The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, has assured that European intelligence did not produce the report that The New York Times cited to support a reportage on the Kremlin’s relations with the Catalan independence cause.
Borrell has been blunt: the European Union’s Intelligence and Situation Center (INTCEN) is not the author of the intelligence report mentioned by the US media nor does he know who its author was.
At the beginning of September, The New York Times assured that the chief of staff of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, Josep Lluís Alay, traveled to Russia in 2019 to seek that country’s support for the Catalan separatist process, where he would have had contact with Russian officials.
The main source for that report was a alleged ten page European intelligence report which had been corroborated by two Spanish authorities. Puigdemont and his chief of staff then corroborated the trip and argued that it was part of the regular contacts they had with foreign authorities and journalists.
After the publication, on September 10, two and a half months ago, Puigdemont, together with Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, two former councilors of the Government of the former Catalan president who are currently also MEPs, registered a question for the European Commission asking for explanations.
The letter states that the article “tries discredit the Catalan independence movement linking it to a supposed russian plot to destabilize the Union “, and wields the following questions:
- Is INTCEN, or any other agency dependent on the Union institutions, the author of the European intelligence report cited by the NYT?
- If so, who commissioned INTCEN to write the report? Was the VP / AR [vicepresidente / alto representante] aware of it before the NYT article was published?
- If it was a confidential intelligence report, how did journalists get to it?
The response of the European Commission, from the mouth of Josep Borrell, was known this Thursday. In it, in addition to denying authorship, it reports that the EU Intelligence and Situation Center (EU INTCEN) provides strategic intelligence to support the decision-making of various EU bodies, and that its evaluations are mainly based on evaluations of strategic intelligence of the intelligence and security services of the Member States of the EU.
The information published by The New York Times, based on a report that does not specify its origin or the identity of the Spanish officials who corroborated it, led to the European Parliament requesting to investigate the contacts of Puigdemont’s environment with Russia by virtue of of an amendment by the European socialist group.
The text approved in the European Parliament said that the alleged contacts “could be one more example of Russian interference in the Member States and the constant attempts by Russia to exploit any possible issue to promote the internal destabilization of the EU. “
For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry, through its spokesperson, María Zajárova, asked the American newspaper for a correction and ironed the content of the report: “It is impossible to deny the nonsense”.
2nd: or that the European intelligence agency is not interested in being involved in a dossier full of falsehoods, distortions and ridiculous conclusions that have already been publicly exposed. He doesn’t even seem to know anything about it or has anything to do with it.
– Carles Puigdemont (@KRLS) December 2, 2021
This Thursday Carles Puigdemont has echoed Borrell’s response on his official Twitter account. The former Catalan president has highlighted that the INTCEN did not know the existence of the report and its authorship, for which he only finds two explanations: “Either it is a very unintelligent agency because he ignores who may be creating a confusion that ends up implicitly involving him in an international press report, “as a first option; or” the European intelligence agency she is not interested in being involved in a dossier loaded with falsehoods, distortions and ridiculous conclusions that have already been exposed publicly. Not even that it seems that it knows nothing or has nothing to do with it, “as a second.
A report from the Civil Guard as a possible starting point
Singularly striking is that the information published by the aforementioned media contains the same premises as a report from the Spanish Civil Guard sent to the judge within the framework of the Operation Volkhov, developed in Catalonia in October 2020 and in which 21 people related to the independence movement were arrested for crimes of prevarication and embezzlement of public funds.
Precisely, part of that report claimed that the Kremlin was willing to send 10,000 Russian soldiers to Catalonia, which caused Russia to react by warning that the accusations of interference already verged on “absurdity”. This report tried to reconstruct the rapprochement of Puigdemont’s right-hand man, Alay, to Russia.
However, the information from the North American media did not collect that four months before publication, in May 2021, the Spanish Justice had shelved the secret investigation on the alleged Russian plot of the Catalan independence process. Then, the Prosecutor’s Office dismantled the arguments of the investigators claiming that they had only provided the single informant testimony and links to press articles, according to the reports of the Public Ministry to which he had access eldiario.es.
After recounting the entire alleged Catalan-Russian plot, supported by the report of which no one now knows the authorship, The New York Times admitted at the end of the report that it was not clear whether there had been the alleged help of the Kremlin to the Catalan independence movement.