Catalan separatists express solidarity with Gibraltar
By Miles Johnson in Madrid, Financial Times, Aug. 13, 2013
The largest separatist party of Catalonia has written to the chief minister of Gibraltar to express its “solidarity” against the “bullying and harassment” of the Spanish government in a move likely to anger Madrid as it maintains a robust stance on the British overseas territory.
The letter sent to Fabian Picardo, Gibraltan chief minister, by Esquerra Republicana (ERC), the second-largest party in Catalonia, said it “deplore[d] the methods used by Spanish power” in the conflict over Gibraltar, and accused the Spanish government of using the conflict as a smoke screen to distract from an ongoing party financing scandal.
Esquerra Republicana’s intervention in the conflict is likely to anger Spain’s centre right government, which staunchly opposes Catalan separatism and vigorously defends what it views as the territorial integrity of Spain, at times including the country’s claims over Gibraltar.
Alfred Bosch, the leader of ERC in the Spanish parliament, wrote in the letter, drafted in English and Catalan: “We are convinced that the only solution to the issue of the Rock, as with the issue of Catalonia, is through dialogue, suffrage and the principle of self-determination. No question should be handled without consulting the people concerned”.
The Spanish government, which in recent weeks has ramped up diplomatic tensions with the UK after establishing lengthy checkpoints at the Gibraltan border, has argued that its stricter policing of the crossing is an attempt to stop smuggling, and is in line with European rules.
The latest sparring over Gibraltar comes at a time when Mr Rajoy’s Popular party has been dogged by allegations from its former treasurer that it ran an illegal financing scheme for two decades, and that senior figures including Mr Rajoy himself received payments from a slush fund.
Mr Rajoy and other accused members of his party have vigorously denied the allegations, which are currently being examined in court in Madrid.