The government of acting President Pedro Sánchez has moved to pre-empt efforts by the pro-independence leadership of Catalonia’s regional government to establish a virtual Catalan “digital Republic” online.
At the weekly Council of Ministers meeting Thursday, the Sánchez government approved a decree that prohibits the use of Internet servers located outside the EU to house data belonging to any and all government agencies and departments in Spain.
The new decree makes it illegal for any government agency to host data such as census records, voter rolls, tax information and other records on Internet servers that are located outside the legal jurisdiction of the EU. The move attempts to prevent the use of so-called offshore “fiscal paradises” to house accounts containing government data on digital servers beyond the reach of Spanish authorities, where Spain cannot subpoena records or seek court injunctions.
The move comes in response to an announcement last month of the Catalan government’s intention to create a virtual online “digital nation in the form of a republic” that would substitute for the physical infrastructure of an actual Catalan Republic until such time as Catalonia is able to obtain its independence from Spain.
The “digital republic” effort was unveiled in August by the Catalan regional government’s Councilor for Digital Policies and Public Administration, Jordi Puigneró, who said the online infrastructure for a parallel, independent Catalan digital government would also enable pro-independence leaders to conduct independence referendums similar to the October 2017 referendum declared unconstitutional by Spain’s Tribuna Constitucional court.
At the time of the October 2017 referendum, the website Republicat.cat was at the core of efforts to create a Catalan digital republic that amalgamated voter registration data, census records and other information that was the property of the Spanish government and was used to conduct the referendum. The Republicat.cat site was registered through an online service affiliated with the Pirate Bay piracy portal, located on the Caribbean island of Nieves to avoid intervention by the Spanish government and judicial authorities.
In a radio interview Thursday morning with broadcaster Onda Cero, Sánchez said that the decree would ensure that “there will be no offline or online independence” organized by Catalan authorities, explaining that the new decree aims to control the “potential misuse” of government data by the regional Generalitat government to create a “digital republic” that could foment and organize efforts toward Catalonia’s secession from Spain.
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