On the verge of being the new head of European diplomacy, acting Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell is the centre of yet another controversy for having spied on Catalan government delegations abroad -which only Spanish sources call embassies anyway. This new scandal is the ninth in his year in Office and it has already reached international instances provoking rejection beyond the Pyrenees. The minister even commissioned reports from their embassies in the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany, aimed at monitoring the activity of the Catalan delegations in these countries, to use them as supporting evidence to ask the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) to close the delegations down.
The news spread across the continent, and were reported at the Westminster parliament by MP Hywel Williams who, outraged, warned that members of the British legislative chamber had been "spied by agents" from the Spanish government -this can be heard in below video which includes MPs' "here here" and "shameful" in the background. Following this, some Scottish Parliament MPs also featured in UK media as The Telegraph or The National reporting the news. The case can still be made larger after the Catalan Government sent letters to the main European states' foreign missions last week, to report on what they already labeled as Borrellgate. The letter warned that "the monitoring" of the Spanish foreign ministry "may have affected" citizens of these states.
Pending the validation of the European Parliament
Borrell's new scandal arrives on the verge of his appointment as the new head of European diplomacy, a position that has not been occupied by a Spaniard for the last 15 years. Federica Mogherini has held the position since Dec 2014. The news has left his appointment pending for the validation of the European Parliament. On Tuesday the new president of the European Commission, German Von der Leyen, will be responsible for making the proposal of a new cabinet, which will include Borrell's name. It will not be, however, until after the summer when the foreign minister will still be examined and voted.
Borrell, like the rest of the candidates for the European Commission, will have to attend an audience before the MEPs who make up the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is not expected that he will have problems any problems to pass the test, since EU positions are previously agreed upon by the member states which are supported by the main European Parliament parties. However, Borrell's long institutional history and his successive scandals do not anticipate a placid audience. It must also be remembered that ERC and partner of Raul Romeva, Ms. Diana Riba, is part of this commission.
Thirteen months of scandals
Josep Borrell was admitted to the post of foreign minister one year ago with a long shadow of controversies and scandals behind him that has only increased since. These thirteen months have gone a long way. One of the famous instances amply circulated in social media was when he abruptly stops the filming of his interview for the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. This episode took place when the journalist alluded to official survey outcomes reporting that a Constitution reform was favoured by the majority of Spaniards. Another famous faux pas episode, that created an enormous stirrup, was his statement in a debate in the US, where he stated "the only thing they did [Americans] was kill four Indians ."
His recent deeds also feature the termination or removal of European diplomats, for instance, the delegate of Flanders in Spain or the honorary consul of Greece in Barcelona. The first was deposed for statements by the Flemish Parliament Speaker claiming that the existence of political prisoners made Spain "unable to fulfill the conditions to be part of a democratic Europe", while the second came after the Greek consul was seen attending the famous Diada National day demonstration.
As one of the two Catalan ministers in Pedro Sánchez's Cabinet until the call for 28th April elections, he has also been one of the toughest and most implacable ministers against the Catalan process in the international arena. He has broken diplomatic relations and imposed vetoes, pressured foreign governments and journalists, and made an anti-independence Spanish propaganda called "Global Spain". Nothing to envy the previous government of Mariano Rajoy.
Borrell's behavior as head of the European diplomacy will have to be monitored. He will now need to manage to defend not only Spain's interests, but also European's. What can be said from the start is that he will hardly be comparable to Javier Solana, the first Spaniard to take up this position, which he carried out with elegance and without scandals.