Diplomatic tensions rose between Spain and Belgium on Wednesday, when the Spanish authorities recalled the Belgian ambassador in Madrid for consultations over a letter of support for jailed former Catalan Parliament president, Carme Forcadell, from the President of the Flemish Parliament, Jean Peumans.

The Spanish foreign affairs ministry contacted the representative of the Belgian government in Spain, Marc Calcoen, to ask for an explanation of Peumans’ letter, which states that “it is totally unacceptable for there to be politicians detained for their opinions”.

Belgian reaction

“We have been contacted by the foreign affairs ministry about this letter” was all a Belgian foreign affairs spokesperson would disclose, with the spokesperson pointing out that Belgian-Spanish relations were the responsibility of the federal government, and that Peumans letter “is a matter for the Parliament president.”

Nevertheless, Spanish government sources confirmed that they had expressed their “deep unease” to the Belgian ambassador over the letter, and that a “letter of protest” had also been sent to Peumans.

Evil act

In the letter made public by Mark Demesmaeker, one of Peumans’ party colleagues, the Flemish Parliament president expresses his support for Forcadell’s decision as chamber speaker “to give the Catalan people the chance to choose their identity.” Forcadell has been in pre-trial prison since March charged with rebellion.

Peumans’ letter adds that “detaining politicians for months is an evil act, proof that Spain’s central government is not capable of fulfilling the conditions to be part of a democratic European Union.”