The Catalan conflict has led to a diplomatic crisis between Spain and Belgium. Madrid's diplomatic service has taken umbrage with statements by the Belgian prime minister to the newspaper Le Soir in which he criticised the police violence during the Catalan referendum. Álvaro Renedo, director for Europe and the G20 for the presidency of the Spanish government, sent a strongly-worded letter to the Belgian ambassador to Madrid, in which he says they "note" the attitude of the Belgians and feel bilateral relations to be "gravely compromised".
The full text of the letter to the Belgian legation, published by a number of Belgian media outlets this Thursday, is as follows:
"Ambassador: I'm trying to talk with you without success. I have instructions to pass on the following message, with the request that you urgently inform the Belgian prime minister: we're astonished by the prime minister's statements to Le Soir.
We do not understand how a partner country could make this type of statement, which seriously compromises our bilateral relations. We're trying to limit our reaction, but we consider if absolutely unacceptable that the Belgian government should place on the same level a regional government [ie: the Catalan one] that seriously and flagrantly violates the legal system of a member state, and the government of that state, which has the inexcusable obligation to follow and enforce the law to guarantee the rights and freedoms of all its citizens. It's well known and is repeated that we're always open to dialogue with the framework of the law, as all democratic governments. We still haven't seen any statement from the Belgian government urging the Catalan government to follow the law, only attacks against the government of Spain. We're taking note.
Álvaro Renedo, Director for Europe and the G20 in the Presidency of the Government"
The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, and his Belgian counterpart, Charles Michel, are both this Thursday and Friday attending the meeting of heads of state and government of the European Council being held in Brussels. Rajoy has tried to keep the issue of Catalonia off the summit's official agenda, although it is very likely to come up between leaders at some point in some way.
The coolness between Rajoy and Michel shows the extent of the unprecedented crisis. This in the context of the Madrid government announcing that it will apply article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to intervene in Catalan self-governance and the response from Catalan president Carles Puigdemont that there will be a vote on the suspended declaration of independence in the Parliament, events which have triggered a wave of European reaction.