The political conflict between Catalonia and Spain saw a spin-off in France this weekend, after 52 French MPs called on Madrid to end the ‘repression’ against the Catalan pro-independence leaders in jail or in exile.
Spain’s Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, responded by saying that the 52 MPs showed an ‘ignorance over the reality’ of Spain.
The French MPs believe that denying the Catalan leaders in prison their freedom is ‘an attack against the fundamental freedoms and the exercise of democracy.’
‘Respect for institutional norms is one thing, but we do not think that political debate should end in repression, with attacks on people’s rights due to a sort of offence of opinion.’
Their op-ed in Le Journal du Dimanche also reads: ‘These elected representatives have been imprisoned and exiled for their political decisions, for wanting to organise a demonstration, and they risk a verdict with harsh prison sentences.’
The officials backing the text include the head of far-left La France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and officials from other minor parties, such as the centre-liberal UDI or the Communists. Former French left-wing ministers Marie-George Buffet and Sylvia Pinel have also signed the text. The French National Assembly has 577 members.
A few hours after the publication of the op-ed, the chamber speaker, Richard Ferrand, contradicted them in an official statement expressing ‘respect and trust’ for Spain’s constitutional framework.
‘The president remembers his commitment to unity and integrity of our European neighbours,’ reads the text.
Ferrand also believes that the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain is an ‘internal affair’.
Meanwhile, the Catalan president, Quim Torra, thanked the French MPs’ initiative, which he described as ‘commitment to democracy’.
The Catalan foreign minister, Alfred Bosch, also welcomed the op-ed, adding that it shows that the conflict ‘is not an internal affair’.
In addition to saying that the 52 French MPs ‘ignored the reality’ of Spain, foreign minister Josep Borrell also said that the jailed Catalan leaders are not ‘political prisoners’ and the judiciary is ‘independent’.
ALSO READ: Josep Borrell: from controversy to controversy, to EU’s top diplomat