Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell shouted "stop the recording" and walked out on an English-language television interview yesterday after being questioned about Catalonia. The minister was speaking to journalist Tim Sebastian on the Conflict Zone current affairs programme, broadcast by DW News.
In a series of questions on the Spain-Catalonia conflict, Borrell reached breaking point when asked about the possibility of constitutional reform in Spain as a way to resolve the issue. Interviewer Sebastian asked his guest why there hadn't been a debate about changes that would make self-determination possible and Borrell replied forcefully: "Because they didn't come to the Spanish Congress with a proposal, like the Basques did" - referring to the 2004 proposal which Congress voted overwhelmingly not to even discuss. The interviewer then probed further on the constitutional question and Spain's foreign minister lost his diplomatic cool.
The tension had already risen minutes before as the interview discussed the current Catalan independence trial. The Spanish minister reacted strongly when Sebastian stated that imprisoned former Catalan parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell had only been charged, not convicted. "Why do you say she's convicted of nothing? I don't think you know anything about this," complained Borrell, before exploding: "You are not interrogating me, you are not a police officer... I am not the subject of any inquiry from your side."
But finally, it was the interviewer's use of the statistic that 70% of Spaniards want reform of the Constitution of some kind - sourced from Spain's public polling agency, the Centre for Sociological Research - which prompted Borrell to pull the plug. "Stop," said the minister, "you are continuously lying." Then Borrell pulled off his microphone and walked away. However, after speaking with his ministerial aides, he then returned to the set and was asked about other issues, such as Spanish arms sales and Gibraltar, and a degree of tension continued. "Next time you could put your questions in a less biased way", said the Spanish Socialist minister as Sebastian thanked him for his time at the end of the interview. "I'm not here just to give you the questions you want," responded the interviewer.