Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois is to summon the Spanish ambassador to Belgium to explain why the Madrid government has lifted the diplomatic status of the Flemish government delegate to Spain, André Hebbelinck. According to Bourgeois, the decision is an “extremely unfriendly act”. Furthermore, his government was not informed of the decision through official channels; the Spanish government reportedly verbally informed the Belgian ambassador to Madrid, Marc Calcoen.
The dispute apparently centres around a letter sent by Jan Peumans, speaker of the Flemish parliament (pictured), to one of the members of the Catalan government currently being held in prison in Spain. In the letter, Peumans said the detention of political prisoners “proves that the central government in Spain does not fulfil the criteria of a democratic and modern European Union”.
According to Bourgeois, Peumans represents the legislative arm of the Flemish government, whereas the Flemish delegate represents the executive; each remains independent of the other.
Following a complaint from Madrid about the letter, and Peumans’ refusal to apologise for his comments, he compounded the offence during remarks made at the opening of an exhibition on Catalan independence in the Flemish parliament, in which he compared the current situation to Bosnia in the 1990s. “Locking politicians up is an act of violence,” he said.