‘Provocation’ is normally defined as an action or speech, carried out deliberately, that makes someone else feel or respond in a certain way, usually becoming angry or offended. Let’s come back to that, after a quick look at some of the rest of the week’s news.
The European Parliament is to request in writing explanations from the Spanish government about manipulation and censorship on RTVE. Meanwhile Ciudadanos politician Inés Arrimadas said that if people only watched TV3, nobody would vote for her. Despite the PP government in Madrid (and its PSOE and Cs allies) claiming that over 3,000 companies have left Catalonia – Facebook, Lidl, Chartboost, Satellogic and Moodle have all recently confirmed that they’re investing further in Catalonia, as well as Robert de Niro with his Nobu Hotel chain.
Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, visited Bulgaria, but it was ahead of Thursday’s EU-Balkan summit, where Spain was the only absentee among the 28 nations of the EU. Why? Because Rajoy didn’t want any link between ‘unrecognised Kosovo’ and Catalonia.
Protests took place in Barcelona to mark the 7 months (since 16th October) that Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart (the two leaders of Catalan civic organisations, ANC and Omnium) have been held in pre-trial detention without bail near Madrid (in addition to several Catalan politicians). The two Jordis are accused of inciting a ‘rebellion’ last September … although video footage clearly shows that a rebellion did not take place, and nor did they try to incite one.
Belgium rejected the extradition orders for Catalan politicians Toni Comín, Mertixell Serret and Lluís Puig, due to ‘flagrant flaws’. According to Carles Puigdemont’s lawyer, Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, this should also apply in Scotland (where former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati is fighting an extradition request), Germany (the same for Carles Puigdemont) and Switzerland (Rovira and Gabriel). The Spanish Supreme Court accused Belgium of its ‘lack of commitment’ in cooperating with Spain following the dismissal of the European Arrest Warrants. Spanish judge Llarena went further, insisting in a letter to the German prosecutor that the EAW for Puigdemont ‘complied with all requirements’ and also warned Germany not to make the same ‘error’ as Belgium. Meanwhile, PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez said his party would work to modify the Criminal Code to bring the ‘definition of rebellion’ in line with Spain of the 21st century. A ‘rebellion’ is a ‘rebellion’, though, surely? Changing the Criminal Code to try and define a ‘protest’ as a ‘rebellion’, for example, still doesn’t make it a rebellion. It remains a protest.
The president of the Royal Spanish Federation of Motorsports complained that the anthem of Catalonia (‘Els Segadors’) lasted longer than Spain’s before the start of the Spanish Grand Prix at Montmeló. An investigation began as to how PP politician Pablo Casado obtained a masters degree in such a short period of time. Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero (expecting twins) announced a ‘consulation’ within their party, regarding whether they should resign their posts following news that they are purchasing a property valued at €600,000.
The ‘right-wing radio guru’, Jiménez Losantos, who’d previously suggested taking Germans hostage in Mallorca, or setting off explosions in Bavarian bars (after Germany refused to extradite Puigdemont on charges of rebellion), last week suggested Barcelona should be bombed again. Yes, you read that correctly: he suggested Barcelona should be bombed again. On radio. Publicly. Now, you might think that’s why I mentioned the definition of ‘provocation’ above … although what he said is more than ‘provocative’, it is evil, it’s an incitement to violence, to war, even. But was there any official government or police condemnation of what he said? Nope. Nada.
No, I mentioned ‘provocation’ because of today’s news. Spain plans to maintain central government control over Catalonia. Why? Because the new Catalan President is trying to form his democratically elected government, and the Spanish government (who called the elections of 21st December) has denounced the list of names to be included in his cabinet as a ‘provocation’. A provocation.
It is not even a week since Quim Torra was officially appointed the 131st President of Catalonia. Despite calling those elections on 21st December, the Spanish government is clearly very unhappy that Torra has been voted in. Even during the investiture debates, it stated that his speech was ‘sectarian’ and he ‘should be careful with the things he says and does’. It also stated that Torra has not presented himself as ‘the president that Catalans need and deserve’. As if the Spanish government in Madrid should know …
Since being sworn in as president in a discreet ceremony, and since he has also pledged to eventually reinstate Carles Puigdemont as president, Torra has been described as a ‘hardline nationalist’, a ‘fanatic’, ‘imbecile’, ‘racist’, ‘supremacist’, ‘pyscopath’, ‘xenophobe’ and also Puigdemont’s ‘little whore’. His family, and specifically his daughter, have suffered abuse on social media. La Razon newspaper went as far as publishing a headline stating that “Torra wants to exterminate the Spanish” – although they put it in quotation marks, suggesting it would be the ‘offensive’ that the PP, PSOE and Cs would be pitching to the European Union. It’s true that Torra has been heavily criticised for a ‘xenophobic article’ he wrote in 2009, in which he apparently ‘dehumanised Spaniards as beasts with defective DNA’. Some also describe it all as a ‘disinformation campaign’ about Torra, the fact that quotes from his articles have been taken out of context, and that his ‘Language and the Beasts’ article did not really call all Spaniards beasts at all, but those Spaniards who in 2008 launched a campaign for Swissair not to speak Catalan through their loudspeaker system.
Torra has issued an invitation to Rajoy to hold talks: ‘Please, Mr.Rajoy, fix a time and place. We’ll be there. Without preconditions, let’s talk.’ Rajoy finally said something about him being willing to talk to Torra, as long as it was ‘within the law’. Torra’s cabinet choices of Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, who are both in prison on remand, awaiting trial, and Toni Comin and Lluis Puig (mentioned above and now in Brussels) means that the Spanish government has said it would have to ‘analyse the viability of the new Catalan government’, which must be ratified by Madrid before it can take power. These men are all innocent until proven guilty … surely? But for Torra right now, however, choosing his democratically elected Catalan government is simply a ‘provocation’ in the eyes of Madrid.