Marcos Lamelas – Barcelona – 02/02/2020
Five months after Carles Puigdemont created CATGlobal, an association with which he gives legal coverage to all the activity of the Consell per la República, Platform per la Llengua, one of the most powerful associations for the defense of Catalan, secretly opened a subsidiary in Belgium. It was registered on July 17, 2018, as recorded in the Belgian commercial register with the name of “Platform per la Llengua-Europe ASBL”, a non-profit association chaired by Òscar Escuder, a surgeon from Sabadell who also holds the position President of the Platform for the Language in Catalonia.
In the 2018 report, Platform for the Language omits the data of the opening of the subsidiary in Belgium. Nor was a public announcement made, something that was carried out by Òmnium Cultural when it opened in Belgium Òmnium CRE, following the associative steps of Puigdemont in the Netherlands. In the same way, it was avoided that it was included in the official organization chart of the entity, which ensures that it has six delegations: Baix Llobregat, Vallès Occidental, Maresme, Valencia, Baleares and even L’Alguer, a small enclave on the island of Sardinia where Catalan language is spoken. But Brussels does not appear anywhere. Platform per la Llengua alleges that “since it is another entity, it cannot be considered an activity of the Plataforma per la Llengua, no matter how much the same people participate, and it is for this reason that it does not fall within the memory or in the organization chart” .
However, since February of this year all new Plataforma per la Llengua partners are in turn partners of Platform per la Llengua-Europa ASBL, as stated in the small print of the registration form, so to be entities separate seem to have something more than close links: same managers, same partners, same objectives, same registration form.
Plataforma per la Llengua defines itself as “a Catalan NGO”. It has more than 18,000 members, according to the data of the entity itself and its budget in 2018 amounted to 2.18 million euros, as stated in its annual report. Its scope of action is very wide, from forcing companies to label their products in Catalan until the European Parliament allows Catalan to be used in the Eurochamber. Plataforma per la Llengua recognizes public and private subsidies in 2018 of 753,000 euros of which 620,000 euros were direct grants granted by the Generalitat of Catalonia, as reflected in the three-year agreement signed between the Catalan administration and the Catalan defense entity. During 2019, the same amount has been received from the Generalitat.
During five months of 2018, Brussels was truffled by Catalan associations linked to independence. In March, the environment of Puigdemont enrolls CATGlobal ASBL, which has assumed the legal and current expenses of the political activity that is carried out from the Waterloo mansion. In May, CATCiP AISBL is created, which as CATGloblal is based in Waterloo but in this case manages the income of the 85,000 members of the Consell per la República. In June, Òmnium CRE ASBL is constituted, a subsidiary of Òmnium that was publicly announced, not as that of Plataforma per la Llengua, constituted a month later in the most opaque way.
Spokespersons of the entity deny that funds have been sent to Brussels, since “the budget of the ASBL Platform for Language-Europe has been used solely to pay for materials such as design and web and no donation has been made to other entities.” It seems odd that no money is remitted to the Belgian capital because only to establish the entity the legal steps are entrusted to the subsidiary of the British law firm DLA Piper UK LLP in Brussels.
Ramon Tremosa, very close to Puigdemont, was the head of Margarida Payola, who assumed the position of Director of Plataforma per la Llengua-Europe ASBL.
Margarida Payola, who had served as assistant to the JxCAT MEP, Ramon Tremosa, is also appointed general director of the Belgian entity. Payola accompanied Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín when they first entered as MEPs in the European Parliament. In addition, Plataforma per la Llengua is registered as a ‘lobby’ with the European Commission, something that Puigdemont already tried with CATGlobal but failed. The Platform named Margarida Payola its interlocutor to the EU, as stated in the registration document where it does not differ from the entity in Spain or Belgium.
Platform per la Llengua has avoided answering questions from this newspaper about whether it informed the Generalitat of this movement in Belgium, since these types of entities are supervised by the Ministry of Justice. Nor do they explain how many partners the new entity has or what budget it has. Before the European Commission, Plataforma per la Llengua refers to Belgium as a country where it “has affiliates or is represented”, without clarifying whether it is one thing or another, or both.
Puigdemont first entered the European Parliament in March 2019. It was to visit an exhibition organized by MEP Ramon Tremosa, then head of Payola, with Plataforma per la Llengua. There Puigdemont and Toni Comín coincided with Oscar Escuder. All independentists, all installed in Belgium in one way or another.