The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe gives the go-ahead for assessment of Spanish democracy

Spain has been included for the first time among the countries to be evaluated by the Monitoring Committee after the persistent efforts by Esquerra’s Laura Castel

Spain has been included for the first time in the list of countries to be evaluated by the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which analyses whether member states are honouring Europe’s standards for democracy and human rights. On Friday, the plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly was informed of the selection for monitoring and gave the go-ahead for this x-ray on Spanish democracy.

The Monitoring Committee is a PACE body made up of representatives of the various parliamentary groups, equivalent to a parliamentary committee in a national Parliament. Among its functions is the preparation of periodic reports on the democratic quality of the member states of the European Union, and on this occasion, it has selected Spain along with Sweden and Greece.

This has not been a random choice: Committee members can present reports arguing the need to assess a specific country, and that is what Esquerra Republicana Senator Laura Castel, the only pro-independence member of PACE and a member of the Monitoring Committee, has done in order to get the Spanish state evaluated.

The main arguments for choosing Spain have been the espionage of pro-independence politicians and activists, the Constitutional Court's persecution of the Catalan Parliament’s legislation, the role of the Court of Auditors, the gag law, the convictions attacking freedom of expression and the blocking of the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary.

The choice of the three countries, which was drawn from a list of eight pre-selected countries, took place last 5 December following “a strictly regulated procedure,” assures Ms Castel. Everything was set in motion at Friday's PACE plenary session: March will see two rapporteurs, from two different political groups to guarantee impartiality, assigned to each country, who will have to visit the country in question, meet with representatives of their governments, political parties, members of the judiciary and civil society, and draw up a final report.

Senator Laura Castel has been working for a year and a half for Spain to be monitored and has encountered obstacles from both the Spanish People’s Party and the Socialists. She is convinced that several previous Council of Europe reports on the Catalan independence movement have led to Spain being selected: the most recent was four months ago when the Council of Europe asked the Spanish state to guarantee “sufficient reparations to the victims of cases of illegal espionage.” However, the most controversial was in June 2021, the so-called Cilevics report, in which the Council called for the release of political prisoners and the withdrawal of the European Arrest Warrants. Furthermore, a report by Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović a year ago concluded that peacefully defending the independence of a territory is protected by freedom of expression, and is therefore not a crime.