The tension with the Spanish state caused by the Catalan independence process has claimed a new victim: Finland's honorary consul in Barcelona, Albert Ginjaume. The consul is to be dismissed from his post on 28th February, according to information revealed to El Nacional, arising from pressure exerted by Spain's Foreign Ministry on Finnish diplomats. The move comes after Ginjaume, who is also secretary general of the Consular Corps in Catalonia, invited the president of the Barcelona provincial administration and mayor of the city of Sant Cugat, Mercè Conesa, to a lunch with the consuls accredited in Barcelona.
The lunch, which took place on 1st February at Barcelona's Hotel World Trade Center, is part of the monthly encounters that the consular corps organizes with the presence of key local figures.
The ministry led by Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis was already exerting pressure before the lunch was held. But the complaints persisted after the encounter, until eventually the Finnish embassy agreed to dismiss the consul. The Spanish ministry was critical of Ginjaume for inviting the leader of a strongly pro-independence city. The pressure became so insistent that Finland's embassy, headed by Tiina Jortikka-Laitinen, took the course of dismissal to avoid opening a conflict with Spain.
The invitation given to Conesa to attend the lunch was due to her responsibility in Barcelona's provincial diputació, an organ linked to the local territorial organization of the state, as well as her responsibilities in municipal organizations at international level, and these were the issues that the meeting focused on. Only a final question from one of those attending, as El Nacional has been informed, raised the topic of Catalonia's political situation, on which Conesa gave a personal opinion.
Ginjaume has been Finland's honorary consul general in Catalonia for more than six years. In 2013 he was awarded Finland's Order of the Lion, the highest decoration that the Finnish Government can grant to a non-citizen, which is given to those who have played a significant role in the country's promotion and development.
The Finnish consul is not the first casualty among the consular corps in Barcelona connected to Catalonia's independence process. In October 2016, Latvia's Catalan consul, Xavier Vinyals, was sacked. In his case, the reason given was open sympathy for the independence cause. In fact, the Spanish Government withdrew Vinyals's accreditation, accusing him of having displayed a pro-independence estelada flag on the façade of the consulate on Catalonia's national day, 11th September.
However, circumstances such as these do not apply to the case of the honorary Finnish consul, whose expulsion is a response to the invitation he gave to the president of the provincial government body to attend a meeting with the consular corps.