Top European Lawyer Argues in Favor of Catalan Politicians

Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017
Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Maciej Szpunar, an advocate general at the European Court of Justice, has argued in favor of Catalan politicians who were elected to the European Parliament in May but have been prevented by the Spanish government from taking their seats.

Former regional president Carles Puigdemont and former regional health minister Toni Comín, both of the center-right Together for Catalonia party, have been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since 2017 to avoid arrest for leading a failed independence bid that year.

Oriol Junqueras, the former leader of the Republican Left, stayed in Spain and was sentenced to thirteen years in prison last month for misuse of public funds and sedition against the Spanish state. Read more “Top European Lawyer Argues in Favor of Catalan Politicians”

Puigemont’s Bid for Relevance Divides Catalan Independence Parties

Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017
Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s bid for continued political relevance is dividing the two largest independence parties in the region.

  • The Republican Left is refusing to join Puigdemont’s latest political vehicle, the National Call for the Republic, which is meant to succeed the electoral list he led into last year’s regional election, Together for Catalonia.
  • The Republican Left also argues that both parties must respect a Supreme Court ruling and suspend from parliament those six lawmakers who are awaiting trial for their role in last year’s independence referendum. Together for Catalonia argues that Puigdemont doesn’t have to give up his seat, because — unlike the leader of the Republican Left, Oriol Junqueras — he is still a free man. Read more “Puigemont’s Bid for Relevance Divides Catalan Independence Parties”

Trump on the Warpath, Puigdemont Arrested in Germany

Jens Stoltenberg Donald Trump Theresa May
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017 (NATO)

Donald Trump’s personnel shakeup is deeply troubling, argues Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine — especially the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, “two individuals who simply couldn’t capitulate to the demand that they obey only Trump, rather than the country as well.”

Tillerson is being replaced by CIA director Mike Pompeo, “a man whose hatred of Islam is only matched by his sympathy for waterboarders.”

H.R. McMaster is being replaced as national security advisor by John Bolton, whose agenda, as Fred Kaplan puts it in Slate, is not “peace through strength,” but regime change through war.

Gary Cohn is being replaced as chief economic advisor by Larry Kudlow: according to Sullivan, “a sane person followed by a delusional maniac Trump sees on Fox.”

The State Department, indeed, the entire diplomatic apparatus, has, it seems, been replaced by Jared Kushner, “a corrupt enthusiast for West Bank settlements who no longer has a security clearance.”

Not only do the changes suggest Trump is preparing to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election; they also hint at a future war with Iran.

Everything we know about Trump’s character tells us that war is the only aspect of foreign relations he understands:

He cannot exist as an equal party in an international system. He has to dominate other countries the way he does other human beings.

Read more “Trump on the Warpath, Puigdemont Arrested in Germany”

Polls Vindicate Puigdemont’s Decision to Form Separatist List

Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1
Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Carles Puigdemont appears to have made the right decision forming a new political entity, called Together for Catalonia, as opposed to leading his center-right European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) into next month’s election.

Two recent polls, one published in El Periódico, the other in ABC newspaper, give the deposed president’s list almost 17 percent support.

That puts it neck and neck with the liberal Citizens and mainstream Socialist Party — both of which oppose Catalan independence — for second place.

Together for Catalonia uses PDeCAT’s infrastructure but has drawn candidates from civil society. Read more “Polls Vindicate Puigdemont’s Decision to Form Separatist List”

Puigdemont Has Five Options to Respond to Threat of Spanish Rule

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont listens to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy making a speech in Barcelona, August 18
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont listens to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy making a speech in Barcelona, August 18 (La Moncloa)

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has five options to respond to the threat of direct rule from Madrid:

  1. Accept the suspension of home rule and step down: Unlikely. Puigdemont has staked his reputation and his career on advancing the independence cause.
  2. Refuse to step down, but call on other public officials to obey: Also unlikely. When Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled the October 1 referendum illegal, Puigdemont encouraged civil servants to organize the vote anyway.
  3. Call on Catalan institutions, including the regional police, to resist Spanish intervention: More likely, although it would raise the chance of (violent) confrontation.
  4. Call snap elections: Probably the wisest choice as it might convince Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy not to revoke Catalonia’s self-government after all.
  5. Declare independence: Risky, but not unthinkable. Puigdemont has already claimed the October 1 referendum — in which 43 percent of voters turned out and 92 percent backed independence — as a mandate to break away from Spain.

Catalan Leader Steps Back from Brink But Satisfies Neither Allies Nor Madrid

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont delivers a televised address from the regional government palace in Barcelona, Spain, March 23, 2016
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont delivers a televised address from the regional government palace in Barcelona, Spain, March 23, 2016 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Jordi Bedmar)

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has stepped back from declaring independence, telling lawmakers in Barcelona that although the region has won the right to break away from Spain he is prepared to hold talks:

I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks in the coming weeks without which it is not possible to reach an agreed solution.

The climbdown avoids a worse constitutional crisis but is unlikely to satisfy the central government in Madrid. Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, has refused to recognize last week’s referendum and conditioned dialogue on Puigdemont renouncing secession altogether. Read more “Catalan Leader Steps Back from Brink But Satisfies Neither Allies Nor Madrid”

Spanish Raids, Arrests Cross “Red Line”: Puigdemont

Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1
Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Spain has “crossed a red line,” Catalan president Carles Puigdemont said after gendarmerie raided offices of his regional government in Barcelona and arrested a dozen civil servants.

“On October 1, we are called to defend democracy from a repressive and intimidating regime,” Puigdemont told Catalans in a televised speech.

He argued that the actions of the Spanish state, which considers a planned independence vote illegal, are “totalitarian” and amount to the suspension of Catalan home rule. Read more “Spanish Raids, Arrests Cross “Red Line”: Puigdemont”

Puigdemont Stares Down Catalan Far Left, Calls for Referendum

Carles Puigdemont
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont delivers a televised address from the regional government palace in Barcelona, Spain, March 23 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Jordi Bedmar)

Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, survived a confidence vote on Thursday he had called in July, when a small far-left party in his coalition rejected his budget proposal for 2017.

Puigdemont came to power in January under a deal with the anticapitalist Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP).

Puigdemont’s own party, Together for Yes, has 62 out of 135 seats in the regional legislature against 63 for the parties that oppose independence. With ten seats, the CUP holds the balance of power.

Although Puigdemont and the CUP agree on breaking away from Spain, they have little else in common, as I wrote here this summer. The CUP would pull an independent Catalonia out of the European Union and NATO, for example, whereas Together for Yes wants membership of both. The CUP’s economic program is basically Marxist whereas Puigdemont’s is middle-of-the-road. Read more “Puigdemont Stares Down Catalan Far Left, Calls for Referendum”

Catalan Leader Walks Back Independence Promise

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaks with his predecessor, Artur Mas, in Barcelona, Spain, February 12
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont speaks with his predecessor, Artur Mas, in Barcelona, Spain, February 12 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Jordi Bedmar)

Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont, seemed to walk back earlier comments on Monday when he said the region would not after all “jump into the void” and secede from Spain during his term.

The Catalan government will “stick to dialogue,” Puigdemont told Spain’s Expansion newspaper.

He said he was hoping a coalition government could be formed in Madrid “that talks and negotiates, which the current one has not done.”

The outgoing administration of Mariano Rajoy has refused to negotiate with the Catalans for greater autonomy and successfully petitioned the nation’s highest court to block an independence referendum in what is Spain’s wealthiest region.

But most other parties vying to form a government, with the exception of the far-left Podemos, oppose such a referendum as well. Read more “Catalan Leader Walks Back Independence Promise”

Catalonia Could Break Away Unilaterally: President

The palace of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona, Spain, September 26, 2012
The palace of the Catalan regional government in Barcelona, Spain, September 26, 2012 (Wikimedia Commons/Andriy Sadivskyy)

Catalonia could break away even if it does not reach an agreement for independence with the rest of Spain, the region’s president has said.

“If Madrid does not want an accord and the majority of Catalans want an independent state, how can you avoid that?” Carles Puigdemont said about the possibility of declaring independence unilaterally.

Puigdemont, who was elected by parliament in a last-minute compromise between far-left and centrist supporters of independence in January, also told the Financial Times and other newspapers that Catalonia’s separatists could support a coalition government in Madrid that would commit to a formal referendum on independence.

Catalan parties have 17 out of 350 seats in the national parliament. They could help a broad coalition of the center-left to a majority, but only the far-left Podemos party supports a referendum. The liberal Ciudadanos and the Socialists, who tried to form a government earlier this month but fell short, both adamantly oppose secession. Read more “Catalonia Could Break Away Unilaterally: President”