‘Public safety’ main concern at bilateral security meeting

Catalan and Spanish authorities meet to discuss policing of Sunday’s referendum, stressing social harmony and compliance with the law

Image of the Catalonia-Spain security meeting
Image of the Catalonia-Spain security meeting / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 28, 2017 08:01 PM

A bilateral security meeting between the Catalan and Spanish authorities took place on Thursday to discuss the policing of Sunday’s independence referendum. Spain’s Secretary of State of Security, José Antonio Nieto, spoke after the meeting, saying that president Carles Puigdemont had turned down a request to withdraw the referendum, and as a result his government’s main objectives on Sunday would be “that the law be obeyed, the rule of law defended and that social harmony be maintained in Catalonia.”

However, Catalonia’s Minister of Home Affairs Joaquim Forn criticized the state authorities for resorting to the courts rather than the negotiation table, but he insisted that the security meeting had served to make three aspects clear: that it is the Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, who will be on charge of public order on Sunday, that the Catalan government shares responsibility with the state authorities for policing, and that “public safety” is the one thing that comes before observance of the law.

While Nieto said he was in favor of the public “expressing its political sentiments” on Sunday, he stressed compliance with the law and insisted that this expression “must not and cannot be violent”. In fact, Nieto pointed to the willingness of the state authorities to attend the security meeting, despite the Spanish government’s fierce opposition to the referendum, something he suggested showed the executive’s concern for public safety.

Spanish Home Affairs minister absent

The security meeting began just after noon in the Palau Reial de Pedralbes to discuss the coordination of law enforcement agencies during Sunday’s independence referendum. The meeting was called by Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, although neither the Spanish Minister of Home Affairs Juan Ignacio Zoido, nor the heads of either the Spanish national police or the Guardia Civil in Catalonia attended.

However, Diego Pérez de los Cobos, designated by the state Attorney General to oversee policing in Catalonia, was at the meeting, as well as Nieto and the Spanish government’s delegate to Catalonia, Enric Millo. On behalf of the Catalan authorities was president Puigdemont, Forn, his secretary general, Cèsar Puig, director general of the Catalan police, Pere Soler, and Mossos d’Esquadra police chief, Josep Lluís Trapero.