The Catalan political conflict has once again brought to light discrepancies within the Spanish coalition government. First, social rights minister Ione Belarra, of the Podemos party, asserted this morning that exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont could return to Catalonia without being arrested, having had his immunity as an MEP restored. Only a few hours had to go by before the senior partner, the PSOE, corrected the course. It was the spokesperson for the executive, María Jesús Montero, who explained that the "interest" of the Spanish government is that the former president and Junts MEP be extradited to Spain and put on trial before the Supreme Court. All this, as the debate rages on pardons for the political prisoners.
What did Ione Belarra say this morning? In an interview with radio station RAC1, the social rights minister defended that "normalizing" the situation in Catalonia also means that the exiled pro-independence politicians can return. Belarra stated that "it is not normal" that they are not in Spain, and stressed that their presence abroad "came about through the process of judicialization" of the conflict. She insisted that it would be an "incongruity" to commit to "ending the judicialization", that is, granting pardons to the prisoners, and at the same time defending the arrest of members of the same 2017 Catalan government who are in Belgium.
But on the other side of the cabinet table they don't see it the same way. In statements made from Algeciras, María Jesús Montero said that "the interest of the Spanish government is for Puigdemont to be brought to Spain and tried, as we have always said". She insisted that the president in exile "be held accountable to justice for those wretched events that we experienced a few years ago for which he never responded in court".
And parliamentary immunity?
On Wednesday, when the government responded to MEPs' queries on different matters in Congress, the question was put clearly: "How will the Spanish government guarantee respect for the immunity of MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí?" It was formulated by Míriam Nogueras, spokesperson for Junts in the Spanish lower house, following the interim ruling by the EU General Court restoring parliamentary protection for the three MEPs. The answer was given by the Spanish justice minister, Juan Carlos Campo, who failed to clarify anything. He limited himself to saying that he "respects" the decision of European justice, but also the action of the Spanish courts.