Catalan police head steps down
Mossos d’Esquadra director expresses confidence in force while internal sources and Spanish government suggest resignation is due to political reasons
The director of the Mossos d’Esquadra Catalan police, Albert Batlle, on Monday handed in his resignation to the new Minister of Home Affairs, Joaquim Forn. With four Catalan government ministers replaced in the past two weeks, Batlle’s resignation means another change at the top of one of Catalonia’s key structures. In fact, some sources in the Catalan police suggest that with the October 1 referendum approaching, Batlle’s resignation was politically motivated.
In his resignation letter, the now former head of the Mossos pointed out that he was sure the Catalan police force will continue to serve the public and ensure their safety. In referring specifically to the current situation in Catalonia and the October 1 referendum, Batlle said he was convinced the Mossos will continue to act “with scrupulous respect and uphold the law.”
Pere Soler replaces Batlle as the new head of the Catalan police. Soler was general director of Prison Services from 2013 to 2016, and a town councilor for Terrassa (near Barcelona) for the liberal Convergència (now PDeCAT) party.
The Mossos d’Esquadra answer directly to the Catalan government and have been in the spotlight lately over the recruitment of 500 new officers, which was at first blocked by the Spanish government. There was also intense debate between the Catalan and the Spanish executives when the the Catalan police force were not granted access to the Europol database. Only last week the first security coordination meeting between the two home affairs departments took place after a period of eight years.
The role of the Mossos is considered essential for the October 1 vote, because according to the law of public safety presented by the Spanish government and approved in 2015, in cases of national security or questions that could infringe the constitutional order the Spanish executive has the power to take over command of the police forces in autonomous communities.
"They can do one of two things: either accept failure now, or on October 1, because the referendum will not take place and will be a failure"
Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría · Vice president of the Spanish government
It did not take long for the Spanish government to react to the news that the head of the Catalan police had resigned. Spanish Vice President Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría took advantage of a meeting of autonomous community ministers (which included no Catalan representatives) to call Batlle’s resignation "politically motivated".
Sáenz de Santamaría said her government was concerned about the dynamics of the Catalan executive, calling it “extremely serious”. With Friday’s cabinet reshuffle, the sacking of Baiget and now the resignation of the director of the Mossos, the vice president asked of Carles Puigdemont and the Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras to "be a sensible government, to stop and reflect."
"They can do one of two things: either accept failure now, or on October 1, because the referendum will not take place and will be a failure," said Sáenz de Santamaría, who regretted that "moderate people with realistic politics should have to leave the Generalitat." Accusing the Catalan executive of radicalism, she asked: “What referendum do they want to carry out, where do they want to take the people of Catalonia?"