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REFUGEE CRISIS

Acting PM refusing to appear in Congress over EU-Turkey deal

Despite widespread opposition to controversial agreement, Rajoy denies need to explain move

Mariano Rajoy (right) on Friday in Brussels. (AFP)

The European Union and Turkey on Friday signed a controversial agreement under which migrants and refugees who arrive on Greek shores can be immediately sent back to the neighboring country. In exchange, Turkish citizens will, from July onward, not need a visa to travel to Europe.

After nearly two uninterrupted days of negotiations, the 28 EU member states – Spain among them – agreed the deal with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. But the terms have raised alarms among a number of collectives, including the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

In Spain, the deal has raised the ire of opposition parties, and the situation is complicated further by the fact that an acting government is in place

In Spain, the deal has raised the ire of opposition parties, and the situation is complicated further by the fact that an acting government is in place in the wake of inconclusive December elections, and the failure of parties to reach a coalition deal since.

What’s more, acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is refusing to appear in Congress to convey the result of the negotiations, despite the fact that his presence at the negotiations marks the first time that a head of the Spanish executive has attended such a summit without a clear mandate from parliament.

While he is yet to completely rule out such an appearance in Congress, Rajoy on Friday argued that he would have to consult with the members of his caretaker government before doing so.

“The parliament is a caretaker one [sic],” said Rajoy, “and there is no precedent from 1977 [the return of democracy to Spain] that a caretaker parliament [sic] controls a government.” In reality, it is the government that is acting, given that parliament has its full powers.

For Rajoy, there is no need for the government to inform Congress about the deal, given that “the members of parliament know full well what they have approved”

For Rajoy, there is no need for the government to inform Congress about the deal, given that “the members of parliament know full well what they have approved and they know very well what will be approved here.”

Apart from his own Popular Party (PP), all other congressional groups – 227 deputies out of a total of 350 – felt that the European Union’s deal with Turkey to expel refugees was illegal, with Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez last week calling it “immoral.”

Rajoy’s statements came the day after acting Defense Minister Pedro Morenés failed to show up at a Defense Committee meeting in Congress. It marked the first time that a member of government had deliberately ignored a parliamentary request to offer public explanations about his work. Congress will likely take the confrontation to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the executive branch is preventing the Legislature from doing its job properly, as oversight of government action is listed among its duties.

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