Legalistic Spain Criticizes Legalistic Germany

Spain, which treats Catalan separatism as a legal problem, is angry that Germany treats it the same way.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy is greeted by German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 7, 2017
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy is greeted by German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 7, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Throughout the Catalan independence crisis, the Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy has taken a legalistic approach. It rejected a referendum in October, arguing it was impossible under Spanish law. When the region voted anyway, Rajoy let prosecutors and judges go after the leaders of the independence movement, never once proposing to meet for negotiations, much less to hash out a compromise.

Now the same government is criticizing Germany for allowing the legal process to play out in the case of former Catalan president — and fugitive from Spanish justice — Carles Puigdemont.

Spain upset

Puigdemont was released on bail in Schleswig-Holstein last week, where he had been arrested on his way back to Belgium from a conference in Finland.

El País reports that Spain is “upset” and Puigdemont’s release has created “tension” between Berlin and Madrid.

Esteban González Pons, a member of the European Parliament for the conservative party both Rajoy and German chancellor Angela Merkel belong to, went further, saying, “If somebody attempts a coup and is not returned to the country where they attempted the coup, then maybe eliminating the borders turned out to be a bad decision.”

Tell that to the thousands of young Spaniards who were able to find work in Germany when there were no jobs in Spain.

Justice

Whether or not Puigdemont will be extradited remains to be seen.

A German judge has rejected Spain’s extradition request under charges of rebellion. The equivalent German crime, high reason, only applies if violence was used.

However, Puigdemont can still be extradited for misuse of public funds.

Either way, the decision will be made by a judge, not politicians, which I’m sure will strike many Catalans as poetic justice.