EU Pegasus spyware commission meets Catalan parliament delegation in Madrid

Pro-independence parties accuse Spanish government of boycotting spying inquiries

Chair of the EU parliament Pegasus commission, Jeroen Lenaers, and rapporteur, Sophie In't Veld, during their visit to Madrid
Chair of the EU parliament Pegasus commission, Jeroen Lenaers, and rapporteur, Sophie In't Veld, during their visit to Madrid / Nazaret Romero
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

March 20, 2023 06:08 PM

March 20, 2023 07:23 PM

The European parliament mission investigating the use of spyware such as Pegasus within the EU began its two-day trip to Madrid on Monday. 

The delegation met with journalists and various groups, including the Catalan parliament's Pegasus commission, but not with any member of Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez's government. 

The MEPs first meeting was with Amnesty International Spain's head of human rights, Virginia Álvarez, and the director of Rights International Spain, Patricia Goicoechea. 

The group then met with Catalan parliamentary representatives from the three pro-independence parties, Esquerra Republicana (ERC), Junts and CUP, as well as MPs from the Socialists and anti-austerity En Comú Podem. Representatives from far-right Vox abandoned the meeting before it got underway. 

On Tuesday, the delegation is to meet with Catalan president Pere Aragonès, alongside party colleagues Meritxell Serret, foreign affairs minister, and Ernest Maragall of Barcelona City Council, among others. 

There has been some controversy over the lack of meetings between the EU parliament mission and senior Spanish government figures. 

Monday is a bank holiday in Madrid, while on Tuesday the Spanish Congress will debate a vote of no confidence – expected to fail – against Pedro Sánchez

Pro-independence figures criticize Spain's "boycott" 

During the meeting with the EU representatives, the head of the Catalan parliament's Pegasus inquiry commission, Josep Maria Jové, said that the Spanish government "is not cooperating" with the commission

"Nothing prevents them from doing so. There is no explicit prohibition," Jové said after a question on the parliament commission's powers to summon witnesses and to investigate. 

Junts MP Albert Batet criticized Spain's "constant obstacles" when it comes to getting a clearer picture on the espionage case. 

ERC spokesperson Marta Vilalta said Catalangate was a case of "mass espionage," targeting people related to the pro-independence movement. "It must be investigated thoroughly," she said. 

CUP's Montserrat Vinyets told the MEPs that the purpose of the spying operation was to "persecute the Catalan independence movement" and "monitor dissidence." 

Socialists question Citizen Lab 

On the other hand, the Socialists' Òscar Aparicio questioned both the objective of the parliament inquiry commission and the "scientific rigor" of Citizen Lab, the University of Toronto-based tech crime research group that published the original Catalangate report

 "We are critical of the report," Aparicio said, arguing that "Spain is a democratic country with all guarantees [of rights]." 

Regarding the Catalan Pegasus inquiry commission, he said that it seems to have "pre-designed conclusions." 

"Democratic scandal" 

At a joint press conference of pro-independence parties following the meeting, ERC's Vilalta expressed her "satisfaction" that they were able to give their account of Catalangate to the EU delegation, with Josep Rius of Junts remarking that the MEPs have "deep knowledge of the case." 

Rius criticized the Spanish government's lack of collaboration and said that this shows that Spain "does not want dialogue."  

Similarly, far-left CUP's Montserrat Vinyets asked the MEPs to "take note" of the Spanish government's "boycott" of the European mission, while Vilalta criticized the "blocking and obstructionism of the Spanish authorities." 

"We will continue to fight and denounce these cases wherever necessary, both in the judicial and political spheres", Vilalta said, calling the spying affair a "democratic scandal and "a "flagrant violation of human rights."