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.
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.
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, ALDE, Slovenia, explains the decision of Catalonia Dialogue Platform to nominate Catalan political prisoners in Spain for Sakharov Prize 2018. Vajgl underlined significance of engaging in dialogue to resolve the argument respecting the fundamental freedoms and human rights.
Catalonia former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, ex-Interior minister Joaquim Forn, and activists Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Cuixart remain in prison. Twenty-eight Catalan politicians are being investigated by Spanish Supreme Court judge for their role in the referendum and subsequent declaration of independence. At present all four men are kept in harsh conditions in prison cells with possible charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds for organising the referendum on independence of Catalonia.
The European Parliament supports human rights through the annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, established in 1988. The prize is awarded to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe, drawing attention to human rights violations as well as supporting the laureates and their cause.
Spanish riot police stormed into polling stations across Catalonia on Sunday, October, 1, confiscating ballot boxes and voting papers in an attempt to prevent a banned referendum on an independence from Madrid.
Police broke down doors to force entry into voting stations the votes shouted ‘Out with the occupying forces!” and sang the anthem of Catalonia in a peaceful protest. However reportedly in one incident in Barcelona, police fired rubber bullets.
Officers in riot gear forcibly removed people from a polling station in Girona and Catalan firefighters protected voters by standing between them and national police.
The referendum, declared illegal by central government of Spain, opened a down spiral to a profound constitutional crisis, and evoked a centuries-old rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona.
Despite the police action, hundreds-strong queues of people formed in cities and villages throughout the region to cast their votes. At one Barcelona polling station, elderly people and those with children entered first.
International flights to and from Iraq’s Kurdistan region were set to end from 6:00 p.m. (11.00 a.m. ET) on Friday, September 29, after the central government imposed a ban in retaliation for the region’s vote in a referendum for independence.
Almost all foreign airlines suspended flights to the airports of Erbil and Sulaimaniya, in compliance with a notice from the government in Baghdad, which has control over the country’s airspace.
Lufthansa and Austrian were the only carriers to have kept at least one flight still scheduled after the deadline. But a spokesman for Lufthansa Group said on Friday morning it was checking whether it would have to cancel flights.
Lufthansa flies once a week to Erbil on Saturdays, while its unit Austrian Airlines flies daily. Domestic flights are still permitted to and from Kurdistan, and so travelers are expected to get there mostly by transiting via Baghdad’s airport, which will come under strain from the extra traffic.
Kurdish airports handle 40 to 50 percent of Iraq’s total international traffic, Taher Abdallah, Sulaimaniya airport’s director general, told reporters on Wednesday.
Check-in operations at Erbil’s international airport were running smoothly on Friday morning and there was no sign of disruption.
Iraq’s Kurds endorsed secession by nine to one in a vote on Monday, September 25, that caused Baghdad knitting brows, and other governments who fear the referendum could lead to renewed conflict in the region.
The United Nations and United States have both offered to help mediate between Kurdistan and Baghdad.
Jordi SOLE, MEP, OPINION
The time has come for Catalonia to reject the repressive response of the Spanish government to our call for a referendum on self-determination by using democracy, lots of democracy. The best response to the closure of websites promoting the referendum, the seizure of electoral material with words as dangerous as “democracy” or “referendum”, the pressure on the media to avoid publicising the vote, the legal threats against mayors for opening polling stations, the shameful arrests of members of the Government, the raids on printers and messenger services searching for bullet papers… the best response to all of this authoritarian nonsense can only be votes, mountains of votes.
Votes not going against anyone, but just defending our freedom and our rights, our voice and our opinion. In fact, voting -after what we have seen and lived through in recent days- is no longer just a right, but almost an obligation. We have the obligation to safeguard our civil and political rights and our fundamental freedoms. And to do so by voting.
And by voting we will fundamentally undermine the twisted strategy of the most corrupt party in Europe, the Spanish PP, and its accomplices (PSOE and Citizens) to undermine the fundamental rights of the Catalan people by claiming to maintain the unity of the state above all else. They have all stuck to a single, weak argument: that voting is illegal. Well, in a democracy, laws which prevent a vote are unfair. And if it is impossible to change these laws, if everything has already been tried and has been in vain, then it is legitimate, just and necessary to tread all the paths of democracy. We will leave no stone unturned.
People have responded admirably during these days of provocation. We have seen a mobilized and creative people. While police forces were desperately chasing ballot boxes to stop the referendum, the whole country came together in peaceful and ingenious ways to defend freedom of expression and democracy. And while the official voice of the European Union was inaudible in the face of the abuses of Rajoy’s government (with very honourable exceptions), a European country called Catalonia became a beacon of hope for all of the democrats of the world who believe that real change occurs when people rise up and walk peacefully together to defend what is basic and fundamental.
Nearly half of Scottish voters do not wish another referendum on independence. This issue appears to be attracting support for the Conservatives ahead of a June election, according to a YouGov poll published in The Times newspaper on Friday.
The poll also showed Theresa May’s Conservatives due to win more seats in Scotland in the upcoming election than it has held for decades, rising to eight seats by taking seven from Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP).
The survey also showed a decline in the approval ratings of Sturgeon herself, who leads the devolved Scottish government.
Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to fight for the “precious, precious union” of the United Kingdom, unveiling what she called her Plan for Britain with a warning to Scotland not to pursue its independence plans at the moment.
May underlined she would negotiate a Brexit deal for the whole country but needed everyone to pull together to get the best outcome.
Facing two years of what are likely to be challenging talks for Britain, May wants to stamp her authority on a new agenda for the country but is struggling to repair the deep divisions exposed by the Brexit vote.
“The coming negotiations with the EU will be vital for everyone in the United Kingdom … It is essential that we get the right deal, and that all of our efforts and energies as a country and focused on that outcome,” May told her party.
“We need to do so united, as one United Kingdom, all pulling together to get the best outcome,” she said, promising to ensure all the voices and interests in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are represented.
“I will always fight to strengthen and sustain this precious, precious Union,” she added.
Anna van Densky, OPNION
Banalising independence referendum Scottish First minister Nicola Sturgeon has become a ‘false friend’ of the European Union, opening wide Pandora box of the disputed claims of national political elites in EU members eager to arrange the states of their own.
The referendum, that was organized as a unique opportunity after 400 years of togetherness, also reflected in a winning campaign #bettertogether, definitely can not be downgraded to opinion polls, the public is used to on daily basis.
Brussels has already expressed its view, underlined in so-called ‘Barroso doctrine’, named after the former president of the European commission.
Back in 2012 Barroso wrote, that “the separation of one of a member state or the creation of a new state ould not be neutral as regards the EU Treaties”.
“A new independent state would, by fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the EU and the Treaties would no longer apply on its territory.”
Further insistence of the independence referendum will push Scotland into isolation, and even hypothetically visualising the scenario, one can foresee Scottish people facing double burden of the departure from the UK, and the EU, resulting in a huge bill to pay by the citizens for ambitions of their political leaders to upgrade their ranks internationally.