The European Parliament has cancelled an event that was to be attended by former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, as well as the current president, Quim Torra, citing ‘security threats’
‘There is a high risk that the proposed event could pose a threat to the maintenance of public order on Parliament’s premises,’ the speaker’s office said.
Puigdemont has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since Spain cracked down on his efforts to lead the Catalonia region to independence via a referendum.
He had been due to meet reporters on Monday in the European Parliament at an event hosted by the Belgian MEP Ralph Packet.
But his presence was furiously opposed by Spanish lawmakers, who regard his secession bid as illegal, and the assembly president ordered a security review.
The review noted increased tensions surrounding the ongoing trial of several of Puigdemont’s Catalan colleagues who have been charged in Spain with ‘rebellion’.
And earlier this month, pro-independence protesters temporarily occupied EU buildings in Barcelona.
‘The analysis has concluded that the security threats linked to the event cannot be mitigated by Parliament security services,’ the statement said.
Puigdemont accused the parliament’s president Antonio Tajani of bending to pressure from the ‘authoritarian drift of Spanish democracy’ and vowed to hold his meeting elsewhere.
‘Europe is losing democratic credibility,’ he complained.
Spain’s three largest parties opposing Catalan independence had sent a letter to Tajani, urging him to prohibit the event on the grounds that Puigdemont planned to ‘overthrow Spain’s constitutional order’.
Meanwhile, Spanish right-wing MEP Gonzalez Pons welcomed the decision.
‘The European Parliament has acted responsibly by suspending the act of the escaped coup plotter, Puigdemont,’ he said, in a tweet.
‘After the independentistas took over the headquarters of the European institutions 15 days ago in Barcelona, it was necessary to prevent them repeating the aggression.’
If he ever returns to Spain, the former Catalan regional president faces prosecution for pushing an independence referendum in October 2017 in defiance of a court ban.
The referendum was followed by a declaration of independence by leaders – a dozen of whom are now on trial
The move sparked Spain’s deepest political crisis since its transition to democracy in the 1970s.