The Spanish Government’s Secret Plan to Transfer Border Control to Catalonia and Basque Country

Politics - April 15, 2024

On Monday, April 8th, different media outlets shared how the Spanish Minister of Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, had asserted that transferring borders control to Catalonia and the Baque Country was not an option. This declaration by the Minister was shared based on an ongoing statement which proclaimed that there had been an order of giving the police forces of both autonomous communities, the Basque Country and Catalonia, the Ertzaintza and the Mossos d’Esquadra, the border control competences at airports and ports found in both locations.

The Spanish Minister made a statement referencing the latest article published by the Spanish newspaper “El Confidencial” in which it had been shared, previously on that same morning, that there is a plan enacted by the Ministry of Interior, which has been hidden from the police forces for weeks, that stablished the possibility of giving up airports and ports’ control in both, Catalonia and the Basque Country.

As the Spanish media outlet confirmed, this plan is an instruction from the Minister itself, a document prepared by the team of Marlaska’s trusted man in the Secretariat of State for Security, the Commissioner José Antonio Rodríguez, who heads the Coordination and Studies Cabinet. This document entails an alteration of the historical distribution of competences in these key infrastructures for the State’s borders.

One of the main issues that arises regarding this plan, is that both, the ports and airports, are Schengen Area’s external borders, meaning that these have and grant full access to European territory, since the Schengen Area includes most the territory within Europe, compromising over 27 countries. In this sense, an alteration on the police forces competences regarding border control within Spanish territory would not only have an impact on the Spanish State but also, it would affect the rest of the countries that are Schengen members. If this plan was set in motion, the autonomous governments would have an outrageous level of power and security control.

This notion, also leads to an even bigger matter, since the passport control for citizens coming from third countries, not members of the Schengen Area, is executive competence of the Spanish National police forces, and with this plan, the Spanish ministry of Interior would be transferring this competence, to the police forces of the autonomous communities, the Ertzaintza and the Mossos d’Esquadra, including multiple faculties such as crime prevention, surveillance, crime investigation, intervention in public order incidents, action in the event of traffic accidents, and others.

This new plan breaks with the traditional organization, in which National Police forces attended public spaces at airports and ports, while the Civil Guards addressed situations on a restricted area, that went from the stand where baggage and passengers are checked to the runway. Regarding these differences, the plan would imply a reorganization of the Spanish police structure, since it grants the Police officers a broader sense of responsibility, while the Civil Guard would be relegated, limiting its competence to safeguarding the facilities, like guarding the perimeter and access control.

Now, going back to the question of where this new plan comes form, the change in the distribution of police jurisdiction, after decades of existence, could be a response to the demands of the nationalists and pro-independence, parliamentary groups partners of Pedro Sanchez’s government, who will benefit from this change border control. Other sources have affirmed that this plan was drafted secretly and, is a product of pressures from parliamentary groups, partners to the actual Spanish Government.  As a result of this plan being leaked, Juan Fernandez, General Secretary of the Unified Association of the Civil Guards (AUGC) in Spain, has shared that “We have written a statement to the Ministry of Interior and another one, recently to the Secretary of State for Security, Rafael Perez, requesting them to confirm or deny this news.” But he continued saying that “We have received no response”.

Marlaska claimed that this transfer of borders control to Catalonia and the Basque Country is not possible assuring that “everything revolving the borders control is a Spanish Central Government executive competence, belonging to the Civil Guard and the National Police force”. Lastly, he guaranteed that “there is no pressure” towards the Government to transfer these faculties and that if any of these measures “hypothetically” were adopted in security matters, these would be done in an “constitutional frame”.