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separatist struggle Spain keeps close eye on Catalan activities in Switzerland

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Pro independence demonstrators in Barcelona, February 2019.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)

Spanish diplomats are following closely the activities of Catalan separatists and sympathisers in Switzerland, a media report has revealed. The Spanish secret service is also involved.

Two years after the height of the Catalan independence movement, significant tracking of the activities of separatist figures and Swiss supporters is still happening in Switzerland, according to the SonntagsBlick newspaper.

Claiming to have gotten hold of secret documents from the Spanish embassy in Bern as well as the consulate in Geneva, the newspaper says that lengthy observational reports were made of public discussions in Switzerland about Catalan independence.

The documents also reveal that Madrid is particularly concerned about the Catalan representation in Geneva, which it sees as a hotbed of separatist activity and which it tried to get shut down – but without success.

Swiss social democrat politician Mathias Reynard, who chairs the Swiss-Catalan parliamentary friendship group, is mentioned several times, including as having been “manipulated” by the separatist figures he met in Bern.

Mere monitoring?

Though SonntagsBlick uses the word “spy”, much of the activity in the documents (from 2018 and 2019) is based on publicly-available information, for example, from panel discussions.

However, the newspaper does reveal that in September 2018 a request was made by the Spanish foreign ministry for support from the Spanish secret services. It’s not clear whether the request to post an agent in Geneva was granted.

Contacted by SonntagsBlick, the Spanish embassy in Bern said merely that their activities in Switzerland complied fully with the terms of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

For its part, the Spanish foreign ministry in Madrid told the newspaper that “it is part of our duties to closely monitor any activity that poses a threat to Spain’s reputation”.

Several Catalan politicians have pleaded their case in neutral Switzerland, notably in Geneva, where ousted separatist leader Carlos Puigdemont denounced the actions of Spanish authorities to the UN Human Rights Council in December 2018.

swissinfo.ch/dos

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