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POLITICS

‘It became a political rally’: Catalonia documentary directors return German award

The directors of Netflix documentary "Two Catalonias" said Tuesday they had returned a German award because the involvement of Catalonia's former president Carles Puigdemont in the ceremony had "politicized" the "neutral" spirit of their work.

'It became a political rally': Catalonia documentary directors return German award
Veronika "Nika" Nikulshina from Pussy Riot with Pyotr Verzilov and Carles Puigdemont, Catalan separatist leader, on stage at the Cinema for Peace Gala in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Alvaro Longoria, who made the film about the crisis sparked by Catalonia's failed 2017 independence bid along with Gerardo Olivares, picked up the Cinema for Peace Foundation award from Puigdemont's hands in Berlin on Monday night.

SEE ALSO: The Puigdemont files: What you need to know about the case

As well as handing out the prize for “cinema for peace and justice”, Puigdemont delivered a speech against a trial which began Tuesday in Madrid of 12 Catalan separatist leaders over the secession bid.

He also appeared on stage as a German soprano sang “Don't Cry For Me, Catalonia” — a version of “Don't Cry For Me, Argentina” from the hit musical “Evita”.

“We returned the prize this morning. It became a political rally which we did not want to take part in,” Longoria told AFP by telephone from Berlin.

SEE ALSO: Hundreds rally in Berlin calling for Puigdemont's release

“We felt it did not represent the spirit of the documentary, which is neutral, and that it failed our professional ethics. We do not want to be a tool of information manipulation,” he added.

Longoria said he only decided to attend the ceremony after organizers promised the event would not be “politicized” and that Puigdemont would only hand out the award.

Olivares, the documentary's other director, declined to attend the ceremony after he learnt Puigdemont would be present.

Puigdemont, who fled Spain days after Catalonia's failed independence declaration on October 27th, 2017, is not among the 12 defendants in the dock over the secession bid. Spain does not try suspects in absentia for major offences.

The Cinema for Peace gala was attended by hundreds of guests, including British singer Bob Geldof, acting legend Catherine Deneuve and Free Democrats (FDP) leader Christian Lindner.

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POLITICS

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

While far-right groups have been celebrating, other politicians in Germany see the results as worrying. Here's a look at the reaction.

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

According to initial projections following Italy’s election on Sunday, the coalition led by Georgia Meloni and her radical right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party has won a majority of seats in the two chambers of the Italian parliament and will lead the next government. 

Meloni is a euro-sceptic who has previously spoken about having an “aversion” to Germany and referred to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as “socialist” while on the campaign trail.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters on Monday: “We of course have to wait for the official final result from this election but at this time what the chancellor would say is that Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens and we assume that won’t change.” 

READ ALSO: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A Finance Ministry spokesperson added that Berlin expected the new Italian government to continue to respect the stability pact that sets the fiscal rules for the eurozone.

Despite these reassurances from the central government, German politicians in the EU parliament have expressed concern about the new direction for Italy.  

Rasmus Andresen, spokesman for the German Greens in the EU Parliament, said the “unprecedented Italian slide to the right” will have massive repercussions for Europe and for the European Union.

“Italy, as a founding member and the third strongest economy in the EU, is heading for an anti-democratic and anti-European government.”

Though Meloni no longer wants Italy to leave the eurozone, she has said that Rome must assert its interests more and has policies that look set to challenge Brussels on everything from public spending rules to mass migration.

The Greens’ co-leader in Brussels, Thomas Waitz, told Die Welt that the EU can only function if it sticks together, for example on cooperation in energy markets, decisions on Russian sanctions or dealing with the Covid crisis. “Meloni, on the other hand, would back national go-it-alones. It can be a disaster for Europe,”  he said. 

READ ALSO: Euro falls to 20-year low against US dollar

The FDP’s expert on Europe, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, takes a similar view. He said on ARD’s Morgenmagazin that cooperation with Italy in the European Union will become more difficult. He said that it will now be much more difficult to achieve unity in Europe, especially on the issues of migration, reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the single market.

Speaking on RTL, Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called the election results in Italy “worrying” and pointed out that people within the Italian right-wing nationalist alliance have “very close entanglements with the Kremlin”.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that people in Moscow also popped the corks last night,” he said.

Germany’s own far-right party – Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – has been celebrating the victory. 

AfD member of the Bundestag Beatrix von Storch wrote “We cheer with Italy!” on Twitter late Sunday evening.

Referring to the recent elections in Sweden, where the right was also successful, von Storch wrote: “Sweden in the north, Italy in the south: left-wing governments are so yesterday.”

Her party colleague Malte Kaufmann tweeted, “A good day for Italy – a good day for Europe.”

With reporting from AFP

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