The European Commission had to respond to questions on Friday regarding its next High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the current acting Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, after he tweeted a sensitive extradition-related document from UK authorities – and then later deleted it.
It also followed a Catalan MEP warning the EU authorities that Borrell may have breached the law by sharing the classified extradition document, whilst also infringing the presumption of innocence of an exiled former Catalan minister.
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In a letter to the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the President-designate of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, MEP Diana Riba pointed out that Josep Borrell posted a screenshot of the document that he later deleted.
The post in question was a screenshot of a request by the UK’s Sirene office asking Spain for more information ‘before taking the decision on the European Arrest Warrant, which was issued by Spain seeking to extradite Ms.Clara Ponsatí.’
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The Spanish Judiciary issued the warrant earlier this week, asking the UK authorities to begin the extradition of Ponsatí, who works as a university professor in Scotland, who is wanted in Spain on the charge of sedition for her role in the unilateral independence bid in 2017.
Initially, the Sirene office, which handles such matters, released a statement refusing to process the extradition, saying the warrant was ‘disproportionate under UK law’, but later rectified and said the hold-up was that the order was ‘lacking essential information’.
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On Thursday, Borrell, who is also the commissioner-designate for the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, shared the document in order to highlight the fact that the UK authorities had rectified their initial statement.
However, in her letter, Riba argues that under EU law, ‘a minister should not have access to the SIRENE document, nor publish restricted information or personal data of individuals on social media,’ something she says qualifies as ‘serious negligence’.
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Calling Borrell’s actions ‘extremely worrisome and unacceptable behaviour for a commissioner-designate,’ Riba goes on to reference the various EU regulations and directives that show that the foreign minister may have breached the law.
Riba’s letter ends by calling on the EU to ‘urgently open an investigation into Mr Josep Borrell and make public the findings’ and to ‘dismiss the appointment of Mr Josep Borrell for the position of High Representative’ if it is proven that he misused ‘confidential information’.
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A spokeswoman for the European Commission told reporters on Friday that ‘there are very clear rules in place regarding access to and use of the Schengen Information System … and we would expect that everyone shall respect the letter and spirit of these rules, notably any confidentiality requirements.’
The spokeswoman, Mina Andreeva, said it was a Spanish matter and should not affect Borrell’s future post in the Commission.
‘This tweet was posted by Mr Borrell in his capacity as acting foreign minister. It is now for the national competent authorities to look into this matter,’ she said, referring the matter back to Madrid.
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European Arrest Warrant finally accepted for proceedings
The Sirene office initially rejected the arrest warrant for Ponsatí on Wednesday, arguing that the order ‘does not currently provide sufficient detail of the nature of the offence’ whilst ‘it also lacks a description of the time and place at which the offence was committed’.
On Friday the UK finally started the proceedings to investigate the case against Clara Ponsatí. According to Ponsatí’s lawyer, Aamer Anwar, she will report to British authorities in Edinburgh on 14 November.
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