Madrid blocks Catalan councilors as Spain stand-off drags on

Newly elected Catalan regional leader Quim Torra is insisting he wants jailed former lawmakers to join his pro-independence Catalan government. (Reuters)
Updated 21 May 2018
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Madrid blocks Catalan councilors as Spain stand-off drags on

MADRID: The Spanish government on Monday recognized the powers of newly-elected Catalan leader Quim Torra but objected to his choice of councilors — some of whom are being held in custody — and refused to ratify his chosen team, official documents showed.
The outcome means that Madrid will continue to impose direct rule on the northeastern region.
Torra, a separatist who wants to recreate the administration that declared independence from Spain in October, put forward four men as councilors who are either being held in custody or are living in self-imposed exile.
Madrid and Barcelona are engaged in a months-long stand-off after regional elections called by the government in December returned a majority of seats for pro-independence parties.
Under the terms of emergency legislation brought in to take over the Catalan administration, Madrid must lift direct rule once the Catalan government is fully formed and cabinet members named.
But the government said the naming of the four men, who are accused of crimes including rebellion and mis-use of public funds, amounted to a deliberate provocation.
It is uncertain now when direct rule by Madrid will be lifted. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Monday he hoped Catalonia would soon form a viable government that would obey the law.
“I hope there will soon be a government that is viable, that obeys the law and that enters into dialogue with us,” he said in a speech at an event in Galica. “One that will work to recover institutional and political normality in our country.”
Spanish courts ruled that an Oct. 1 independence referendum and subsequent declaration of independence were illegal because they went against Spain’s constitution which states the nation is indivisible.
PM Rajoy telephoned two opposition leaders — Pedro Sanchez of the Socialists and Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos (“Citizens“) — on Saturday to discuss the situation and ask for their support.
Both parties, which together with Rajoy’s center-right People’s Party (PP) make up a majority of seats in Spain’s parliament, agree that direct rule of Catalonia must be maintained until a regional administration is in place.
“We, all those parties which support the constitution, must accept reality and apply the constitution together,” Rivera said in a television interview on Monday.
“Peace and stability are needed in Catalonia for its economy and for social harmony.”
The Catalan parliament voted in Torra, chosen by former leader Carles Puigdemont who is now living in Germany, last week.
Puigdemont is in Germany awaiting the decision of a German court on an extradition order from Spain on a charge of misuse of public funds for his part in the organization of the illegal referendum last October.


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.