The ignominy of the Court of Auditors

2 min
The headquarters of the Court of Audit in Madrid.

The proceedings of the Court of Auditors over the Generalitat's external action against 41 current and former Catalan government officials, who will have to post a joint bail of €5.4m in the next few days, is a true monument to ignominy, a scandal that brings the quality of Spanish democracy down a few notches. In fact, the way of proceeding is very reminiscent of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes, which applied justice retroactively against the defenders of democracy, accusing them of being "rebels".

An external action that was perfectly legal and was never challenged in any court of law is now, in the eyes of this administrative body, a fraudulent action that deserves millions of euros in fines for what was done a decade ago. The people affected are in a situation of absolute defencelessness, and this Tuesday lawyers for the defence have had only three hours to read a 500-page report and present allegations. The most shameful thing is that, while the process lasts, those under investigation have to post a multimillion bail which, in practice, means the personal ruin of the great majority. People without a great political profile and who have basically been public servants, such as former Catalan minister Andreu Mas-Colell, former director of Diplocat Albert Royo or former comptroller general Mireia Vidal, are facing a bail of €3m or more. Not even in the worst nightmares of an Orwellian authoritarian state could they have imagined that something similar could happen in Spain, an EU member state. Condemned to civil death without even the possibility of defending themselves.

The fact that among those under investigation there is someone of the stature and academic prestige of Andreu Mas-Colell has meant, once again, a new reputational crisis for Spain thanks to the support manifesto signed by some thirty Nobel Prize winners in economics. To explain abroad that an administrative body that does not belong to the judiciary, that is strongly politicised and that is famous for its cases of nepotism can cause such a great damage to European citizens is certainly complicated. Clearly this is a revenge by certain state structures that are still controlled by the PP and that have decided that the action of the justice system, which acquitted some of those under investigation of embezzlement, fell short.

The action of the Court of Auditors is a rock of considerable dimensions in the path of dialogue that the Spanish and Catalan presidents set out on this Tuesday with a meeting in Madrid. Pedro Sánchez has to be aware that, as his Transport Minister José Luis Ábalos has already said, all these "stones in the path" will have to be removed in order to move towards a minimally effective dialogue. The Spanish government must put an end to the arbitrary actions of those sectors of the state that want to torpedo any solution to the Catalan conflict. And it has to allow the Generalitat to find a way to guarantee these bonds and thus avoid what is a sentence without trial for all the people affected.