Four Catalan leaders on trial in Madrid over a 2017 referendum their said the independence parties should be more flexible about entering negotiations on forming the next Spanish government after a April 28 national election.
The Catalan leaders’ published an open letter in weekend’s edition of La Vanguardia newspaper, suggesting the independence parties should enter talks with potential coalition partners as long as they refused to rule out an independence referendum as a “possible solution” for the region.
Ana GOMES MEP (Portugal, S&D) raises concerns about the policy of Pedro Sanchez government, dealing with the Catalan independence issue as if it is a legal problem, instead of acknowledging its political nature. Gomes promotes dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona, breaking the deadlock through talks. She is also concerned about the methods of repressing of Catalan politicians, reminiscent of times of General Franco regime. “Yes, I have to acknowledge it, there are political prisoners in Spain“, Gomessaid. She criticises the position of the Human rights Commissioner Frans Timmermans, who prefers to ignore the existence of political prisoners in Spain. Gomes questions the freedom of press in Spain, and inquires if there is a practice of self-censorship among mass media journalists in covering Catalan issue. Among the prisoners is the former colleague of Ana Gomes – MEP Raül Romeva i Rueda appointed later the Minister for External and Institutional Relations of Catalonia.
Six people arrested, and 24 injured during protests in Barcelona degrading in clashes between police and demonstrators ahead of the anniversary of the 2017 Catalan independence referendum. Police have attempted to prevent protesters who gathered in downtown Barcelona to confront another march in support of Spanish police.
Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau asked to “avoid confrontation” between pro-independence groups and people marching in support of Spanish police, who are demanding higher salary.
Catalan police Mossos d’Esquadra, have been active in attempting to avoid the opponent protest groups to confront, Catalan News reports, while pro-independence groups passed along the streets same time as the Spanish agents.
There were moments of tension, when police agents have been violently hitting people with their batons. Protesters later chanted messages against the Catalan police and urged the Catalan minister of Home Affairs, Miquel Buch, to resign.
Although there was some tension in the frontline of the pro-independence march, the atmosphere remained enthusiastic at Plaça Sant Jaume, where thousands of people were protesting against the Spanish police presence in the city.
A helicopter has been monitoring the city center of Barcelona, where the two opposed demonstrations were taking place.
A year ago hundreds of Catalans were injured in clashes between Spanish national police and civilians on the day of the referendum as police tried to stop people from voting.
Ivo VAJGL MEP expresses concern about the lack of respect of fundamental rights of Catalans, and especially prisoners of conscience, who were jailed for their political activities. The EU-Catalonia dialogue platform sent letters to Spain to ask for MEPs visit of prison with 10 Catalan politicians.
Catalan authorities will not follow orders from the Spanish government if Madrid moves to reassert control over the region, a senior official says.
Foreign affairs spokesman Raul Romeva told the central government was acting against the will of Catalans.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has announced plans to sack the region’s government and curtail some of the freedoms of its parliament.
The Catalan parliament will meet on Thursday to decide on its response.
The pro-independence leaders could decide to formalise a unilateral declaration of independence.
The Spanish Senate is expected to approve the government’s measures on Friday along with a proposal for fresh regional elections. The Catalan leaders are attempting to catch up with the dynamics of events in Madrid, and react before marginalised.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont insists the region has won the right to statehood following a contentious referendum, in spite of riot police crack down on votes.
Puigdemont said the door had been opened to a unilateral declaration of independence.
Catalan officials later underlined that 90% of those who voted backed independence in Sunday’s vote, with the turnout of 42.3%.
Spain’s constitutional court had banned the vote, and hundreds of people were injured as riot police used force to try to block voting, and seize ballot boxes.
National guards stormed into polling stations to remove ballot papers and boxes, but Catalans demonstrated tenacity to move stations to the other places. The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Catalans had been tricked into participation in an illegal vote.
Jordi Solé i Ferrando, MEP, OPINION
Those who would deny Catalonia’s right to self-determination said back in 2015 that Catalan voters would never elect a majority of pro-independence MPs to our parliament, but we did.
Then they said that the pro-independence coalition would be too divided to agree on a new President and a new government, but we did. Then the talk was about the impossibility of passing the budget for 2017, and that would put an early end to the legislative term. But it didn’t happen.
Now opponents of the referendum say that it will never take place. But since last Friday we already know the date – the 1st of October, and question: “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic?” – of the self-determination referendum, and during the coming weeks Catalans will officially be called to vote. Looking at the track record of those who would deny Catalans the opportunity to decide on our own political future, it is indeed a good sign that they keep saying we will never vote. This is possibly the best reassurance that just the opposite will happen.
In a democracy, how do you prevent a much awaited and widely called-for vote from taking place?
In a democracy, can a vote really be illegal, especially when it comes after all other alternative roads have been blocked by a central government unable and unwilling to negotiate and compromise?
These are the questions that come to mind when we hear from the Spanish government that they will do whatever it takes to impede the vote. Of course, we take it for granted that threats and pressures of every kind and on many people will continue to come from the Spanish government and judiciary. But this won’t make us depart from our commitment to make democracy prevail. We have a democratic mandate to let Catalans vote, and we will honour it. It is our basic democratic rights that are at stake. As the prominent football trainer Pep Guardiola stated clearly last Sunday in Barcelona before a crowd supporting the October referendum, “we will vote even if the Spanish government does not want us to”. It is certainly not us who is afraid of democracy.
Jordi Solé i Ferrando
Member of the European Parliament, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance
Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya