Former Speaker of the Catalan Parliament and Three Former Members of the Bureau Summoned to Testify Before the High Court of Justice of Catalonia on September 15th Over an Alleged Crime of Disobedience for Allowing Two Debates

The former Speaker of the Parliament of Catalonia, Roger Torrent, and the former members of the Bureau, Josep Costa, Eusebi Campdepadrós, and Adriana Delgado, have been summoned to testify before the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC), a court controlled by pro-Spain judges, on September 15. They are all under investigation for an alleged crime of disobedience for admitting to proceedings and allowing the text of two resolutions to be debated in a plenary session: one in favor of the right to self-determination, on November 12, 2019, and the other to reprove King Felipe, on November 26, 2019.

The resolutions were supported by the pro-independence parties ERC, Junts, and CUP. One of the texts stressed that parliament “reiterates and will reiterate as many times as MPs choose, the disapproval of the monarchy, the defense of self-determination, and the affirmation of the sovereignty of the people of Catalonia to decide their political future.”

In the writ, they are accused of contravening Spain’s Constitutional Court and authorizing votes that were deemed unlawful. The court says that the ruling of the Spanish Constitutional Court of December 2, 2015, declared unconstitutional and null the resolution 1/XI of the parliament of November 9, 2015, on the beginning of the political process in Catalonia as a result of the outcome of the September 27 elections.

The Constitutional Court agreed to suspend parliamentary resolutions and reminded the Bureau of its duty to prevent and paralyze any parliamentary initiative that ignores or evades this suspension. The court also warned them that they could incur responsibilities, including criminal if they failed to comply. The prosecution considers that the four defendants breached this order when they allowed the two debates. If found guilty of disobedience, they could all face a ban from public office.

In a message posted on social media, Torrent says that “the repressive machinery is still in place to limit and pursue freedom of expression,” and argues that “Parliament is the temple of speech and debate” and that they want to censor it, this “goes against democracy.”

Spain Accused of Spying on Catalans

The “SOURGUM” malicious software package has been used to spy on Catalan citizens, according to Microsoft. The firm says that its intelligence center MSTIC has found out that “the Israeli private-sector actor has been hired by governments in order to spy on over 100 people around the world, including politicians, human rights activists, journalists, academics, embassy workers, and political dissidents.”

Exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and the president of the Catalan cultural organization Òmnium Jordi Cuixart are among the victims. “The Spanish state violates the right to privacy: it is obvious: they know everything about us,” says Cuixart.

The Catalan government has accused the Spanish government of spying on Catalans


President Aragonès: “Afterwards they get angry when they are put at the same level as Turkey in terms of human rights.”

Vice-President Jordi Puigneró: “Controlling Catalans, a curious ‘reconciliation’ agenda led by the Spanish executive.”

This revelation comes a year after The Guardian and El País revealed that the phones of Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent and other pro-independence activists were targeted using the Pegasus spyware that experts say is only sold to governments to track criminals and terrorists.

The Spanish Government Wants to Enforce Dangerous Reforms which Will Change the Country’s National Security Laws

The Spanish government (PSOE-UP) is planning to reform a law that would allow them to mobilize all adult citizens from Spain in case of a serious crisis. According to the newspaper El País, any adult would have to obey the rules set up by the Spanish Security Council to perform “social tasks.” If the law passes the government will be able to seize almost everything, they will be able to seize property such as houses and companies. They will also be able to seize citizens’ bank accounts and potentially spread misinformation via the media.

This reform is based on Article 30 of the Spanish Constitution, which states that “the Spaniards have the duty and the right to defend Spain.” The “social tasks” would be regulated by the obsolete article that defended compulsory military service, which was suspended in 2001, which states that “the duties of citizens may be regulated in cases of serious risk, catastrophe, or public crisis.” According to the document, the President would also be able to declare a state of emergency without the approval of Congress.

These dangerous reforms could be used by the far-right in the future to install an authoritarian government and quell any form of dissent, which could potentially bring the country back to Francoism times. This could happen soon since according to recent polls, the conservative PP and the far-right Vox will get an absolute majority in the next Spanish election in two years.

Spain’s Court of Auditors Claims Millions of Euros from 40 Former Catalan Officials

On Tuesday, the conservative Spanish Court of Auditors claimed 5.4 million euros as financial guarantees from some 40 former Catalan government officials for allegedly promoting independence abroad from 2011 to 2017. These financial guarantees are additional to others previously requested by the same court.

In total, the auditing body claims from former president Artur Mas and former finance minister Andreu Mas-Colell 2.8 million euros, as well as 1.9 million euros from former president Carles Puigdemont and former vice president Oriol Junqueras. All this corresponds to allegedly irregular expenses in the framework of the promotion of the process of independence around the world.

The official most affected by this case is the former Secretary General of Diplocat, a semipublic consortium aimed at fostering Catalonia’s interests abroad, Albert Royo, who faces a claim of 3.6 million euros.

Former foreign affairs minister Raül Romeva faces 2.1 million euros and former government’s spokesperson Francesc Homs 2.9 million euros, while auditors Mireia Vidal and Rosa Vidal 3.1 million and 1.8 million, respectively.

As for the rest, including former secretaries general and several government delegates abroad, they face lower quantities, though still huge.

The assets of all the former officials affected by this case will be seized if they aren’t able to pay the financial guarantees within the next two weeks.

The victims’ lawyers described it as an “arbitrary procedure.” Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, denounced the procedure as a “mockery” and stated that he had never felt such “helplessness” before.

NOTE: The Spanish Court of Auditors is not formed by judges as other courts, but mostly by politicians, including former ministers, who were appointed by the conservative political party PP during prior administrations.

Dead former official requested to pay 22,725 euros

Maryse Olivé, former official of the government of Catalonia in France, who died in 2017, has been requested to pay 22,725 euros. The Court of Auditors now wants her daughter, Chantal Olivé, to pay for it, though she has not been accused of any crime or irregularity.

Exiled President and MEP Carles Puigdemont will take this case to Belgian justice

“We will use all mechanisms to demand responsibility for this action. A complaint or a lawsuit. We will spare no effort, because it is clearly an abuse,” said Puigdemont’s lawyer Boye.

“Puigdemont’s residence is currently fixed in Waterloo, Belgium, meaning he will suffer the consequences of this court ruling there. Thus, he will have to bring the case to Belgian justice to find a solution to this abusive action by the Court of Auditors,” added the lawyer.

33 Nobel Prize winners against Court of Auditors’ case

33 Nobel Prize winners including Joseph Stiglitz, Gorge Akerlof, Robert Aumann, Angus Deaton, Esther Duflo, and Eugene Fama have shown their support for former finance minister Andreu Mas-Colell and have described the action of the Court of Auditors against him as unfair.

The Spanish Government Grants Pardons for 9 Jailed Catalan Leaders the Day after the Council of Europe Demanded the Liberation of Catalan Political Prisoners, the Return of Exiles, and the End of Repression

On Tuesday, the Spanish government granted partial and reversible pardons for the nine jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart, Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa, Jordi Sànchez, Joaquim Forn, Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, and Raül Romeva in response to international pressure. It came a day after the Council of Europe demanded the liberation of Catalan political prisoners, the withdrawal of extradition orders against exiles, and the end of repression.

The pardons are partial, meaning that the nine leaders are still barred from holding public office for nearly a decade, and reversible in the sense that they will be suspended if the leaders commit a “serious crime” in the coming years or if any of the prisoners exercise the fundamental rights that landed them in prison in the first place. In the cases of Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, this was holding a peaceful demonstration.

Council of Europe

On Monday, the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe approved a report by its Committee on Legal Affairs on the situation of political leaders behind bars in Spain and Turkey by 70 votes in favor, 28 against, and 12 abstentions. They demanded the release of the Catalan political prisoners, the withdrawal of the extradition orders against exiles, among others, and the end of repression. They also overturned one by one and by a large majority the amendments of Spain’s PSOE and PP representatives who wanted to reduce the report’s critical content. Spanish efforts to water down the report failed.

The document approved by the Council of Europe is also important because it can be used as a precedent in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Political prisoners have already begun bringing appeals against their prison sentences for weeks. They expect the Strasbourg verdict to result in the annulation of their sentences, which could be a major blow to Spanish justice.

Pardons not a solution to the conflict

The pardons granted for nine jailed Catalan leaders on Tuesday are not a realistic solution to the ongoing conflict. There are still exiles and over 3,300 Catalans currently enduring judicial proceedings, including officials, and thousands of activists and normal people across the country. Thus, the conflict is expected to continue until their situation is resolved and the demands of an astonishing majority of 80% of Catalans, demanding amnesty and self-determination, are heard.

Spain’s Right-Wing and Far-Right Launch a Massive Propaganda Campaign Against Pardons for Jailed Catalan Leaders

Spain’s right-wing and far-right are preparing a legal and propaganda battle against a decision by the Spanish government to grant pardons for jailed Catalan leaders over the 2017 push for independence. Such a pardon would serve the Spanish executive by improving the international image of Spain, as well as to help perpetuate it in power, but it would not resolve the ongoing crisis, which requires amnesty and self-determination.

The right-wing PP and the far-right Vox have announced that they will take the pardons to the Spanish Supreme Court when they are granted. In parallel, PP will also collect signatures and file motions in all town councils across the country to symbolically reject the pardons. Both measures were already used by the right-wing against the Statue of Autonomy of Catalonia in 2006. This statue was backed by most Catalans and Spain’s Congress, but was partially nullified after PP took it to the Constitutional Court. This began Catalonia’s latest push for independence.

This time, the Supreme Court has also aligned with the right-wing, ruling that there are no arguments for the public utility for the government to grant pardons, which have been described as “self-pardons,” given that the beneficiaries would be members of parties that currently support Spain’s coalition government (PSOE-UP), who in turn are the ones who have to decide on the pardons. Most judges of the Supreme Court were appointed by past conservative administrations.

The Government’s Stability

The pardons would threaten the stability of the government of Spain’s PM Sánchez. However, he doesn’t have any other option since he still needs the support of pro-independence forces to keep in power.

Sánchez’s position within his on party, PSOE, is also at stakes. A number of well-known leaders have aligned with the right-wing and far-right against the pardons. Former PM Felipe González and the territorial leaders Guillermo Fernández Vara, in Extremadura, and Emiliano García Paje, in Castilla-La Mancha, have publicly opposed the measure and threaten Sanchez’s stability. They have all often embraced far-right stances against Catalonia, which has often given them good results in past elections.

A group of members of the party has also submitted a letter to the Commission of Guarantees asking it to ensure compliance with the party’s statutes and try to prevent the Spanish government from pardoning political prisoners without first consulting the party members. They threaten to take legal action if their demands are not met.

With the help of the Supreme Court, the Spanish nationalists are repeating the same mistakes that led to the rise of the independence movement with the Statute, which is still ongoing. Pedro Sánchez will have to decide what answer he wants to give now to the Catalan issue and what alliances he wants to embrace in the coming years.

As for the right-wing and far-right, their strategy of misinformation, hatred, and confrontation is likely to bear results. According to recent polls, they could win the next Spanish election with the possibility of getting an absolute majority.

Who Are Catalonia’s New Ministers and President?

Catalonia’s Coalition Government

President and Ministries Led by ERC

President – Pere Aragonès is a law graduate with a masters in economic history. He joined the youth section of ERC in 1998 and was elected as Catalan MP in 2006 at the age of 24. He was vice president and economy and treasury minister in the former government of Quim Torra. He became acting President when Torra was disqualified from office in 2020.

Presidency – Laura Vilagrà has a degree in political science and administration from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), where she specialized in tourism and commercial promotion. She became a Catalan MP at the age of 30 and was Mayor of Sanpedor, in Bages county, for several years. Vilagrà was the second person on the ERC’s electoral list on February 14.

Education – Josep González Cambray is an industrial technical engineer with a marketing degree. He was one of the people in charge of bringing early childhood, primary and secondary school students back to the classroom for in-person learning during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Climate Action – Teresa Jordà has a degree in modern and contemporary history from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She was agriculture minister under former president Quim Torra. She will continue in the department that will now also focus on combatting climate change. Jordà was mayor of Ripoll from 2003 to 2011 before becoming an MP in Spain’s Congress.

Feminism – Tània Verge is a professor of political and social sciences at Pompeu Fabra University and was one of the 2017 independence referendum electoral board members. She was acquitted after being accused of disobedience by the Spanish justice system. She is also a professor of political and social sciences at UPF, where she is also director of the Equality Unit.

Interior – Joan Ignasi Elena was Mayor of Vilanova i la Geltrú and ex-coordinator of the National Pact for the referendum. Elena was a member of PSC until 2014, when he resigned over disagreements over the right to self-determination of Catalonia.

Culture – Natàlia Garriga has a law degree from the University of Barcelona and a master’s degree in management from the School of Public Administration of Catalonia. She has worked as a professor at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). In 2007, she became the manager of the Catalan Institute of Cultural Enterprises, a position she held until 2016. She is also a close confidant of the new president, having worked with Aragonès as director of vice-presidency services of the Catalan government.

Business and labour – Roger Torrent has a degree in political science from the University of Barcelona. He was Parliament Speaker during the past legislature. He will have the task of addressing the economic and social reconstruction needed as a result of the financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ministries led by Junts

Vice President and Minister for Digital Policies and Infrastructures – Jordi Puigneró is an engineer specializing in information and technology and is considered close to party leader Carles Puigdemont as well as the General Secretary and person overseeing the negotiations, Jordi Sànchez. He studied at the University of Surrey and worked in Frankfurt as an ICT engineer in the computer area of a German bank.

Economy – Jaume Giró is the former Caixabank CEO. He has also been in charge of the financial institution’s foundation, Fundació La Caixa. He was the only CaixaBank board member who opposed the transfer of the headquarters from Barcelona to Valencia in the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum. In 2020, he launched a reputation and strategy consulting firm, Giró Consultants, and was also the editor for an online news outlet, The New Barcelona Post.

Foreign Affairs and Transparency – Victòria Alsina has a PhD in political and social sciences from Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University, with a degree in management and public innovation from ESADE. She is a professor and the academic director of the Center for Science and Urban Progress at New York University and chief researcher of the Governance Laboratory (The GovLab) at the same university. Alsina is also the former delegate for the Catalan government in the United States and the current co-coordinator of the Catalonia 2022 working group.

Research and Universities – Gemma Geis is a doctor in law as well as being a professor at the University of Girona. She is a close confidant of former president Carles Puigdemont. She will lead a ministry that is being revived after 15 years. It was created in the remodeling of the current department of business, which now includes labor.

Health – Josep Maria Argimon has a degree in medicine and a doctorate from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), with a specialization in preventive medicine and public health from Barcelona’s Bellvitge Hospital, as well a diploma in epidemiology and statistics from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, a master’s degree in evidence-based healthcare from Oxford University and a master’s in epidemiology and health planning from the University of Wales. He has held the post of General Secretary of Public Health in Catalonia’s health system and will now lead the health ministry.

Social Rights – Violant Cervera has a degree in Hispanic philology from the University of Lleida and a postgraduate degree in information technology for non-computer scientists from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). She served as an MP between 2012 and 2017 first with Convergència (CiU) and then with electoral alliance Junts pel Sí. She will be in charge of a new department that comes from the reorganization of the previous department of labor, social affairs, and families.

Justice – Lourdes Ciuró has a degree in law from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She was MP for CIU in the Spanish parliament. She has been the head of the Junts municipal group in the city of Sabadell since 2019.


Catalonia: ERC-Junts Agreement on a Pro-Independence Coalition Government

The deal between ERC and Junts on a pro-independence coalition government is now a reality after almost three months of disputes and a decisive six-way summit between the pro-independence forces ERC, Junts, CUP, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Òmnium Cultural, and the Council for the Republic, and a subsequent three-way meeting between the three pro-independence parties, pushing towards a deal. These are the new government structure and the key points of the coalition government deal:

Government Structure

Ministries led by ERC

Presidency

Interior

Education

Feminism

Culture

Business and labor 

Climate Action

Ministries led by Junts (will include vice-president)

Economy

Health

Foreign Affairs

Justice

Digital Policies

Research and Universities

Social Rights

Key Points of the Coalition Government Deal:

1- Dialogue and Peaceful Confrontation

The Catalan government will hold negotiations with Spain in an attempt to face and resolve the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain and to put an end to the repression and political persecution of the independence camp. In parallel, both parties call for working firmly to be able to lay out a democratic confrontation [with Spain] that will lead to independence as the Catalan Republic.

2- Referendum

“Only a self-determination referendum held with Spain’s approval can replace the democratic mandate of the October 1 [2017 independence vote] of working to make a Catalan Republic a reality.” Both parties are also committed to joining forces to achieve an amnesty for the political prisoners, exiles, and those activists who have been enduring judicial procedures for their pro-independence activities since the 2010s.

3- International Mediation

The Catalan government will seek “the possible intervention of European and international institutions to achieve an agreement for a referendum.” For that purpose, both parties are committed to “building a favorable public opinion abroad.” They will also coordinate the defense in the judicial cases affecting the 2017 referendum organizers, both in Spain and internationally.

4- Coordination, Leadership, and Roadmap for Independence

A collegiate leadership of the pro-independence movement in coordination with the Catalan Council for the Republic will be created. The three pro-independence parties ERC, Junts, CUP, and the two main pro-independence organizations, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Òmnium Cultural will participate from this group. They will all have the task of creating a new roadmap for independence and to prepare and execute mass civil disobedience until the Catalan Republic is achieved. The leadership could be integrated into the Council for the Republic once it has been reformed to represent all the pro-independence forces.

5- Vote of Confidence and Confrontation with Spain in 2023

A vote of confidence on the Catalan government will take place in parliament in the mid-term in 2023. The pro-independence party CUP demanded a vote to make sure they are able to put an end to the legislature if ERC has not complied with agreements on social issues and confrontation with Spain by then. According to parties, there should be a confrontation on social issues starting with the beginning of the legislature and a confrontation for independence in 2023 if negotiations with the state fail. CUP also opens the door to joining the government if the agreements are fulfilled.

6- Mechanism to Prevent Infighting

Junts and ERC will establish a mechanism to restore and preserve the damaged trust between the two to anticipate possible flare-ups like those that took place during the past legislature. To this end, several coordination committees have been created at different levels that will meet periodically to monitor day-to-day issues, both in Parliament and in the government, as well as between the parties.

7- Monitoring of  Deal

A group will be created to monitor the fulfillment of the deal on a regular basis.

What the Victory of the Spanish Trumpist, Ayuso (PP), in the Madrid Elections Means for Catalonia

The victory of the right-wing/far-right in the Madrid elections on Tuesday will push the Spanish government led by PSOE to show their true neoliberal and imperialist nature against the Catalan pro-independence movement in an attempt to win the next Spanish election in 2023, or a snap election before then. There are two immediate consequences for the pro-independence movement:

– Pardons for the Catalan Political Prisoners

The Spanish Supreme Court is expected to deliver its non-binding report on pardons to the Spanish government in the next few weeks. The government will have to make a final decision. Whether the Sánchez administration will be able to withstand the pressure from the Madrid right-wing and far-right still remains to be seen, but everything indicates that they will disregard it and keep the political prisoners in jail, a blow to part of the pro-independence movement, who supported his administration expecting some results in the resolution of the Catalan conflict. Sánchez would only be willing to grant the pardons if he could continue getting votes during the legislature and secure the support of pro-independence forces and other minor parties in the 2023 elections, which is unlikely.

Table for Dialogue

The so-called “Table for Dialogue” between the Catalan and Spanish governments to solve the Catalan issue has never existed. The results of the elections in Madrid are just a confirmation that it will never exist, at least not in the foreseeable future, since the Sánchez administration is expected to embrace right-wing policies in an attempt to win the 2023 election. This, however, is likely to open many people’s eyes in Catalonia, since many still believe an agreed solution is possible.

PM Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) and the conservative Pablo Casado (PP) have never really sought a solution for the Catalan conflict, and the position of Unidas Podemos, the only influential party in Spain supporting dialogue, has been weakened to the point that its leader, Pablo Iglesias, quit politics after the poor results of the left-wing in the Madrid elections.

Iglesias, former second deputy prime minister of the Spanish government, was one of the leaders more aware of the conflict. He positioned himself in favor of dialogue, visited the political prisoners, and kept sporadic communications with exiled former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

With the masks off after the Madrid elections, Catalans can see that they have wasted much of the last three years in pursuit of something that was really just an intentional fantasy of a few: an agreed solution to the current conflict.

ERC-Junts Summits at Lledoners Prison Don’t Serve to End the Deadlock Over the Formation of a New Government in Catalonia

On Tuesday and Saturday, ERC and Junts held summits at Lledoners prison in an attempt to end the deadlock over the formation of a new pro-independence government in Catalonia. The negotiations were led by the leaders of ERC and Junts, Oriol Junqueras and Jordi Sànchez respectively. Other negotiators, including Pere Aragonès (ERC), Josep Maria Jové (ERC), Elsa Artadi (Junts), and Josep Rius (Junts) also participated.

The summits, which lasted several hours each, saw progress in the structure of the future government and a commitment by both parties to avoid snap elections, though it didn’t serve to close any deal. The talks also saw strong disagreements on the coordination in Spain’s Congress and the strategic plan for independence, especially the role of the Council for the Republic, and the collegiate leadership of the pro-independence movement, which will have the task of creating a new roadmap for the implementation of the Catalan Republic.

ERC proposed the creation of three new ministries: Climate Action, Feminism and Universities and Research, and with a curator for the management of Next Generation funds. Both parties, who are seeking an equal distribution of ministries, issued a joint statement after the first meeting, in which they committed to continue working “to create a pro-independence government that responds to the electoral mandate of 52%.” However, ERC gave an ultimatum during the second meeting and opened the door to forming a minority government if a deal is not sealed soon. They have until May 26th to prevent snap elections.