Catalan police to be part of Spanish antiterrorist body
Barcelona and Madrid governments hold security coordination meeting for first time in eight years amid mounting tension over referendum
The Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, will be integrated into Spain’s main antiterrorist body, the bilateral coordination security meeting between Catalonia and Spain agreed on Monday. It was the main accord to come out of the long-awaited summit, held in Barcelona a full eight years since the last one. Both sides also made a commitment to finding the way to grant the Mossos access to Europol’s database, as well as permission to pursue fugitives across state borders.
The meeting chaired by the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, and also attended by the Catalan and Spanish home affairs ministers, concluded that the Mossos will become part of the Madrid-led Intelligence Center against Terrorism and Organized Crime (CITCO in Spanish), established in 2014, along with the coordination and evaluation boards for terrorist threats led by the cabinet of Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy.
Both governments also agreed to launch a joint committee to seek ways to enable the Mossos to gain access to the Europol database, called the SIENA system. The Spanish Ministry of Home Affairs reached the same agreement with the Basque police last month, something that caused upset in Catalonia with officials in Barcelona now expecting both forces to have equal access.
The right to cross state borders and enter another country when chasing fugitives over land –Catalonia shares a border with France and the two territories are connected in 60 places– was also a long-standing claim by the Catalan government, the Generalitat, as it is provided by law in the Schengen Agreement. This issue will also be discussed in the joint committee agreed on Monday. Spanish home affairs minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, said that although the coordination is “not easy”, because it also needs to be discussed with France, he expects the issue to be resolved in the coming months.
"We have broken the ice"
Jordi Jané · Catalan minister of home affairs
In the bilateral meeting held in Generalitat headquarters in Barcelona, the Spanish government also officially verified the number of police officers Catalonia has hired since the last security coordination meeting in 2009. This is the first step in both administrations agreeing on how to fund them, with Barcelona claiming more than €600 million from the state.
The session also tackled the controversy over the 500 new police officers that the Puigdemont cabinet wants to hire and that Madrid opposes, limiting the number to 50. Nevertheless, the Catalan home affairs minister, Jordi Jané, decided to go ahead with the new intake and explained the reasons for it in the meeting. In a news conference later on, he said that he was certain that the hiring process will be able to take place.
Jané also gave a positive assessment of the event in general. “We have broken the ice,” he said in reference to the tension with his Spanish counterpart in recent months over the need for a coordination meeting. “Constitutional normality has prevailed,” Zoido told the press. However, his comments come amid a potential clash between the Catalan and Spanish administrations over the independence referendum planned by the Puigdemont executive for October 1, which is opposed by the Rajoy government. The Catalan police are in the eye of the storm, as they could potentially find themselves faced with two contradictory orders from Barcelona and Madrid over the organization of the plebiscite.