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.

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Spain’s Treasury minister Cristóbal Montoro confirms again Catalan government didn’t fund the referendum with public funds

 

I don’t know how they funded the referendum, but not with public funds,” said Spain’s Treasury Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, in an interview early this week.

The Spanish government has been controlling the Catalan government’s spending since last September. Montoro said that his department, which had control over the 35 billion euros managed by the Catalan government, hadn’t detected any irregularity during that time. He affirmed that the system set up by the central government to check the Catalan administration finances had been working very efficiently. The Spanish minister suggested that the only way the Catalan government could have funded the referendum with “public funds” would have been if a civil servant had “counterfeit” bills.

Montoro affirmed that “the Catalan government could still technically be prosecuted for “misuse of public funds” because this crime isn’t limited to diverting funds: it also incorporates opening a public building for an illegal political event and similar illegal activities involving public funds.”

Spain has requested the extradition of President Puigdemont and his ministers for misuse of public funds. Spain’s Supreme Court says they misused €1.6 million based on Spain’s Civil Guard reports.  

German, Scottish, and Belgian courts are currently considering a European Arrest warrant against President Puigdemont and his ministers Ponsatí, Puig, Comín, and Serret. According to German media, Spain is having problems demonstrating that Puigdemont misused public funds. Some of them believe that the German Judiciary Court will end up rejecting his extradition for lack of evidence.

On the other hand, the Scottish and Belgian justices have requested more information from Spain in order to determine if they will proceed to the extradition of the other ministers. However, their lawyers believe that they won’t be extradited to Spain due to the lack of evidence.

It now appears less likely that the European courts will return Catalan leaders to Spain, even on a lesser charge, after both the prime minister and treasury ministers have denied it publicly. The non-extradition of Puigdemont and his ministers to Spain would be a major defeat for the Spanish government and would legitimate pro-independence parties to follow their roadmap in order to implement the Catalan Republic.

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.