Flanders hits back after Spain withdraws delegate's diplomatic status
Minister-president Bourgeois calls Madrid’s measure unprecedented and says he will summon ambassador
The Flemish minister-president, Geert Bourgeois, has hit back at Spain over its withdrawal of diplomatic status from its delegate in Madrid, calling the measure “a very unfriendly act.”
In an interview with the Flemish Radio 1 station (VRT) on Wednesday morning, Bourgeois called the measure unprecedented and defended freedom of speech.
Flemish parliament speaker remarks
The Spanish foreign ministry removed the diplomatic privileges of André Hebbelinck, the Flanders delegate in Spain, after some recent comments from the Flemish parliament speaker that included referring to the nine jailed Catalan leaders as “political prisoners.”
The chamber president, Jan Peumans, also said that Spain “is incapable of complying with the conditions to be part of a democratic Europe.”
Spanish ambassador to be summoned
During the interview, the Flemish head of government defended the separation of powers, because the delegate who has lost his diplomatic status represents the executive, while Peumans is part of the legislature.
Geert Bourgeois also announced his intention to “summon” the Spanish ambassador in Belgium, Beatriz Larrotcha, as soon as possible.
The Spanish authorities had held several meetings with Belgian officials to make official complaints about Peumans, who sent a letter to Carme Forcadell, currently incarcerated for her role as parliament president in last year's push for independence.
Soon after Bourgeois made his comments on Wednesday morning, the Spanish foreign minister said he would not deny that the incident is "a diplomatic conflict" with Flanders, and also with Belgium.
"Let's not play it down," said Josep Borrell, who added: "Spain cannot allow that time and again the president of a parliament says that we are a country that should be expelled from the EU."