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The mission to Madrid by the European Parliament's Pegasus committee, scheduled for Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st March, appears mired in a sea of doubts. The timetabling difficulties it faces due to having to coincide with Vox's no-confidence motion on one day of its visit, and a Madrid public holiday on the other, are causing headaches for the organization of the delegation, which still does not have a finalized agenda. In response to this situation, the main Catalan pro-independence parties, ERC, Junts, and the CUP, and civil organizations Òmnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), have accused the central government, the Congress of Deputies and the major Spanish parties of trying to "boycott" the visit, to put obstacles in its way so that the mission will not be successful. They fear that the no-confidence motion will be an excuse to avoid a meeting with the main Spanish authorities.

In a joint letter that the groups have sent to the chairman of the European committee, Jeroen Lenaers, and to its spokesperson, Sophie In'T Veld, the pro-independence bloc complains about the attitude of the main Spanish parties, the PSOE, the PP, Vox and Ciudadanos, whom they accuse of wanting to prevent the mission. For this reason, the text calls on the committee to maintain its trip to Spain "to protect our rights as victims as well as European citizens" and asks them to include more victims of the Catalangate espionage in the meeting agenda. In this regard, the parties and organizations also propose that the committee should be encouraged to visit Barcelona, which is not in the working group's plans.  


The confirmation of the agenda is a mystery, and it seems likely that it will not be definitive until the last minute, with the risk of being unable to touch all the bases desired. Among the few certainties that exist are the meeting of the committee with the Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, the minister Meritxell Serret, as victims of the espionage, along with members of the Parliament of Catalonia's Catalangate committee. At this time, invitations are still being sent - and these have to be agreed by a majority of the European parliamentary groups - but the initial plan of the committee, made up of eleven MEPs, is to concentrate the activity between Monday at noon and Tuesday afternoon.

The intention is to start on Monday 20th at noon by meeting with the organizations Amnesty International and Rights International Spain - the ANC and Òmnium have been vetoed. In the afternoon, the meeting with the members of the Catalan Parliament is planned and the group is attempting to achieve attendance of the former director of the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) Paz Esteban, experts in cybercrime such as Elvira Tejada, as well as a group of journalists from Spain. The major gap left in the calendar is Tuesday morning because the presence of prime minister Pedro Sánchez and the members of his cabinet - who are both members of the government and victims of Pegasus espionage - hangs by a thread due to the coincidence with the no-confidence motion of Vox.

The provisional agenda also originally included a face-to-face meeting with members of Congress for Tuesday morning, among them the four Spanish MPs (three Catalan representatives and one Basque) known to have been spied on through the Citizen Lab analysis, but this encounter is not confirmed at present. Towards noon, the MEPs want the Spanish Ombudsman, Ángel Gabilondo, to be cited, the meeting to be held with Aragonès and Serret, and another with a group of judges, most of whom have declined the invitation. At 5pm on Tuesday, the visit will close with a press conference from the office in Spain of the European Parliament, where most of the meetings will take place.

What is expected to come out of the visit?

The visit to Madrid is the last destination of the Pegasus committee, which has already visited Cyprus, Greece, Poland and Hungary. The committee's report will bring together the information that has been collected from the different cases of espionage throughout Europe and a document will be made with legal recommendations. The resulting text will be voted on in the committee meeting on April 25th and, subsequently, must be sent to the plenary of the European Parliament for approval. Initial forecasts predictions suggest that this plenary debate will be in May or June. Even so, the pincer effect of the three major European parliamentary groups of which the Spanish PP, PSOE and Vox are part, may cause hold ups in the voting process.

The Pegasus working group is made up of eleven MEPs. There are two from the PP: the president of the committee, Jeroen Lenaers (Netherlands), and former Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido; two from the Socialists, Vladimir Bilcik (Slovakia) and Spain's Ibán Garcia; two from the liberal group, the editor of the report, Sophia in T'Veld (Netherlands), and Roza Thun (Poland); the Catalan pro-independence MEP Diana Riba; a parliamentarian from the Left group, Anne-Sophie Pelletier (France); the Spanish far-right member Jorge Buxadé and, finally, Gilles Lebreton (France), from Identity and Democracy. The committee has been working for more than a year and, to finish the work, requested a three-month extension. It is not ruled out that they might agree to a second extension.

Junts and the CUP denounce "boycott"

One of the hot spots of the visit is the meeting with members of the Spanish government and MPs in the Congress of Deputies, initially scheduled for Tuesday morning. This visit has been put on hold due to the Vox motion, and in response to this state of affairs, the Catalan pro-independence parties are denouncing the inaction of Pedro Sánchez and Meritxell Batet. In particular, the CUP complains about the "boycott" of the European Parliament's mission and, in a statement, the far-left party asserts that the lower house "is making excuses" for not receiving the European delegation. According to their complaint, this is "disrespect" towards the European chamber and constitutes an "active boycott" of efforts to clarify the facts and assume responsibilities. Meanwhile, the CUP members offer themselves to receive the MEPs.

For its part, Junts sent a letter this Wednesday to the president of the committee, Jeroen Lenaers, in also making party representatives available to the delegation to set up a meeting if other efforts are not successful. "We will adapt our agenda to your needs, due to the importance of the mission that you have been entrusted with," wrote spokesperson Míriam Nogueras. In the Congress of Deputies there are at least four deputies who have been spied on according to Citizen Lab research. They are Nogueras (Junts), Ferran Bel (PDeCAT), Albert Botrán (CUP) and Jon Iñarritu (Bildu).

The espionage case known as Catalangate, involved around sixty people linked to the Cataqlan independence movement. Among those spied on are Pere Aragonès, Carles Puigdemont, Laura Borràs and Oriol Junqueras, in addition to lawyers, journalists and civil society activists. The espionage, a small proportion of which is known to have had judicial approval from the CNI, caused a schism between the Pedro Sánchez government and the members of ERC.