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ERC and Junts: Catalan separatist parties announce preliminary governing deal | Catalonia | Spain

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Three months after Catalans went to the polls in a regional election that delivered a majority to pro-independence forces, two separatist parties on Monday announced a preliminary agreement to create a coalition government. The opposition has called the plan “a repeat edition of a failure.”

The deal was struck by the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), a heterogenous party that leans harder than ERC toward unilateral secession from Spain and whose best-known figure is former premier Carles Puigdemont. The journalist-turned-politician is currently living in Brussels to avoid arrest after his involvement in a unilateral breakaway attempt in the region in 2017, when an illegal referendum on the future of Catalonia was held and a unilateral declaration of independence subsequently passed in parliament. Other former members of Puigdemont’s Cabinet who stayed in Spain were tried and found guilty of sedition and misuse of public funds, and are serving prison sentences in Catalan jails. This includes ERC president and one-time deputy premier, Oriol Junqueras.

Under the terms of this preliminary agreement, Pere Aragonès of ERC would become the next Catalan premier. Aragonès has already been the acting regional leader since September 2020, when Quim Torra was barred from office by Spain’s Supreme Court over his failure to observe political neutrality rules during an earlier election campaign.

The goal is none other than to serve the country, to govern for everyone and to keep advancing towards the independence of Catalonia

Text of preliminary governing deal in Catalonia

Aragonès and Jordi Sànchez, the secretary general of Junts, gave a news conference in Barcelona later on Monday to provide further details about the plan. No date has been offered yet for the parliamentary session to endorse the new leader, although it is widely expected to be held this week. As for how the Cabinet posts will be shared out, each party will head seven departments.

“The goal is none other than to serve the country, to govern for everyone and to keep advancing toward the independence of Catalonia,” reads the document.

On Monday, the president of the Catalan Socialists (PSC), Salvador Illa – who won the most votes at the February election but not enough for a majority – described the deal as “an agonizing extension of the failure” of the previous ERC-Junts government that led the region. The term was ended early due to constant clashes between the coalition members. In statements to the radio station Cope, Illa said that this new project is “a government for half of Catalonia.”

Separatist leaders on Monday were apologetic for the long delay in finding consensus. For months, ERC and Junts seemed unable to agree on the way independence should be pursued, and each side accused the other of trying to force a repeat election. This would have put at risk the 52% majority that the combined separatist forces obtained on February 14 at an election where turnout was around 25 points lower than in 2017.

Salvador Illa, the head of the Catalan Socialists, in the regional Parliament on May 13.
Salvador Illa, the head of the Catalan Socialists, in the regional Parliament on May 13. David Zorrakino / Europa Press

“We pledge to build a government that will seek to rebuild trust among the citizens of Catalonia,” reads the document, acknowledging social weariness after months of public bickering between these two forces. At one point in early May, ERC said it would try to form a government all by itself; a third separatist party, the small, left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), eventually got ERC and Junts back at the negotiating table to hammer out a text setting out points that everyone could agree on.

May 26 is the deadline for holding the parliamentary session to endorse the new leader, after which a new election would automatically be called. If all the separatist lawmakers – 74 out of 135 – were to vote as one, Aragonès could be successful in the first round. But Junts said it will survey its own party members first to see if they agree.

Junts has accused ERC of abandoning the fight for independence in favor of more pragmatic political routes, while ERC has accused Junts of going after its goals without sufficient support from voters. Relations between both parties, which are already sharing Cabinet posts in Catalonia, have been further strained by occasionally differing views on how best to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

The most successful candidate at this year’s election was Salvador Illa of the PSC, which is the Catalan branch of the Socialist Party (PSOE), but he was unable to attract enough support from other non-separatist parties to craft a working government. Meanwhile, far-right Vox made it into the Catalan parliament for the first time by taking voters away from the center-right Popular Party (PP) and the liberal-right Ciudadanos (Citizens). This latter party won the 2017 election but also fell short of a majority and was unable to form a government.

English version by Susana Urra.

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Protests flare across Poland after death of young mother denied an abortion | Abortion

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Protests are under way across Poland after the death of a 37-year-old woman this week who was refused an abortion, a year since the country introduced one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

On the streets of Warsaw on Tuesday night, protesters laid wreaths and lanterns in memory of Agnieszka T, who died earlier that day. She was pregnant with twins when one of the foetus’ heartbeat stopped and doctors refused to carry out an abortion. In a statement, her family accused the government of having “blood on its hands”. Further protests are planned in Częstochowa, the city in southern Poland where the mother-of-three was from.

“We continue to protest so that no one else will die,” Marta Lempart, organiser of the protests, told Polish media. “The Polish abortion ban kills. Another person has died because the necessary medical procedure was not carried out on time.” All-Poland Women’s Strike has called on people across the country to picket the offices of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) and organise road blockades in the coming days.

Agnieszka was first admitted to the Blessed Virgin Mary hospital in Częstochowa with abdominal pain on 21 December. She is said to have been in the first trimester of a twin pregnancy when she arrived and was in “a good physical and mental shape”, according to her family, who said her condition then deteriorated.

On 21 December the heartbeat of one of the twins stopped and, according to Agnieszka’s family, the doctors refused to remove it, quoting the current abortion legislation. They waited several days until the second foetus also died. A further two days passed before the pregnancy was terminated on 31 December, according to the family.

A priest was then summoned by hospital staff to perform a funeral for the twins, the family said.

The family say that the doctors refused to terminate the pregnancy earlier, citing Poland’s abortion legislation. “Her husband begged the doctors to save his wife, even at the cost of the pregnancy,” Agnieszka’s twin sister, Wioletta Paciepnik, said on Tuesday.

After the termination, Agnieszka was moved from the gynaecological ward and her health continued to deteriorate. Her family suspect that she died of sepsis but the cause of death was not identified in a statement released by the hospital.

Shortly after her death, a statement by her family accusing the hospital of neglect was published on Facebook, alongside a distressing video of Agnieszka’s last days.

Agnieszka’s death marks the first anniversary of the 2021 ruling that declared abortion due to foetal abnormalities illegal. Abortion can now only be carried out in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life and health are in danger.

Her death comes after that of a woman known as Izabela last September, who died after being denied medical intervention when her waters broke in the 22nd week of her pregnancy. Her family claim the 30-year-old was refused an abortion or caesarean section and that the hospital cited the country’s abortion laws. An investigation found that “medical malpractice” led to Izabela’s death and the hospital was fined. Soon after, an anonymous man from Świdnica in south-west Poland came forward to share that his wife, Ania, died in similar circumstances in June last year.

While “selective abortion” is possible in the case of a twin pregnancy, it is unclear whether aborting an unviable foetus to save its healthy twin is permitted by the new abortion legislation. The Polish court has not referenced the questions raised by this situation, presented by opposition senators last year, in the new legislation.

“We want to honour the memory of my beloved sister and save other women in Poland from a similar fate,” Paciepnik said in a video appeal. The case is now being investigated by the regional prosecutors in Katowice, who also investigated the case of Izabela.

The family are represented by Kamila Ferenc, from the Federation for Women and Family Planning, who confirmed that an autopsy of Agnieszka’s body has been ordered by the court.

According to a statement from the hospital, Agnieszka tested positive for Covid before her death, although she tested negative twice when first admitted. “We stress that the hospital staff did all the necessary actions to save the patient,” the statement read. The hospital did not respond to the Guardian for a request for comment.

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Italy welcoming back EU tourists from February

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Italy will remove all Covid-linked restrictions on international visitors from the EU from 1 February, except the requirement to carry a “Green Pass” – a certificate of vaccination, negative test result, or immunity through having had the virus. Roberto Speranza, the health minister, also gave Italians the go-ahead to travel once again to Cuba, Singapore, Turkey, Thailand (the island of Phuket), Oman, and French Polynesia, Reuters reports.

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Polish state has ‘blood on its hands’ after death of woman refused an abortion | Abortion

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The family of a Polish woman who died on Tuesday after doctors refused to perform an abortion when the foetus’s heart stopped beating have accused the government of having “blood on their hands”.

The woman, identified only as Agnieszka T, was said to have been in the first trimester of a twin pregnancy when she was admitted to the Blessed Virgin Mary hospital in Częstochowa on 21 December. Her death comes a year after Poland introduced one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

According to a statement released by relatives, the 37-year-old was experiencing pain when she arrived at the hospital but was “fully conscious and in good physical shape”.

The first foetus died in the womb on 23 December, but doctors refused to remove it, quoting the current abortion legislation, and Agnieszka’s family claim “her state quickly deteriorated”. The hospital waited until the heartbeat of the second twin also stopped a week later, and then waited a further two days before terminating the pregnancy on 31 December.

Agnieszka died on 25 January after weeks of deteriorating health. Her family suspect that she died as a result of septic shock, but the hospital did not identify the cause of her death in statement issued on Wednesday.

“This is proof of the fact that the current government has blood on their hands,” the woman’s family said in a statement on Facebook. The family also uploaded distressing footage of Agnieszka in poor health shortly before she died.

After the termination of the pregnancy a priest was summoned by the hospital staff to perform a funeral for the twins, Agnieszka’s family said.

Her death follows that of a woman known as Izabela last September, who died after being denied medical intervention when her waters broke in the 22nd week of her pregnancy. Her family claim the 30-year-old was denied an abortion or caesarean section and that the hospital cited the country’s abortion laws. An investigation found “medical malpractice” led to Izabela’s death and the hospital was fined.

Agnieszka’s family claim that contact with the hospital was very poor and that the hospital refused to share the results of Agnieszka’s medical tests citing confidentiality guidelines. They say the doctors “insinuated” that Agnieszka’s rapidly deteriorating state could be caused by BSE, commonly known as “mad cow disease”, or Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) and suggested she ate raw meat. The hospital did not reference this claim in their statement.

According to the statement from the hospital, Agnieszka tested positive for Covid before her death, although she tested negative twice when first admitted. “We stress that the hospital staff did all the necessary actions to save the patient,” the statement read. It is not clear whether an autopsy has been ordered.

Agnieszka is survived by her husband and three children.

The Guardian has contacted the Blessed Virgin Mary hospital for comment.

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