Category Archives: Spain

(EP) El libro de Pedro Sánchez y Carlos Ocaña copia párrafos de la conferencia de un diplomático

(EPLa Moncloa sostiene que se trata de “un error involuntario” y los coautores se comprometen a subsanarlo “en el más breve plazo”

El presidente del Gobierno, Pedro Sánchez, y el economista Carlos Ocaña reproducen en su libro de 2013, sin entrecomillar ni citar la fuente original, párrafos de cinco de las siete páginas de una conferencia que el diplomático español Manuel Cacho pronunció en un simposio de la Universidad Camilo José Cela (UCJC) el 25 de febrero de 2013. En total, citan sin referir 454 palabras. Cacho, actual embajador en Australia, ha confirmado a este periódico que nadie le consultó para usar este material. “Es la primera noticia que tengo”, respondió en conversación telefónica. La Moncloa ha asegurado a EL PAÍS que se trata de “un error involuntario”. “Los coautores únicamente pueden lamentar este hecho y comprometer su subsanación en el más breve plazo. En las siguientes ediciones de la obra se incluirá correctamente la cita”, precisan. Ocaña, coautor de la obra, no ha querido hacer declaraciones.

El embajador Manuel Cacho pronunció su conferencia en las jornadas Marca España y la diplomacia económica, que se celebraron nueve meses antes de la publicación del libro. Pedro Sánchez, que entonces acababa de acceder a un escaño en el Congreso de los Diputados, organizó aquel acto y ejerció de moderador en una de las mesas redondas. El libro La nueva diplomacia de la economía española, de 229 páginas, firmado por Sánchez y Ocaña -de 38 años y hoy directivo del Real Madrid- recoge la tesis doctoral del presidente leída en noviembre de 2012, y añade nuevas aportaciones. Es ahí donde se encuentran al menos 18 páginas con pasajes de fuentes ajenas sin citar ni referenciar. El discurso de Cacho es el más llamativo, aunque hay al menos cinco más de distinto origen, según ha comprobado EL PAÍS.

Varios fragmentos de ocho párrafos de la conferencia del embajador coinciden con el texto del libro. Hay incluso una errata -“ente” en lugar de entre- en el discurso que se repite tal cual en el libro de Sánchez en la página 65, al final de un largo párrafo idéntico a 16 líneas de la conferencia: “… se intercambian impresiones, ideas y se ve desde ambos lados cómo se puede incrementar la colaboración empresarial, cultural, académica… ente un país y el otro”.

La tesis doctoral de Sánchez fue objeto de polémica la semana pasada, pero hasta tres programas informáticos empleados por este periódico no hallaron indicios de obras ajenas sin atribuir. Sin embargo, no ocurre lo mismo con el libro posterior del presidente y Carlos Ocaña. La conferencia de Manuel Cacho es el caso más notorio. Las ponencias se encuentran en un documento alojado en la web de la Camilo José Cela y la universidad también confirma que se trata de la transcripción de las intervenciones. Hasta cinco páginas del libro, de la 62 a la 66, en el cuarto capítulo, reproducen gran parte del discurso del diplomático. Se utilizan cinco de los siete folios de la intervención. Se desconoce qué partes del libro, fuera de la tesis doctoral, son cosecha de Sánchez o de Ocaña, que fue entre 2008 y 2011 jefe de gabinete del ministro de Industria, Miguel Sebastián, autor del prólogo del libro. Ninguno de los dos autores ha querido aclararlo.

El actual embajador en Australia confirma a este diario que participó en aquellas jornadas y que no leyó un texto escrito. “No tenía tiempo y preparé un guion, fue una cosa improvisada. Después me enviaron unos borradores de la universidad con la transcripción para publicar en su página web”, explica Cacho. Desconocía qué parte de su intervención había acabado en el libro de Sánchez. Nadie le pidió permiso para ello, sostiene, aunque ha preferido no hacer valoraciones.

Otro pasaje del discurso, de 14 líneas, está incluido con leves variaciones en el volumen, en la página 65. El final de este extracto es el siguiente: “Finalmente, las fundaciones desarrollan colaboraciones puntuales con distintas instituciones de los países para los que están pensadas. Pienso por ejemplo en la colaboración con el China Club Spain o con la Japan Foundation. Todo ello, en definitiva, lo que busca es el acercamiento entre sociedades civiles”. El libro repite el párrafo con pequeños retoques: “Finalmente, las fundaciones desarrollan colaboraciones puntuales con distintas instituciones de los países. Así, existe colaboración con el China Club Spain o con la Japan Foundation. Todo ello, en definitiva, con el propósito de lograr el acercamiento entre sociedades civiles”.

Las partes copiadas de la intervención de Cacho componen el núcleo argumental y la mayor parte del epígrafe 4.2 del libro, y el resto coincide con lo publicado en la tesis doctoral de Sánchez. Están insertadas entre fragmentos de un artículo del líder del PSOE, el titulado La diplomacia comercial en el centro de la diplomacia comercial española, que Sánchez publicó en septiembre de 2012. La transcripción del texto es prácticamente literal, salvo en algunos giros y expresiones que en el libro se cambian por sinónimos. Por ejemplo, esta frase de Cacho: “… con los países de la Unión Europea tenemos canales de sobra…” se convierte en “con los países europeos existen canales sobrados…”

Copias de otros textos

Además de esa conferencia, el libro de Sánchez y Ocaña también echa mano de otros textos ajenos, sin atribuir la fuente ni incluirla en la bibliografía final. Los más destacados, por su extensión, son cinco: un discurso en el pleno del Congreso del entonces ministro Miguel Sebastián (páginas 55 y 56 del libro); una respuesta parlamentaria (página 154 y 156); un informe del Ministerio de Economía (páginas 87 y 88); un teletipo de agencia de un acto oficial (páginas 146 y 147), y un comunicado de prensa del Consejo de Ministros (páginas 57 y 59).

En cuanto a estos cinco textos, La Moncloa afirma que “está todo en orden”. “Está permitida la utilización de iniciativas y documentos de carácter parlamentario, que son de uso público”, argumenta dicha fuente. “Se trata de documentos que no generan derechos de autor por no tener la consideración de obras, ya que son de uso público al formar parte del debate político, el cual debe ser difundido a todos los ciudadanos”.

El Gobierno sostiene que el artículo 33 de la Ley de Propiedad Intelectual “excluye explícitamente los discursos pronunciados en sesiones parlamentarias”. “Por tanto, son documentos públicos de consulta abierta a todos, por lo que está todo en orden”, concluye La Moncloa.

(EurActiv) Spain PM Sánchez calls for Venezuelan migrant quotas

(EurActiv)

Venezuelan people wait in line to leave Brazilian territory, in Pacaraima, Brazil, 19 August 2018. Almost 1200 Venezuelan migrants have left Brazil during the last hours, following a violent incident where a campsite and belongings of Venezuelan people was burnt, according to numbers by the Brazilian Army. [Geraldo Maia/EPA/EFE]

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Thursday (30 August) that Latin America should adopt a “quota system” to better manage the Venezuelan migrant crisis.

Sánchez was speaking on a trip to Colombia, which has been inundated with hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing economic meltdown in their homeland.

“If we think of Latin America as a supportive community, it’s clear that a quota system could be a good solution,” Sánchez told Blu Radio.

The socialist PM said it’s a similar deal to that which Spain is proposing in the European Union in the face of mass migration from Africa in particular.

Last month, the EU’s border agency warned that Spain is developing into the chief path for migrants trying to enter Europe.

Sánchez backs Morocco’s call for support to stem migrant flows

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has included Morroco’s pending demands of resources for border management, in a letter addressed to the European Commission requesting further emergency assistance to tackle the surge in migrant arrivals.

“This is a challenge affecting not just Spain, which is logically the border, but the whole European Union and that’s why we need solidarity amongst all member states,” said Sánchez during a two-day visit to Colombia, in which he met with President Ivan Duque, an ardent critic of Venezuela counterpart Nicolas Maduro.

In 2015 the EU came up with a quota plan to distribute migrants after more than a million arrived by sea as civil war in Syria saw numbers surge.

But many countries dragged their feet in agreeing to take in their quotas, while the likes of Hungary and Poland refused outright to accept refugees.

Some 1.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015 as four years of recession and hyperinflation the International Monetary Fund predicts will reach one million percent this year have left large swathes of the population in poverty.

Marco Rubio

@marcorubio

A reminder of how the Maduro regime in has become a security threat to the region, including the U.S.. https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/29/americas/venezuela-migrants-brazil-peru-colombia-intl/index.html 

Brazil sends troops to Venezuela border as migrant crisis worsens

Brazil is sending troops to its northern border to “guarantee law and order” amid an ongoing crisis which is seeing thousands of Venezuelans attempting to cross into neighboring countries and beyond.

cnn.com

And this in a country that in the past welcomed many migrants fleeing authoritarian regimes elsewhere.

James Cleverly

@JamesCleverly

The Socialist apocalypse that is has triggered a migrant crisis approaching the scale of the Syrian exodus.

How many more people will be sacrificed on the altar of this failed political theory before its proponents admit they are wrong? https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/25/venezuela-heading-for-crisis-moment-comparable-to-refugees-in-mediterranean-un-says 

Venezuela heading for ‘crisis moment’ comparable to refugees in Mediterranean, UN says

Growing numbers fleeing economic meltdown and political turmoil, threatening to overwhelm neighbour countries

theguardian.com

“Venezuela was a place that welcomed many Spaniards, Galicians, Canary Islanders… during the Francoist dictatorship,” said Sánchez, referring to the 36-year reign of Francisco Franco from 1939 to 1975.

“The lived and prospered there. So we’re a country with great solidarity. We feel very close to this drama that Venezuela is going through so we hope that Venezuelans will open a dialogue.”

Some 2.3 million Venezuelans live outside the country of 30.6 million, according to the UN, with the numbers heading to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil steadily increasing.

Venezuela’s far-left authorities have dismissed the claims of economic crisis as fake news and a “right-wing plot,” blaming the country’s troubles on United States and EU led sanctions.

(EM) El Gobierno rechaza ahora al Aquarius y asegura que España “no es el puerto más seguro”

(EMVideo thumbnail

El Gobierno rechaza ahora al Aquarius y asegura que España “no es el puerto más seguro” Foto: GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / REUTERS | Vídeo: MSF / EL MUNDO

El Gobierno rechaza por ahora atender el llamamiento del Aquarius para desembarcar a los 141 inmigrantes rescatados el viernes frente a las costas de Libia porque España “no es el puerto más cercano y, por tanto, no es el puerto más seguro”, informan a este diario fuentes de Moncloa.

Así pues, el Gobierno de Pedro Sánchez mira ahora a otros países de la Unión Europea, especialmente a Francia, para ver si en esta ocasión se ofrecen a aceptar el barco, como ya hiciese España el pasado mes de junio en Valencia, cuando la embarcación gestionada por las ONG SOS Mediterranée y Médicos sin Fronteras se hizo cargo de 629 personas rescatadas en unas circunstancias similares. Por lo pronto, Malta e Italia mantienen el pulso negándose a abrir sus puertos al Aquarius, lo que ha puesto a prueba la política migratoria de Sánchez.

Fuentes de Moncloa explican que el Gobierno reaccionó en aquella ocasión ante una “emergencia humanitaria, cuando era evidente que estaban cerrados todos los puertos y nadie se hacía cargo”. Ahora, en cambio, desde el Ejecutivo entienden que todavía hay que esperar a ver cuál es la “disposición de otros países”. Las miradas se dirigen a Francia, que se encuentra geográficamente más cerca del barco. “Por eso decimos que ahora no es el puerto más cercano y no es el puerto más seguro”, subrayan estas fuentes.

Barcelona se ofrece y pide no cambiar de criterio

Mientras el Gobierno se aleja de aquella decisión del pasado mes de junio de recibir en Valencia a los inmigrantes rescatados por el Aquarius, el Ayuntamiento de Barcelona se ha ofrecido hoy “una vez más” para acoger el barco y ha reclamado al Ejecutivo que no cambie de criterio y que “continúe comprometido” en la defensa del “derecho a la vida y el refugio”.

En una rueda de prensa recogida por Efe, la teniente de alcalde de Derechos Sociales, Laia Ortiz, ha exigido a los Estados de Europa que sean “responsables” y que estén comprometidos porque estas personas “están huyendo y necesitan ser rescatadas”. “Barcelona siempre estará comprometida con la vida”, ha insistido en su oferta al Gobierno para ser el puerto seguro que necesita el barco.

En términos similares se ha expresado el residente del puerto francés de Sète-Frontignan y ex ministro de Trabajo, Jean-Claude Gayssot, según recoge Europa Press. “La única condición es primero la luz verde de las autoridades francesas. Entiendo que las cosas son complejas, incluida la necesidad de luchar contra los traficantes. Pero aquí, se trata de vidas humanas”, ha afirmado a la espera de que se pronuncie el Gobierno de Francia.

Se da la circunstancia de que ésta es la primera acción que realiza el Aquariusdesde que desembarcó en España a 629 inmigrantes. Desde entonces, el debate sobre la inmigración irregular ha ido creciendo notablemente en el país por el aumento de la presión migratoria en las zonas fronterizas de Ceuta y Melilla y la llegada pateras a las costas andaluzas. De hecho, PP y Ciudadanos han aprovechado el asunto para redoblar su presión a Sánchez acusándole de haber generado un “efecto llamada” con su política de “gestos” en este tema.

En esta ocasión, en el Aquarius hay 141 inmigrantes, de los cuales 73 son menores de edad. Según informan las ONG que operan el barco, el 70% de los rescatados proceden de Somalia y Eritrea, aunque también hay personas nacidas en BangladeshCamerúnGhanaCosta de MarfilNigeriaSenegal,Marruecos y Egipto.

Contactos en la Unión Europea

Ante esta nueva crisis, la Comisión Europea ha dicho hoy estar en contacto con varios Estados miembros de la Unión Europea y ha ofrecido su “total apoyo diplomático” para resolver la situación, informa Efe.

“La Comisión está actualmente en contacto con un número de Estados miembros que se han acercado a nosotros a propósito de este incidente. Y como hemos hecho en numerosos casos previos, estamos preparados para aportar nuestro total apoyo diplomático (…) para resolver la situación”, ha declarado la portavoz de la Comisión Europea, Tove Ernst. El Ejecutivo comunitario, no obstante, no ha ofrecido detalles sobre los países con los que la Comisión ha tratado ni sobre el desarrollo de esas conversaciones.

En paralelo, Italia insiste en cerrar sus puertos. “Propiedad alemana, fletado por la ONG francesa, tripulación extranjera, en aguas maltesas, volando la bandera de Gibraltar. ¡Puedes ir adonde quieras, no a Italia!”, ha escrito el ministro del Interior italiano, Matteo Salvini, en Twitter.

(EUobserver) Spanish fighter jet accidentally fires missile in Estonia

(EUobserver) “Thank God without human casualties, but it is nevertheless extremely regrettable”, Estonia’s president Jueri Ratas commented after a Spanish fighter jet accidentally fired an air-to-air missile over Estonia on Tuesday during a routine Nato training mission. Estonia’s military is now searching the area around where it was fired, as it is potentially still armed, while the Spanish defence ministry has opened an investigation into the matter.

(ABC) El Rey logra la mejor valoración de la Monarquía desde su restauración

(ABC) Don Felipe alcanza un 75,3 por ciento de aprobación, solo superado por Doña Sofía. Le siguen Doña Letizia y Don Juan Carlos, que también aprueban

El Rey ha conseguido en sus primeros cuatro años de reinado la mejor valoración de la Monarquía desde su restauración, según la encuesta realizada por GAD3 para ABC, que le otorga un 75,3 por ciento de popularidad. Un resultado que supera incluso, en algunas décimas, a los registrados en los mejores tiempos del reinado de Don Juan Carlos, cuando los españoles puntuaron con un 7,48 sobre diez a la Monarquía en la encuesta del Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS) del año 1995. No obstante, cuando Don Felipe fue proclamado Rey, en junio de 2014, hacía ya varios años que la valoración de la Corona había empezado a caer, y en abril de ese mismo año se situaba en un preocupante 3,72 sobre diez.

La encuesta ha sido realizada tras un año especialmente marcado por el desafío separatista catalán -con la celebración del referéndum ilegal y la declaración también ilegal de independencia en Cataluña- y en el que Don Felipe asumió un protagonismo muy destacado con el mensaje que dirigió a los españoles el pasado 3 de octubre. Tras esos acontecimientos, la mayoría de los españoles, el 66,6 por ciento, valoran positiva o muy positivamente el papel desempeñado por Don Felipe en la defensa de la unidad de España, según se desprende de la encuesta de GAD3.

Ataques de separatistas

También la mayoría de los españoles, el 54,8 por ciento, consideran que los ataques de los líderes separatistas a la Monarquía son una respuesta al papel que desempeñó Don Felipe ante el desafío independentista emprendido por el expresidente de la Generalitat Carles Puigdemont, y que después ha continuado su sucesor, Joaquim Torra. Sin embargo, más de la mitad de los consultados, el 53,3 por ciento, considera que el papel del Rey no fue crucial a la hora de parar el golpe independentista en Cataluña. Y es que, por sus características, este golpe no se ha podido frenar en seco, como sí pudo hacer Don Juan Carlos con su discurso del 23-F de 1981 tras la asonada militar del teniente coronel Tejero en el Congreso de los Diputados.

Aplauso a la modernización

Los encuestados valoran muy positivamente la modernización de la Corona que emprendió Don Felipe cuando fue proclamado Rey y adoptó una batería de medidas para adaptar la institución a los nuevos tiempos y dotarla de mayor transparencia. De hecho, este proceso de modernización de la Monarquía recibe el aplauso del 60,9 por ciento.

ABC
ABC

Además, más de la mitad de los consultados, el 55,6 por ciento, destaca la función del Rey en la defensa de la estabilidad institucional y el 52,7 valora el respeto de Don Felipe a la neutralidad política. Dos cuestiones que se pusieron a prueba tras las primeras elecciones del reinado de Don Felipe, cuando se fragmentó el Parlamento y se produjo un bloqueo político de diez meses de duración, el más largo de la democracia. Sin embargo, los encuestados están divididos a la hora de valorar el papel moderador del Rey entre las fuerzas políticas. El 45,6 por ciento lo valoran negativamente y el 43,8, positivamente.

Elemento estabilizador

Más de la mitad de los españoles, el 51,2 por ciento, consideran que la contribución de la Monarquía a la estabilidad de España es muy importante o bastante importante, frente a un 47,3 que la califica como poco o nada importante. Esta división de opiniones está condicionada por las ideas políticas de los consultados. De hecho, el 86,6 por ciento de los votantes del PP creen que la Monarquía contribuye en gran medida a la estabilidad de España. Lo mismo piensan el 71 por ciento de los votantes de Ciudadanos y el 65 por ciento de los del PSOE. Sin embargo, en el caso de los seguidores de la coalición republicana de izquierdas Unidos Podemos, se reduce al 17 por ciento.

La encuesta también confirma el elevado grado de conformidad que suscita la función del Monarca como representante de España en la comunidad internacional, a pesar de que en los últimos tiempos tanto los viajes de los Reyes al exterior como las visitas de los mandatarios extranjeros a España se han visto reducidas, como consecuencia de los problemas políticos internos. Aún así, el 72,2 por ciento de los encuestados creen que el Rey es «un buen embajador de España en el exterior», frente a un 24,6 que considera que no lo es.

A pesar de su alta popularidad, Don Felipe no es el miembro más valorado de la Familia Real. Le supera su madre, Doña Sofía, que obtiene un 76,2 por ciento de aprobación. Además, un abrumador 86,6 por ciento de los encuestados cree que a lo largo de su vida -en noviembre cumplirá 80 años- Doña Sofía ha desempeñado su papel con profesionalidad. Ella y Don Felipe han logrado tradicionalmente los niveles más altos de aprobación, aunque a medida que avanza el reinado y sube la valoración del Rey, la diferencia entre ambos se va estrechando.

Un momento poco favorable

El resto de los miembros de la Familia Real, Doña Letizia y Don Juan Carlos, también aprueban, aunque la encuesta de GAD3 ha sido realizada en unos momentos poco favorables para ambos. En concreto, fue realizada los pasados días 30 y 31 de julio, cuando la Reina aún estaba tratando de contrarrestar los efectos del vídeo de la Catedral de Palma, y Don Juan Carlos acababa de ser utilizado por el excomisario preso Villarejo en su campaña para tratar de extorsionar al Estado. En esas circunstancias, Doña Letizia obtuvo un 58,1 por ciento de aprobación y Don Juan Carlos un 54,7.

Desfile militar en el día de la Fiesta Nacional, presidido por don Felipe VI y doña Letizia
Desfile militar en el día de la Fiesta Nacional, presidido por don Felipe VI y doña Letizia – Jaime García

La encuesta se hizo cuando los Reyes acababan de empezar su estancia en Palma de Mallorca, donde alternan la actividad institucional con el deporte, el ocio y las salidas familiares. Don Juan Carlos, que también tenía previsto viajar a la isla este verano, tuvo que cancelar el traslado en el último momento por recomendación médica como consecuencia de una vieja lesión en la muñeca.

Como se aprecia en todas las encuestas sobre la Familia Real desde hace décadas, la aprobación de sus miembros es más alta entre los segmentos de ciudadanos de mayor edad. Aún así, Don Felipe, Doña Letizia y Doña Sofía consiguen la aprobación de los ciudadanos de todos los tramos edad, incluso de los más jóvenes (de 18 a 29 años). A Don Juan Carlos, sin embargo, solo le aprueban el 36 por ciento de los más jóvenes, mientras que mantiene una valoración del 70 por ciento entre los encuestados más mayores (de 65 años y más), que son los que ya eran adultos durante la Transición y vivieron la restauración de la democracia.

Mejor que los políticos

Según la encuesta, casi cuatro de cada diez españoles (un 39,2 por ciento) valoran a Don Felipe mejor que a los políticos. Otro 37,6 por ciento le valora igual y solo un 19,5 considera que el Rey es peor que la clase política. Esta valoración va muy unida a la ideología política de los encuestados. De hecho, la mayoría de los votantes del PP (62 por ciento) cree que el Rey es mejor que la clase política. Lo mismo piensan el 57 por ciento de los votantes de Ciudadanos y el 49 por ciento de los del PSOE. Sin embargo, la mayoría de los partidarios de Unidos Podemos consideran que el Rey es igual (49 por ciento) o peor (37 por ciento) que los políticos. Aún sí, un llamativo 12 por ciento de votantes de la coalición republicana de izquierdas valora a Don Felipe mejor que a la clase política.

 

(EurActiv) UN says migrants’ return to Libya by Italian boat could be illegal

(EurActiv)

Federica Mogherini (C), High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, arrives to Mitiga International Airport prior to her departure, in Tripoli, Libya, 14 July 2018. [Sringer/EPA/EFE]

A rescue operation in which an Italian towboat rescued more than 100 migrants and returned them to Libya earlier this week may have been in breach of international law, the United Nations said on Tuesday (31 July).

A spokesman for the UN migration agency said it could not establish the location of the rescue, which is key to establishing migrants’ rights, although some other parties involved in the case have made contradictory assertions about the incident including where it took place.

The rescue coincides with a growing perception among human rights groups that some European countries are taking an increasingly hard line in their efforts to cut the number of migrants arriving on their shores, after Italy’s new government closed its ports to charities’ rescue boats in past weeks.

According to Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms, an Italian towboat, Asso 28, rescued 108 migrants from international waters on Monday and took them to Libya, their country of departure.

UNHCR Italia

@UNHCRItalia

Stiamo raccogliendo tutte le informazioni necessarie sul caso del rimorchiatore italiano che avrebbe riportato in 108 persone soccorse nel Mediterraneo. La Libia non è un porto sicuro e questo atto potrebbe comportare una violazione del diritto internazionale

This would constitute a breach of international law, under which people rescued in international waters cannot be returned to a place where their lives are put in danger. Both the United Nations and European Union have acknowledged that Libya is not safe.

Italy’s coast guard initially said on Tuesday that the rescue was coordinated by the Libyan coast guard, and later clarified that the operation had taken place in Libya’s so-called “search and rescue (SAR)” area.

The Libyan coast guard was not immediately available for a comment.

Libya’s SAR is not clearly defined but is widely understood to extend far beyond its national waters.

Proactiva spokeswoman Laura Lanuza said its members learnt the rescue occurred in international waters because their boat Open Arms was nearby and they could listen to radio communications between the Italian ship and the Libyan authorities.

The UN refugee agency said the operation “could represent a violation of international law,” it said on Twitter.

A spokesman for the UN migration agency said the agency was still investigating the case but confirmed the return of the migrants to Libya.

He said the Libyans first told him the rescue operation was carried out by “an unknown vessel”, then changed their version and said the rescuing boat was Libyan.

The head of mission at Open Arms, Fabrizio Gatti, contradicted the Libyan version and said a member of the Asso 28 crew told him over the phone the Italian boat carried out the rescue and was taking the migrants back to Libya. He said he had a record of the conversation.

Asso 28 is now docked in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, according to Marine Traffic, a real-time information service on ships movements.

Charities are at loggerheads with the new Italian government and its right-wing home affairs minister Matteo Salvini who has adopted a hard line to cut the number of migrants arriving on Italy’s shores.

German NGO Sea-Watch also condemned “the first pushback by an Italian vessel for years,” on Twitter.

Sea-Watch Italy@SeaWatchItaly

108 persone in fuga dalla Libia soccorse in acque internazionali da nave ITALIANA e portate a Tripoli.
Il caso segna un grave precedente e richiama la condanna dell’Italia per i RESPINGIMENTI COLLETTIVI (CEDU 2012, caso ).

Denunciamo una pericolosa regressione.

In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy violated human rights by sending migrants intercepted at sea back to Libya in 2009.

The court said the practice violated international obligations to not return individuals to countries where they could be at risk of human rights abuses.

Salvini praises Libya

As NGOs expressed their dismay over the latest boat controversy, Italy’s far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini, who has closed the country’s ports to migrant rescue ships, praised the Libyan authorities.

“Over the last hours the Libyan coastguard has saved and brought back 611 immigrants to Libya. NGOs protest and traffickers lose their business? Well, we carry on with our work”, he tweeted.

Matteo Salvini

@matteosalvinimi

La Guardia Costiera Libica nelle ultime ore ha salvato e riportato a terra 611 immigrati.
Le ONG protestano e gli scafisti perdono i loro affari? Bene, noi andiamo avanti così! e

Matteo Salvini

@matteosalvinimi

Se avete 5 minuti, vi consiglio questo video sul lavoro della nostra Marina davanti alle coste libiche. Dalle parole ai fatti.

However, the speaker of Italy’s lower house, Roberto Fico, who belongs to the Five Star Movement that governs in a coalition with Salvini’s League, appeared to disagree with sending migrants back to Libya.

“Libya is not a safe place… it is clear that you cannot leave migrants there,” Fico said as he met with protesters denouncing the sale of Italian boats to Libya’s coastguard on Monday.

Several commercial ships that have tried to take rescued migrants to Italy — as was standard procedure under the former centre-left government — have found themselves blocked by Salvini’s policy and stranded for days at sea searching for a port where they can disembark.

(EurActiv) France, Spain, Portugal up energy links

(EurActiv) French President Emmanuel Macron (L) accompanied by the Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa (C) and the Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez (R) walking in Lisbon at the end of the Summit on Energy Interconnections between the Iberian Peninsula and France this afternoon at European Maritime Safety Agency in Lisbon, Portugal, 27 July 2018. [Miguel A. Lopes/EPA/EFE]

France, Spain and Portugal agreed on 27 July to build an undersea power line in the Bay of Biscay as they up electricity links aimed at helping the Iberian peninsula out of its energy isolation.

Speaking after a meeting in Lisbon, the three country leaders welcomed a deal signed on the sidelines of the gathering on financing construction of the 370-kilometre (230-mile) long power line linking France to Spain.

It’s “a very important step,” said Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

Nos infrastructures doivent pouvoir être interconnectées entre elles et nous devons avoir une stratégie commune de transition énergétique.

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

Ce sommet aujourd’hui à Lisbonne entre nos trois pays marque une étape importante pour une énergie decarbonée et compétitive, qui profite à tous les citoyens européens. pic.twitter.com/GX8NbeBPxH

View image on Twitter

The European Commission will finance 30% of the project by bringing €578 million to the table, an unprecedented amount in the European Union for an energy project.

The power line should start operating in 2025, almost doubling the capacity for electricity exchange between France and Spain.

Spain and Portugal have long called for an end to their isolation from European networks of electricity and gas distribution.

Portugal will organise early next year a summit dedicated solely to energy interconnectors, as lawmakers work to end the Iberian peninsula’s energy market isolation.

Portugal has a surplus of electricity production that it could export further afield than Spain if there were more links with the rest of Europe.

Portugal produced more power from clean energy sources in March than it actually needed, marking the first time in the 21st century that renewables have topped 100% of its production. But a dearth of energy connections with the rest of Europe remains problematic.

Madrid and Lisbon would also like to be better connected to the European gas market by building a pipeline in Catalonia in Spain’s northeast.

That would complement another pipeline that has already been built west of the Pyrenees mountain range, linking Spain to France.

Both countries import gas from Algeria via a pipeline that became operational in 2011.

They also have seven ports that can handle liquified natural gas (LNG), which they import from Qatar and increasingly from the United States as it develops shale gas.

They say better connections would reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

But a study commissioned by the European Commission found that the pipeline in Catalonia, which would cost more than €440 million, would not be viable given other European countries already have many LNG ports that aren’t operating at full capacity.

President Donald Trump’s plan for “vast amounts” of US liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be sold to the European Union after trade talks with its top representative faces a reality test.

As such, France has been reticent.

But French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday he was open to moving forward on gas, although he cautioned “we will only build more pipelines if gas consumption in Europe remains significant.”

He said the pipeline in Catalonia would be built if it were shown to be cost effective in a scenario where demand for gas would increase as coal power plants are progressively shut down.

(Independent) Cristiano Ronaldo to pay €19 million fine for tax fraud in deal with Spanish authorities

(Independent)

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has reached a deal with Spanish tax authorities (Nick Potts/PA)1
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has reached a deal with Spanish tax authorities (Nick Potts/PA)

Spanish tax authorities have accepted a deal with footballer Cristiano Ronaldo to plead guilty to tax fraud and pay a fine of close to 19 million euros (£17m).

The agreement means the footballer will get a reduced prison sentence that is likely to be suspended.

A source with knowledge of the deal confirmed the agreement will be finalised in the coming days.

In Spain, a judge can suspend sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders.

Ronaldo had already reached a tentative deal with the state prosecutor’s office but Spain’s tax authorities had yet to sign off the agreement.

Last year, a Spanish state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four counts of tax fraud from 2011-14 worth 14.7 million euro.

The prosecutor accused the Portugal forward of having used shell companies outside Spain to hide income made from image rights. The accusation does not involve his salary from his former Real Madrid club.

Ronaldo denied any wrongdoing when questioned by a judge last July. He left Madrid this month to sign for Italian champion Juventus.

In 2016, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi received a suspended 21-month jail sentence after being found guilty of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros.

(EM) Así inundó de millones Puigdemont la prensa separatista

(EM)

El ex presidente de la Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont.
El Govern de la Generalitat dirigido por Carles Puigdemont inundó de millones la prensa separatista durante 2017, año de la celebración del referéndum ilegal del 1-O y de la declaración de independencia en el Parlament.

La Generalitat inyectó 10,1 millones de euros a medios afines con la causa secesionista por la difusión de campañas institucionales durante el pasado ejercicio, lo que su pone un 42% de los 24,2 millones -30,7 millones con IVA-que el Gabinete de Puigdemont gastó para incluir sus campañas de publicidad en el conjunto de medios catalanes, estatales e internacionales. Así consta en la memoria justificativa del desembolso que el actual jefe del Ejecutivo catalán, Quim Torra, remitió al presidente del Parlament, Roger Torrent, el pasado 2 de julio y al que EL MUNDO ha tenido acceso.

La Generalitat ha duplicado el gasto en publicidad institucional desde 2012, año de inicio del procés, cuando la partida destinada a este concepto se situó en los 15,8 millones.

El incremento exponencial en gasto publicitario repercute, sobre todo, en las cuentas de resultados de los medios soberanistas. El más beneficiado es El Punt Avui, que amasó 3,1 millones en 2017 por la inclusión en sus diferentes soportes de publicidad de la Generalitat. Concretamente, 2,5 millones por los anuncios insertados en su edición impresa, 402.000 euros por los emitidos en su televisión y 253.000 por los incluidos en su web.
El diario Ara, por su parte, se hizo con 1,5 millones de euros: un millón a través de su cabecera impresa y 503.000 euros a través de su portal.

Estas dos cabeceras de tendencia independentista compiten en inversión publicitaria pública recibida con los dos periódicos con sede en Cataluña de mayor difusión, La Vanguardia, que obtuvo dos millones entre su edición de papel y su web, y El Periódico de Cataluña, que ingresó 1,8 millones. EL MUNDO recibió 7.159 euros por publicitar en sus páginas campañas de la Generalitat.

En el campo audiovisual destacan los 2,5 millones inyectados a TV3 y su web, el algo más de un millón de euros que recibió RAC1, los 757.000 euros invertidos en 8TV, los 231.000 euros que llovieron sobre Catalunya Ràdio o los 168.000 euros que consiguió La Xarxa.

Sin embargo, uno de los capítulos más llamativos es el de la inversión publicitaria en medios exclusivamente digitales de línea editorial independentista. El más beneficiado es El Nacional, que el pasado año consiguió 427.000 euros, seguido de Nació Digital, que ingresó 279.000; Vilaweb, en la que la Generalitat invirtió 127.000 euros; El Món, que se hizo con algo más de 100.000 euros o Directe.cat que logró 59.000.

La memoria de inversión publicitaria de la Generalitat también precisa que en el pasado ejercicio se destinaron 985.000 euros públicos a la inserción campañas en medios internacionales, sin precisar de cuáles se trata.

La mayor parte de la inversión publicitaria realizada por el Govern de Puigdemont salió del Departament de Presidència, que controla el relato político del Ejecutivo, concretamente 19 de los 30 millones gastados.

En cuanto al contenido de las campañas, la mayoría estaban relacionadas con campañas sobre la Salud, el empleo, la educación o la Cultura, pero la Generalitat incluyó entre ellas varias de contenido secesionista, como una que publicitaba la conferencia que en enero del pasado año pronunciaron Puigdemont, Oriol Junqueras y Raül Romeva en el Parlamento europeo para promocionar el referéndum, el registro de catalanes en el exterior para participar en la votación ilegal del 1-O o un ciclo de debates sobre «procesos constituyentes en el mundo».

(Reuters) Spain drops arrest warrant for former Catalan leader

(Reuters)

  • Germany had refused to extradite Carles Puidgemont to face a charge of rebellion for declaring Catalonia an independent state last year
Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont attends a regional government meeting at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona on October 10, 2017.

Pau Barrena | AFP | Getty Images
Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont attends a regional government meeting at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona on October 10, 2017.

Spain’s Supreme Court dropped a European arrest warrant for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Thursday after Germany refused to extradite him to face a charge of rebellion for declaring Catalonia an independent state last year.

The Spanish court also dropped European arrest warrants for five other Catalan pro-independence leaders living abroad.

The move demonstrates the difficulty Spain has faced in trying to persuade its European Union partners to help it bring former members of Catalonia’s regional government to trial for holding a referendum on a split from Spain.

Puigdemont’s regional government held the vote last year in defiance of a Spanish court that had ruled it illegal. After the vote, the Catalan regional authorities declared independence, prompting Madrid to impose direct rule, fire the region’s government and hold new elections there.

Several members of Puigdemont’s former cabinet are now in jail in Madrid facing rebellion charges, while he and several others are scattered across Europe, where they so far have successfully avoided Spanish efforts to have them sent home.

A German court ruled a week ago that Puigdemont, 55, could be extradited to Spain to face a separate charge for misuse of public funds, but not for the rebellion charge. Under European law, that means Spain would have been barred from trying him on the more serious charge if the extradition were to proceed.

The Spanish court rejected that proposal, lifting the arrest warrant altogether.

“Withdrawing the European arrest warrants demonstrates the immense weakness of this case,” Puigdemont tweeted.

‘We tread cautiously’

The charges against Puigdemont and the five others remain in place despite the lifting of the European warrants, meaning they would be arrested if they return to Spain.

Aamer Anwar, a lawyer for one of the other figures whose warrant was lifted, former Catalan Education Minister Clara Ponsati who is now a university professor in Scotland, said: “It’s excellent news, with regards to my client Clara Ponsati, and obviously for Puigdemont… but we tread cautiously.”

“The question that arises is whether the Spanish government are willing to allow Mr Puigdemont to simply return back to Catalonia and declare independence… I suspect not.”

The Spanish judge overseeing the case, Pablo Llanera, chided the German court for rejecting extradition for rebellion, saying it had shown a lack of commitment to the case and undermined the Spanish Supreme Court’s powers.

It is the second time Spain has revoked the arrest warrant for Puigdemont since he went into self-exile when his independence bid for Catalonia collapsed last year.

Puigdemont initially traveled to Belgium where the prospect of charges being restricted led Spain to drop an arrest warrant in December. The judge reissued it later, causing Germany to arrest Puigdemont when he traveled there in April.

Six other Catalan politicians are being held in custody on rebellion charges that carry a potential 30 year sentence. Madrid would consider it unacceptable for Puigdemont to face only the lesser charges of misuse of public funds, which carry a maximum eight year jail term.

Since the Catalonia crisis of last year, Spain’s Conservative government which took a hard line has been replaced by a Socialist government. New Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has met Puigdemont’s successor – fervent separatist Quim Torra – in a thawing of relations between Madrid and Barcelona. However, Sanchez has reiterated that any referendum on independence by Catalonia is illegal and against the Spanish constitution.

The Spanish government has no influence over judicial decisions in the ongoing criminal cases.

(LaVanguardia) ‘Financial Times’ pide reconocer Catalunya como nación y más autonomía

(LaVanguardia)

  • El diario ve un atisbo de esperanza tras la reunión de Torra y Sánchez en la Moncloa
‘Financial Times’ pide reconocer Catalunya como nación y más autonomía
Quim Torra y Pedro Sánchez, paseando por los jardines del Palacio de la Moncloa (@govern)

En ese escenario, el diario cree que los postulados del PSOE de Pedro Sánchez van por buen camino y aboga por “dar a Catalunya mayor control de sus recursos financieros”.

“Debería incluir el reconocimiento explícito de los catalanes como nación, en lugar de una “nacionalidad” no identificada, la redacción utilizada en la constitución”, apunta el diario. El rotativo también lanza la posbilidad de convertir el Senado en una cámara de representación territorial y llama a PP y Ciudadanos a hacer todo ello posible.

No obstante, el diario reconoce que esa oferta que ve como “atractiva para los nacionalistas catalanes moderados, nunca satisfaría a los secesionistas intransigentes”. “Más autonomía dentro de un estado español reformado es la forma más sensata de avanzar”, concluye el editorial.

(EP) Sánchez confiesa su inspiración en el proyecto moderno y europeo de Costa

(EPLos presidentes socialistas de España y Portugal refuerzan su visión “ibérica” en Europa sobre inmigración, el euro y las conexiones energéticas.

Antonio Costa junto a Pedro Sánchez. ANTONIO COTRIM (EFE) / VÍDEO: EFE

Pedro Sánchez pudo cumplir al fin su deseo de expresarle en persona al primer ministro portugués, el también socialista Antonio Costa, que ha sido una fuente de inspiración para él por su manera de encarar el proyecto “progresista, modernizador y europeísta” que tiene para su país. El presidente español anhela esa misma visión para España. Y defiende que algunas políticas e iniciativas que se esgrimen por Costa desde Portugal, como la lucha contra la precariedad laboral, los acuerdos sociales y la redistribución de la riqueza, las quiere hacer suyas en España. A Sánchez no solo le agradan las orientaciones políticas de Costa sino especialmente sus formas y su talante. Costa gobierna en Portugal con un partido similar a Podemos y Sánchez aprovechó para argumentar que le gustaría impulsar en España más acciones políticas con la formación que lidera Pablo Iglesias.

Era una visita esperada y pendiente, que Sánchez intentó en el pasado varias veces y que se frustró por diversos motivos. Los jefes de gobierno ahora de España y Portugal ya habían coincidido en el pasado en actos de los socialistas europeos, en Bruselas, y la semana pasada en la cumbre comunitaria. Aquella fue una sesión larga e intensa que sirvió para comprobar que junto a los intereses comunes en varios ámbitos podría fructificar, además, alguna estrategia conjunta.

Costa, para empezar, se adhirió a la alianza que tejieron el español Sánchez y el presidente francés, Enmanuel Macron, en París, para encarar soluciones conjuntas y europeas a la actual crisis migratoria. Costa abogó también por la necesidad de dotar a la Unión Europea de “una nueva vitalidad, más fuerte y más unida, para enfrentar esos grandes retos” y con un espíritu solidario. Fueron palabras muy similares a las utilizadas estas semanas atrás por Sánchez.

El jefe del ejecutivo español agradeció a Costa su respuesta, su actitud y su proyección al “lanzar ese mensaje de compromiso ibérico con un país y un gobierno hermano”. Fue ahí cuando alabó las políticas de Costa, “su tono y sus buenos deseos”. Y cuando reconoció que para su labor se ha “inspirado mucho” en sus actuaciones y en su “proyecto progresista, modernizador y europeísta, que es el que queremos para España”. El líder del PSOE defendió que ambos países, gobiernos y partidos “tienen muchos puntos en común” y mencionó expresamente la respuesta al fenómeno de la inmigración. Portugal va a organizar al respecto una cumbre euroafricana el próximo10 de julio y aunque Sánchez no acudirá España sí enviará representación.

En la cita en la que Pedro Sánchez sí estará será la prevista para el 27 de julio, en Lisboa, con Francia, para abordar el tema recurrente de las conexiones energéticas entre la península ibérica y el territorio francés. El presidente español reveló que Costa fue el primer mandatario extranjero que le llamó a La Moncloa en cuanto triunfó en España la moción de censura que le llevó al poder y ya le anticipó entonces la necesidad de que se desplazase a esa cumbre enérgética con Macron. El presidente francés aprovechará el viaje para pararse el día anterior, el 26 de julio, en Madrid y cumplimentar a Sánchez con una visita oficial en La Moncloa.

Sánchez quiere cuidar al máximo una relación privilegiada ahora con Macron, especialmente en este momento de debilidad de la Unión Europea y de crisis interna de la canciller alemana Angela Merkel, y ese eje pretende alargarlo hasta Lisboa, sobre todo para contar en algunas ocasiones con el apoyo de otro dirigente socialista en Europa. España organizará en el segundo semestre de 2018 la cumbre bilateral con Portugal, que estaba pendiente.

Los piropos entre Sánchez y Costa fueron variados. Es verdad que en el pasado Costa también engarzó una relación muy especial y particular con el expresidente conservador español Mariano Rajoy, del PP. El propio líder del PSOE aceptó que los lazos entre los dos países trascienden lo partidista e ideológico. Eso sí, no se privó de subrayar: “De mi amigo Antonio aprendo todos los días”. El jefe del ejecutivo portugués también confesó que esa relación especial se ha cimentado desde la transición democrática en España y luego tras su entrada conjunta en la UE, en el euro y sigue vigente ahora en muchas citas de la Comisión y el Consejo Europeo. Pero Costa sí quiso dejar constancia de un aviso hacia las corrientes nacionalistas y populistas que están frenando ahora el proyecto europeo: “Hay más ambición que presupuesto y tenemos que tener un proyecto común a la ambición de Europa”.

Pedro Sánchez, incitado por esa idea, intentó insuflar algo de optimismo frente a los escépticos que solo destacan ahora los problemas de esta Europa en crisis. El presidente español sostiene que “Europa tiene más resiliencia de lo que parece ante la opinión pública y de lo que algunos desearían” aunque, eso sí, alertó de que “con los egoísmos nacionales y las respuestas unilaterales no se puede progresar porque somos demasiado pequeños para los desafíos globales”. Frente a los que han cuestionado que Sánchez ha sido demasiado complaciente y buenista en su estreno en las cumbres europeas, y en particular por los acuerdos que suscribió con Alemania para acoger algunos refugiados procedentes de ese país, el líder español ratificó su “actitud constructiva y leal de decir claramente las cosas” pero no “aquiescente con la Unión Europea”.

(EUoberver) Basque threat of ‘second front’ for independence

(EUoberver)

The human chain stretched over 200km from Donostia (known in Spanish as San Sebastian) to the Basque parliament in Gasteiz (Photo: Gure Esku dago)

Revellers packed the narrow streets of Bilbao’s old district, oblivious to the drizzle as live music reverberated throughout parts of the Casco Viejo neighbourhood.

Earlier that day, most had joined a 200km human chain of 175,000 people demanding the Basque country be given a “right to decide” in its future relations with Madrid.

“We want to decide on whether we want an independent, federal, or confederal state, or any other type of relationship,” said Angel Oiarbide.

Oiarbide is spokesman of a movement known as the Gure Esku Dago (Basque for ‘It’s In Our Hands’), which had organised the human chain on Sunday 10 June.

He told this website that Sunday’s procession is feeding into a current Basque parliament debate that aims to create a new political status for the region.

The move comes over a week after Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy stepped down in disgrace amid widespread corruption charges within his conservative Popular Party (PP).

Spanish socialist leader Pedro Sanchez had managed to cobble together a coalition of smaller groups, including Basque nationalists and Catalan separatists, to oust Rajoy from office in a no-confidence vote.

It also comes after the Basque Eta separatist group officially disbanded and apologised for killing some 800 people over its four-decade armed struggle.

But Oiarbide insisted that the Gure Esku Dago, as well as Sunday’s procession, are unconcerned by the wider political change in Madrid – saying their work is unaffected by who is in power at the Spanish capital.

“We, alongside the Catalan people, shall continue working on the creation of a democratic culture in our countries,” he said.

The response from Madrid over the Basque demonstration appears more subdued.

Spanish minister of territorial policy, Meritxell Batet, in a Spanish radio interview said the government was not opposed to the demonstration and is open to dialogue with everyone.

“I respect it and do not have much else to add. I hope that political tension will be reduced everywhere,” she said noting, however, that self-determination for the Spanish regions is not a part of the government’s programme.

The issue is making others nervous, including the president of the Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz.

Lambertz had arrived in Bilbao a few days after Sunday’s march to take part in an event organised by Council of European Municipalities and Regions.

Citizen is ‘final judge’?

The same day he met with president of the Basque government, telling EUobserver that questions of autonomy and independence are decisions that belong to the people and their political representatives.

“It is necessary that the final judge of all this is happy, and who is the ‘final judge’? It is [the] citizen. That is something we sometimes forget in this debate,” he said.

With broad oversight over its fiscal and tax collection policies, the Basques have more autonomy from Madrid compared with Catalonia.

But not everyone in the Basque country is seeking independence from Spain. One poll, carried out by the university of Deusto late last year, suggested only 17 percent support independence.

Those figures are however disputed by Gorka Elejabarrieta, who heads the international department of Sortu, a Basque socialist political party.

“Ever since Franco died the absolute majority of people in this country [the Basque country] voted for parties that stand for independence,” he said.

Elejabarrieta, himself an advocate for independence, says they have nothing against Spain or Spanish people but warned that a second front, after Catalonia’s push for independence, is on the rise.

He said people want the right to have an open debate on the issue, noting similar movements in Scotland and Denmark’s Faroe Islands where the discussions were allowed to take place without the state jailing politicians.

“We want to open a second front within the Spanish state and we want to bring our process to the same situation where the Catalan process is,” he said.

(BBC) Mariano Rajoy: Spanish PM forced out of office

(BBC)

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano RajoyImage copyrightEPA
Image captionMr Rajoy has been prime minister for more than six years

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been forced out of office by a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, who filed the motion after Mr Rajoy’s party was implicated in a corruption scandal, will become prime minister.

“We’re going to sign a new page in the history of democracy in our country,” Mr Sánchez said ahead of Friday’s vote.

Mr Rajoy is the first prime minister in modern Spanish history to be defeated in a no-confidence motion.

The leader of the conservative Popular Party (PP) has been prime minister since 2011.

During the second day of debate on Friday, Mr Rajoy admitted facing defeat and told MPs that it has been “an honour to leave a better Spain than I found”.

Mr Sánchez secured a majority in the vote after gaining support from various smaller parties, including the Basque Nationalist Party – 180 MPs backed the motion, 169 voted against, with one abstention.

Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy (L), shakes hands with the leader of Spanish Workers' Socialist Party (PSOE) Pedro Sanchez (R), after the no-confidence motion was passed 01 June 2018Image copyrightEPA
Image captionMr Rajoy (left) wished his replacement, Socialist Pedro Sánchez, good luck

Why was the vote called?

Mr Sánchez says Mr Rajoy, 63, had failed to take responsibility for his party’s involvement in the scandal, which hit the headlines again last week after one of its former treasurers was given a 33-year jail sentence.

The High Court in Madrid convicted Luis Bárcenas of receiving bribes, money laundering and tax crimes.

The case centred on a secret campaign fund which the PP ran from 1999 until 2005.

Many Spanish voters, exasperated by corruption scandals involving the traditional centre-right PP and centre-left Socialist parties, have abandoned them for newcomers like the left-wing Podemos (We Can) and pro-market Ciudadanos (Citizens), as well as regional parties.

Presentational grey line

Who is the new prime minister?

Analysis by Guy Hedgecoe, BBC News, Madrid

Spanish Socialist Party PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez attends a debate on a no-confidence motion in Madrid on May 31, 2018Image copyrightAFP

Pedro Sánchez emerged as a virtual unknown to win the Spanish Socialist party premiership in 2014. The photogenic economist and former basketball player won members over with a promise to unite a divided party and put the Socialists back in power.

Yet he subsequently suffered two humbling election defeats, in 2015 and 2016. He was eventually forced to resign after his refusal to back Mariano Rajoy in an investiture vote plunged the country into a prolonged political stalemate and his party into bitter infighting.

Months later he confounded his many critics by returning to win the Socialist primary. Spain’s constitution states that the party presenting a no-confidence motion must be prepared to govern and replace the deposed prime minister if a parliamentary majority backs it.

Therefore this moderate but ambitious 46-year-old from Madrid is set to be Spain’s new prime minister, despite the fact that his party commands less than a quarter of seats in Congress.

Presentational grey line

What happens now?

Mr Rajoy’s departure casts the EU’s fourth-largest economy into political uncertainty.

Mr Sánchez is expected to be sworn in at the weekend and to name a cabinet next week.

Although he leads the Socialist PSOE party, he is not a member of parliament. Correspondents say that with only 84 lower house seats, the party will struggle to find allies to get legislation enacted.

Mr Sánchez is expected to get support from Podemos. Smaller groups – including Basque and Catalan nationalists – supported the no-confidence motion, but it is unclear whether they will back the new government.

The Ciudadanos party, which had been doing well in opinion polls, supported Mr Rajoy.

+++ (BBG) Spain’s Nonperforming Loans Drop to the Lowest Level Since 2011

(Bloomberg) — Nonperforming loans in Spain fell to the lowest level in almost seven years in March as a growing economy allows banks to shed the soured assets that piled up on their balance sheets during the country’s financial crisis.
Defaulted loans fell to 6.8 percent of total loans in March, the lowest since June 2011. The stock of NPLs fell by 25.5 percent to 83.3 billion euros ($97 billion) from a year
earlier, the biggest annual drop since records began in 1963.
Banco Santander SA on March 26 sold Blackstone Group LP a majority share of the non-performing real estate business it assumed when it acquired Banco Popular Espanol SA last year.
Spain’s banks have struggled to generate lending revenue as a combination of low interest and the legacy of Spain’s credit boom and bust that led to a banking bailout in 2012 weighs on the industry. But lower levels of household debt and an expected rate hike by the European Central Bank next year are raising anticipation that the credit market in Spain is on the verge of a new period of growth. Earnings for banks in the first quarter
were driven by lower loan-loss provisions as banks continued to mend their balance sheets.

(Reuters) Spain’s PM Rajoy under growing threat over party graft case

(Reuters) Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was threatened with two separate no-confidence motions on Friday, after a graft trial involving members of his party in which a judge questioned the credibility of his testimony.

The opposition Socialists presented their motion to parliament, while the centre-right Ciudadanos – Rajoy’s former ally – issued him with an ultimatum.

“If Rajoy does not call snap elections we would be ready to put forward (our own) motion of no confidence in order to hold elections,” Jose Manuel Villegas, a senior member of Ciudadanos, told a news conference.

Twenty-nine people related to Rajoy’s People’s Party (PP), including a former treasurer and other senior members, were convicted on Thursday of offences including falsifying accounts, influence-peddling and tax crimes. They were sentenced to a combined 351 years behind bars.

The case, which relates to the use of a slush fund by the Conservatives in the 1990s and early 2000s to illegally finance campaigns, has plagued Rajoy since he came to power in 2011. He has always denied wrongdoing.

Rajoy became the first sitting prime minister in Spain to give evidence in a trial when he was called as a witness in the case last year, prompting calls for him to resign.

TIPPING POINT

In his ruling, the judge said there was evidence the party ran a slush fund for many years and that the credibility of Rajoy’s testimony denying it “should be questioned”.

“(His) testimony does not appear as plausible enough to refute the strong evidence showing the existence of a slush fund in the party,” the judge said.

Rajoy was already under fire for his handling of the secession crisis in Catalonia, with many voters turning away from the PP to Ciudadanos.

Hours before the court ruling was made public on Thursday, Rajoy suggested he would run for a third term in an election due by mid-2020, but political observers said he was now likely to face an internal challenge in his party.

Ciudadanos helped the PP pass this year’s budget bill as recently as Wednesday.

“It is clear that yesterday’s ruling marks a tipping point in our relationship with the governing party,” Villegas told COPE radio on Friday.

“The ruling is serious enough for us to sit down, reflect and take decisions.”

(Politico) German prosecutors push for Puigdemont extradition

(Politico) German state’s prosecutors want to send former regional president back to Spain in the light of new video evidence.

German prosecutors are preparing the paperwork to extradite former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont back to Spain on charges of rebellion and disturbance of the peace, they said in a statement Tuesday.

However, a German court on Tuesday ruled that Puigdemont — who was detained by German police in March — cannot be rearrested because he does not pose a flight risk.

The state of Schleswig-Holstein’s highest regional court had previously ruledthat Puigdemont couldn’t be extradited on charges of rebellion because of a lack of evidence of “sufficient violence,” but it would review the request for extradition for misusing public funds.

But the state’s prosecutors want to send the former regional president back to Spain in the light of new video evidence which they say shows “violence perpetrated against the Spanish police forces.”

+++ (BBG) Catalan Cause Ripples Across Europe With Surrender in Scotland

(BBG) A former member of the Catalan government that tried to declare independence from Spain turned herself in to Scottish police after a judge in Madrid ordered her detention on a European warrant.

Clara Ponsati, head of education policy in Carles Puigdemont’s government, handed herself in at an Edinburgh police station on Wednesday morning. She was later granted bail at the Sheriff Court and told to surrender her passport.

German highway police detained Puigdemont on Sunday as he attempted to drive from Finland to Belgium and he is now being held in jail on remand while a judge considers Spain’s request to return him to Madrid to face prosecution for rebellion.

The bid to bring Puigdemont and Ponsati, an economics professor in Scotland, back to Spain means the legal crackdown on Catalonia’s secession drive is now being played out on a European stage.

Puigdemont’s arrest on Sunday sparked a riot in Barcelona that led about 100 people to seek medical attention and prompted sporadic protests including blockades of Catalan highways. The Catalan parliament passed a motion on Wednesday backing the right of Puigdemont and other separatist leaders to become regional president even while in jail.

Viable Candidate
The government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said the regional parliament must now focus on electing a viable candidate who’s not under prosecution and that it will keep emergency powers to govern Catalonia in place until it does so.

Puigdemont and members of his circle face trial not because of their ideas but because of their serious acts against the constitutional order, government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Tuesday.

The bid to bring Ponsati to Spain to face trial has caused an outcry in Scotland, which held its own, legal, independence referendum in 2014, when 55 percent to 45 percent voted to remain in the U.K.

Ponsati is an economics professor at the University of St. Andrews, which has said it is “deeply concerned by recent developments, their motives and potential consequences.”

A small group of demonstrators gathered outside the court in Edinburgh on Wednesday to protest the extradition request. They flew Catalan independence flags and Scottish saltires.

“We strongly oppose the Spanish government’s decision to seek the arrest and imprisonment of independence supporting politicians,” Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose nationalist party runs the government in Edinburgh, said in a statement. “The fact that our justice system is legally obliged to follow due process in the determination of extradition requests does not change those views.”

+++ (NYT) Arrest of Catalan Leader Tests Spain, Separatists and E.U.

(NYT) MADRID — After months of political turmoil in Catalonia, Spain’s central government is hoping for a clear victory at last over the region’s separatists — this time in a courtroom, with the trial of the top separatist leader, who has been arrested in Germany on a warrant issued in Madrid.

But if that leader, Carles Puigdemont, who was seized on Sunday, is returned to Spain, a highly publicized trial could backfire on the government by galvanizing the separatist movement and prolonging a dispute that threatens Spain’s geographic cohesion.

Since 2012, the governing politicians in Madrid and Barcelona have talked past each other rather than negotiating, allowing a dispute that initially focused on Catalan demands for better tax treatment to spiral into a secessionist challenge. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has insisted on treating the dispute as a law-enforcement problem rather than mostly a political one.

Spanish courts declared Catalonia’s independence referendum last year illegal, and the central government’s heavy-handed attempts to block the vote only angered many in Catalonia.

On Friday, Pablo Llarena, a Spanish Supreme Court judge, ordered the arrest of five separatist politicians, and reactivated an international arrest warrant against Mr. Puigdemont, a former president of Catalonia, and five other politicians who had fled Spain to avoid prosecution.

The Spanish authorities have accused Mr. Puigdemont of rebellion and misuse of public funds, and a German regional court will decide within 60 days whether to send him back to face trial. But if the court chooses to extradite him only for the corruption charge, that would create a political and legal bind for the Spanish government, which would be barred from trying him for rebellion, the charge at the heart of the matter.

“Spain is creating a situation where Europe’s judges rather than its politicians are being asked to solve Catalonia,” said Sergi Pardos-Prado, a professor of politics at Oxford University. “At a time when the European Union needs more legitimacy and to reconnect with its citizens, how can this not make it seem like a distant and technocratic project?”

Photo

The prison in Neumunester, Germany, where the former Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, is detained. A regional court will decide within 60 days whether to extradite him to stand trial in Spain.CreditJens Schlueter/EPA, via Shutterstock

On Monday, Gonzalo Boye, a lawyer who represents two of the politicians wanted by Spain, told the Spanish news media that he was confident a foreign judge would not allow his clients to stand trial for rebellion. He even asked whether “Judge Llarena isn’t our best friend, because things are being handled in the worst possible manner.”

Mr. Puigdemont’s arrest has thrust Catalonia back onto the European agenda, potentially testing relations between Germany and Spain, after European governments had mostly managed to ignore the separatists’ political aspirations. The case also raises questions about whether Europe has a unified conception of the rule of law, and how it will respond to other secessionist movements.

Madrid is also seeking the arrest of other Catalan separatists who are in Scotland, Belgium and Switzerland, where officials have so far questioned whether their legal systems require the separatists’ extradition based on the rebellion charges brought by Spain. Mr. Puigdemont himself had been based in Belgium, where the European Union is headquartered, since late October. While Belgium never considered him a flight risk, a German judge has ordered that he should be provisionally kept in prison for that very reason.

The arrest comes at a particularly combustible time for the European Union, which is coping with Britain’s pending exit from the bloc, a right-wing populist upheaval in Italy, growing labor unrest in France, frictions between Brussels and the increasingly authoritarian governments of Hungary and Poland, and a growing clash with Russia.

It is also a difficult time for the Catalan separatists, who appear to be running out of options within the country’s political framework. After a botched declaration of independence in October, and new regional elections, the three separatist parties have been unable to resolve disputes among them and elect a new Catalan president.

Mr. Puigdemont and other separatists claim that Spain cannot give them a fair trial. That accusation is dismissed in Madrid as yet another affront by politicians who have repeatedly flouted court rulings in their drive toward independence.

“We can debate the specific approach of the prosecution and the judges, but there are strong legal grounds for this case,” said Enrique Gimbernat, professor of criminal law at Complutense University in Madrid.

Photo

Protesters and police officers in Barcelona on Sunday. The risk for Spain of trying Mr. Puigdemont is that the case could galvanize the separatist movement in Catalonia.CreditLluis Gene/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Still, several Spanish legal experts acknowledge that state prosecutors are pushing the Supreme Court into uncharted waters. They also note that, however many Catalan politicians are tried and convicted, imprisonment is not a viable alternative to a political solution that Mr. Rajoy has failed to reach.

Mr. Rajoy dissolved the parliament of Catalonia, which represents one-fifth of the Spanish economy, and called new elections in December, which served only to confirm the profound split in Catalan society. Mr. Puigdemont and other separatists retained their narrow parliamentary majority, with almost exactly the same share of votes — 47.5 percent — as two years earlier.

“It seems absolutely counterproductive to use criminal law and this court to solve a politico-constitutional conflict,” said José Antonio Martín Pallín, a former judge of the Supreme Court.

Since Friday’s court decision in Madrid, protesters have been back on the streets of Barcelona and other cities. Roger Torrent, the pro-independence speaker of the Catalan Parliament, is pushing for lawmakers to elect Mr. Puigdemont in absentia, though the former president has recently said he is no longer a candidate; opposition lawmakers want Mr. Torrent to resign, instead.

Separatist lawmakers have two months to form an administration or force new elections.

“Puigdemont’s arrest does not bridge the divisions between secessionist parties over what to do next,” Antonio Barroso, a political analyst at consulting firm Teneo Intelligence in London, wrote in a note on Monday.

The politics of Spain have also shifted: Mr. Rajoy now leads a minority government, and his center-right People’s Party finished last in the Catalan election. He risks being outflanked by a center-right party, Ciudadanos, that was founded on an anti-secession platform and won the most votes in Catalonia in December.

“One can be critical of the leaders on both sides and how they have handled every part of this conflict, but I don’t think this should be seen through the lens of a conflict between the rule of law and democracy,” said Alan Solomont, a former United States ambassador to Spain who is now dean of the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. The better lens, Mr. Solomont argued, was that “Catalonia is a region, subject to the Spanish Constitution of 1978, and a national government always has the right to enforce national law.”

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Supporters of Catalan independence protesting in Barcelona on Sunday. Separatists, split into three parties, retain a majority in the regional Parliament but have been unable to resolve disputes and elect a new Catalan president. CreditFelipe Dana/Associated Press

In 2014, Catalonia’s government defied Madrid by staging a nonbinding vote on independence. Catalonia’s leader at the time, Artur Mas, was later barred from office for organizing an unconstitutional vote.

In October, Spain’s attorney general decided to prosecute Catalan leaders for rebellion, though Spain’s legal code had been revised to emphasize violence as a component of rebellion. The crime carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.

The Spanish authorities are also widening the investigation, looking into Catalan media executives and officers in the region’s autonomous police force, and raiding offices in search of evidence linked to the referendum last October. So far, their findings fill 15,000 pages of police reports.

Javier Ortega, a leader of Vox, a small far-right party, described the drive for Catalonian independence as ”a failed coup d’état, led by people who had already set up all the structures of a parallel state.”

Vox is a fringe party. But in his ruling last week, Judge Llarena drew a thinly veiled comparison between last year’s events in Catalonia and an aborted military coup in Spain in 1981.

Mr. Puigdemont, who had traveled to Finland, left that country on Friday, driving across Scandinavia, with officers of Spain’s secret service following him. He was detained after crossing into Germany, whose criminal code, Spanish authorities believe, will allow for his extradition.

Christian Mölling, the research director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, said he saw no reason Mr. Puigdemont would not be extradited to Spain.

“If we pass this onto politics, it would be a declaration of bankruptcy for the judiciary,” he said. “We have courts precisely to depoliticize things.”

+++ (NYT) Germans Arrest Former Catalan Leader, Drawing E.U. Into Fight

(New York Times) — MADRID — Carles Puigdemont, the former
leader of Catalonia wanted in Spain on rebellion charges, was detained on
Sunday in Germany on an international arrest warrant, in a move that drags
Berlin into Spain’s festering territorial dispute.
Mr. Puigdemont was arrested by a German highway police patrol soon after
crossing the border with Denmark. He was traveling by car to Belgium from
Finland, and had planned to present himself to the Belgian authorities,
according to Mr. Puigdemont’s lawyer, Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas.
The arrest came two days after Spain, trying to strike a decisive blow
against the secession movement, reactivated a European arrest warrant against
Mr. Puigdemont and five other separatist leaders.
Catalonia has been in political turmoil since its leaders formally
declared independence in October and the central government ousted them,
assuming direct control of the wealthy autonomous region. Madrid also moved to
prosecute Mr. Puigdemont and his allies for rebellion and sedition, prompting
some to flee to several other European countries.
Now, with Spain renewing its efforts to have the former Catalan officials
arrested and returned home for prosecution, Europe may be about to become more
embroiled in the conflict.
Whether Spain’s newly aggressive posture would weaken the independence
movement or strengthen it was not immediately clear.
In Catalonia, the effect of Mr. Puigdemont’s arrest was immediate.
Protesters took to the streets of Barcelona and clashed with the authorities.
Riot police officers in Barcelona shoved and struck protesters with batons to
keep an angry crowd from advancing on the office of the Spanish government’s
representative. Police vans showed stains of yellow paint reportedly thrown by
protesters.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain did not respond immediately to Mr.
Puigdemont’s arrest, but Albert Rivera, leader of the anti-secession party
Ciudadanos, welcomed it.
Mr. Rivera accused Mr. Puigdemont of trying to “destroy a European
democracy” and said that “for this, you can’t enjoy impunity,” he argued.
Roger Torrent, the pro-independence speaker of the Catalan Parliament,
went on Twitter on Sunday to urge fellow Catalans to form “a common front” to
defend individual and collective rights.
Mr. Puigdemont was arrested Sunday morning on the A7 autobahn. He was
transferred to a jail in Neumünster, in the northern German state of
Schleswig-Holstein, according to the German news agency D.P.A. He was to
appear before a German judge on Monday.
The government of Catalonia has been in a deadlock since December, when a
snap election called by Prime Minister Rajoy resulted in separatist parties
retaining a narrow parliamentary majority. Last week, however, separatist
lawmakers could not agree on the latest candidate to replace Mr. Puigdemont as
regional leader, Jordi Turull.
Unable to win at the ballot box, Spain’s central government seems to be
turning its attention to the courts. In addition to reissuing the arrest
warrants for the fugitive separatists, it also jailed without bail five still
in Spain. One of them was Mr. Turull.
Mr. Puigdemont, the embodiment of Catalonia’s aspirations for
independence, announced in early March that he was giving up his efforts to be
reappointed as the region’s president. But he continued his efforts to promote
the Catalan separatist cause internationally, traveling to Switzerland and
Finland to attend conferences there.
When he arrived in Brussels, Mr. Puigdemont said he could not get a fair
trial in Spain. He also said he had selected Brussels, home to the main
European Union institutions, because he wanted to put Catalonia in the
“institutional heart of Europe.”
Mr. Puigdemont received some support from Flemish nationalists and other
separatist politicians across Europe, but his call for the European Union to
mediate in Catalonia fell on deaf ears. No European government leader agreed
to meet him.
But in a column on Sunday in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung,
Thomas Urban said Mr. Puigdemont had managed to “internationalize” the Catalan
conflict, and that this “cannot be in the interest of Madrid.” He argued that
Madrid’s hard line risked reuniting the pro-independence movement, only days
after the bickering separatists could not agree on a new leader.
On Saturday, Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation said it had
received the warrant for Mr. Puigdemont’s detention issued by Spain, but the
police said they had no knowledge of his whereabouts. According to Spanish
media reports, Mr. Puigdemont’s car was trailed by the Spanish secret service
as it left Finland, who alerted their German counterparts about his arrival.
With Mr. Puigdemont’s arrest in Germany, the spotlight now turns to
judges in European countries who will review Spanish arrest warrants,
including in Belgium, Scotland and Switzerland. The countries the separatists
chose for refuge is important, because European nations have different
criminal codes. Some may not recognize the charges brought by Spanish state
prosecutors against the Catalan politicians, particularly rebellion.
The arrest in Germany could pose a challenge for Angela Merkel, who
started her fourth term as chancellor this month at the helm of a coalition
government after months of tense negotiations.
“Legally, the arrest of Mr. Puigdemont is not objectionable, but
politically it creates great problems,” a member of Parliament from the Free
Democrats, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, told The Augsburger Allgemeinen Zeitung,
a regional paper, on Sunday.
In Scotland, the police said that the lawyer for one fugitive there, the
former Catalan education minister, Clara Ponsati, had been in touch with them,
and that they were preparing for her to turn herself in.
In December, Pablo Llarena, the Spanish Supreme Court judge who is
leading the case against the Catalan separatist leadership, withdrew his
initial European arrest warrant against Mr. Puigdemont and others who fled to
Belgium, amid concerns that the Belgian judiciary might seek to limit the
crimes for which the separatists could be charged if they were returned to
Spain.
Altogether, the Spanish Supreme Court is seeking to try 25 Catalan
separatist leaders for violating Spain’s Constitution during their
unsuccessful secession attempt.
State prosecutors in Spain have moved to sentence the separatist leaders
to decades in prison for organizing the independence referendum in October
that they say violated Spanish law. The separatists followed the referendum
with their declaration of a new Catalan republic.
Mr. Puigdemont is among 13 defendants who are accused of rebellion, the
most serious charge, as well as other offenses that include the misuse of
public funds to host the referendum.