ALICANTE, Spain – Barcelona’s failed bid to host the European Medicines Agency, which must move out of London following Brexit, has left on Tuesday several Spanish politicians pointing the finger of blame at those responsible for last month’s illegal independence referendum in Catalonia, although Catalan regional figureheads were less than convinced.
The EMA, which with its hundreds of permanent employees and vast funding was one of the first major spoils of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, eventually went to Amsterdam after Barcelona failed to make it past the first round of voting in Brussels.
“Barcelona was the best candidate and it was the top choice of the (European) Commission itself and EMA workers,” said Spain’s economy minister Luis de Guindos, a member of the conservative Popular Party, adding that its failure to secure the regulatory body “clearly demonstrated the consequences of the secessionist developments.”
Spanish health minister, Dolors Monserrat, who was part of Barcelona’s campaign to host the agency, also lamented the result of the ballot at the General Affairs Committee in Brussels on Tuesday evening.
“I dare say that this is perhaps one of the damages directly inflicted by the independence movement in Catalonia but now, more than ever, all of us together have to work together to continue this great project that is Europe and that is Spain,” she told reporters.
Albert River, leader of the business-friendly and often government-aligned Ciudadanos (Citizens Party), wasted no time and aired his condemnation of the Catalan independence movement on Twitter just after Barcelona was eliminated.
But Carles Puigdemont, the ousted former regional leader of Catalonia currently in self-imposed exile in Brussels, blamed Barcelona’s unsuccessful candidacy on the Spanish government’s reaction to the separatist referendum, of which he was a leading figurehead.
When the Catalan parliament declared independence in the weeks that followed the contentious ballot, which had been declared unconstitutional by Spain’s top court, the central government stripped Catalan autonomy by triggering Article 155 of the Constitution, dissolved the local parliament, dismissed the region’s government and brought sedition and rebellion cases against its ex-leaders.
“The success of 155: imprison civil leader and half of the legitimate government, forcing the exile of the other half, eradicating self-governance and now we can add impoverishing the territory,” Puigdemont wrote on Twitter, alleging that it was the police violence during the referendum, rather than the independence bid itself, that had ruined Barcelona’s chances of hosting the EMA.
While many of Puigdemont’s former allies remain in preventative prison in Madrid pending sedition and rebellion lawsuits, the ousted leader was currently holed up in Brussels, where he himself was waiting to hear the final verdict on whether he will be extradited to Spain or not.
Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital, is one of Spain’s most industrious and affluent regions.
Through the application of Article 155, Catalonia is presently subject to direct governance from Madrid, although current plans to stage elections on Dec. 21 should reinstate its regional parliament and, eventually, its autonomous status.
Several key businesses and major lenders shifted their corporate headquarters out of the region amid the uncertainty brought about by the push for independence, aided by mechanisms put in place by the national government of Mariano Rajoy.
Securing the EMA was a coveted Brexit prize for Amsterdam. The European Banking Authority, which was also up for grabs on Tuesday evening, went to Paris.