Thursday

26th May 2022

Spain passes law to kill off 'online' Catalan republic

  • 'I'm telling Catalan separatists. There won't be independence either offline or online. The state of law will be as forceful online than in the real world,' Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez said (Photo: PSOE)

The Spanish government can now shut down digital services without a court warrant as a "threat of public order," in a move by caretaker prime minister Pedro Sanchez which he said was aimed at heading off 'online independence' for Catalan separatists.

The main aim of the legal modification - which entered into force on Tuesday (5 November) - is to end with the digital Republic of Catalonia, according to Sánchez.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"I'm telling Catalan separatists. There won't be independence either offline or online. The state of law will be as forceful online than in the real world," Sánchez said.

Sánchez's cabinet had urgently modified several laws concerning public security in digital administration and telecommunications, without a parliamentary process.

For the former president of the Catalan government, Carles Puigdemont, the text passed by the caretaker government a few days before fresh national elections on 10 November has a "devastating scope".

Puigdemont's Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) party includes in its electoral program the idea to create a 'digital Catalan republic', ahead of a real one.

The legal text justifies its approval for, among other reasons, "the recent and serious events that occurred in part of the Spanish territory" - without clarifying which it refers to.

The legislative modifications allow the Spanish government to order the urgent removal - without a prior hearing and in a preventive manner - any type of digital communication for reasons of public safety, civil protection, emergencies, defence of human life or interference with other networks.

Regions vs State

The text also establishes that all servers that use data from the Spanish public administrations must be located in the EU instead of in 'digital paradises' - where digital traces are difficult to control.

According to Sánchez, online data from public administrations will not be made available for "spurious ends".

The government of the Generalitat of Catalonia "is using these data for their digital republic [and] to destabilise the [Spanish] state from the online world," he added.

However, the effect of the updated legislation will not be an easy task.

The main problem in blocking or taking down websites is when their servers are in digital paradises since it is much more difficult to monitor them.

The text also prohibits public authorities from implementing distributed technologies, such as blockchain, in digital administration.

The government of Catalonia presented last September plans for a decentralised digital project based on an application that works to guarantee the highest level of identity protection.

However, the updated legislation establishes that the national ID will be the only tool to identify a citizen "for all intents".

'A digital 155'

The government is using national security as an excuse "to try to block the digital project of a country that is being promoted by the government of Catalonia," said the Catalan minister of digital policy, Jordi Puigneró.

"We are witnessing a 'digital 155'," he added.

Article 155 allows the Spanish government to take measures in exceptional cases to restore constitutional order in any region - similar norms exist in the German, Swiss, Italian, Austrian or Portuguese constitutions.

In October 2017, the Spanish former centre-right government of Mariano Rajoy, with the support of other parties such as the socialists, applied this article to dismiss Puigdemont's cabinet.

Puigneró announced on Tuesday an offensive strategy against Sánchez in all legal and political fields to defend the competences of the government of Catalonia in the digital sector. He called the government's measures "closer to the practices of countries such as China than a state of the European Union."

This decision is part of a larger crackdown by Spanish authorities on the online activities of the separatists.

Last month, Microsoft-owned Github removed an app for organising political protests developed by a group of separatists called Democratic Tsunami - following a court takedown request sent by Spain's police.

Although Github removed the application, people can still download it through a link posted on other platforms, such as the Telegram messaging platform.

Last Thursday, Democratic Tsunami called on people to take to the streets on 9 November, on the eve of the parliamentary election.

During the last few weeks, the Spanish government has repeatedly voiced concerns about how the concentration of people in Catalonia expected for 10 November will affect the course of the election day in the region.

High tension in Catalonia two years after referendum

Two years after the former government of Carles Puigdemont held a unilateral independence referendum in defiance of the Spanish courts and constitution, the political and social conflict in Catalonia is still a key issue for both Spain and Europe.

Nine Catalan separatist leaders given long jail terms

Spain's Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition and misuse of public funds over their role in Catalonia's 2017 bid for independence. The possible legal immunity of some MEPs remains unanswered.

Can Sunday's election end Spain's endless deadlock?

Uncertainty surrounding this weekend's Spanish election - the fourth in four years - is rising, as polls suggest that the outcome of Sunday's vote could be as inconclusive April's election. Thousands of police are on the streets of Barcelona.

Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says

In a boost for the cause of three Catalan MEPs, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice has recognised their mandate as elected MEPs - but it is up to the parliament if they should enjoy immunity.

Orbán's new state of emergency under fire

Hungary's premier Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine hours after pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament, where two-thirds of MPs are controlled by his Fidesz party, allowing his government special powers.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us