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The visit of the European chamber's Pegasus committee to Madrid scheduled for this coming week, on Monday March 20th and Tuesday March 21st, is moving forward by fits and starts. The organization of the fact-finding mission on the use of the spyware in Spain, headed by nine MEPs, is encountering obstacles at every corner. At this point, as committee sources have explained to El, the agenda is not yet closed although they expect to report on it this Friday. The delegation from the European Parliament has collided with two unforeseen events in the calendar: Monday is a public holiday in the Community of Madrid, and Tuesday sees the start of debate on Vox's no-confidence motion against the government, with both facts seriously compromising the visit they intend to make to the Congress of Deputies. As some of the MPs whose phones were hacked by the advanced spyware have explained to this newspaper, this Wednesday they still had not received any formal invitation to meet the European representatives.

Preparations began to go awry last week because the committee, which is investigating the mass espionage against Catalan independence leaders as well as that against three Spanish government ministers, found out that Monday, March 20th, was a public holiday in the Community of Madrid - the day of San José, which falls on Sunday, had been moved to Monday. As parliamentary sources in the European Parliament acknowledged, the Spanish office of the European Parliament, located in Madrid, had not warned of this inconvenience in the calendar and, as a result, the mission was rearranging its planned activities. The initial idea was to land on the 20th in the Spanish capital and distribute the tasks across Monday and Tuesday. Knowing that Monday is a Madrid regional holiday, the MEPs were inclined to concentrate the bulk of the work on Tuesday.

If that was not enough, this Monday the speaker of the Congress of Deputies, Meritxell Batet, decided the place on the calendar in which to slot Vox's motion of no-confidence, and the days she selected were Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd March. Thus, the first day of the debate, in which Pedro Sánchez, Ramón Tamames and Santiago Abascal will take part, will further dilute the planned visit of the nine MEPs to the Congress of Deputies. According to Citizen Lab's investigation, there are at least four current Congressional representatives whose cell phones were hacked: Míriam Nogueras (Junts), Ferran Bel (PDeCAT), Albert Botran (CUP) and Jon Iñarritu (Bildu). This Wednesday at noon, none of the first three - Nogueras, Bel and Botarán - had received any formal invitation from Brussels. Nor does the spokesperson for Congress's defence committee, the Socialist MP Zaida Cantera, who is responsible on behalf of the Spanish parliament for issues connected to espionage using the Israeli software, have any record of it.

Spain, last stop on the mission

After visiting Poland, Greece, Cyprus and Hungary, the delegation will complete its investigative visits in Madrid. Nine MEPs will arrive led by the rapporteur of the report, the Dutch liberal Sophie in t'Veld, who will be accompanied, among others, by the former Spanish interior minister under Mariano Rajoy, Juan Ignacio Zoido (PP), Iban García (PSOE), Diana Riba (ERC ) and Jorge Buxadé (Vox). While waiting for the agenda to be confirmed, the intention of In t'Veld is to meet with representatives of the Spanish government, the National Intelligence Centre (CNI), Spain's Data Protection Agency as well as civil groups.

Although the mission will only visit Madrid, it has also set up a meeting with members of the Parliament of Catalonia who are part of the committee of inquiry into Catalangate in the Catalan chamber. During the visit, the MEPs, who are also investigating the hacking of the mobile phones of Pedro Sánchez and other ministers, are prohibited from giving interviews or making statements to the press and their only appearance will take place on Tuesday afternoon from the headquarters of the European Parliament in the Spanish capital.

Nogueras takes the initiative 

In the question session held this Wednesday in Congress, the Junts spokeswoman, Míriam Nogueras, denounced that the governing PSOE are "allying with the extreme right" to discredit the Madrid visit by the committee. She accused the Socialists of "using the far right to snub the delegation from the European Parliament's Pegasus investigation committee". "They have opted for the far-right circus instead of accountability," she asserted.

In fact, Nogueras has sent a letter to the members of the European chamber's committee in which she states her regret that the visit to Congress has not yet been scheduled. The Junts spokesperson offers to meet the delegation that will visit Madrid when they wish "due to the importance of the mission they have been entrusted with". Sources in the pro-independence CUP in Congress have, along similar lines, concluded that the major Spanish parties "have no interest" in receiving the European mission.