Violence against separatists is not the only policing concern—the rivalry between different forces means gaps in intelligence sharing are not being closed, putting all Europe in dangerby Claire Spencer / October 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
On a visit I made to Barcelona just ahead of the controversial referendum on Catalan independence of 1st October, my local interlocutors were clear: the ongoing crisis is more political than constitutional, and dialogue is the only way forward. President Puigdemont, who heads the autonomous government of Catalonia, now seems to think so too.
Dialogue is particularly urgently needed over the policing of Catalonia. The violent treatment of would-be voters captured headlines at the start of the month—but there is even more at stake. Following the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and neighbouring town of Cambrils seven weeks ago, local media reports highlighted the lack of trust between the national and local police forces that play a security role in Catalonia. Crucial evidence and intelligence was apparently not shared between the different services in the lead up to the August attacks, which if pieced together could have heightened suspicions about the Moroccan terror group’s international trips to Paris and Brussels and its ringleader’s criminal past.
For historical reasons, consolidated in Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy of 1979, the Generalitat (autonomous government of Catalonia) controls its own police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra. Since 1994 the Mossos have gradually taken over public safety, public order and judicial policing and criminal investigative functions fulfilled elsewhere in Spain by the Guardia Civil (in non-urban areas) and National Police (the CNP—in urban areas). The latter two forces answer to Spain’s Ministry of Interior and retain officers in Catalonia to assist in countering terrorism, and to deal with immigration matters and the issuing of national identity documents under central government jurisdiction.
In the political struggle over Catalan independence, the relationship between local and national police forces has soured in recent years and now risks becoming much worse. The Madrid government sent in CNP and Guardia Civil anti-riot squads to close down local voting stations on October 1st precisely because the Mossos d’Esquadra refused to use force to do so. The CNP and Guardia Civil accused the Mossos of doing little to disperse polling station staff and the public; the Mossos cited the local judicial order requiring them not to disturb civic peace. The head of the Mossos, Josep Lluís Trapero, has subsequently been summoned to appear before the National Court in Madrid, along with a group of Catalonian…