No response. The appearance of the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, this Thursday morning in the Congress of Deputies pleased virtually no-one. The PM spoke for about an hour to give an explanation about an affair that he has left hanging in the air: CatalanGate. It is more than a month since the espionage scandal that targeted at least sixty individuals linked to the independence movement jolted Catalan and Spanish politics. Over the course of these weeks, and despite the attempts by the Spanish government to avoid the issue, the pro-independence parties have kept up the same mantra to the PM: Pedro Sánchez's explanation of the grave scandal has been insufficient. Today he had a golden opportunity to rectify this in front of all parties in Congress, but he did not take it.
The Spanish PM opted for a strategy based on justifying the espionage that was uncovered and relieving himself of responsibility. Thus, Sánchez stated that his executive was not aware of what the security services were doing. "The prime minister and members of the government receive reports on national security. That is logical and obvious. The government sets priorities in terms of risks to its national security, but neither knows nor decides on the operational decisions of the intelligence services, which are always subject to the final decision, which is the judicial authority," he said. Not only that, but he also took the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the minister of defence, Margarita Robles, and brazenly justified the Catalangate espionage. Thus, he recalled the events that took place during the months of October in 2017 and 2019, which he described as "crises" for Spain's national security. "That is why, within the framework of the intelligence directive, the services that dealt with it proposed, and the judge agreed, the appropriate measure," he added, referring to the espionage.
The words fell like bucket of cold water on the Catalan pro-independence leaders, who hoped for the opposite from Sánchez. The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, did not take long to react. "The essential questions remain unanswered," he said after the Spanish president's speech. "In the face of this unprecedented case of mass espionage, it is not good enough to downplay the actions and try to run down the clock. Only clear explanations and accountability." It is a warning that the president and the pro-independence parties have repeatedly shared. So far, however, it has not been fulfilled: only the head of the CNI director, Paz Esteban, has rolled, and the Spanish executive has made public few details, beyond the revelations allowed by the official secrets comittee.
Rufián: "Spain smells musty"
Neither was his party colleague Gabriel Rufián satisfied with the prime minister's words, as he made clear in his reply in the Congress of Deputies itself. The ERC spokesperson in the Congress of Deputies denounced the "mafia" that represents the Spanish state and the "musty smell" that the state gives off. In his speech during today's plenary session in the lower house, Rufián stated that "a state and its government cannot have parallel lives". He said this after Pedro Sánchez had promised a new law on official state secrets and had passed the buck on any responsibilities for the decision of the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) to spy on opposing politicians. "How can you promise stronger judicial control over the CNI if you are the ultimate control over the CNI as the head of the executive?" asked Rufián from the congressional lectern.