MEPs call for investigation into Russia's contacts with pro-independence activists
Two Socialists MEPs warn of Russian attempts to "exploit" any internal destabilisation of the EU
StrasbourgMEPs passed a resolution on Wednesday calling for a "thorough investigation" into the relationship between Catalan independence leaders and the Russian government. It is a text introduced by two Socialist MEPs in a report on the future of political relations between the European Union and Russia which will be voted on on Thursday. The amendment considers that "recent findings of close and regular contacts between Russian officials, including members of the security service, and representatives of a group of Catalan secessionists in Spain require a thorough investigation".
The move comes after the New York Times published an extensive report detailing alleged links between the head of former President Carles Puigdemont's cabinet, Josep Lluís Alay; the former president's lawyer, Gonzalo Boye; and Russia. Following this information and in a context of growing hostility between Brussels and the Kremlin, MEPs believe that these "contacts" "could prove to be yet another example of Russian interference in member states" and of Russia's "constant attempts to exploit any issue that could promote internal destabilisation in the EU".
Members of the European Parliament debated the issue on Tuesday and in his intervention, People's Party MEP Antonio López-Istúriz recalled the article published in the New York Times and, in statements reported by Efe news agency, said that we must "be aware that the enemies of democracy in Europe are looking for partners and are supported by parties that want to divide our member states". The MEP was in favour of the proposal tabled by two MEPs from the Socialist group.
The report is in no way binding and recommends the Council, the Commission and the EU High Representative Josep Borrell review EU policy towards Russia to deter security threats from Moscow, to fight Russian interference in the EU and neighbouring countries and to take the necessary measures, including sanctions, to support and promote democracy in the country. Relations between Russia and the European Union are going through one of their worst moments, as Borrell acknowledged, and Catalonia has become a recurring theme. When the head of European diplomacy travelled to Moscow for a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, the latter reproached him for the imprisonment of Catalan political prisoners to defend himself against the Navalni case.