A day after the EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell gave his support to former Spanish minister Rodolfo Martín Villa, the matter has been brought to the attention of the European Commission. Eleven MEPs from five different parties: the Catalan groups Junts and ERC, the Basques EH Bildu and the PNV, and the Spanish party Unidas Podemos have all asked the EU governmental organ if it was aware of this situation.
Borrell signed one of the letters presented to Argentinian judge María Servini de Cubría, who is investigating alleged crimes committed under Spain's Franco-era dictatorship. Other signatories included former Spanish prime ministers Felipe González, José María Aznar, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Mariano Rajoy; former Spanish trade union leaders Nicolás Redondo, Cándido Méndez, Antonio Gutiérrez and José María Fidalgo; two of the so-called "fathers of the Spanish Constitution", Miguel Herrero y Rodríguez de Miñón and Miquel Roca; former Chilean minister Enrique Krauss and former Portuguese minister Jaime Gama.
📄 Ante el apoyo que han expresado diferentes personalidades a Martín Villa, entre las que se encuentra Josep Borrell, @pernandobarrena y varias eurodiputadas y eurodiputados han realizado estas preguntas a la Comisión Europea.— EH Bildu European Parliament (@EHBilduEP) September 2, 2020
"Given the support that different individuals have expressed for Martín Villa, among whom is Josep Borrell, EH Bildu's MEP @pernandobarrena and several other MEPs have asked the European Commission these [three] questions."— EH Bildu European Parliament
The MEPs have, then, asked the Commission not only whether it was aware of Borrell's support for "a Franco-era minister investigated for crimes against humanity", but also to consider whether Borrell's support for the former UCD minister "goes against motions passed by the European Parliament and the strategic lines of the Commission". And thirdly, they raise the question of the compatibility of Borrell's interference in the judicial process being carried out in Argentina with "the principle of separation of powers and his mandate in the European Commission."
Former minister Martín Villa is cited as the alleged perpetrator of the March 3rd 1976 massacre in Vitoria-Gasteiz, in the Basque Country, where five people died and 150 were injured by Spanish police after evicting 4,000 workers gathered in an assembly at a church in the working-class neighbourhood of Zaramaga. Martín Villa has also been cited as responsible for the incidents at the 1978 Sanfermin festival, where police shot and killed a student after a group in a bullring unfurled a banner in support of an amnesty for members of the political opposition. At the time of both cases, Martín Villa was interior minister in the UCD government. Franco himself had died, but the political order had not changed.
Martín Villa himself is due to testify tomorrow, Thursday, September 3rd, in this case which has been opened in Argentina. He is able to do so via digital means from the embassy or a consulate of Argentina in Spain, as was agreed by the Argentinian judge in a resolution notified to Argentina's State Coordinator of Support for the Argentinian Complaint against the Crimes of Francoism (CEAQUA).
EU denies that Borrell signed the letter
The uproar caused by this issue has forced the European Commission to comment via a spokesperson for Borrell himself, Peter Stano, who has directly denied that the EU foreign policy high representative signed any letter of support. "The affirmations and information claiming that high representative Josep Borrell allegedly wrote or signed a letter to an Argentinian judge in connection with the Martín Villa investigation are absolutely false," he said.
According to the spokesperson, Borrell did send a letter in May 2019 when he was Spanish foreign minister to the Argentinian ambassador to Spain and the Spanish ambassador to Argentina "regarding the investigation" into Martín Villa. “These exchanges are normal in a context of matters related to the consular protection of citizens,” argues Stano.
The spokesperson notes that Borrell asked the Spanish ambassador to "refrain from any action that could be considered as interference in the judicial process" in Argentina. Thus, Borrell denies that he is among the signatories of the letters of support sent to the Argentinian judge who is investigating the 1970s Spanish minister for 13 crimes of homicide, as published on Monday by Spanish digital newspaper Eldiario.es.