In recent developments, the European Commission has reiterated that the issue of Catalonia is an internal matter for Spain. This comes despite the request made by the Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, to the Spanish government for more information regarding the proposed amnesty law for those convicted in the Catalan independence process. Reynders’ request, however, was directed towards the government as a whole, rather than specifically to the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and Junts, who were responsible for negotiating the proposal.
It is important to note that the European Commission has consistently maintained that the situation in Catalonia is an internal matter for Spain, both during the referendum and the subsequent crisis surrounding the Catalan independence movement. Brussels has adhered to the position that it is an “internal issue” within Spain that should be addressed within the framework of the Spanish constitution.
Reynders’ Request for Information
Commissioner Reynders expressed “serious concerns” about the ongoing debates surrounding the potential approval of an amnesty law. It is worth mentioning that Reynders had previously refrained from commenting on the matter until a legal text was available and any potential links to embezzlement or misappropriation of funds were clarified. Despite this, the Belgian liberal commissioner, who is perceived as close to the European People’s Party (EPP), the party of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, requested details on the “personal, material, and temporal scope” of the proposed law from the acting Ministers of Presidency and Justice, Félix Bolaños and Pilar Llop, respectively.
This move by Commissioner Reynders has surprised many in Brussels. Various EU sources view it not only as a pressure tactic, timed to coincide with the finalization of the agreement between the PSOE and Junts in Brussels but also as a strategic change in tone and an interference in internal politics.
Additionally, it comes at a particularly challenging time, with small groups of far-right extremists organizing disturbances on the streets of Madrid. A high-level EU source described the letter as “astonishing” and suggested that it gives the impression of an attempt to interfere in a democratic process of a sovereign state, particularly one that is highly polarizing.
The Spanish Government’s Response
PSOE emphasizes that the pact reached with the Catalan nationalists of Junts is not just a pact for investiture, but rather a pact for the entire legislative term, ensuring stability for four years. The agreement includes amnesty for all individuals involved in the Catalan secession process, as well as the establishment of a dialogue table with an international mediator.
European Commission defends Reynders’ request for information, deeming it a “normal” procedure that frequently occurs between counterparts. The Commission spokesperson responsible for justice matters noted that many citizens and stakeholders have contacted the European Commission regarding the issue of amnesty. However, the Commission has not specified the number of inquiries received or whether they originate from political groups or lobbying organizations.
Precedents and Comparisons
European Commission argues that there have been similar requests for information regarding amnesty debates in other member states, citing cases in Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. However, in general, such inquiries are made once there is at least a draft legal text available or when it is presented to the respective national parliaments. For example, the controversial Tusk law in Poland, enacted by the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government, created a special committee to investigate Russian interference in the country between 2007 and 2022. This committee would examine the decisions made by politicians and journalists during that period. The opposition claimed that the law seemed tailor-made to target the then-Prime Minister, Donald Tusk.
The situations in Romania and Bulgaria differ from the Spanish case, as they fall within the framework of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. This mechanism evaluates the progress of these two member states in terms of judicial reforms and anti-corruption measures. It serves as an auditing mechanism that was implemented after their accession to the EU and was considered fulfilled this year.
While the European Commission maintains that the issue of Catalonia is an internal matter for Spain, Commissioner Reynders’ request for information regarding the proposed amnesty law has raised eyebrows and sparked speculation. Brussels defends Reynders’ action as a normal procedure, citing past inquiries made in other member states. However, the timing and the potential interference in internal politics have caused concern among some EU officials. The Spanish government, on the other hand, emphasizes the pact reached with Junts as a long-term agreement, aiming to ensure stability and address the complex issue of the Catalan secession process.
It remains to be seen how this development will unfold and whether it will impact the ongoing dialogue and negotiations between the Spanish government and the Catalan independence movement. As the situation evolves, the European Union will continue to monitor and assess the situation, seeking a resolution within the framework of the Spanish constitution.