won’t resign and will instead try to impose a new strategy, aimed at respecting the current Spanish legal framework and implementing measures to grow social support for independence. However, the party bases appear to be willing to push until their resignation.

Jordi Sánchez Nominated as Presidential Candidate

On Monday, Catalan Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, nominated the jailed leader, Jordi Sànchez, as a presidential candidate. One day later, he also announced that the investiture session to swear Sànchez in will be held in  Parliament next Monday at 10 am.

The Spanish government warned that they won’t allow him to become president. However, the final decision will be made by the Spanish Supreme Court.

According to an important number of jurists, if Judge Llarena, who is leading the case against Catalan pro-independence leaders, does not allow Sànchez to be sworn in as President, he would be prevaricating. Thus, if Sànchez appeals that possible decision to higher courts, including the European ones and wins, the whole case against Catalan pro-independence leaders would be nullified. And all the Catalan political prisoners would have to be released immediately. 

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Talks to Form a New Government in Catalonia Restart

The negotiations halted on Wednesday due to disagreements about Puigdemont’s role in the new executive. While JxCat contends that Puigdemont must be able to control the Catalan government from Brussels, ERC argues that it would lead to a confrontation with the Spanish government that they want to prevent by any means. The rest of the negotiation topics are already very advanced.

Both parties agree on the creation of two governments: a provisional one in Belgium led by Puigdemont that is aimed at internationalizing the Catalan cause, and the another one in Barcelona led by someone else and aimed at starting a constituent process to create the new Catalan Constitution. In addition, ERC has proposed to implement measures to grow social support for independence, which would allow the new administration to take unilateral steps to confront Spain in the future.

 

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JxCat and ERC Are Close to Reaching an Agreement on the Formation of a new Government in Catalonia

After weeks of disagreements and reproach between JxCat and ERC on the formation of a new government, both parties appear to be close to reaching a final agreement. Sources near the negotiations said that Puigdemont would lead a provisional republican government in Brussels aimed at internationalizing the Catalan cause while someone else with executive powers would do the same in Catalonia.

Nevertheless, Puigdemont would still be responsible for the appointment of the new government and he would have the power to call new elections at any given moment. Members of ERC and JxCat said that this move would allow the new government to comply with the popular mandate of the latest election: the construction of the Catalan Republic.

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Dual Government in Catalonia?

Pro-independence parties have restarted talks on the formation of an effective government in Catalonia. The negotiations broke down two weeks ago, following a wave of mutual reproaches and criticism. However, the announcement of the Spanish government that it will use its direct rule over Catalonia to eliminate Catalan as a vernacular language at schools has forced ERC and JxCat to understand each other and accelerate their negotiations.

A number of possible formulas to swear in Puigdemont as president are under discussion. The possibility of forming a dual government with some members in Brussels and others in Barcelona appears to be the most feasible one. In an interview with ACN (Catalan News Agency), Elsa Artadi (JxCat) said that her party and the ERC are preparing the necessary logistics to make it possible to govern from both places.

She also said that Puigdemont has to be sworn in even though the Spanish Constitutional Court and the Spanish government are determined to prevent it from happening. She explains that Puigdemont cannot be just a symbolic figure. For her candidacy, she has to “govern, be part of the executive power and have complete legitimacy.” Artadi added that Puigdemont should be the leader of the country, the one “setting the tone” of Catalonia’s politics.

The debate between the ERC and JxCat is developing on the assumption that part of the Catalan government will be in Brussels and the other in Barcelona. While Artadi said that Puigdemont should be able to return to Catalonia after being sworn in, the chances of that happening are remote since there aren’t sufficient guarantees that he wouldn’t be imprisoned.

Similarly, other sources from the negotiations admitted that they still have to find a formula to guarantee a normal pace of activity in the Parliament.

JxCat and ERC representatives announced yesterday that their negotiations have progressed significantly. However, they won’t announce any agreement at least until the end of next week or the following one. They said that they don’t want to prejudice the legal strategy of numerous members of JxCat and ERC, including its current leaders, who will have to appear in the Spanish Supreme Court for rebellion, sedition and misuse of public money over the next few days. They believe that the announcement of an agreement could cause their immediate imprisonment.

The major Catalan pro-independence organization, ANC, adds pressure on pro-independence parties

Last week, the ANC Executive Assembly decided to warn ERC and JxCat that if they did not reach an agreement soon on forming a government, respecting the mandate of the latest election, they will organize mass protests against them. It also encouraged the future Catalan government to disobey the Spanish government and the Spanish Constitutional Court because it is the only possible way to implement the Catalan Republic.

On February 25th, 50,000 members of the ANC will define its new road-map for the next two years. The one proposed by the direction includes the organization of permanent protests across Catalonia in order to defend the Catalan Republic. According to them, it is time for civil society to take part in the fight for independence, stressing that without mass protests and mass disobedience coming from society the Catalan Republic will never become a reality. It also added that the actions of political parties are limited due to judicial processes against their leaders and members. And finally, it encouraged other grassroots organizations to coordinate protests in order to build the Catalan Republic.

 

 

Pro-independence Agreement on Puigdemont’s Investiture in the Coming Days

JxCat and ERC appear to be close to reaching a final agreement on Puigdemont’s investiture. Elsa Artadi, the JxCat spokeswoman who is leading the negotiations, said this morning, “The negotiations with ERC have progressed significantly. I think we will be able to reach and make public a final agreement on Pugdemont’s investiture tomorrow.”

During the weekend, representatives of ERC and JxCat met several times in Brussels and Barcelona, seeking to reach an agreement. While they agreed that Puigdemont is the only legitimate candidate (as demonstrated by the latest general election) to become president, they showed discrepancies on the legal procedure to make it possible without putting more pro-independence leaders in danger.

During the meeting, JxCat’s representatives said that they are willing to disobey Spanish Constitutional Court orders, considering that they have always been proved to be biased and antidemocratic against the Catalans. However, representatives of ERC said that the investiture of Puigdemont wouldn’t mean that more Catalan MPs would end up in prison.

According to sources present in the meetings, JxCat and ERC are negotiating the investiture of two presidents and the creation of two governments. The legitimate one would be based in Brussels and the second one (in Barcelona) would rule the country while implementing the Catalan Republic. This move could allow pro-independence parties to bypass Spanish justice while taking effective steps towards the independence of Catalonia.

The idea would be to use a pro-independence assembly (created in 2016) of local and Catalan-wide elected members to swear in Puigdemont as legitimate president in Brussels. At the same time, another person would be appointed to preside over the Catalan Parliament. According to sources, President Puigdemont would (symbolically) rule Catalonia from Brussels.

However, the CUP, a minor party which guarantees the pro-independence absolute majority in Parliament, opposes this option, believing that there must be only one president and a government willing to disobey Spain in order to effectively implement the Catalan Republic. They said that they won’t attend the investiture session, which would make the election of a president impossible, unless their conditions are met.

The second option on the table would be to reform the Regulation of the Catalan Parliament to bypass Spanish justice and swear in Puigdemont at a distance. However, Spanish officials have already announced that this move would be brought to the Spanish Constitutional Court, which would likely declare it unconstitutional. They added that this move would also mean that the members of the Catalan Parliament Bureau, who may approve it, would face legal liabilities.

The Spanish government and Catalan unionist parties reject a dual-presidency

The leader of the “Catalan Socialist Party,” Miquel Iceta, called on the Catalan pro-independence parties to stop “posturing” and said that the new Catalan government shouldn’t be formed by politicians who have pending judicial causes.

Ines Arrimadas (C’s) said, “I hope that JxCat and ERC officials are brave enough to tell Puigdemont that he won’t be president again.”

Albiol (PP) said, “I think it is a joke, this is more typical of a video game or virtual reality. In a serious scenario, it would be impossible to even consider this possibility, but we are in the country of fantasies.”