The Constitutional Court rejects the exclusion of its President requested by the Catalan Government
The Spanish Constitutional Court has decided not to exclude its President, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, from cases directly affecting Catalonia’s self-government institutions despite his anti-Catalan statements and being a member of the People’s Party (PP) until 2011. Among many statements, in 2005 he made one of the most controversial ones when he said that “Catalans are educated to hate Spanish culture”. The Catalan Government asked him at least to apologise publicly for those words, made at a public event, and to take them back. Furthermore, all the Catalan parties except the Spanish nationalist ones rejected the Court’s decision since the institution loses even more credibility. The anti-Catalan nationalist party Ciutadans (C’s) warns that keeping Pérez de los Cobos in position will allow Catalan independence supporters to take legitimacy away from the Court.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Tuesday, the Spanish Constitutional Court announced that it has decided not to exclude its President, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, from cases directly affecting Catalonia’s self-government institutions, as it had been requested to do by the Catalan Government and Catalan Parliament. The exclusion petition was based on the anti-Catalan statements made by Pérez de los Cobos before becoming the Constitutional Court President, a position he took three months ago. Among many statements, in 2005 he made one of the most controversial ones when he said that “Catalans are educated to hate Spanish culture”. Furthermore, this summer the newspaper El País disclosed that the magistrate had been a member of the People’s Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government – until 2011, despite having joined the Constitutional Court in 2010. Political membership is not directly illegal for Constitutional Court members, but it had not been disclosed and it could severely question the neutrality of the magistrate, since many issues debated by the Court involve the PP in a direct or indirect way. This institution plays a key role in Spain’s political life, since it is the main interpreter of the Constitution and has to act as referee between the different levels of government and ensure that elementary freedoms and rights are respected. Currently there are 24 cases directly affecting Catalonia which have been taken to the Court by the Spanish Government, the PP or the Catalan Executive. The members of the Constitutional Court decided not to exclude Pérez de los Cobos from the issues affecting Catalonia with 2 votes supporting the exclusion and 9 votes against it.
All parties in Catalonia except the PP would have preferred his exclusion
The decision has been badly received in Catalonia. All parties except the PP would have preferred the exclusion of Pérez de los Cobos. In fact, all the Catalan parties except the Spanish nationalist ones (CiU, ERC, PSC, ICV-EUiA and CUP) rejected the Court’s decision since the institution loses even more credibility. In addition, the anti-Catalan nationalist and populist party Ciutadans (C’s) believed that keeping Pérez de los Cobos in position will allow Catalan independence supporters to take legitimacy away from the Court and its coming decisions. However, the C’s said they find no “legal” objection to the Court’s decision, although they think the PP made “a political mistake” by choosing such a candidate to chair the Court.
The Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) – which runs the Catalan Government – emphasised that Pérez de los Cobos had “directly insulted” Catalans. “If this is to be the neutrality paradigm, it is another proof that this body [the Constitutional Court] is becoming a political body”, stated CiU’s Spokerperson, Jordi Turull. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) stressed that the Constitutional Court “is a body created by the PP and the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Party), in which they elect their magistrates and that decides according to their political will”. “ We are not surprised that all the Constitutional Court’s judgements always favour the Spanish Government’s status quo”, insisted Marta Rovira, ERC’s Secretary General.
The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) – which is part of the PSOE – stated that it is “terrible” that Pérez de los Cobos is still heading the Constitutional Court. The PSC Spokesperson, Maurici Lucena said that “after what has been known, this person should have resigned”. The Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) affirmed that “the credibility” and “neutrality” of the Court can be “seriously questioned” after today’s decision. The ICV-EUiA Spokesperson, Dolors Camats, accused the Constitutional Court of giving an “different treatment” to Pérez de los Cobos and to Pérez Tremps, a magistrate excluded in 2006 from the debates about the Catalan Statute of Autonomy because in the past he had written an academic report for the Catalan Government. Finally, the radical left-wing and independence party CUP regretted that “the separation of powers does not exist in Spain”. Quim Arrufat, MP for the CUP, accused the Constitutional Court of being “politicised”.
The Catalan Government asks Pérez de los Cobos for public apologies
Furthermore, the Catalan Government said to the Constitutional Court’s President that the least he could do is to apologise publicly for the anti-Catalan statements and to take them back, particularly those from 2005, made at a public event. According to the Spokesperson for the Catalan Executive, Francesc Homs, Pérez de los Cobos has to apologise and take the statements back “out of respect for Catalan society”. If he does not do so, the Catalan Government will consider he still stands by those declarations.
Some of Pérez de los Cobos' xenophobic comments
Besides the statements from 2005, Pérez de los Cobos made several controversial comments 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”.