Misc 30/10/2019

The Spanish government threatens to act if Belgium refuses to hand over Puigdemont

VP Carmen Calvo: Spain won’t accept the Belgian court’s decision, if it rules not to hand over the former Catalan president

3 min
La vicepresidenta del govern espanyol en funcions, Carmen Calvo, durant la seva compareixença al Congrés.

BarcelonaThe Spanish government has warned that it won’t accept the Belgian court’s decision if it refuses to hand over Carles Puigdemont and that it will take action. Speaking in a radio interview with Onda Cero, the Spanish government spokesperson, Carmen Calvo announced that "the Spanish government won’t be happy if the Belgian state refuses to extradite individuals fleeing from Spanish justice. This government won’t accept it". She declared that Spain will take the necessary measures, as governments are expected to help one another. Calvo went on to say that "as long as we are in charge, Spain will not understand the Belgian state’s refusal to recognise the full extent of Spanish democracy and to comply with an extradition warrant issued by Spain’s independent legal system".

Calvo made these statements shortly before a Belgian court was about to hold a hearing to consider the extradition of Carles Puigdemont. As it turned out, the hearing lasted little more than 10 minutes since the judge granted the former president’s defence team’s request for an adjournment.

Nevertheless, according to our Brussels correspondent, Júlia Manresa, when Puigdemont’s lawyer Gonzalo Boye was leaving the hearing he declared that such statements "are a great help, we’re very grateful". He was referring to the fact that Calvo claimed the court’s decision could affect diplomatic relations between Belgium and Spain when, according to Boye, the issue is "a matter for the courts". The European Commission, which declines to comment on individual cases, has stated that European Arrest Warrants (EAW) are "a purely judicial matter". The EC periodically publishes a report on the EAW system, which it considers a success although it admits that there is room for improvement. The most recent report, for example, highlighted the fact that Germany is one of the EU states to have rejected the most EAWs.

The Spanish government’s spokesperson claims that "violence is perpetrated by an organised minority" in Catalonia, which Sánchez’s government is obliged to investigate. Calvo appreciates that there are certain disagreements as to the sentences [handed down recently by the Supreme Court to Catalan politicians and social activists], but the Supreme Court’s decisions must be respected. "What is unacceptable in a democratic system is that there is organised violence which threatens everyone’s security. And it must not go unpunished", Calvo warned.

She went on to speak about a fine line between "unacceptable" statements which are made in the Catalan Parliament, which operates on a political level, and specific actions which would force the Spanish government to take action. When the line is crossed Calvo issues a warning to the Vice President of the Catalan government, Pere Aragonès, telling him to "watch his step".

Calvo then criticised the president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Elisenda Paluzie, for statements in which she said that street riots bring the independence movement to the world’s attention. "Violence is never a good thing, even less so in a place which is suffering socially and economically”, Calvo declared. She criticised Torra for "shirking his main responsibility: preserving security in Catalonia".

As the Spanish government’s spokesperson and vice president, Calvo’s principal interlocutor in Catalonia is her counterpart, Pere Aragonès. Nevertheless, Pedro Sánchez does not maintain a dialogue with President Quim Torra, since the acting PM of the Spanish government refuses to take his phone calls. "Why? Why does he tell the CDR to ‘keep up the pressure’? Why does he take part in demonstrations? Why does he say that investigating the Mossos is a top priority? Until he realises that his job is to represent all Catalans, there’s not much to talk about", Calvo remarked.

While refusing to rule out invoking the National Security Law, Calvo criticised Ciudadanos and the PP for calling on the suspension of Catalonia’s home rule. Calvo added that "nothing can be ruled out. What we have to say to those who engage in politics is that they ought to be more responsible, just as we were when Rajoy needed it. (...) It is unconstitutional [to suspend Catalonia’s devolved powers], in the same way as it is unconstitutional to divide Spain unilaterally. We don’t want either".