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Puigdemont warns he’s willing to topple Spanish PM Sánchez

Puigdemont warns he’s willing to topple Spanish PM Sánchez

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The Junts party would be willing to withdraw support from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s government if “there is not sufficient progress” in negotiations for Catalan independence, its leader Carles Puigdemont said.

Speaking to Brussels Playbook on the sidelines of the POLITICO 28 gala dinner on Tuesday night, Puigdemont said his seven Junts MPs, who struck a deal to prop up Sánchez’s government earlier this month in exchange for an amnesty for everyone involved in the failed 2017 Catalan independence referendum, would be open to working with the conservative Popular Party (PP) to depose Sánchez mid-term.

Junts would consider a motion of no confidence in Sánchez’s government if it could agree with the PP on an independent prime minister to replace the Socialist, said Puigdemont, “But for that, the PP must make a step toward us … they cannot keep treating me like a terrorist.” The Popular Party won the most votes in Spain’s July election, but could not form a government.

Asked about Puigdemont’s comments on Wednesday, Popular Party leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo appeared reticent about any potential tie-up, telling Spanish media he could not “accept” Junts’ “conditions” because “they are illegal and go against the constitution and the equality of Spaniards.”

“I have not changed my position,” Feijóo said. “I cannot accept what Mr. Sánchez has accepted.”

On Tuesday evening, Puigdemont had pitched the potential accommodation between Junts and the PP to European People’s Party chief Manfred Weber — after both men were named on POLITICO’s annual list of the 28 most powerful people in Europe. The PP is a member of Weber’s Europe-wide EPP grouping.

Weber’s group has called on the European Commission to assess whether the terms of the agreement between Sánchez and Junts are in line with EU rules. In exchange for getting Junts lawmakers into Sánchez’s new government, the Socialists have agreed to examine alleged instances of “lawfare” — the use of legal systems and institutions to damage or delegitimize opponents — against Catalan separatists. 

In a statement, the EPP alleged some of the terms of the deal “openly violate the rule of law. These include the introduction of the principle of ‘lawfare’ in all judicial decisions, which opens the door to parliamentary interference in the judiciary.”

Asked about the “lawfare” controversy, which triggered criticism from Spanish judges’ associations as well as Brussels, Puigdemont said it was a warning to those judges and politicians who he said had overstepped their authority.

“The term ‘lawfare’ is like the horse’s head in the Godfather — it’s a warning that we’re serious,” said Puigdemont, who left Spain in the wake of the 2017 referendum and went into self-exile in Belgium, where he is now a member of the European Parliament.

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