The European Parliament President Antonio Tajani has canceled a conference (18.02.2019) with participation of the Catalan president, Quim Torra, and his predecessor Carles Puigdemont, citing “security threats.”
The conference was due to take place in in Brussels on February 18, but the parliament decided to cancel it saying there was a “high risk” that the event “could pose a threat to the maintenance of public order on the parliament’s premises.“
The chamber detailed its decision in a press release: “The assessment takes into account several elements, including the recent occupation by the protesters of the European Parliament and Commission buildings in Barcelona, the tensions linked to the trial against Catalan pro-independence leaders that started on February 12, the lack of information on the participants at the event and, especially, the possibility of incidents within or around the Parliament premises.“
Apparently the ban came as a result of relentless efforts of Spain‘s three largest parties opposing Catalan independence to bloc the debate. They had sent a letter to the Speaker Antonio Tajani, urging him to prohibit the event on the grounds that Puigdemont planned to “overthrow Spain’s constitutional order.”
“Allowing Puigdemont’s presence is not compatible with the noble role of the European Parliament as an example of democracy and rule of law in force in the EU,” said MEPs from the Socialist, People’s, and Ciutadans parties.
However the ban to host a conference in the European Parliament premises is not conducive to the resolution of the Catalan issue, seen by many Catalans as an act of an ultimate betrayal of their fundamental freedoms by the EU.
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.
Catalan politicians sentenced over organising independence referendum called on for peaceful protests ahead of a first visit of the Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Prime Minister has planned to chair the weekly meeting in the Catalan capital Barcelona on December 21 in a gesture towards the conflict resolution with the northeastern region where Catalan pro-independence movement rejects the authority of Madrid central government. The claims for independence has not been dropped since the results of the referendum 2017 October 1, declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court, about 90% of Catalan voters backed independence with turnout of 43%.
The leaders of Catalan government and the speaker of the Parliament were arrested, and jailed shorty after the declaration of independence charged with ‘rebellion‘, a non existent crime in the other EU democracies.
Catalan News channel reports the mobilization of protesters from early morning hours.
The Socialist (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that he would be holding the meeting of his government in the Catalan capital Barcelona, after having done the same in Andalusia, in a bid to bring the central government closer to the people of Spain. These intentions have been interpreted otherwise by the supporters of the Catalonia independence, and groups such as the self-styled Committee for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) have called for mass protests.
The Spanish prosecutor’s office demands a 25-year prison sentence for the leader of the pro-independence Catalan party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ErC), Oriol Junqueras, for a challenge to the central government that resulted in the unilateral declaration of independence on October 27, 2017. Junqueras is charged with the Medieval crime of “rebellion”.
After a year of investigations, the prosecutor presented the request for sentences, ranging from 25 years for former Catalan vice president to 16 for five former “advisors”: Jordi Turull, Raul Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Dolors Bassa and Josep Rull.
For the leaders of Omnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, the prosecution requests 17 years in jail and a 17-year ban on holding public office, similar punishment is proposed for the former Catalan Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell.
All are charged with “rebellion“, a crime that carries a 30-year maximum sentence. For the three advisers who are not in detention – Carles Mundó, Maritxell Borrás and Santiago Vila – the requested sentence is limited to 7 years, since they are accused only of embezzlement.
The Belgian ambassador to Madrid, Marc Calcoen, has been summoned because Jan Peumans, the president of the Flemish Parliament, reportedly insulted Spain in a letter to Carme Forcadell, the former president of the Catalan Parliament currently in office. detention, reports De Tijd. The information has been confirmed at the Belga agency by the FPS Foreign Affairs.
Jan Peumans personally handed the message to Mrs Forcadell while he was going to visit her in prison with MEP Mark Demesmaeker (N-VA). Its content was broadcast on September 7 on the Twitter account of Mr. Demesmaeker.
This official letter, written by the president of a regional parliament “which has a prominent place in the Belgian protocol order”, is considered an insult by Spain, explained the ambassador.
The Spanish authorities are asking Foreign Affairs to contact Mr Peumans and to inform him that the content of his letter is unacceptable. On September 18, Madrid had already told Jan Peumans not to be pleased with his remarks, considered “a gesture frankly hostile”.
H.E. Calcoen informed Brussels that the incident was another step in “a long list of irritations” in bilateral relations between the two countries. The openly “unflattering” tone used by the Sanchez government against Belgium meant to “raise some fears“, he said. He was also surprised that the letter itself has not yet made the headlines of the Spanish press.
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The European Parliament banned pro-Catalan exhibition planned to be inaugurated during Strasbourg plenary (28-31 May). The artifacts signed by contemporary Spanish artist Santiago Sierra have been already excluded from participation in a festival in Madrid, however the artist could not expect the similar fate to plagues his ouvre in the institution symbolising European values, namely the freedom of thought.
Madrid’s International Contemporary Art Festival (ARCO) has already removed the installation of Santiago Sierra (born 1966, Madrid) named “Political prisoners in contemporary Spain,” which included the portraits of four Catalan leaders held behind bars for pursuing independence, the Catalan media reports.
The installation was planned to be open to public on Wednesday (30/05), but questors, responsible for the admission of exhibitions to European Parliament building, decided to withdraw it before visitors could see it.
Serra’s installation is assembles 24 portraits, including the blurry pictures of jailed Catalan leaders. In total, 12 people have been held behind bars at some point during the investigation into Catalonia’s push for independence.
However the conference on the support of Catalan political prisoners in Spain was held during Strasbourg plenary, the Catalan media reports. The relatives of the jailed politicians, and activists met Members of European Parliament to share their concerns, and grievances.