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November 08, 2017

Spain's attorney general personally sought pre-emptive prison for Catalan rebels

The problem with an independent judiciary is that, once it is set in motion, it is a violation of the separation of powers to stop it. This is the dilemma facing the Spanish government on Catalonia. When ten days ago the Spanish government dissolved the Catalan parliament for regional elections on December 21, tensions in Catalonia seemed to relax somewhat. However, last week Spain's state prosecution indicted the Catalan cabinet and the board of the Catalan parliament for crimes ranging from rebellion to misuse of public funds, and asked the judges overseeing the cases to jail them pre-emptively. This inflamed public controversy again and opened the Spanish government to domestic and international criticism for heavy-handedness.

However, according to press reports, the attorney general José Manuel Maza personally took the decision to pursue the harder line against the wishes of the Spanish government, which would have preferred the courts to impose laxer precautionary measures so as not to disturb the political campaign for the Catalan elections. Government sources insist that the attorney general meets regularly with the minister of justice, but doesn't take instructions or discuss specific cases. The decisions on precautionary measures are taken by judges, not by the state prosecution. And in this case two different judges, in two different courts, have taken different decisions. Judge Carmen Lamela of the National Court went along with the prosecution and decided to jail nine members of the dismissed Catalan cabinet pre-emptively, all but one without bail. By contrast, Judge Pablo Llanera of the Supreme Court gave the five indicted members of the board of the Catalan parliament an extra week to prepare their defence, and just restricted them not to leave Spain.

Since last week, there have been suggestions that the Supreme Court might reverse the precautionary prison dictated by the National Court, by requesting the unification of the two cases. According to El Confidencial this could happen as early as this Thursday. ABC reports also that judge Llanera is studying the possibility of accumulating the parallel cases being heard in the Catalan courts. The High Court of Justice of Catalonia already has a case open against the members of the board of the Catalan parliament, while one of the ordinary courts of Barcelona is investigating the preparations for the October 1st vote - which went ahead despite a constitutional court injunction. If Llanera accumulates all the connected cases, there is a possibility that he might also release the grass-roots separatist leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez, who were sent to pre-emptive prison by judge Lamela.

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November 08, 2017

Spain's finance ministry to control Madrid city spending

Since 2015 the Madrid city council has been one of the "councils of change", governed by a Podemos-aligned local list with an anti-austerity agenda. This has led to constant frictions with Spain's finance ministry over compliance with the law on budget stability and financial sustainability. Finally, after a series of warnings, and going back and forth over the city's economic and financial plan, the finance ministry of Cristóbal Montoro has decided to review the spending of the Madrid city council on a weekly basis. This is the first time this happens for any Spanish local authority, and the Madrid local council will appeal to the administrative courts. 

The budget stability law was adopted in 2012 in the throes of the euro government debt crisis, in order to rein in public finances and as part of Spain's efforts to comply with the EU fiscal compact. One of the key provisions of the law is an annual spending ceiling, which limits the year-on-year spending growth of local and regional administrations. As the Spanish economy has been growing since the end of 2013 tax revenues have increased, also in the case of local taxes, and in Madrid have led to a substantial budget surplus. The Madrid city council under Manuela Carmena has been protesting the fact that the law prevents it from spending its surplus on the needs of Madrid residents. The only legal options for a surplus are to accumulate it in a rainy-day fund or to accelerate debt repayments, and to lower local taxes.

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November 08, 2017

National identity with a new twist

National identity has been a theme for the Republicans ever since Nicolas Sarkozy launched a debate about it in 2009. Back then Sarkozy wanted the nation to consider what it means to be French, what the French should be proud of, and why they should regard Frenchness as an honour.

With Laurent Wauquiez, the most likely future leader of the party, this discourse is to continue. He is supported by the outcome of an internal questionnaire the Republicans sent to party members about what to do now after the defeat of François Fillon and the legislative elections. The result of this introspection, as revealed by Le Figaro, shows to forget unemployment, tax evasion, or climate change: the principal preoccupation is national identity. Out of 450 responses, 300 want to see a reflection on how to talk about religion in the public discourse, Islam in particular. They want French identity to be defined, not only in religious terms but more broadly emphasising its singular European roots as opposed to other continents. Some suggest to talk about culture rather than identity to make it sound more inclusive. The members list history, heritage, and catholic roots. Religion again, observes LeLab.

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  • Why Labour is losing
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 26, 2016
  • Will the refugee crisis return?
  • Montebourg en avant
  • Moisi on Sarkozy's chances
  • Binary choices
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • January 24, 2020
  • Is Germany anti-semitic and racist?
  • Did the Greek financial crisis play a role in Brexit?
  • December 16, 2019
  • What the failure in Madrid says about multilateral governance
  • November 08, 2019
  • Rethinking security - Macron edition
  • Rethinking defence - AKK edition
  • October 02, 2019
  • What Boris wants...
  • Ditched again - the decline and fall of Manfred Weber
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • July 15, 2019
  • No queues in Berlin for von der Leyen’s succession
  • Mitsotakis moves fast with tax bill
  • The feel-good factor in the pre-Brexit days
  • June 10, 2019
  • How to create Brexit facts
  • The new Alde is already in trouble
  • May 07, 2019
  • … while Macron’s European troubles have already begun, and might get even worse
  • Don't discount a Brexit deal
  • Is Tsipras too complacent?
  • Costa - the fiscally responsible Socialist
  • April 05, 2019
  • Salvini's attempt to unite the European right
  • Scandal engulfs Romania's EU presidency
  • Chinese ambitions meet Greek bureaucracies
  • March 06, 2019
  • Weber toughens his stance against Orbán
  • The European loneliness of Emmanuel Macron
  • You really should not take EU's willingness to extend for granted
  • February 04, 2019
  • Watch out for the resurgence in Tory unity
  • The gilets-jaunes' effect on the European elections
  • What did he possibly mean by that?
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • December 03, 2018
  • French protests coming to a head this week
  • The Galileo fiasco, an ill omen for the future UK-EU relationship
  • November 05, 2018
  • Macron trails behind Le Pen in European elections poll
  • How the CDU will organise leadership campaign
  • October 08, 2018
  • A renewed willingness on both sides to cut a Brexit deal
  • Latvian politics in turmoil after huge populist gains
  • September 13, 2018
  • Bravo Mr Juncker for raising the issue of the euro’s international role. But what now?
  • Are the eurosceptics imploding?
  • August 20, 2018
  • ... and a subtle shift in EU policies towards both Russia and Turkey
  • Nothing to celebrate about the end of the bailout programme
  • Support for Brexit holding up
  • July 24, 2018
  • A constitutional referendum in Poland?
  • On the future of the euro
  • July 02, 2018
  • Is Trump out to destroy both Nato and the EU?
  • Salvini’s empire
  • Remembrance as a way forward?
  • June 11, 2018
  • The end of the G7 - good riddance
  • Macron needs allies for his European agenda
  • Who is going to be the next director-general of the Italian treasury?
  • May 21, 2018
  • Another snap election in the UK? Tories are preparing
  • Merkel and Putin - the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
  • April 30, 2018
  • Looming May protests against Macron
  • France has discovered the Laffer curve
  • An important resignation in the UK
  • April 12, 2018
  • The ineffective European Globalisation Adjustment Fund
  • Davis wants concrete language on future trading relationship
  • The name dispute of Alexander the Great's descendants
  • March 26, 2018
  • On the run no more
  • Terrorist attack will challenge Macron
  • A double-whammy of geopolitical and financial uncertainty
  • March 08, 2018
  • EU will not offer UK a financial services deal
  • What if the DUP implodes?
  • Has Mario Draghi expropriated German savers?
  • February 21, 2018
  • Whom do Wauquiez' indiscretions serve?
  • Latvian claims and counterclaims
  • Some observations about euro-ins and euro-outs
  • February 08, 2018
  • Could the Irish question still trigger a hard Brexit?
  • January 26, 2018
  • Will the prison strike turn the fate for Macron?
  • Destroying the constitution in order to save it
  • Will populism wane with the global recovery?
  • Issing on the coalition agreement
  • January 15, 2018
  • Is the section on Europe for real?
  • Can Drahos upset Zeman?
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • December 21, 2017
  • Catalonia votes
  • A deputy prime minister resigns
  • Will Gibraltar result in another Irish fudge?
  • Blood, sweat and tears
  • December 12, 2017
  • Unconventional ideas as a metric of the SPD's despair
  • Rodrik on why a fiscal union is necessary
  • December 04, 2017
  • Can Brexit still be stopped?
  • Could Poland open up the Posted Workers Directive again?
  • Has the Bank of England solved the productivity puzzle?
  • November 27, 2017
  • Will Northern Ireland scupper a Brexit deal?
  • Last-ditch effort to prevent Irish elections
  • Pressure on Wauquiez
  • November 21, 2017
  • A short note on the impact of German political chaos on Brexit
  • A scandal, overshadowed
  • November 17, 2017
  • Germany's climate change hypocrisy
  • Canada minus the plus
  • November 13, 2017
  • A pro-European list: Wauquiez' nightmare
  • Catalan separatism isn't going away
  • Why oh why does Germany behave the way it does?
  • Why the four freedoms matter
  • November 10, 2017
  • The Irish question intrudes
  • Beyond political parties
  • The European Commission - friend of the Glyphosate lobby
  • November 09, 2017
  • From street protests to road closures
  • What Russia wants
  • November 08, 2017
  • Spain's attorney general personally sought pre-emptive prison for Catalan rebels
  • Spain's finance ministry to control Madrid city spending
  • National identity with a new twist