Should Puigdemont be extradited?

The public prosecutor's office of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein has concluded that the European arrest warrant for Carles Puigdemont is justified and wants the former Catalan regional president to be extradited to Spain. The Spanish judiciary has accused Puigdemont of rebellion and other crimes. Now the higher regional court must rule on his extradition. Commentators take differing views on the issue.

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Time to negotiate

Extraditing Puigdemont to Spain would be wrong, Deutschlandfunk maintains:

“Before Carles Puigdemont becomes a martyr for the separatists once and for all, he should be allowed to travel to Belgium unhindered. In case of doubt the Federal government should make use of the leeway it is entitled to in the context of the European arrest warrant and finally start acting as a mediator in the Catalonian conflict. There is no denying that the proceedings against Puigdemont and his companions, most of whom have already been arrested, are politically motivated. ... The longer Prime Minister Rajoy prefers legal wrangling to a political solution, the deeper the rifts - and the more radical the resistance - will be. It's time to negotiate before it really comes to a rebellion in Catalonia.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Applause for an EU capable of defending itself

For El Mundo there is no alternative to extradition:

“Only those who live isolated in the cognitive bunker of separatism could have been surprised that Germany behaved regarding Carles Puigdemont as a state like Germany should do with a person like Puigdemont: as an EU state governed by the rule of law dealing with a presumed criminal wanted by a fellow member state. ... Nothing should prevent Puigdemont from being swiftly handed over to the Spanish authorities to be held to account. The end of his impunity will come as a relief for us convinced Europeans who believe in an EU that is able to defend itself against the surge in populist nationalism.”

Telos (FR) /

Separatism has had its day

The Catalan struggle for independence has failed, historian Benoît Pellistrandi writes on the debate website Telos:

“I believe that the Puigdemont episode has ended, and with it also a certain form of the Catalan crisis. First off, the separatists have been forced to return to reality. They underestimated the Spanish state and forgot that it was a solid, recognised and internationally respected state of law. Some Catalan leaders have been apprehended for breaking the law. Nothing exceptional, short of accepting that such a revolutionary rupture can win out over democratic norms. The revolution failed in Catalonia because the situation there was not revolutionary! The separatists failed to take into consideration European public opinion and the position of Europe's governments.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Wrongful political persecution

The Irish Examiner is shocked by what it sees as the persecution of Puigdemont:

“The leader of the Catalan movement, Carles Puigdemont, is a nationalist and not the dangerous revolutionary painted by Spanish authorities. … Puigdemont is wanted by Spain for 'sedition', an ancient transgression that amounts to no more than encouraging dissent against the established order. This is not the proper prosecution of a criminal. It is the persecution of a political leader, albeit a turbulent one. The hounding of Puigdemont is an overtly political act by the Spanish authorities that is unworthy of any democracy, let alone one in the European Union. It should be resisted, not aided or encouraged, by other EU states.”

Der Freitag (DE) /

EU must not remain passive

Der Freitag weekly paper finds the EU's refusal to intervene in the conflict difficult to understand:

“Never before has it adopted such a stance on other political independence movements. In 1990/91 it expressly supported the Baltic Soviet states' struggle for independence against the USSR. It has been mediating in the Cyprus conflict for decades, and in Kosovo's secession from Serbia the EU actually took a leading role and took charge of parts of the political and legal administration processes in the newly baptised state at the start of 2008. If the EU fully adopts the official Spanish interpretation of the Catalonia conflict [according to which this is an internal Spanish affair] the theory of a Europe of regions will become nothing but a farce.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Public opinion at a turning point?

The hard line against Puigdemont and other separatists may actually help their cause, writes Dnevnik:

“In Catalonia public opinion for the most part still favours dialogue and remaining part of Spain. The arrests of the Catalan politicians, the potentially protracted and spectacular trials and draconian prison sentences could, however, turn public opinion in the other direction. And that would only help those behind bars and their ideas. If that happens the most important element behind the Catalan independence movement's failure in the last year would disappear - the lack of consensus among the inhabitants of Catalonia.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Europeanisation of the Catalonia conflict

El Periódico de Catalunya describes how the separatists have already achieved a partial victory in the affair:

“The internationalisation of the independence process is, at least at the legal level, a fact because Spanish petitions are being debated in German, Belgian, Scottish and Swiss courts - regardless of whether they will be accepted or rejected. Catalonia's politicians will now on the one hand go against the decisions of Pablo Llarento [the chief judge in the Puigdemont case] and on the other hand they try to widen the focus and cast doubts on the quality of Spanish democracy by presenting politicians who are prosecuted for taking political decisions.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Extradition would be the right course

The argument that Puigdemont is a victim of political persecution doesn't stand up to serious scrutiny, Der Tagesspiegel comments:

“If that's the case, how to explain the fact that his separatist movement was able to campaign unimpeded for Catalonia's independence everywhere in Spain, also through its MPs in the Spanish parliament? That is happening thousands of times on a daily basis, and such work is also protected by Spain's laws on the freedom of opinion. You can't say it clearly enough, and Spain's Constitutional Court has confirmed it on numerous occasions: it is not a crime to seek the independence of a region like Catalonia. But it must always be done through legal means, and not with flagrant violations of the law that run counter to numerous court injunctions, as - according to the investigators - Puigdemont tried to do last year.”

El Punt Avui (ES) /

Europe's credibility at stake

The Catalan daily El Punt Avui stresses the pan-European dimensions of the affair:

“Germany's decision regarding handing over President Puigdemont - the highest authority in Catalonia and elected by the parliament - can't be treated as a bilateral matter. We are dealing here with a European dilemma that will have consequences for the ethical and moral legitimacy of the EU in the international context. It could lead to conflicts with other countries like Belgium, Switzerland and Scotland which must also make decisions regarding exiled Catalans. ... The decisions of the European states as regards the exiled Catalans will have consequences for Europe's democratic foundations.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Merkel has secured Spain's solidarity

In the end Berlin may have done Spain a disservice by arresting Puigdemont, warns La Stampa's Brussels correspondent Stefano Stefanini:

“To tackle the countless challenges that await the EU Merkel needs a strong, cohesive unity. The axis with Paris is a done deed, but a counterweight to Emmanuel Macron's stormy character is needed. Merkel needs Spain, and with the detention of fugitive Carles Puigdemont she has secured the eternal gratitude of Mariano Rajoy. ... But who benefits in the end? ... So far Puigdemont's efforts to make himself heard in the EU have been in vain. This, however, could change with his arrest and trial. Mariano Rajoy may come to regret not having left Puigdemont in the oblivion of Belgian exile.”