Catalan president meets with EU commissioners in restart of relations

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By Aida Sanchez Alonso
Pere Aragonès
Pere Aragonès   -   Copyright  Euronews

Pere Aragonès was in Brussels this week to meet with EU commissioners, a first for a member of the Catalan government in several years.

The relations between Catalonia and the European Commission deteriorated as the Catalan government fought for independence.

"We had come from a time of a certain freeze (in relations), I think also as a result of the attitude, also on the part of the Spanish government," Aragonès told Euronews.

"In any case, we have worked from the outset to generate spaces of trust with the EU institutions to be able to show that Catalonia is here to participate in the solutions to European challenges."

Since Aragonès took office last year the relationship between his government and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's has been slowly improving.

The last time a Catalan president met a European Commissioner was back in 2015. Catalonia then held a referendum that led to a "declaration of independence". Some members of the government, including former president Carles Puigdemont, fled to Belgium.

Several other separatists, who remained in Spain, went to prison but were later pardoned by the government. 

Pegasus spyware scandal

Aragonès said he was grateful that the Commission listened to Catalan concerns about the recent Pegasus spyware scandal of which he was a victim.

A report from Citizen lab in April revealed that the spyware had been used against Catalans, including MEPs, legislators and presidents.

The head of Spain's intelligence service was sacked amid the allegations that the agency used the software.

"Obviously, an issue like this is complex, it cannot be solved with a meeting, but with a lot of work," Aragonès told Euronews.

"Many of us have gone to the courts, but it's a slow process. But beyond these issues, there has not been an active policy of protection of the right to privacy and intimacy on the part of the [Spanish] state authorities," he said.

In Brussels, he met with the EU's justice commissioner Didier Reynders to speak about cyber espionage.

On Friday, he will meet with interior market commissioner Thierry Breton on the "contribution that Catalonia can make in the framework of European digital sovereignty."

Aragonès also spoke about proposals to use Catalan in the European Parliament, saying that he was convinced that they would get support.

"Our hope and our work will be aimed not so much at the MEPs representing these Spanish parties who are actively against the use of Catalan in the EU institutions, but at many of the members of their parliamentary groups who have no problem with the use of Catalan," he said.

"I am convinced that we are going to get this support."