Politics 03/05/2022

Opposition forces Sánchez to appear in Parliament over Pegasus spying scandal

PSOE and PP veto public inquiry into Catalangate in the lower house

4 min
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

Madrid / BarcelonaThe Spanish government has been left alone over the Pegasus case. This Tuesday opposition parties joined forces to demand Spanish president Pedro Sánchez's appearance in Parliament. They consider the explanations given so far are insufficient and demand the leader of the executive face parliamentary scrutiny over spying on pro-independence leaders, but also on Sánchez himself and the Minister of Defence, Margarita Robles . Pro-independence groups, together with the PP, Ciudadanos and Vox, have voted in favour of this appearance at the meeting of Board of Party Spokespersons. Only the Socialists and Unidas Podemos opposed it, since they consider that before the Spanish president appears in the Spanish parliament "previous steps" should be taken first.

The Socialists, in fact, consider the internal investigations are already enough to clarify the case. In this sense, PSOE spokesman in Congress, Héctor Gómez, criticised the PP's position, which he has described as "opportunistic and demagogic". "Transparency and public explanations have to be given by the head of the State government", PP spokeswoman, Cuca Gamarra, replied. Now Congress will have to set a date for this appearance, which comes shortly after the Board of Party Spokespeople voted for Sánchez to appear in the lower house last week to give explanations about his trip to Morocco and the turn in the Western Sahara conflict. In this sense, Gamarra has asked that the two appearances not be mixed.

Veto of the public inquiry

However, the opposition has not acted en bloc when voting on a public inquiry on Catalangate. PP, Ciudadanos and Vox have voted against this request made by pro-independence groups and also by the Socialists' coalition partners, Unidas Podemos. In this case, the Socialists allied with right-wing parties to veto this commission arguing that the explanations on this case have to be given in the official secrets committee. Precisely, the body will meet for the first time on Thursday at 9 a.m. after three years at a standstill. This committee meets behind closed doors and everything explained there is secret. "It is there where some aspects can be reported and where we want to receive the information. We will not pass judgment before we have received the information. Once we have it, we will look at what further measures we might ask for," Gamarra has argued. The PP leader, however, has avoided asking for the resignation of any member of the Spanish government.

On the other hand, the Spanish government's parliamentary allies have once again put pressure on the Spanish government to take responsibility in the Pegasus case. The ERC spokesman, Gabriel Rufián, has again warned that the government's stability is at stake if the Spanish government does not take measures and has claimed, as has JxCat spokeswoman Míriam Nogueras, that the Spanish government would not have announced that Sánchez and Robles had been spied on if Catalangate had not broken out. EH Bildu and the PNV have also put pressure on the Spanish executive, but have avoided breaking ties with the Spanish government. In this sense, Unidas Podemos spokesman Pablo Echenique has insisted on asking the Socialists for a scalp in order to rebuild trust with the government's parliamentary allies.

Generalitat to sue

After the public inquiry was vetoed, the Generalitat maintains that it wants personalised explanations from Sánchez to Catalan president Pere Aragonès. This Tuesday the Catalan government spokeswoman Patrícia Plaja once again pressured the Spanish executive for this meeting to take place. "They will not be able to avoid it," she predicted. Whether or not they talk about it, Sánchez and Aragonès will see each other on Friday in Barcelona at the Cercle d'Economia's annual conferences. This year, the organisation will hand its prize to EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen, and both Sánchez and Aragonès are expected to attend. The Generalitat does not consider that this the ideal place to talk and wants a specific meeting, but they also cannot imagine Sánchez visiting and making a speech without addressing the issue: "Will he come and leave without explaining such a serious matter? The Spanish government, on the other hand, has said that "there will be no problem" for Sánchez and Aragonès to hold a conversation on the case. No one, however, has fixed a time and a place.

In parallel, the Generalitat has announced that it will appear as plaintiff in all judicial proceedings linked to the espionage case with the aim of finding out who is responsible for the spying. In addition, it has not ruled out taking part in the lawsuit the Spanish government filed over spying against Sánchez and Robles. The Generalitat will also offer legal counsel to all the victims of espionage. "It is a priority for the legal office," said Plaja.

Foreign minister's phone hacked

This Tuesday it also became known that the Spanish government detected a year ago that then Minister of Foreign Affairs Arancha González Laya's phone had been infected, according to El País and El Confidencial , who quote government sources. Her phone was hacked, like that of President Pedro Sánchez and Defence Minister Margarita Robles, in May 2021, coinciding with the diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco after the Moroccans instigated over 10,000 immigrants to enter Ceuta illegally. Although the secret services detected spyware on her phone, neither the malware that had been used nor the authorship of the aggression was ever determined, and there is no record of any lawsuit having been filed at the time for those events. When asked about the matter, the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, said in an interview to SER that he did not know about the hacking of González Laya's phone: "I am not aware of it". He has also refused to hypothesise about the authorship of the attack. "We don't know who it could have been. Maybe we will know in a while, and when we do, we will make it public," he said.

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