The Latest: Tourism chief sees 10-12 pct drop in Catalonia
MADRID (AP) — The Latest on the political crisis in Catalonia (all times local):
Catalonia’s top tourism official reckons tourism revenues in the restive Spanish region could be around 450 million euros ($520 million) lower in the final quarter of the year following August’s deadly attacks in Barcelona and the uncertainty generated by the independence referendum.
Speaking to The Associated Press at the World Travel Market in London, Patrick Torrent, executive director in the Catalan Tourism Agency, said the region will see a 10-12 percent fall in tourist numbers during the fourth quarter, which would equate to around 450 million euros.
Torrent said he met Monday with Alvaro Nadal, the Spanish minister of energy, tourism and digital. Madrid has taken control of Catalonia’s tourism agency after dissolving its parliament and calling December elections. Torrent said Madrid has made no requirements of him or his staff.
Belgian prosecutors say ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont will face court again on Nov. 17 as an investigating judge weighs his extradition to Spain.
The Brussels prosecutor’s office said Monday that the hearing will be held behind closed doors.
It is likely that Puigdemont and his four associates in the former Catalan regional government will learn whether they must be extradited to Spain, where several of their colleagues have already been jailed.
The five would have the right to appeal, and if they exhaust all legal avenues could remain in Belgium until early January.
Puigdemont has said he stands ready to campaign from Belgium in the Dec. 21 regional elections in Catalonia.
Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont says he and other regional separatist leaders are the victims of a “brutal judicial offensive” by the Spanish government over their attempts to take Catalonia out of Spain.
Puigdemont and four other members of his regional government fled to Belgium after Spanish authorities fired them on Oct. 28 for seeking secession. Nine other deposed Cabinet members in that same rebellion were sent to jail in Madrid, eight of them without bail, while the judge’s investigation continues. Spain’s Constitutional Court has ruled that secession is illegal.
In a column published Monday in British newspaper The Guardian, Puigdemont says the detentions are “a colossal outrage” and vows to fight for separatists’ rights.
He says he wants to draw the attention of other European Union countries to the crackdown and “demand a political rather than judicial solution to the problem.”
The leader of the biggest party in Belgium’s government says that Spain’s governing Popular Party is increasingly harking back to the days of dictator Francisco Franco half a century ago.
N-VA leader Bart De Wever told VRT network Monday: “You know where the past of the Popular Party is, and ever more its present — and it is Franco, it is repression, it is jailing people because of their opinion, it is the use of violence against its citizens.”
De Wever himself is not a member of the center-right government but he speaks for his party, which is key in the four-party coalition of Prime Minister Charles Michel.
Belgian judicial authorities will have to decide whether to extradite ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to Spain. De Wever remained noncommittal on what his party would do if the courts decide to send him back. De Wever has called Puigdemont “a friend.”
“Firstly, it is a judicial decision, and we have to wait for it. So, if there is a decision we will assess the situation,” De Wever said.
“This is not a judicial conflict it is a political conflict. You solve it with dialogue.”
Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has criticized Spain in his first online comment after being released from custody in Belgium, where he’s fighting extradition to Spain for allegedly plotting a rebellion in Catalonia.
Puigdemont posted Monday on his Twitter account: “Free and without bail.” He says “our thoughts are with the comrades unjustly jailed by a state that strays far from democratic practices.”
A Brussels judge released Puigdemont and four close separatist allies Sunday on condition they stay in Belgium and attend court sessions.
The five fled to Belgium after Spanish authorities sacked them on Oct. 28 for seeking secession for Catalonia. Nine other deposed Cabinet members in the same rebellion case were sent to jail in Madrid, eight of them without bail, while the judge’s investigation continues.