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My letter to the European Ombudsman in relation to the two different versions of President Juncker's reply to a Parliamentary Question by Santiago Fisas MEP (2015)

My letter to the European Ombudsman in relation to the two different versions of President Juncker's reply to a Parliamentary Question by Santiago Fisas MEP. Ref. 1784/2015/PHP.

Annexes: References to the manipulated reply in the Madrid daily ABC the next morning. The holier-than-thou attitude falls flat in view of the manipulation. Incidentally, did the paper apologize? Did its readers ever learn the truth?

Highlighted in blue: Problems using Catalan (in spite of bilateral agreements: see http://llengua.gencat.cat/ca/serveis/legislacio_i_drets_linguistics/el_catala_a_la_unio_europea/)

***** Click below on "Més informació" to read the whole post *****

January 4 2017
The European Ombudsman
European Union

Subject: Complaint to the Commission in relation to the two different versions of President Juncker's reply to a Parliamentary Question by Santiago Fisas MEP

Dear Ms O'Reilly,

On November 9 2015 we wrote to you to express our concern about the manipulation of President Juncker's official reply, dated September 21 2015, to European Parliamentary Question E-011776/2015. The Spanish version, disseminated by MEP Fisas on September 22 at 16.42h (2), and published in Madrid newspapers the following morning (3), contained a long paragraph (not included in the official, English version) which was later hastily rectified.

On December 1 2015 you replied (Reclamació 1784/2015/PHP) that you were unable to accept our complaint because we had not first contacted the institution or body concerned about the matter. Accordingly, on March 17 2016 we sent a letter to the Commission, in Catalan, through the Office in Barcelona.

On April 21 2016 we received a letter (re. Ares(2016)1927038) from Mr. L.M.P. of the Commission stating that it is “a communication in Catalan is rare for our service and regretfully it has taken some time to identify the available options for its translation. I therefore now need to invite you, in accordance with the Administrative Agreement between the European Commission and the Kingdom of Spain (2006/C 73/06 – C73/14 Official Journal 25/03/2006) to send a request for translation to the Consejería de Asuntos Autónomicos (e-mail: Cautonomas@.reper.maec.es [sic]*), which is the competent body designated by Spanish law.”

This we did three days later, on April 24 2016. On April 27 they complained that the accompanying letter was not in Spanish, but condescendingly agreed to have it translated “on grounds of speed and efficiency”. (G.G. informed me on August 4 of the non-compliance by the Kingdom of Spain of its 2006 linguistic commitments with regard to the European Ombudsman).

On that same day, April 27 2016, I sent an English version of the complaint to the Commission to Mr. L.M.P., to «allow your staff to begin to study the issue sooner (and perhaps much sooner, who knows)».

On August 12 I wrote to the Spanish «Consejería de Asuntos Autónomicos» to ask for an update on this matter. The reply came on September 7 [see below] in the form of a refusal to answer my request because it was not in Spanish.

On September 12 I was informed by the Catalan government that the translation of our complaint into Spanish had been completed and delivered on May 12, that is, just 18 days after we requested it.
On the same date, September 12, I asked for an update in a letter to Mr. L.M.P. A day later he told me that “the reply to your complaint is in the final stage of internal validation so it should reach you very shortly”.

Two months later, on November 17, he wrote to him once again, saying that "the final stage of internal validation" were rather long.

A month later I again wrote to him, December 19 2016, to say that “We are aware in Catalonia that a number of Spanish nationalist MEPs are again trying to browbeat the Commission, this time as regards the inclusion in the EU register of the Assemblea Nacional Catalana, which is a perfectly legal organisation which seeks political changes by democratic means. So I am sure you can appreciate that the apparent delay in receiving the answer from the Commission raises suspicions and might easily be construed in a negative light by the less trusting members of our group.”

Finally on December 23 the long-awaited reply was sent. Mr. F. states that the nine-month delay was caused by the Spanish authorities taking a long time to translate our letter from Catalan into Spanish, hardly an excuse since I myself sent him an English version as stated above, on April 27, very soon after the Commission's refusal to study the complaint in Catalan. The reply took almost eight months, in itself suspicious to my mind.

In the Catalan-speaking regions it is widely believed that an inoperative translation system was deliberately devised by Spain to discourage citizens from using their right to write in Catalan to the EU institutions.

However, that is not the subject of this complaint, which I am writing to English because the politically atmosphere is heating up rapidly in Spain against Catalonia's political institutions and leaders and I do not want to wait for the Catalan translation to arrive before acting.

Having carefully read the European Commission's explanation, we are not at all satisfied and hope that you will now be able to look into the case in detail.
In his letter, Mr. Forti repeatedly refers to a “clerical error”, in which the email sent from the Commission to the Parliament included an attachment with a previously discarded draft reply “which had already been translated into Spanish and saved in the internal data base”.

There are several reasons for regarding this response as unsatisfactory.

First of all, I would remind you of the very serious consequences of the publication of the erroneous or falsified reply. The subject of the Parliamentary Question was the possible consequences of Catalan independence. The question was asked by an MEP who, as a member of the Popular Party, has a clear stance on one particular side of this issue (reiterated in his role in the highly controversial award of a European Citizens' Prize to a virtually new anti-independence political organisation several years ago, and very recently by an attempt to have the EU lobby status of the leading pro-independence NGO, Assemblea Nacional Catalana, reversed). Catalan independence was the main issue in the debate leading up to the Catalan elections on September 27 2015. The Commission decided to issue the reply on September 22, that is, just five days before the elections, when that debate was at its height.

In the Parliamentary Question (No. E-011776/2015) the MEP actually mentions the election date, so there can be no doubt that the Commission was fully aware of this fact, as well as the Catalan President having declared that the elections “were to be seen as a plebiscite on Catalonia's independence”. It must have been very clear, then, that if, in the final days of the Catalan election campaign, President Juncker issued a reply to a Question on the consequences of Catalan independence, this would have an impact upon the election campaign and possibly upon the election results. The Commission cannot therefore have been surprised when the Popular Party used the President's reply (the manipulated version, to make matters worse) as a key element in the electoral debate. The reply was being printed on the front pages of national newspapers even before it had been officially published on the European Parliament website; and it was cited by the Spanish Foreign Minister in a televised electoral debate.

In second place, Mr. F. has not made much effort to set our minds at rest in respect of the question we asked the  European Commission on the contents of the erroneous or falsified reply. The first three sentences of the Spanish language version are an exact translation of the English original. The only difference is that the Spanish version contained a long additional paragraph. As this additional text is unrelated to the rest of the reply, it could have been added at any time.

Moreover, it
  • (1) significantly changes the nature of the reply and the way on which it might impact upon the Catalan election campaign;
  • (2) it triples the length of the reply which thus becomes unusually long for Commission replies;
  • (3) it is obvious even to non-Spanish speakersthat the two linguistic versions are not the same in style, content and coherence;
  • (4) the added text was clearly written by a Spaniardwho does not usually draft Commission replies (for instance, theCommission always refers to “regional” parliaments, and only a Spaniard would use the term “autonomous” parliaments);
  • (5) the added text discusses the application of the Constitutional law of a particular member State to a particular case, something which genuine Commission replies to Parliamentary Questions are extremely unlikely to do;
  • (6) furthermore, it directly contradicts the second sentence of the same reply, which states that it is not for the European Commission to express an opinion on national constitutional arrangements, by thereupon expressing an opinion on the national constitutional arrangements.

All this raises serious doubts that any previous English-language drafts contained the last paragraph. It is quite different in style and content, and inconsistent with, the text of the English version.
Mr. F. would seem to outline the sequence of events as follows:

    * a. An initial draft in English was made in the usual Commission style.

    * b. An additional paragraph was added to this draft by a Spanish-speaker who wrote in English but who was unfamiliar with the usual style of Commission answers.

    * c. The resulting new version, despite the problems of inconsistency, contradiction and style was then approved at a sufficiently high level in the Commission hierarchy for it to be translated into Spanish before being sent to the President and the College.

    * d. However, before this draft reached them, the additional paragraph was removed.

    * e. The English-language text approved by the Commission was then translated into Spanish a second time and the two Spanish language versions were put together in a database where it was easy to confuse the two versions of the text.

    * f. The reply was then sent to the Parliament by someone who did not check that that date of the translation (in Spanish) was earlier than the date of the original (in English).

    * Did not examine the contents of the attached files and so did not realise that one was almost three times as long as the other, and could not therefore be identical.

    * g. The two replies were then uploaded on the Parliament website by someone who similarly failed to note the very different contents of the replies.

We have our doubts about this alleged sequence of events. Moreover, when combined with the change in meaning of the reply and the significance of the timing of its delivery, we feel it is important for our suspicion (as European citizens) that this was not a mere clerical error to be allayed.

In a recent interview with the Funke Mediengruppe (published on December 26 2016, and cited in much EU media), President Juncker was very critical of organizations which provide “fake news”, especially where this might affect elections. He commented that the reputation of such organizations is at stake.

We fully agree with this assessment, and precisely for that reason we believe there are strong and urgent grounds for a full, independent investigation to be held into the case of the European Commission's reply to Parliamentary Question E-011776/2015. We are sure that the records of the documents' passage through the Commission's Translation service will be invaluable, as would evidence that no official involved in the chain of events had any personal interest in Spanish politics.

Finally, we repeat our complaint that no formal apology has been offered by the President for the impact of the reply being issued just before the Catalan elections, far less for the existence of the additional paragraph.

I have only enclosed the main documents. Please ask me if you need any of the others as evidence, or if you would like  me to send this original by post.

Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit!

Yours sincerely,


* The email address given to was wrong. It should have been Cautonomas@reper.maec.es


set. 7, 2016 at 17:07, BUZON Comunidades Autonomas wrote:

Estimado Sr. Strubell,
En aras a dar una respuesta a su email, le recordamos que la cooficialidad lingüística, tal como se establece en el art 15 de la Ley 39/2015 de Procedimiento Administrativo Común de las Administraciones Públicas, conlleva el derecho de los ciudadanos a usar cualquiera de las lenguas cooficiales ante cualquier Administración radicada en la Comunidad Autónoma con lengua cooficial (la propia de la Administración autonómica, las locales o los servicios periféricos de la estatal), sin que exista este derecho cuando los ciudadanos se relacionen con los órganos de la Administración Central del Estado.
Por lo que le rogamos, utilice el castellano como lengua oficial en las comunicaciones que dirige a esta Consejería (la cual forma parte de la Administración Central del Estado) al no estar contemplados en ninguno de los supuestos  anteriormente citados la utilización de lengua cooficial para tal finalidad.
Sin otro particular reciba nuestro más cordial saludo.
Consejería para Asuntos Autonómicos en la Representación Permanente de España ante la Unión Europea
Regional Affairs Department at the Permanent Representation of Spain to the European Union
Boulevard du Régent, 50 1000 Bruselas, Bélgica.
E-mail: cautonomas@reper.maec.es   -   
Tlf: +32 (0)25098812


En groc, les cites de la versió falsificada.

ABC. 23/9/2015. Editorial (p. 4)


La nueva advertencia de Juncker a Cataluña se basa en la lógica: un Parlamento autonómicono puede condicionar la unidad de un Estado

EN la recta final de la campaña electoral, la lista independentista de Junts pel Sí está en su derecho de dar chulescos «cortes de manga» a las advertencias de los organismos internacionales, entidades y asociaciones que han alertado del peligro de llevar hasta el extremo la amenaza separatista. Pero más allá del nulo nivel político que demuestra Artur Mas con sus pataletas de mitinero sobreactuado, Mariano Rajoy está a su vez en su derecho –y en la obligación– de garantizar que no habrá independencia y de pactar con otros partidos frente a quienes quieren «liquidar España». Tiene razón el presidente del Gobierno cuando dice que para legitimar una ilegalidad «no bastan ni los votos ni los escaños». La voluntad popular no puede basarse en la subversión de la ley. No es cuestión de convicciones o impulsos sentimentales, sino de estricto cumplimiento de la legalidad porque está en juego la unidad de España.

Los llamamientos de Obama, Cameron, Merkel o Juncker a la unidad de España, junto con el temor expresado por los bancos y las organizaciones empresariales, confluyen en una misma idea: con delirios identitarios basados en una manipulación emocional de la causa secesionista no se construye nada y se destruye mucho. Argumentar que una hipotética Cataluña independiente quedaría fuera de la unión política y monetaria europea, que no podría hacer frente a sus pensiones, que su población sufriría el riesgo de un corralito o que no gozaría del amparo del BCE no es una artimaña electoralista de esa «España que roba». No es una invención para activar el «voto del miedo». Es sencillamente la verdad. Es el alarmante pronóstico de una cruda evidencia. Se trata del relato certero de unas consecuencias demoledoras para casi ocho millones de catalanes, sean independentistas o no. Y si la réplica de Artur Mas es amenazar con no pagar la deuda, el despropósito de su análisis produce aún mayor preocupación.

ABC publica hoy una respuesta parlamentaria de la Comisión Europea en la que ratifica, punto por punto, que la UE es refractaria a procesos secesionistas fundados en la rebeldía frente a la ley. «La Unión –dice Juncker– debe respetar la identidad nacional de los Estados miembros (...), también en lo referente a la autonomía local y regional. Respetará las funciones esenciales del Estado, especialmente las que tienen por objeto garantizar su integridad territorial». Y añade que «la determinación del territorio de un Estado miembro está únicamente establecida por el Derecho constitucional nacional, y no por una decisión de un Parlamento autonómico (...)». Más nítido, imposible. La independenciano va a producirse porque el Estado tiene mecanismos suficientes de defensa frente a cualquier embestida, por radical que sea. Pero, si se produjera, las advertencias de un progresivo empobrecimiento de Cataluña son realistas. No es anecdótico que haya empresas planteándose una fuga hacia otras autonomías, o inversiones del exterior paralizadas a la espera de una certidumbre que Mas es incapaz de ofrecer. Europa no avisa en vano.

ABC. 23/9/2015. p. 16

La UE advierte de que no reconocerá una declaración unilateral de independencia

La Comisión respaldará las acciones legales del Gobierno para preservar la integridad territorial de España


Por enésima vez y con una contundencia que no deja lugar a dudas, la Comisión Europea ha vuelto a decir por escrito que la idea de que una región proclame su independencia no le hace ninguna gracia y que en concreto ve con muy poca simpatía –o ninguna– la dinámica desencadenada por los movimientos nacionalistas en Cataluña. En una respuesta a preguntas del diputado popular Santiago Fisas, el presidente del ejecutivo comunitario afirma que una eventual declaración unilateral de independencia por parte de las instituciones catalanas no tendría ningún valor y que, además, la Comisión apoyará las gestiones que haga el Gobierno español dentro de sus funciones constitucionales para mantener la integridad territorial de España. «El territorio de un Estado miembro está determinado únicamente por el derecho constitucional nacional y no por una declaración de un parlamento autonómico contraria a la Constitución de este estado» afirma en la respuesta escrita el presidente de la Comisión, en la declaración más clara que se ha producido hasta ahora en contra de las posiciones secesionistas, incluyendo en contra del supuesto «derecho a decidir».

Para la Comisión es muy difícil entrar en valoraciones concretas sobre hechos cuyo contenido hipotético puede tener diversas consecuencias. Por ello cuando se le preguntaba sobre la cuestión catalana se ha limitado a repetir la opinión de los juristas sobre las consecuencias que tendría que se convirtiese en un estado independiente. Invariablemente la tesis ha sido que si se produjese esa hipotética situación a través de cualquier vía, ese nuevo estado se convertiría en «un país tercero» respecto a la UE, que «el derecho comunitario dejaría de aplicarse en ese territorio». Pero esa respuesta asumía el hecho de que esa secesión pudiera llegar a producirse, lo que para los partidarios de una ruptura de la unidad de España constituye al menos una parte de sus objetivos, aunque ello suponga que esa entidad independiente estaría fuera de la UE.

Sin embargo, en esta nueva declaración, el ejecutivo comunitario ha aceptado asumir la hipótesis de que una institución catalana declarase la independencia en contra de la legislación constitucional de España y ha concluido que en tal caso la UE no reconocería ningún valor a semejante proclamación. Una declaración de independencia no tiene ningún valor si no es reconocida por ningún país u organización internacional. Si la UE ya adelanta que no reconocería ninguna proclamación como la que esgrimen los independentistas, es prácticamente imposible suponer que ningún otro actor de la escena internacional lo hiciese.

Baròmetre de l'ús del català a Internet