Saturday

21st Sep 2019

French MPs criticise Catalonia situation ahead of verdict

  • A verdict from the Spanish Supreme Court on 12 political Catalan leaders, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's brief-lived independence government of 2017, is expected later this month or early October (Photo: Jordi Boixareu/ZUMA Wire/dpa)

Some 52 French MPs have voiced their concerns about what they call the "the attack on fundamental freedoms" in the Spanish region of Catalonia, in an opinion article published at the weekend by Le Journal Du Dimanche newspaper.

The French politicians urge the "appeasement of tensions and the end of arbitrary measures against politicians elected by universal suffrage."

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The text is signed by figures from different political parties, although none of them is a member of the French president Emmanuel Macron's La République En Marche party.

The joint letter comes against the background of the forthcoming decision of the Spanish Supreme Court on 12 political Catalan leaders, who are former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's brief-lived independence government of 2017, which is expected towards the end of September or early October.

The separatist leaders were placed on trial for rebellion and other crimes related to their role in the unilateral secession attempt of October 2017.

Among the signatories of the opinion piece is the leader of the leftist party France Insumisa, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the deputy president of the centrist party Union of Independent Democrats, Jean-Christophe Lagarde.

The acting Spanish minister for foreign affairs (and next EU high representative for foreign affairs), Josep Borrell, lamented on Sunday (1 September) what he called "the ignorance about the reality of Spain".

"These MPs ignore the reality of a neighbouring country and friend of France such as Spain, which is part of the European Union. A country united by the same respect for the rule of law [as France]," Borrell said.

Former French prime minister and current Barcelona councillor Manuel Valls (who is joint Spanish-French) also criticised the "ignorance and irresponsibility" of the 52 MPs who "do not know that Spain is a democracy", according to the Spanish news agency EFE.

"There are no political prisoners or repression. Spain is a great democracy that defends itself against those who do not respect the Constitution and who want to separate Catalonia from the rest of Spain," Valls said on Twitter.

However, this is not the first time that French politicians have made public statements about the situation in neighbouring Spain.

Earlier this year, a group of 41 French senators from left and right-wing parties (including some members from La République En Marche party) denounced the "repression" against the Catalan separatist leaders.

Verdict imminent

The Catalan separatist trial has lasted for four months, with over 52 sessions that included the testimony from more than 400 witnesses and hundreds of exhibits.

Meanwhile, seven of the separatist politicians involved in Catalonia's bid for independence are still fugitives from justice, according to the Spanish authorities.

Last May, the EU Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected unanimously a case brought by 76 Catalan separatist politicians alleging violations of their freedom of expression and assembly.

This conclusion was crucial for the credibility of Spain's justice system and its division of powers, which has been questioned in the recent past.

Catalonia's crisis arrived in Brussels

Three of the political separatist leaders— Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras and Antoni Comín— involved in secession attempt of October 2017 were elected in the EU elections that took place on May 2019.

However, none of them have been able to take their seats in Strasbourg since the Spanish electoral authority did not recognised them as members.

Once they were elected as MEPs, they were required to pledge allegiance to the Spanish constitution, in person, before the Central Electoral Board and within five days after earning their position.

Puigdemont and Comín sent written statements of allegiance which were not accepted by the Spanish authorities since they are currently living in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

Junqueras, who is currently imprisoned in Spain, was not allowed to leave jail to pledge allegiance by the Spanish Supreme Court.

The jailed separatist leader was the European Free Alliance's (EFA) first-ever lead candidate -or Spitzenkandidat- for the EU elections.

Junqueras has tried to take his seat as an MEP, arguing that his election to the chamber meant that he should be given parliamentary immunity.

After Junqueras' lawyer asked the Spanish Supreme Court to check with the European justice his rights as an elected MEP, the Court of Justice of the EU set his hearing for 14 October.

When Junqueras' seat at the EU parliament was declared "vacant" by Spanish authorities, the jailed politician sent a letter asking the president of the EU parliament, David-Maria Sassoli, to intervene in his case.

The coalition lead by Junqueras won three seats in the EU parliament, "representing the votes of 1.2m European citizens," said the letter.

The leader of the Greens/EFA party MEP Ska Keller asked Sassoli in the last plenary session for Junqueras' "parliamentary rights to be restituted."

Opinion

Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue

Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin currently live outside Spain. They were prosecuted for the serious crimes, and they have fled justice. It is not possible to judge in absentia in Spain, where the justice system protects the rights of defendants.

Puigdemont reclaims Catalonia's leadership

Back in Belgium after Spain lifted a European Arrest Warrant against him, the separatist former leader wants to be the real power behind the region's government and a new push for independence.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

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