Saturday

18th Aug 2018

Interview

Statehood is Catalonia's 'only option'

  • Romeva: Potential problems arising from Catalonia becoming independent would continue to be "a European issue". (Photo: Junts pel Si)

The new Catalan government installed last month under Carles Puigdemont has promised to adopt a constitution and organise a referendum on independence in about 18 months.

One part of this strategy is to boost the region’s profile and influence in Europe. To this end, a foreign affairs department has been created in Barcelona to replace the previous secretariat.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The new portfolio was entrusted to Raul Romeva, a former Green MEP who led the separatist coalition in the last election in September 2015.

“We aspire to become a state and an ally of the states in Europe and in the world,” Romeva told EUobserver in an interview.

“We want to explain in Europe that we want to bring solutions. We have the will and the intention to continue contributing to the European project, being an asset and not a problem.”

Divided left-wingers

The new foreign department, Romeva explained, would maintain and nurture the economic, social, political and cultural ties that Catalonia already has with the rest of Europe.

“We will also explain that we are preparing a series of structures and laws that at a certain time will be put to a vote to the citizens,” he said.

The Catalan government, run by Romeva and Puigdemont’s Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) coalition with the support of the left-wing separatist CUP, plans to implement judicial and tax laws as well as a social policy reform.

The objective is that the laws will be adopted by parliament within 18 months, and then Catalans will vote on a new constitution.

For now, however, the government in Madrid and most Spanish political parties say the Catalan push for independence contravenes the constitution, which describes Spain as the "indivisible homeland".

The Catalan question is also one of the reasons why the Spanish left is having a hard time agreeing to form a government. The populist Podemos party has promised to back a legal referendum on independence but the socialist PSOE is opposed to such a promise.

“It is in no way useful for Europe that we for years have stagnant problems like this one,” Romeva told EUobserver. “We have an electoral mandate that we presented in an election with a road-map towards independence and as we have the majority in the parliament, we are implementing this program.”

'Different sensibilities'

Romeva’s role is, among other things, to give the regional authorities’ views on the situation abroad and give Barcelona more weight in the showdown with Madrid.

Catalonia has a permanent representation in Brussels and government delegations in Austria, France, Germany and Portugal, as well as in the US.

“We want to have a normal relationship with Europe – Europe is our natural environment,” said Romeva. “However, we have a series of difficulties with the Spanish state, which prevents us from having this normal relationship with Europe.”

But Romeva accepts that there are "very different sensibilities" outside of the region about the possibility of Catalan statehood.

“There are people and states that understand it from a democratic point of view and there are other states where the government keeps a more rigid line,” he explained.

“We are an ally, but the states obviously have a certain caution because of their state relations with Spain.”

He admitted that this caution was logical.

“It is difficult for a state to have non-state relations against the wishes of another state, especially if that state is a partner in other spheres,” he said.

Scottish role model

After many years of claims and stalled negotiations with Madrid, the “only option now is to become a normal state and have a normal relation with the world”, the foreign minister said.

“We’re not a normal state, and we’re not what Spain wants us to be. We have a bit of a strange situation and we want to resolve that,” he said.

If a new Spanish government, when it is formed in Madrid, puts an agreed and legal referendum on the table now, it would be welcomed in Barcelona, said Romeva.

“A perfect situation would be like the referendum in Scotland,” he said.

“But it won’t happen. We have asked for a referendum 17 times. What is the limit for how many times you can ask for a referendum? Seventeen times more or should we look for an alternative solution?

“We have for decades now tried to find solutions within the framework of the Spanish constitution to take account of the different realities that there are in Spain. It hasn’t been possible and it has now reached an exhausted dimension where enough is enough.

“In order for Catalonia to be useful for Spain and for Europe we have to resolve this issue.”

Romeva added that his government wanted “to resolve this in a constant dialogue with all parts, although to have a dialogue, you need someone who will talk to you”.

EU citizenship question

The foreign minister also complained about the “difficulties” put by the Spanish government when Catalan officials try to do business abroad.

“When you move to find foreign investors, you constantly have a Spanish representative looking over your shoulder to see whether it is in favour not of economic interests but of the unity of Spain,” he said.

“This criterion is absolutely irrational because they prefer losing economic opportunities that are also beneficial for the rest of Spain.”

Romeva mentioned the Mediterranean corridor - an EU railway project to link the South of Spain to the Hungarian Ukraine border - where he said that Spain had continuously played down the importance of Catalonia’s role.

Although he assured that Catalan authorities “do not want a situation of chaos”, Romeva admitted the separatist drive could create a problematic situation for Europe.

“Catalonia is part of the European Union and the 7.5 million Catalans have the nationality of a member state of the European Union and therefore also EU citizenship,” he said. “One cannot take that away.”

Potential problems arising from Catalonia becoming independent would continue to be “a European issue,” he said.

Catalonia separatists on EU charm offensive

Catalan authorities are trying to garner support from EU states and institutions, after nationalists swept to election victory on promise to hold independence referendum.

Catalonia still asking for independence

Hundreds of thousands marched on Sunday for Catalonia's national day. The local government, while struggling to pass its budget, is trying to raise its profile abroad.

Catalan parliament backs independence vote

Lawmakers in Catalonia voted to set up a referendum for independence, next September, in defiance of Madrid and a recent constitutional court ruling.

News in Brief

  1. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Opinion

While Poles defend courts, Kaczynski hijacks EU elections

While Twitter and EU bubble publications are flooded with photos of protesting crowds and "chains of light" in front of the presidential palace, the Law and Justice-controlled senate has adopted a law restructuring the electoral code for 2019's European elections.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  2. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  3. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  4. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  5. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  6. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  7. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  8. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  2. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  4. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  7. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  8. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  9. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  11. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  12. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us