Belgium's Federal Parliament has, this Wednesday, rejected a request from a group of Flemish deputies, mainly from the N-VA, the largest party in the chamber, to invite Catalan president Carles Puigdemont. The Parliament's Conference of Presidents has turned down the request from the deputies of Vlacat, a group for Flemish-Catalan friendship, for Puigdemont to speak in a room in the Parliament building next Tuesday.
The Conference of Presidents goverrns the work of the Belgian Parliament and debates the agenda on a weekly basis. It includes, among other members, the president and vice-presidents of the Parliament and the presidents of the different parliamentary parties.
The Conference did not reach a consensus and, as such, permission to hold the session wasn't granted. The debate was to coincide with the four month anniversary of the declaration of independence in the Catalan Parliament.
Disappointment among N-VA
N-VA deputy Peter Luykx, who made the request, expressed "disappointment" with the decision. "It's amazing that even in the cradle of freedom of expression, the federal parliament, a democratically-elected person cannot speak," he said. Luykx said that the situation in Catalonia is "a complex matter" and that Vlacat's intention was to "provide more clarity through an exchange of viewpoints".
The deputy specified that the planned session with Puigdemont wouldn't have been an official audience in a parliamentary commission, but an "informational meeting" open to all deputies. He noted that, in the past, the chamber has invited a wide range of speakers and fears that this refusal might establish "a precedent".