Weblog Gerber van der Graaf

Hieronder vind je de weblog van Gerber van der Graaf, ingenieur. Hij woont al een jaar of 22 in Catalonië en houdt sinds juni 2017 een weblog bij met beschouwingen over de politieke situatie - met name de vervolging van de Catalaanse politici. Met zijn goedvinden is dit artikel geïntegreerd in deze website, maar kan uiteraard ook ‘los’ worden bekeken.

Movement in the Catalan Cause

17 maart 2024

(1100 words)

Six years after Catalonia held a referendum on its independence (October 1, 2017), there is some movement in the Catalan cause again after the abolition of Catalan autonomy and legal proceedings (which still continue). The reason for this is two facts that took place last week.

Amnesty law including terrorism and high treason
After long negotiations between the Junts per Catalunya party (Together for Catalonia) of the Catalan president in exile Puigdemont and the Spanish PSOE government of Sánchez, the amnesty law was approved in the Spanish Congress of Deputies. In an earlier vote, Junts had voted against the amnesty law because it did not include terrorism and high treason. As a result, the judges returned to investigate the Tsunami Democràtic protest movement for terrorism (including against Puigdemont himself) again after three years of inactivity. In particular, investigating judge García-Castellón of the Spanish court Audiencia Nacional sees terrorism where no ordinary person could find it. But the Spanish Supreme Court and the public prosecutor also see reason to investigate Puigdemont and Ruben Wagensberg (representative in the Catalan Parliament, he recently emigrated to Switzerland) for terrorism.

In the run-up to the referendum, a Russian diplomat in Switzerland had contacted Puigdemont’s close associate, Josep Lluís Alay. The Russian offered his services to support Catalonia in the event that she became independent. However, Alay did not respond to that. Since this fact became known, the Spanish media proclaimed that 100,000 Russian soldiers would be ready to assist Catalonia if Puigdemont requested it. For this reason, Alay, the Catalan president and several other politicians are under judicial investigation for high treason against Spain. Now the referendum law also applies to terrorism and high treason as interpreted by the EU, and not as seen by partisan judges engaged in prospective research. The law must now be approved by the Spanish Senate. Since the Popular Party, which is strongly opposed to granting amnesty for Puigdemont, has the majority, the Senate will very likely not approve the law. In that case, the bill will be returned to Congress in two months, where it will then be adopted and published in the Spanish Official Gazette BOE.

Early elections
This week, the Catalan president, Pere Aragonés of the ERC party, called early elections. These will be held next May 12. The immediate reason was that he could not get a majority for his annual budget with his minority government (33 out of 135 seats).

Aragonés’ term of office would expire in February 2025. Upon his appointment, he had the support of the CUP and the Junts party with the promise that he would work for Catalan independence. However, very little came of that. His policy was clearly aimed at restoring Catalan autonomy within the Spanish framework. When the Junts party therefore left the coalition, Aragonés sought support from the left-wing parties PSC, the Catalan branch of PSOE (the party partly responsible for the suspension of Catalan autonomy and the prosecutions), and the left-wing Comuns party. However, the latter did not want to agree to the Hard Rock casino project that was to be built near Tarragona. During his three-year reign, Aragonés incurred the disappointment and annoyance of the independence movement, while he could not gain support from the left-wing parties. The early elections appear to have been taken into account to prevent further voter losses and in the hope that he will be re-elected in May. However, it rather seems that Aragonés and the ERC party have become a political corpse.

Catalan independence back in the debate
The early elections and the amnesty law open up various possibilities. Disillusionment with the established political parties, including Junts and CUP, is very high among the Catalan independence movement. As a result, a new election list is in the making that wants to present itself to actually realize independence. This one belongs to the former Minister of Education of the Puigdemont government, Clara Ponsatí. Until recently, she lived in exile in Belgium because, as a minister, she allegedly misused government money by using schools as polling stations for the referendum. There she was elected MEP, together with Puigdemont and the minister of health. A debate is taking place within the citizen movement Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya (ANC) to put together another electoral list. However, the members have decided by a narrow majority not to proceed with this plan.

However, there are high expectations on Puigdemont’s return. Now that the amnesty law has been approved, he has indicated that he wants to participate in the elections. His Junts party has announced that he will lead the electoral list. In the event that Junts wins the elections and Puigdemont is elected president, he will have to travel to Catalonia to be installed. It is still unclear whether the amnesty law will be legally valid at that time. There is still a search and arrest warrant against Puigdemont in Spain. But with the upcoming amnesty law and the rulings of the European Court of Justice, the Spanish justice system has little or virtually no margin to maintain the arrest warrant against Puigdemont. Nevertheless, according to his lawyer Gonzale Boye, there is little legal certainty from the Spanish justice system since the judges are rebelling against the law and ruled against the Catalans contrary to valid case law. Boye has said that Puigdemont is prepared to go to prison if the judges do not respect the amnesty law or his European parliamentary immunity. In recent years, Puigdemont and the Catalan cause have become widely known in Europe. If Spain now dared to arrest him as the elected president of Catalonia, this would generate more understanding for Catalan independence than after the referendum in 2017. The European Commission then maintained that it was a Spanish domestic matter and followed Spain’s reasoning that the referendum would have been illegal. With the rulings of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, she can no longer get away with this.

The early elections in Catalonia are also causing a stir at Spanish national level. Immediately after Aragonés announced the early elections, President Sánchez announced that he will not submit the annual budget of next year to Congress and will use the 2024 budget. This shows once again that the stability of the Spanish government is extremely dependent on what happens in Catalonia, despite the attempts to conceal this. It is not yet clear what is going on within the highest echelons of the justice system. But one can be sure that the machine is running at full speed to stop the political independence process in Catalonia and capture Puigdemont.

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