Spanish foreign minister, Josep Borrell, has today admitted that the Spanish state is in the midst of "a diplomatic conflict" with Flanders and, in turn, with Belgium. "It's now a diplomatic conflict, let's not downplay things," he said. The conflict started with comments from the Flemish Parliament's speaker, Jan Peumans, supporting the Catalan political prisoners.
"Spain cannot allow, time and again, that the speaker of a Parliament should say that we're a country that has to be expelled from the European Union," Borrell said. The minister also repeated that Spain will not accredit anyone else from the Flemish government as a diplomat, as his ministry had already announced: "If tomorrow they present us with another representative, we won't give it to them either."
Borrell acknowledged "there'll be a response" from Belgium or the Flemish government to Spain having revoked the diplomatic status of the Flemish government's representative to Madrid. He justified the measures by saying that "no country which respects itself can tolerate" such comments.
The minister said that Peumans "can say whatever he wants personally", but not in the name of the institution he represents. "We've warned him three times," he said.
Peumans, in a letter to former speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, currently held in pretrial detention, said that Spain "is incapable of meeting the conditions to form part of a democratic Europe" because it has political prisoners. The Flemish politician has since made similar comments on a number of occasions.