Sunday

18th Nov 2018

Interview

Catalan crisis will 'go on for months'

  • Pro-Catalan protest in Brussels (Photo: EUobserver)

The Catalan crisis will continue for months, the president of the EU's Committee of the Regions predicted on Monday (29 January).

"I am sure that it will still go on for months. At the moment I don't see a real solution," Karl-Heinz Lambertz told EUobserver in an interview.

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  • "At the moment I don't see a real solution" in Catalonia, Karl-Heinz Lambertz said (Photo: COR/flickr)

The centre-left politician, a former prime minister of the German-speaking community in Belgium, spoke ahead of the investiture vote in the Catalan regional parliament, scheduled for Tuesday.

A majority in the Catalan parliament is expected to support Carles Puigdemont's bid for another term as regional president, as he is the only candidate.

Spain's constitutional court said over the weekend that Puigdemont, who is in self-exile in Belgium, had to be physically present for the vote – which would mean risking arrest by the Spanish authorities who have already imprisoned fellow separatists after the independence declaration last year.

"We must see what the Catalan parliament will do," said Lambertz.

Lambertz said that both sides of the dispute carried some of the blame.

"I think that the Catalan responsibles didn't think things [through] to the end," he said.

"But I am also convinced that the way to come to solutions cannot be to send police for a referendum, even if it is problematic on a constitutional level. It is also not the best way to bring elected politicians in prison for these kinds of events."

Police treated voters that showed up for the illegal referendum roughly, and several high-profile separatists have since been jailed.

"A situation like this, where you have a big debate about autonomy and relations between state and its regions must be, in the European Union, discussed around the table," said Lambertz.

Scotland's legal referendum

He said that the debate about Scotland's independence, which was put to rest after a majority voted to remain part of the UK in a legal referendum, was a positive example of how such a debate can be held.

But in Spain that was completely different.

"We have an absence of dialogue," said Lambertz. "It is a non-dialogue on a high level. That cannot be a good solution."

He added that very little substantive dialogue between the Catalan and Spanish authorities occurred in the past decade.

"Spain is a regionalised state with experience," he said.

But since a previous referendum on Catalan's status within Spain, in 2006, Lambertz saw little progress.

"Since this moment you have nothing. You have only conflicts. What we are living now are the consequences of it."

Lambertz said he had not met Puigdemont since the ousted Catalan leader came to Brussels.

"No. I had in this time very much contact with the member of Catalonia in our committee, but he was dismissed," said Lambertz.

Members of the committee of the regions have to have an electoral mandate back home.

"We continue to have contacts with people who inform us about what happens in Catalonia," he added.

Lambertz did not immediately see how to solve the deadlock.

"Normally you can have new elections" if no regional government emerges, but in Catalonia the outcome will probably be the same, he said.

"It is something which is also a bad thing for all European regions. Regionalisation is in my opinion a very important aspect of governance in Europe. It is something very positive."

"Discussions about autonomy are also very important and positive," he said.

"It must be negotiated. Let's hope that something will go in this direction in the next days, weeks and months," Lambertz added.

Catalonia prepares for rule by Skype

The two biggest parties in Catalonia have vowed to put Puigdemont back in office despite Madrid's threat to maintain direct rule.

Puigdemont ghost hangs over Catalan vote

The Catalan parliament is due to elect the president of the regional government, amid uncertainties over the whereabouts and strategy of the self-exiled separatist leader.

Catalan separatists mull 'symbolic' presidency

Catalan separatists leaders are discussing a plan that would allow their exiled leader keep influence in the region - even if he cannot be elected president of the government.

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