By executive order of European Parliament supremo Antonio Tajani, the institution has decided to prohibit a conference organised by former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and the President of the Generalitat Quim Torra, scheduled to take place on its Brussels premises on Monday. Acting upon a letter signed by the head of the Spanish Socialist delegation Iratxe García, EPP Group Vice-President Esteban González Pons of Partido Popular, and ALDE Group’s Javier Nart of Ciudadanos, the President of the Parliament decided to cancel the event, which was formally organised by Flemish N-VA MEP Ralph Packet and Slovenian ALDE member Ivo Vajgl.
The three members underline in the letter: “Puigdemont was the main architect of a plan to subvert the constitutional order in Spain with the aim of provoking a de facto secession of Catalonia,” adding that, because of all the above, allowing the presence of Puigdemont does not correspond “with the noble role played by the European Parliament as a benchmark for democracy and the rule of law.”
What happened, we wonder, to the European Temple of Democracy? Isn’t this edifice of freedom supposed to serve as a sacrosanct refuge for all ideas, irrespective of whether the majority or leadership agrees with them or not. When have we started to apply the right to free speech selectively? If plurality cannot foster in what is supposed to be the cradle of democracy, the Parliament itself, where no restriction upon the freedom of its members to speak their mind can be imposed, then what is the example that the institution is setting? We are certainly not defending Puidgemont’s actions; however, we are obliged to defend the right to free speech. Let everyone speak, let the people judge. Trust in the wisdom of the people. If the extremists or the demagogues win, it will because of the weakness of our own arguments, not the strength of theirs. Stifling their voice will only strengthen them. What Antonio Tajani could have done to win the argument was face off Puigdemont in a debate. He chose to block him.
Then a good excuse was found: following the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Security (DG SAFE) security assessment, Tajani “has decided not to authorise the event on fundamental rights in the EU.”
According to a note on the assessment seen by New Europe, “there is a high risk that the proposed event could pose threat to the maintenance of public order on the Parliament’s premises.”
The assessment takes into account elements such as the recent occupation of the European Parliament and European Commission buildings in Barcelona and the tensions around the trial. The lack of information on the participants in the event and, especially the possibility of incidents within or around the Parliament’s premises, led Tajani to the conclusion that the security threats “cannot be mitigated by Parliament security services.” As a result, the event was cancelled. We wonder, don’t national European leaders that project power globally, be it Angela Merkel or Emmanuel Macron, leaders that are regularly hosted in the Parliament, pose a more significant security challenge for the Parliament’s security services? No precedent of an attack against the institution by Puidgemont loyalists exists. Perhaps the EPP-representing Parliament President thinks this is what it takes to win the elections. Or that letting Yianis Varoufakis run his electoral campaign event in the rooms of the venerable institution was less of an assault upon democracy than Puidgemont’s now-cancelled appearance.