The Spanish government has given Belgium a warning: its justice system must hand over Carles Puigdemont to the Spanish courts. This was the message that acting Spanish deputy PM, Carmen Calvo, spelt out on the same morning as exiled Catalan president Puigdemont appeared in a Brussels court where a judge began hearing a renewed Spanish attempt to extradite him. The Spanish Socialist politician warned that, if Belgium did not oblige, bilateral relations between the two countries would be affected. "It would not be understood," she said in an interview on the Onda Cero radio network. In Madrid's view, this month's Supreme Court verdicts finding other pro-independence leaders guilty of the same crimes - sedition and misuse of public funds - should pave the way for Puigdemont to be handed over.
After the failures of two previous attempts to extradite the Catalan politician, with the Spanish judge Pablo Llarena in both cases withdrawing the arrest warrant after the interpretations by European courts differed from that of Spain, Carmen Calvo said that "this time [failure] is more difficult" and that the Belgian authorities should comply with the demands of Spanish justice. While saying that she did not want to get involved in judicial matters, she also made it clear that "in the executive we will not understand if Belgium doesn't hand over those who have fled from justice."
The acting Spanish deputy prime minister warned Brussels that, if the extradition does not go ahead, "we will interpret it as a lack of respect for a full democracy like that of Spain to be turned down in its request for the handover of fugitives from justice, now that we know the decision of the Supreme Court". And, "if that should happen, we will take our decisions". What measures? "There is collaboration between states, and it can take place with greater intensity or less," she responded, without going into more detail on the threat.
This Tuesday morning Belgian prosecutors were to demand the execution of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) requesting the extradition of Puigdemont to Spain for sedition and misuse of public funds, the two crimes for which he is wanted by Spanish. However, in the end, the judge decided to adjourn the hearing until December 16th, as requested by the Catalan politician's defence lawyers.
Aragonès but not Torra
Meanwhile, Carmen Calvo has once again declared the Spanish government's door closed to any phone conversation or meeting between acting PM Pedro Sánchez and current Catalan president Quim Torra. "Sánchez is the figure symbolizing all executive power, and until Mr Torra understands that he should play the same role for all Catalans there is little to talk about," she said.
On the other hand, regarding the conversations she has had with Catalan vice president Pere Aragonès, she explained that "I often warn him and I tell him: 'vice president, I don't think that's a good idea'", a "logical" way of giving an alert which she considers "has to be done".