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POLITICO's EU Confidential

262 EpisodesProduced by POLITICO EuropeWebsite

From Brussels and around the Continent — the top European politics podcast.


Episode 15: Catalan independence debate — German election — Court confusion

In a special episode this week, we feature interviews from both sides of the Catalan independence debate ahead of the Catalan regional government's referendum, planned for Sunday.

Ryan Heath interviews Jorge Toledo Albiñana, Spain's secretary of state for European affairs, who makes the case for Spanish unity, as well as Amadeu Altafaj, the Catalan government's representative to the EU, who accuses Madrid of using repressive tactics that breach EU law.

Ryan also speaks to POLITICO Europe's managing editor, Stephen Brown, about the challenges of covering a passionate debate where there appears to be little scope for a negotiated compromise.

Independence 'is not going to happen,' says Toledo. In response, Altafaj said: "That short quote is very telling. It says a lot about the problem. Basically, this is a political challenge and it should be addressed through politics and it's being addressed by all means: the judiciary, the police forces, and undercover operations, etcetera, but not through politics." Toledo rejects the idea that "a part of Spain decides on its own what the whole of Spain is."

'Evil illegal act:' That's how Toledo describes the referendum, claiming Madrid has been acting "very moderately" to prevent the vote. Their efforts have included judicial investigations into hundreds of Catalan officials, as well as bans on pamphlets and websites promoting the referendum.

Barcelona remains open to discussion: While the rhetoric of independence campaigners suggests they'll let nothing stop them from reaching their ultimate goal, Altafaj insisted there is room for negotiation. “We are open to discussion and until the very last minute before the referendum on Sunday,” he said.

Madrid likens its fight to JFK's on civil rights: Toledo used an interesting analogy to describe Madrid's situation, comparing it to how the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy dealt with state officials who refused to comply with a Supreme Court ruling against segregation. "You can disagree with the law. You can change the law. But you cannot not apply the law because you think it is not fit to your purposes," said Toledo.

Altafaj, meanwhile, criticized Madrid's tactics as a "black and white, passionate macho Latino approach," adding that with a different approach by the Spanish government, "most of the tensions could have been diffused years ago."

Both sides said that while tensions are running high, violence is not expected. Altafaj noted there have been six years of "huge demonstrations with more than 1 million people on the street and never a single incident."

Also this week, our podcast panel discusses the difficulties posed by the results of the German election. Angela Merkel came in first, but can't be described as a clear winner. She faces limited coalition government options and must also contend with the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany.

And finally, Dear POLITICO discusses EU Court confusion: What do you do when an esteemed British journalist can't tell the difference between the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg? Lina Aburous and Ailbhe Finn explain what they'd do.

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