Spanish MEP Hermann Tertsch from the ECR group granted us this exclusive interview in Brussels on 29 November 2023. The focus of our conversation was the dramatic situation in Spain, looking at why the right-wing parties including Vox do not recognize the legitimacy of the new government, their perspectives on perceived double standards in the application of rule of law assessments by the European Commission, and insights into the upcoming elections in the European Union.
When forming a government, especially in cases where no single party acquires an outright majority, political parties engage in negotiations and compromises to secure a coalition majority needed to govern. At first glance, observers might question why numerous protests have erupted across Spain. What makes this particular compromise scandalous?
It’s not about reaching a compromise. In the last mandate, they held a majority, even aligning with terrorists, communists, and self-declared enemies of Spain, but it was within the legal framework. However, the current situation is different because they sought to expand beyond their previous coalition, since they don’t have enough with the same people as last mandate. In doing so, they formed an alliance with those who sought refuge in Brussels. This entails collaborating with those who orchestrated a coup d’état against Spain, and actively worked against the unity of the country—they made a declaration of independence, so with those who are criminals.
How could they accomplish it?
The government, led by Sánchez, negotiated with them in Brussels—conducting negotiations outside Spain with criminals to secure these seven votes. This violates every rule. However, what’s even more concerning is that, as part of the agreement, these seven individuals linked to Puigdemont, who is the criminal leader, who is here, requested a commute of his sentence. What they asked for, and what the government is promising to grant in the agreement, is amnesty. The provision of amnesty is entirely illegal.
It goes against the Constitution and undermines the legitimacy of democracy in Spain, granting legitimacy to criminals.
So what we have at this moment is a criminal alliance which gives the majority to Sánchez.
This is why Vox and Abascal have emphatically stated that we have an illegitimate and illegal government, and they refuse to recognize it, viewing it as a coup d’état.
As far as I know, historically and in international tradition, amnesties are usually declared to highlight the importance of significant events in a country’s history, rather than to gain a majority in Parliament…
That’s the point. You can’t buy amnesty. To buy an amnesty for giving someone a majority in Parliament is grotesque. Moreover, it is explicitly forbidden in the Constitution, specifically this form of amnesty. What makes it even worse is that this amnesty is exclusive to Catalonia, and within this region, it applies only to individuals of a certain ideology—the separatists. This entails pardoning crimes such as embezzlement and theft, in some cases legitimizing pure robbery, as those who committed these crimes did so with the intent to secede from Spain.
The conditions for receiving this amnesty require one to be against Spain and its unity.
The abnormality and grotesque nature of this situation are such that it is hard for anyone to believe.
If Spain’s unity is declared in your Constitution, as it is, how is it possible that parties openly against it are allowed?
It’s challenging to understand that in Spain, unlike in any other European country, parties advocating for the destruction of the country itself are permitted. Legal parties in the Basque Country, Catalonia, and even in Galicia openly state that their final goal is to break away from Spain. This is a unique case where parties directly oppose the Constitution. In other countries like Germany, if you’re Verfassungsfeindlich [against the Constitution], you are automatically considered illegal—you can’t participate in elections or enter Parliament. In Spain, however, that’s not the case. These are the mistakes made at the inception of this issue. When the Spanish constitution was crafted in 1978 after the dictatorship, nobody wanted to be accused of being repressive. Consequently, they allowed things that should not have been allowed. Now, this bomb is exploding.
Let me gain a deeper understanding of the situation in Catalonia. As you may be aware, Hungarians are highly concerned about the rights of national minorities, not only within our borders, but also outside of them, due to the historical context after World War I. Two-thirds of Hungary’s territories were annexed by neighboring countries, resulting in millions of Hungarians often being denied fundamental rights. We still grapple with these issues today. How does the situation in Catalonia differ?
In our case, there is no minority, and we do not repress the Catalonians. The Catalonians are currently only repressed by their own government. The Catalonian people who face repression are those who speak Spanish, which is the majority. Most Catalonians have Spanish as their mother tongue, not Catalan. The nationalist government, the Catalonia Autonomous Government, enforces the use of Catalan everywhere.
In public schools in Catalonia, it is not allowed to study in the national language, which is Spanish. This is an extraordinarily abnormal situation. Our aim is to restore the rights of everyone to speak their mother tongue throughout Spain. Those who wish to speak Catalan should be free to do so, and equally, there must be the right in the whole of Spain to speak Spanish, because it is in the Constitution as well. It is both a right and a duty to speak Spanish.
We discussed Sánchez’s bargain, and now we are witnessing protests throughout Spain…
Massive protests are happening everywhere, despite the fact that the media is predominantly in the hands of leftists aligned with the government. Partido Popular, affiliated with the EPP group, has conceded much to the left over the last 30 years, resulting in media hegemony favouring the government. Despite these challenges, millions are taking to the streets, and this trend is expected to continue. Consequently, we will not recognize this government as legitimate.
Could you briefly elaborate on that? So what does it mean that the media is dominated by leftists in Spain?
The media always say the narrative of socialists, communists, and the separatists. They’re all together and they have the same narrative, saying ‘Everything is legal’, ‘Everything is OK’, and ‘Everything is fine’. The only thing is that you’re some right-wing extremist fascist, that is why you protest. And half of Spain is fascist, even more than half of Spaniards are fascists now. Because you see, over 70 per cent of the Spanish are against this amnesty.
It all sounds like a rule-of-law problem, doesn’t it?
It is more than a rule-of-law problem; it’s a coup d’état
—it is a putsch against the state. A putsch against the state, they have broken the Constitution and they want to rule illegally outside the Constitution without its laws. So that means they are breaking up this state. What we’re doing is far more than the aspect of rule of law, it is even more: it is a total un-rule of law that has come up. Now, in reality, an autocrat is ruling. They have been changing everything as they please without caring any more about legality.
And what is the reaction of the European Parliament to all this?
Nothing. But for the first time, now we are starting to have a voice. And now, after seeing Sánchez in Israel, how he behaved and how we had Hamas applauding Sánchez because of his intervention against Israel, people are starting to see that something is wrong with this man. However, until now, he has been protected by Ursula von der Leyen and the Commission, even when doing illegal activities against the Constitution.
Those things he has done even in the last mandate are far, far worse than anything of which the Hungarian and Polish governments have ever been accused. What has happened in Spain is incomparable.
You also had a debate in Strasbourg last week. What was the result of it? Has it had any effect on the European policy or the institutions?
No, they said that the Commission is starting to analyse the situation, but they are never so quick and fast as we saw with Hungary, despite the severity being far worse. What is happening in Spain constitutes a complete breach of the law and the Constitution, resulting in an illegitimate government as we have now.
So, are you suggesting that the European Institutions might have a double standard when analysing rule-of-law problems?
Absolutely—but that’s something we are aware of. That’s obvious. The Commission would give all the money that Sánchez asks for. And nobody knows what happened to those billions and billions of euros that he received in recent years, and nobody cared in the Commission. Even though some people asked about it in the EP, nobody knows where the money is. And so, there’s been such a double standard: such an obscene kind of protection towards Sánchez, because he is a leftist; and prosecution and this kind of bashing against conservative governments.
What are your hopes for the future?
I don’t hope for anything from this current Parliament or Commission. My expectations are more directed towards the next European Parliament and Commission. After June 9th, my hope is that the Spaniards resist. I don’t trust the European People’s Party (EPP). I think that the EPP will soon align itself with socialists and communists abandoning the narrative we currently share about the situation being a coup d’état. So, they probably will shift away from their current stance, and suddenly they’ll start saying that what is important now is normality, so let’s keep things the way they are, and look for some kind of exchange of favours with the socialists.
This is what they’ve always done. The EPP has this problem: they put on this fake conservatism—they present themselves as conservatives during the European elections, they harvest conservative votes and then, after the elections, they go with the socialists to make leftist policies. This has always been the case. And this is why VOX exists—to counter this undermining of real conservative policies and governance.
The PP campaigned against you in the last elections, as we know. However, considering the extreme situation that unfolded with Sánchez’s offer this time, wouldn’t it have been more beneficial for the two parties to collaborate and work together?
We wanted to cooperate, but the Partído Popular thought that they could rule alone. So they bought polls where they had an absolute majority and believed their own polls, which were wrong. Instead of targeting the socialists, communists, and separatists, they began by attacking VOX, thinking it would secure votes from our party. However, their strategy backfired. The relentless attacks on VOX resulted in a loss of votes for our party, but the Partido Popular failed to gain those votes. The left did not attack each other. Even though they have differences—even the communists, separatists and the socialists—among them, there was no problem in the campaign. Their focus was always on the right, the Partido Popular and VOX. On the right side, however, it was not like that: the PP was all the way attacking us—they shut us down, but they killed themselves in the process as well.
What message would you convey to Hungarian or European conservatives? What lessons have been learned from this for the European elections?
The biggest lesson is that don’t trust the ‘center-right’, the EPP
—because they’re always cooperating with the left against the right. So, we need a real conservative force in the European Parliament. A big force, with whom we can build a real conservative policy and shut down Agenda 2030.
No cooperation with them even after the elections?
No, after that, we can cooperate. But first, we need this really powerful conservative force.