Friday, 16 December 2016

Swiss MPs add to international outcry over Forcadell’s prosecution

CNA / Sara Prim

Brussels (CNA).- A group of 15 Swiss MPs from the six parties represented in the Federal Chamber have called for their government to express its “concern” regarding the prosecution of Catalan Parliament President, Carme Forcadell. According to the MPs, the trial against Forcadell for allegedly violating the law when allowing a debate on independence “disturbs a country such as Switzerland, which is used to direct democracy”. This is not the first time Swiss MPs have shown an interest in Catalonia’s push for independence. In September 2015 a cross-party group of representatives asked their government if they could “mediate between Madrid and Barcelona”. Also this Friday, former Slovenian Minister for Foreign Affairs and MEP, Ivo Vajgl admitted to being “worried” for the reputation of Spanish democracy and another Slovenian MEP, Igor Soltes, said that he considered Forcadell’s prosecution “scandalous”. 

In a parliamentary question, the Swiss MPs asked the Federal Council “whether it is willing to express its concern to the Spanish Government regarding the penal proceedings against the Parliament’s President and the escalating judicialisation which may be aimed to block a democratic and pacific process” in Catalonia. The interpellation is signed by three MPs from the Swiss Socialist Party, one from the Green Party, one from the Liberal Greens, two from the Radical Liberals, three from the Christian Democratic Party and five from the Democratic Union.

This is not the first time Swiss MPs have shown an interest in Catalonia’s push for independence.In September 2015, Socialist Mathias Reynard, Christian-democrat Yannick Buttet, Conservative Oskar Freysinger, Liberal Green Beat Flach and Green Balthazar Glätti asked their government if they could “mediate between Madrid and Barcelona”. “Considering Switzerland’s neutrality and democratic tradition would the Federal Council propose our country’s good manners to ensure mediation between Madrid and Barcelona?” asked Swiss MPs to the Federal Council. The representatives also lamented Spain’s position as it “seems to be doing the opposite of the international procedures expected from democratic countries” and pointed out that their “constant vetoes have ended all the legal possibilities for Catalonia”.

They also stated that “despite Madrid’s obstruction, Catalonia aspires to choose its own political future” and that Catalonia has “a strong and particular identity” which can be seen through its language, culture and also “centenary institutions”.

Similar initiative in the Danish Parliament

The Danish Parliament also asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Anders Samuelseon to take up a stance regarding Forcadell's prosecution and decide within a week whether the trial is against the petition made be the Danish Parliament which called for a democratic debate between Catalonia and Spain. 

Wide repercussion in the UK and Ireland

Earlier this week, a group of 15 MPs from the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Plaid Cymru, the Irish Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the Labour Party tabled an ‘Early Day Motion’ in the House of Commons expressing concern over the prosecution of the Parliament’s President, Carme Forcadell. The document, promoted by SNP MP, George Kerevan notes that Forcadell “allegedly violated Spanish law” for “allowing a parliamentary debate” on independence. A situation which “regardless of the constitutional legalities involved” the signers find “regrettable” and warn may set “a dangerous precedent”. Therefore, the motion calls for the Spanish Government “to reconsider the prosecution” and find “a resolution to its disagreement with the Catalan Parliament through mutual dialogue”. Moreover, Kerevan nuanced in a press statement that Forcadell “did not use her position as Speaker to advocate a position on Catalan independence” but “merely facilitated the democratic process” in a parliament “where there is a clear majority for holding a referendum on independence”. In the following days, support for the motion increased amongst MPs.

The Foreign Affairs spokesperson of Irish Republicans Sinn Féin, Seán Crowe, called for the Spanish executive to “reconsider” its position “even at this late stage” and “stop the proceedings” against Forcadell. According to the Irish politician, the Spanish authorities “cannot stifle, ignore, or ban the democratic demands” of the Catalan people and he lamented that the Parliament’s President could be fined and banned from public office for “allegedly violating Spanish law by allowing a Parliamentary debate on altering the Spanish Constitution, in relation to Catalan independence”. Forcadell “is somehow seen to be guilty of a crime by the Spanish authorities” and “could be subject to debarment from public office and a personal fine”, emphasised Crowe. “This is hugely concerning, is an attack on democracy, and sets a dangerous precedent”, he added and emphasised that prosecuting Forcadell “for facilitating a debate on such an important and popular issue puts at risk the very democratic standards that people hold dear throughout the world”, he added.

Forcadell's counterpart in the Welsh Parliament, Elin Jones expressed her "solidarity" with her "for allowing a democratic debate in the Chamber she presided". Jones posted it in Catalan on her Twitter profile. 

Letter to German political leaders

The German social-democrat Bernhard von Grünberg, member of the Rhine–North Westphalia Parliament, also reported the prosecution of Forcadell and the Spanish Government’s judicial response to Catalonia’s pro-independence roadmap. In a letter to different German political leaders, von Grünberg reported to Angela Merkel’s government, together with the federal Parliaments and the European Chamber that the Spanish Government “is more anti-democratic each day” and that it “systematically fights” Catalonia’s democratic aspirations and has “refused to dialogue”. According to von Grünberg, the prosecution against Forcadell and that of the judge Santiago Vidal, banned from office for writing a draft of a hypothetical Catalan Constitution, prove “the rise of deliberate aggression carried out by the Spanish Government”.

Concerns from Slovenian MEPs

“It is worrying for the reputation of Spanish democracy that the Catalan Parliament’s President, Mrs Carme Forcadell, has been summonsed for using her authority and allowing a democratic debate in the Parliament, a Chamber which has been chosen by the Catalan citizens”, stated on Facebook Slovenian MEP and former Minister for Foreign Affairs Ivo Vajgl. “Spain and Catalonia are holding a very serious debate about their future and it should be carried out by using the universal rules and the language of democracy”, he warned. In a similar vein, fellow Slovene Igor Soltes, also expressed his concern on Twitter and considered Forcadell’s prosecution “scandalous”.

  • Swiss_Parliament

  • Image of the Swiss Parliament (by Le Conséil Federal)