Leaders of Spain and Belgium meet Catalonia crisis

The prime ministers of Spain and Belgium have held talks over their testy bilateral relations as ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four secessionist allies prepare for an extradition court appearance in Brussels.

The court hearing is the latest step in their flight from Spain and refusal to return from Brussels to face a rebellion investigation amid a push for Catalan independence.

The Belgian government has steadfastly said it cannot intervene in Spain's extradition request as it is up to the independent judiciary to make a decision. Friday's court decision can still go to appeal.

"It is a judicial case based on the separation of powers. It is up to the judicial authorities," Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said after meeting his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy on the sidelines of the European Union summit in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Mr Michel's spokesman Barend Leyts said the talks were "constructive" and didn't centre on the Catalan issue itself.

Instead the two leaders discussed the deepening of the European Union's monetary union and the upcoming relocation of EU agencies from Britain to the continent, among other issues.

Even if the EU nations have almost invariably backed the position of Madrid in its stand-off with Catalonia, Belgium was among the first to criticise the use of violence by Spanish police during the October 1 referendum.

Spain says the police response was proportionate.

The Flemish nationalist N-VA is the biggest partner in Mr Michel's coalition government and has had pointed exchanges with Mr Rajoy's Popular Party about the Catalan issue and the links of both parties to an authoritarian past.

AP


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