Spain's foreign minister, Josep Borrell, has described as "unacceptable" statements by the Belgian defence minister, Sander Loones (N-VA), in support of the hunger strike undertaken by Catalan political prisoners. He said that "they'll certainly receive a response" from Spain.
"The Belgian defence minister has made comments which we consider to be unacceptable and which will certainly receive a response on our part", Borrell told the press upon his arrival at a meeting with his NATO counterparts. The comments in question were made by the Belgian minister on Twitter on Saturday, the day the hunger strike was announced:
Al meer dan jaar opgesloten.— Sander Loones (@SanderLoones) 1 de desembre de 2018
Zonder veroordeeld te zijn.
Spaanse rechter behandelt hun rechtszaak zelfs niet. Om te vermijden dat Hof Rechten van de Mens zich zou kunnen uitspreken.
Nu zien ze zich verplicht in hongerstaking te gaan.
Geen enkele democraat mag hierover zwijgen. https://t.co/uIDW0ARsod
Translation: "Imprisoned for more than a year. Without trial. The Spanish judge does not even deal with their lawsuit. To avoid the [European] Court of Human Rights being able to deliver [its verdict]. Now they are forced to go on hunger strike. No democrats may be silent about this."
This opens a new confrontation between the Spanish and Belgian governments. Just months ago, there had already been tension over Spain withdrawing the diplomatic status of the Flemish delegate to Spain following statements by the Flemish Parliament's speaker, Jan Peumans (N-VA). Peumans had criticised the imprisonment of the Catalan politicians over last year's referendum and said that "the Spanish government is incapable of fulfilling the conditions to form part of a democratic Europe".