Talks frozen as Catalonia 'will not normalize' relations with Madrid until Catalangate clarified

President Aragonès demands internal investigation and says Spain is now on par with Hungary and Poland

The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, talking in a statement along with his ministers on April 19, 2022 (by Maria Asmarat)
The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, talking in a statement along with his ministers on April 19, 2022 (by Maria Asmarat) / Cristina Tomàs White / Guifré Jordan

Cristina Tomàs White / Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

April 19, 2022 06:11 PM

The Catalan government has frozen its negotiation process over the independence issue with Spain in the wake of the news that over 60 pro-independence politicians, activists and their close associates had been the target of Pegasus spyware in what is the world’s largest known cyberattack of its kind.

Both the independence camp, as well as the researchers in Citizen Lab organization responsible for the findings, believe the perpetrators of espionage are within the Spanish government

Along all of his ministers, the Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, said on Tuesday evening that "normal political relations" with Madrid cannot resume until Catalangate is clarified, that is, until an internal investigation within the Spanish government is launched and the accountability of those responsible is ensured. Yet, the Socialist-led cabinet has already denied the possibility of such an inquiry.

Aragonès: espionage in five different European countries

In a statement at the government headquarters in Barcelona, he said that "the Catalan pro-independence movement as a whole has been a victim of a mass surveillance program that has taken place in five different European countries and has also directly affected the European parliament," referring to the several MEPs spied on. 

Therefore he said that Spain has to be "transparent" in order to handle the issue, finding out who ordered the espionage and who was monitoring these actions. 

"This distances us from the resolution of the conflict with Spain," he added. 

Aragonès emphasized that Catalangate is not an internal affair. "We urge the European Parliament and other European institutions to reinforce the calls for a thorough investigation into the mass surveillance that has been certified," he expressed.

While shared issues such as the 2030 Winter Olympics bid will still be discussed with Madrid, political contacts to find a way out in the independence discussion will be temporarily halted. 

The negotiation process was already stumbling, since after Covid-19 both the Spanish and Catalan governments had only met once, on September 15, 2021. "Discreet talks" have been taking place since then, but Madrid has been postponing setting a date for a second summit despite the insistence in Barcelona. 

Spain may have spent €20m in espionage, says vice president

Aragonès' vice president, Jordi Puigneró, also said that Catalonia "will not normalize relations with a repressive state" until the situation is investigated. 

"A country that is spying reminds of a pseudodemocracy or a dictatorship," he added. 

"Spain is no longer a full democracy and it is in the path of being a democracy that does not meet the minimum European standards."

According to Catalan government estimations, Spain may have spent €20 million in the operation, said Puigneró.