Forget dialogue. Forget real politics. This is just some of what’s happened in the past week – all whilst there are still four political prisoners in jail, still without trial:
Spain’s Interior Minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, tried to justify the €87m (plus) spent on failing to stop the referendum in Catalonia on 1st October. He refused, however, to appear in Congress to explain anything about the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils last August, or how much the Spanish intelligence services knew about the Imam of Ripoll, the mastermind of those attacks.
The new speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, asked to meet Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to discuss the situation of the Catalan MPs in prison, and five more in self-imposed exile in Belgium (including ‘ex-’Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont). The meeting was refused.
Hearing that Carles Puigdemont would be travelling from Brussels to Copenhagen to take part in a debate at the University of Copenhagen on Monday, and to meet with Danish MPs at their parliament on Tuesday, the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office said it would ‘activate all the mechanisms to stop Puigdemont if he travels to Denmark’ and seek to re-issue a European Arrest Warrant (EAW). A spokesman at the Spanish Embassy in Denmark said that he ‘did not like the fact that Danes will be able to hear Puigdemont’.
In the end, Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena rejected the urgent petition to issue an EAW. It was easier for Puigdemont to travel from Brussels to Copenhagen on that Monday than it was for Mariano Rajoy to travel from Madrid to Castellón on the new AVE ‘high-speed’ train that he was inaugurating – as it was delayed for 30 minutes. Puigdemont went ahead with his debate at the University of Copenhagen, with huge media attention. It was a very balanced, democratic debate. The pro-Rajoy media in Spain, however, focused only on the questions of one participant in the debate, Marlene Wind, but failed to report on any of Puigdemont’s replies.
Whilst in Denmark, someone obliged Puigdemont to kiss the Spanish flag whilst he was sitting at a café in a shopping centre. He did so, later Tweeting that he had no problem with Spain or the Spanish flag, as ‘democracy is more important than all borders, all flags and all constitutions.’
Catalan Parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, proposed Carles Puigdemont as the candidate to lead the new Catalan Government, with the plan for the house to vote on his investiture on 30th January. He stated: ‘Puigdemont is the candidate to be invested because the majority of representatives of the chamber have so decided. We need to find political solutions to enforce democratic measures.’
Zoido (again), interviewed on Spanish TV, said that he’d ‘prevent Puigdemont entering Spain in the boot of a car’. The comment was made in response to the possibility of Puigdemont sneaking back across the border to attend his own investiture – or whether he could be invested via Skype. ‘There are many country paths and you can get in by boat, helicopter or in a microlight,’ said Zoido, ‘but we are working towards that not happening.’
Roger Torrent then travelled to Brussels to meet with Carles Puigdemont and the four other politicians – but he had to pay for his own flight. On arrival, he found the offices of the Catalan delegation had been closed down by the Spanish government – and they had to find an alternative meeting room. Meanwhile, Torrent was being threatened with ‘all kinds of measures’ by Spain’s deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, if Puigdemont were to become Catalan president. Despite Puigdemont being democratically voted for (again) as the Catalan president (and despite obviously being allowed to participate as a candidate in the elections in the first place), Soraya simply told Torrent: ‘You can’t propose him.’
The offices in Barcelona of the two Catalan civic organisations, ANC and Omnium, were visted again and searched by Civil Guard officers – although no-one could really understand why. It took place, however, on the same morning that the former Secretary General of the Spanish government’s Partido Popular (PP) in Valencia, Ricardo Costa, admitted in court that the PP had been financed with black money. He also identified Francisco Camps, former PP president in Valencia, as one of the ringleaders.
Rajoy said on radio that his PP party was clean. He also said that he didn’t want to talk about equal pay for men and women (‘no nos metamos en eso’).
Spain’s Civil Guard and National Police started to inspect car boots at the French border, the sewer system outside the Catalan parliament, and even an airfield at Sant Fruitós del Bages, normally used by parachute enthusiasts.
One of the Spanish government’s candidates to be a judge at the European Court of Human Rights, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, gained zero points on the technical test for his failure to speak English. It was revealed that a second Spanish judge elected as candidate, Maria Elósegui, had previously made homophobic statements and also falsified her CV.
King Felipe VI turned up at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and in his speech said, ‘Catalonia has tried to undermine our democracy.’
Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría announced that the Spanish government would make a legal challenge to Spain’s Constitutional Court against the decision of the Catalan Parliament to propose Puigdemont as president. Spain’s Council of State swiftly announced that there was no basis to challenge Puigdemont’s candidature. The Spanish government proceeded with its challenge, regardless. Late on Saturday evening, the Constitutional Court unanimously decided to suspend Tuesday’s planned Catalan parliamentary session for Puigdemont’s investiture, unless the candidate attends in person … for which he would have to obtain ‘authorisation from the judge’ conducting the case for which his arrest is sought.
At the moment, it is unclear precisely what Puigdemont’s next move will be. What is clear is that Rajoy’s government is totally incapable of dialogue. This isn’t politics anymore. It’s One Big Fat Court Case. And until they all sit down with mediators and talk through a solution, it will probably end up in Strasbourg …