Lockdown in Barcelona

Barcelona Spain
The Sagrada Família seen through two of the smokestacks of Les Tres Xemeneies in Barcelona, Spain, March 10 (Luke Strange)

I haven’t blogged much recently. What little news there is other than the coronavirus outbreak seems rather less important. Since I’m by no means an expert on pandemics, I don’t have a lot to write.

I can tell you what’s happening here in Barcelona. Read more “Lockdown in Barcelona”

Why Kosovo Is Lifting, But Will Likely Reinstate, Tariffs on Serbia

Edi Rama Albin Kurti
Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania receives his Kosovar counterpart, Albin Kurti, in Tirana, February 11 (Kancelarija Premijera)

Kosovo’s new prime minister, Albin Kurti, is partially lifting his predecessor’s 100 percent import tariff on Serbian goods. He has offered to lift the tariff completely if Serbia suspends its derecognition campaign. If it fails to reciprocate, the tariffs will be restored in June.

Since reciprocation would imply Serbian recognition of Kosovo’s independence, it seems inevitable the trade sanctions will be back soon. Read more “Why Kosovo Is Lifting, But Will Likely Reinstate, Tariffs on Serbia”

Catalan Ruling Parties Fall Out

Quim Torra
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14, 2018 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Catalan president Quim Torra’s suspension as a parliamentarian has divided the Spanish region’s ruling separatist parties.

In a session of the regional parliament on Monday, Speaker Roger Torrent of the Republican Left warned Torra, who leads the center-right Together for Catalonia, that his vote would not be counted in accordance with a ruling by the Spanish electoral commission. The entire Together for Catalonia delegation then abstained from all parliamentary business in protest.

The electoral commission has ordered Torra to resign as lawmaker for violating regulations on political neutrality. The Catalan leader refused to remove a banner from the regional government palace in Barcelona during the last election that called for the release of nine separatists who are in prison for leading a failed independence push in 2017. Among them is Republican Left leader Oriol Junqueras.

Torra argued only the Catalan parliament could remove him. Its presidium has now sided with the electoral commission, although it believes Torra can continue to serve as president. Torra is appealing the electoral commission’s decision to the Supreme Court in Madrid. It is unlikely to rule in his favor. Read more “Catalan Ruling Parties Fall Out”

Erdoğan-Putin Deal Tests Russian, Turkish Influence in Libya

Vladimir Putin Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey meet in Saint Petersburg, August 9, 2016 (Kremlin)

Days after sending military aid to prop up the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has done a deal with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to halt the fighting in Libya.

Russian mercenaries fight on the side of warlord Khalifa Haftar, who controls the bulk of the country, including its oil industry.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also support Haftar, who has reportedly received Chinese-made drones and Russian-made air defenses from the UAE.

The Arab states see Haftar as a bulwark against Islamist influences, including the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is part of the Tripoli government. Egypt’s generals overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood in their country with the backing of most Arab monarchs in 2013.

It is unclear what, if any, effect the Erdoğan-Putin deal will have. Artillery and missile strikes were reported on the outskirts of Tripoli in the early hours of Thursday. The promised ceasefire could be a test of Turkey’s and Russia’s influence over their proxies in Libya. Read more “Erdoğan-Putin Deal Tests Russian, Turkish Influence in Libya”

Sánchez Wins Second Term as Prime Minister of Spain

Pedro Sánchez
Spanish Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez gives a speech in parliament in Madrid, March 2, 2016 (PSOE)
  • Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez has won a second term as prime minister of Spain.
  • He fell short of a absolute majority in Congress on Sunday but needed only more votes in favor than against a the second ballot on Tuesday.
  • Left-wing separatists from the Basque Country and Catalonia abstained, allowing Sánchez to scrape by with a majority of two — the smallest ever for a Spanish prime minister.
  • Sánchez’ will be the first coalition government since the Civil War and the most left-wing government since the fall of the Republic. Read more “Sánchez Wins Second Term as Prime Minister of Spain”

Spain’s Electoral Commission Sidesteps Courts to Ban Catalan Leaders

Quim Torra
Quim Torra enters the parliament of Catalonia to be sworn in as the region’s president, May 14, 2018 (Miguel González de la Fuente)

Spain’s electoral commission is trying to sidestep the courts in order to ban Catalan separatist leaders from office.

The commission ordered Catalan president Quim Torra to step down on Friday, although he is appealing a similar ban from office by the Catalan High Court.

It also barred separatist party leader Oriol Junqueras from taking his seat in the European Parliament, despite the European Court of Justice ruling that he must. Read more “Spain’s Electoral Commission Sidesteps Courts to Ban Catalan Leaders”

Sánchez Offers Catalonia a Good Deal

Pedro Sánchez
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez speaks at a congress of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party in Huesca, October 1 (PSOE/Eva Ercolanese)

Catalonia’s Republican Left entered talks to support Pedro Sánchez’ second bid for power with three goals:

  1. A resumption of dialogue between the Catalan and Spanish governments.
  2. An amnesty for party leader Oriol Junqueras and the eight other separatist leaders who are in prison.
  3. A legal referendum on Catalan independence.

They got a “yes” on the first, a “maybe” on the second and a “no” on the third.

They are also promised more autonomy in the coalition agreement Sánchez has negotiated with the far-left party Podemos.

It’s not a bad deal. The Republicans should take it. Read more “Sánchez Offers Catalonia a Good Deal”

Sánchez Close to Forming Coalition Government in Spain

Pedro Sánchez Pablo Iglesias
Spanish party leaders Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias meet in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)

Spain’s Pedro Sánchez is closing in on a deal with Catalan separatists to remain in power.

The caretaker prime minister has the support of the far left to form a new government, but he also needs the backing of regional parties, who hold the balance of power in Congress.

Sánchez’ Socialist Party does not have a majority of its own. Read more “Sánchez Close to Forming Coalition Government in Spain”

Catalan Rulings Expose Politicization of Spanish Judiciary

Oriol Junqueras, the leader of Catalonia's Republican Left, makes a speech in Barcelona, Spain, July 20, 2015
Oriol Junqueras, the leader of Catalonia’s Republican Left, makes a speech in Barcelona, Spain, July 20, 2015 (CDC)

On the same day Europe’s highest court ruled in favor of the imprisoned former Catalan vice president and separatist leader Oriol Junqueras, who has been prevented by Spain from taking his seat in the European Parliament, the Catalan High Court banned the region’s president, Quim Torra, from public office for refusing to remove separatist symbols from government buildings during the most recent election campaign.

Torra is appealing the decision to the Supreme Court and will remain in office until it has ruled.

Junqueras remains in prison, but the European ruling gives hope to self-exiled Catalan politicians Toni Comín and Carles Puigdemont, who like him were elected to the European Parliament in May but haven’t been allowed by Spain to take their seats.

What the two decisions have in common is that they reveal how politicized the Spanish justice system is. Read more “Catalan Rulings Expose Politicization of Spanish Judiciary”

Spain’s Response to Catalan Separatism Has Failed

View of the Palau Nacional from downtown Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013
View of the Palau Nacional from downtown Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013 (CucombreLibre)

Since I moved to Barcelona and started writing about Catalan independence three years ago, I’ve worried that Spain’s refusal to engage with the movement would radicalize it and hollow out the middle in Catalan politics.

This is now borne out by research. Read more “Spain’s Response to Catalan Separatism Has Failed”