Photo: José Bové, in an archive photo (Credit: Vilaweb)
By Vilaweb Staff Writers
From 21 May 2018
On the 29th of May, relatives of Catalan political prisoners went to Strasbourg to explain their situation to the European Parliament, with the press present. In the afternoon, in a closed-door meeting, with no press, The ‘ALE’ Green Parliamentary group, met with Diana Riba, the wife of Raül Romeva, and herself a former green MEP. Riba was able to give the members of her husband’s party more information on the situation of the Catalan political prisoners.
VilaWeb has gained access to the speech by one of the most active MEPs in the defense of Romeva and the other prisoners. José Bové, an ecological leader and anti-globalization campaigner, criticized the group openly, saying that MEPs could be doing much more than they are in the defense of their former colleagues. You can see watch the video* the intervention of José Bové, three minutes, in a subtitled video [French, subtitled in Catalan]. And you can also read the transcript of the intervention, which follows.
“I am happy that we can have this debate, which you did not have planned but which have ended up accepting. I thank you. However, it’s been a long time since Raül [Romeva] is in prison and our group has done nothing to try to stop this injustice. It may sound tough, but the truth is that if we compare our well-justified interventions against the Hungarian government or the retrograde government of Poland, what we are doing now is not acceptable. Raül Romeva is in prison, there are nine people in prison, and we do nothing. We have not moved, and that is dramatic.
It has been quite a few weeks since they were arrested, many months already. We went to the prison to follow the case closer. We were in front of the prison – a certain number of deputies – Regionalists, above all, and me, an environmental deputy, alongside them. We were expelled from in front of the prison and denied entrance. I also made contact with the French Justice Minister to ask he address his Spanish counterpart and he replied that ‘with the Spaniards we have absolutely no discussion.’
I think that now we cannot merely applaud – it’s emotion that speaks, and it’s normal. We need to act, it is not normal for the European Parliament to accept that former MEPs are in jail, pre-trial, for this long. It is not normal that we have not asked a question to the Council. What must we do now that we are in this situation? Well, I think we have to commit ourselves. It is not a matter of holding a meeting about our position, whether in favor or against Catalonia. This is not the question. The question is democracy, freedom. How can a country lock up people who have not committed any act of violence? People who have simply defended their political ideas with a dialectical duel and are now political prisoners. They are political prisoners in a European country! This is something we cannot accept.
I want to hold a debate, not just a superficial one. We will have differences in the Council. But I want a strategic debate on how we must act. There is a platform set up in the European Parliament of some thirty deputies, from different groups. It needs to be expanded. And I would like it to be our group who took the initiative on this topic. This issue must be brought to the meeting of the group chairmen. We cannot accept this situation and at the next political meeting, we must interrogate the other parliamentary groups on the issue. Why not? Before the end of the week we ought to have a letter drafted requesting the release of our colleagues, of our former Members of European Parliament.
I think that if we were talking about another country, a country of the east, we would have all spoken out by now. But I do not understand it, it turns out that since it is Spain we do not lift a finger. We are not the only ones; it is a problem across the parliament and we are the ones who need to resolve it, because we cannot leave our friends and colleagues in jail. ”
*Video: the original link below includes video of the speech by Bové, in French, subtitled in Catalan.