The Catalan Government will ask the President of the Constitutional Court to be excluded from issues affecting Catalonia
The new President of the Spanish Constitutional Court, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, has turned out to be a member of the People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government. In addition, the expert in labour law had drafted several reports for the PP on several issues. On top of this, Pérez de los Cobos wrote a book with many sentences against Catalonia and Catalan citizens, amongst other controversial stances. According to the Catalan Government, this person cannot chair an institution that has to act as a referee between the different levels of government in Spain and that has to interpret the Constitution regarding very sensitive issues, such as Catalonia’s self-determination. For this reason, the Catalan Government demanded that Pérez de los Cobos be excluded from all the cases that involve the Catalan Executive.
Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Government decided on Tuesday to ask for the exclusion of Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, who is chairing the Spanish Constitutional Court since last June, from all the cases affecting the Catalan Executive. The reason: the Catalan Government is convinced that Pérez de los Cobos is not independent and will not act as a non-partisan referee since he is biased and may favour the interests of the Spanish Government. This is just another episode of a great controversy that surfaced ten days ago, when it was discovered that until 2011 the new President of the Spanish Constitutional Court, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, had been a member of the People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government. Furthermore, the expert in labour law had drafted several reports for the PP on many issues. On top of this, Pérez de los Cobos wrote a book with sentences criticising Catalonia and Catalan citizens, as well as comments against English and Italian people, which many would consider xenophobic. According to the Catalan Government, this person cannot chair an institution that has to act as a referee between the different levels of government in Spain and that has to interpret the Constitution regarding very sensitive issues, including Catalonia’s self-determination. Furthermore, this Tuesday the Catalan lawyer Miquel Roca – one of the ‘founding fathers’ who drafted the Spanish Constitution – stated before the Catalan Parliament that the Constitutional Court “does not disserve any respect since the sentence on the Catalan Statute of Autonomy”, dating from 2010. Roca stated that the Catalan law authorising a self-determination vote is “constitutional”; however, he immediately added he was “convinced” the current Constitutional Court would say it is “unconstitutional”. Three years ago, a highly politicised Court decided to trim Catalonia’s main law, which had been approved in 2005 by the Spanish Parliament and by the Catalan people through a binding referendum. This episode was a turning point in the relations between Catalonia and Spain, as the massive demonstration of July 2010 and the following increase of independence support proved.
After the weekly Cabinet Meeting, the Catalan Government decided to ask for the exclusion of Pérez de los Cobos from all the cases to which Catalonia’s Executive is involved. This measure had previously been used on several occasions by the People’s Party, who asked in 2006 for the exclusion of a member of the Constitutional Court – Pablo Pérez Tremps – from the debate about the Catalan Statute of Autonomy because he had written a report in the mid 1990s for the Catalan Government. This magistrate was finally excluded from the debate, which weakened the sector defending Catalonia’s main law that had already been re-drafted and approved by the Spanish Parliament. The Catalan Minister for the Presidency and Spokesperson, Francesc Homs, explained on Tuesday that the Catalan Government’s decision was in fact following the criteria of the Constitutional Court with the exclusion of Pérez Tremps. “We are using their own medicine, their own arguments”, stated Homs.
Excluded from, at least, 24 cases
The Catalan Government’s legal services considered that being member of a political party that runs the Spanish Government is a legitimate cause for having lost the non-partisan status and being suspicious of defending the interests of one of the parties involved in the cases brought to the Court. Therefore, the legal services considered such a person should not be involved in the cases directly affecting the Catalan Government and the appeals presented by the People’s Party. Following these criteria, Pérez de los Cobos should currently be excluded from 24 cases, although considering the political tensions between Madrid and Barcelona, the number of cases is likely to increase. In this vein, Homs explained that the Catalan Government does not rule out the possibility of including further cases to the exclusion request. However, Homs stated that the Catalan Government will not ask for Pérez de los Cobos’ exclusion in the cases in which it is not directly involved. This means that the temporary cancellation of the Catalan Parliament’s Declaration of Sovereignty would not be affected by today’s decision, since it does not directly affect the Catalan Government. However, Homs also added he is convinced that, in this last case, the Catalan Parliament will ask for the exclusion of the Constitutional Court’s President.
A hidden membership
The Spanish Constitution clearly states that leading members of political parties cannot be members of the Constitutional Court. However, it is not illegal to be a regular member of a political party and being magistrate of the Court. The scandal was that Pérez de los Cobos had been named magistrate of the Constitutional Court in 2010 and then promoted to Chairman in June 2013 following a proposal of the People’s Party and he had hidden his membership. In addition, many voices consider that, despite being legal, it is not ethical, since the President of the Constitutional Court should be bound to higher non-partisan standards. Pérez de los Cobos’ PP membership was discovered by El País newspaper ten days ago.
This membership comes on top of controversial comments written by Pérez de los Cobos in a book against several groups of people. He made xenophobic statements against English and Italian people, such as “Englishmen have learned how to clean themselves of their cats” and “There is not a people believing less in the Law than Italians”. However, Pérez de los Cobos is particularly focused on criticising Catalans and Catalonia. “There is not a single political act in Catalonia without a demonstration of masturbation”, he stated. He also said that “money is the rationalising balm in Catalonia”, which refers to the Spanish stereotype that Catalans are miserly. On top of this he wrote “When a Catalan is satisfied he expresses it by saying: ‘It works for me’”. He also criticised Catalan nationalism saying it was “a nightmare”.