The Spanish minister of Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, said on Monday that he refused to invite Catalan President Quim Torra to the third Forum of the Union of the Mediterranean (UpM), held in Barcelona, to avoid him having “a stage to vilify Spain’s good name.” In comments to the press during the UpM press conference, Borrell said that he didn’t want the Catalan government to “distort” the summit, attended by representatives from all the Mediterranean region.

Borrell said that the Catalan president cannot “expect” to be invited to events while he “blackmails” the Spanish president into accepting a self-determination referendum or “becomes an agitator” of the pro-independence activitsts in the streets. “We did not consider convenient to invite him,” Borrell said when asked about Torra, adding that the Catalan leader presence at the Barcelona summit “was not required by protocol.”

Catalan reaction

In a statement, the Catalan government regretted Spain’s decision, stressing that the summit was held in Barcelona and the UpM headquarters are on “a space offered by the Catalan government.” “The government regrets the lack of institutional respect towards the Generalitat de Catalunya, after no government member was allowed to attend the event,” said the executive.

“It’s not a good sign that they try to silence the Catalan government. It is a new example of how the Spanish government feels uncomfortable with freedom of expression,” the statement continued.