Spain’s caretaker government cites interim status to avoid liaising with Catalonia’s Interior Minister

Despite the attacks in Paris and Brussels, Catalonia’s Security Council —the committee where everything concerning Catalan and Spanish police is discussed— has not met since 2009.

Today in Parliament Jordi Jané, Catalonia’s Interior Minister, complained that despite the attacks in Paris and Brussels, the Spanish government continues to avoid calling a meeting of the Security Council, the main body for police coordination between Spain and Catalonia. Following a formal question from Josep Nuet, representative from CSQP, the minister explained that he had called for the meeting in two different letters to Jorge Fernández Díaz, Spanish Minister of the Interior, and that the only response that he received was that the Spanish government has only "caretaker" status and cannot finalize new agreements.

On February 10th, Jané sent a letter —written in Catalan-- to Fernández Díaz reminding him that in July he had asked Spain’s Secretary of State for Security for a meeting of the Council and requesting it a second time. In this letter, which ARA has had access to, the minister explained that the meeting was needed to deal with issues such as "the number of officers (of Catalan police) deployed, the current state of security in Catalonia, the possible involvement of Spanish forces in the 112 emergency command center, and better shared access to databases among the various police  forces, with the aim of improving prevention, especially in the current context of jihadist threat”.

As Jané noted on Police Day, this coordinating body has not met since March 3rd 2009. But Fernández Díaz’s reply to the first letter said that it had been sent to legal services for them to study, but that he could say that the Spanish government only has "acting" status, and that as a result it cannot reach any agreement different from that of 2009.

"The meeting of Catalonia’s Security Council should not be tainted by electoral processes", Jané said today in Parliament. But this is precisely what has happened. Two days after the jihadist attacks in Brussels, on March 24th, Jané sent another letter to the Interior Minister --also in Catalan-- in which he insisted again on the need for a Security Council meeting. According to the Catalan ministry, there has not yet been any response.

In this second letter, to which this newspaper has also had access, the Minister added a complaint: "I have been read in the press of an extraordinary meeting today in Brussels of the EU Interior Ministers to discuss the adoption of measures in response to the recent terrorist attacks". Jané demanded to be kept informed "directly" of all European actions related to security, and reminded that, according to article 164.4 of the Catalan Statute, the Generalitat must be present "in all work groups collaborating with foreign police in which Spain participates".

Spain’s Interior Minister did not reply to this letter, and in the only response to the complaint about isolation from international coordinating bodies, the Catalan government merely received a copy of the resolution approved at the meeting in Brussels. Paradoxically, this very resolution from the meeting to which Catalonia was not involved placed great importance on the coordination of European police forces and access in real time to international police information.

Specifically, the resolution by the European Interior Ministers stated that they were "convinced" of the need to: "continue consolidating coordinated national efforts" to investigate organizations like those that had attacked Paris and Brussels; "strengthen, urgently" the interoperability of European security databases; improve detection of "radicalization on a local level"; use joint investigative teams more often; and speed up the creation of a platform for the "multilateral exchange of information in real time”.

One of the pending issues to deal with at a hypothetical meeting of Catalonia’s Security Council is more direct access for the Mossos d´Esquadra to information from police forces abroad, which currently has to pass through the Spanish apparatus. This was precisely one of the demands that President Carles Puigdemont made public in his speech during Catalonia’s Police Day last week. In addition, it is essential to discuss how to speed up the Mossos´ access to other police forces´ databases.

At the meeting, when it is eventually held, they also expect to deal with an agreement with the Interior Ministry to join CITCO, the Intelligence Center Against Terrorism and Organized Crime, written months ago but still not finalized. In addition, as the Security Council has not met in seven years, the amount that the Spanish government must pay to finance the Mossos d´Esquadra has not been updated. Nor have they certified the number of police that were deployed between 2010 and 2013. This, said Jané in his February 10th letter, has caused an "accumulated debt" of 264 million euros from Spain to the Generalitat.

When the Security Council is convened, the meeting agenda will be agreed upon beforehand between the Catalan and Spanish governments, because if one point is not prepared beforehand and the meeting ends without an agreement the two administrations will end up with a problem. Jané, according to the Catalan News Agency, said today: "It would be disastrous news if an agency to coordinate activity was suddenly convened to announce that we disagreed". The Catalan government, then, proposes convening the Security Council even though Spain is not yet willing, and risking the possibility that it will end without an agreement.