Belgian prime minister Charles Michel has asked his State Secretary for Asylum Policy and Migration, Theo Francke, to "not stoke the fire any further" after Francke stated that he would not discard offering political asylum to Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, due to the fear of a possible "unjust" trial by the Spanish authorities.
"Asylum is not on the agenda. We reiterate our call for dialogue [between Spain and Catalonia] and I am asking Theo Francken to avoid stoking the fire any further", stated Michel in a communiqué.
Francken, a Flemish nationalist, had given the opinion that the hypothetical concession of asylum "is, in fact, not so unreal", in an interview with the Belgian broadcaster VTM: "People are already talking about a prison sentence [for Puigdemont]. It remains to be seen just how fair such a trial would be", he added.
These declarations infuriated the spokesman of Spain's governing Popular Party in the European Parliament, Esteban González Pons, who accused Theo Francken of violating "the principles of solidarity and loyal collaboration between the countries of the UE".
"Without having any motive or special competency in this area, and moving in advance of any event, Francken has made an appraisal of a possible trial of Puigdemont, making serious accusations against the Spanish judicial system, the work of Spanish judges, and the rule of law in Spain," he said.