Tuesday

22nd Jan 2019

Catalonia diplomats back in action abroad

  • 'We want to build a republic, earn the right to decide,' said Catalonia's foreign minister Ernest Maragall, while insisting tat separatists won't be 'ideologically-obsessed' (Photo: Eric Maurice)

Almost two weeks after direct rule from Madrid ended, the Catalan regional government is back on the diplomatic scene - but this time more cautiously.

Catalan representations will soon be reopened in Washington, London, Berlin, Rome and Geneva, and in Paris, Lisbon and northern Europe in the next two or three months, the new regional minister for foreign affairs Ernest Maragall announced on Thursday (14 June).



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

At a press conference symbolically held at the Catalan representation in Brussels, he said that the diplomatic network would "defend Catalan interests" and "be present in European debates".

Catalan representations abroad were established in recent years by the previous separatist government to gather support ahead of the independence referendum that was organised last year.



They were closed by the Spanish government after it suspended the region's autonomy last October in reaction to a declaration of independence.

Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which regulated Madrid's direct rule, was itself suspended when a new Catalan government was sworn in on 2 June.

On the same day, by coincidence, the conservative Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy was brought down by a non-confidence vote over corruption cases, and replaced by socialist leader Pedro Sanchez.

'Build a republic'

"Our first goal is to establish a scenario of dialogue" with Sanchez's government, Maragall said in his press conference.

"We are still waiting for the new Spanish government to say clearly and aloud what its purpose is," he said. "Not just wishful thinking and good intentions but a real commitment in this dialogue and mutual comprehension."

Asked later by EUobserver whether Sanchez was more open than Rajoy, Maragall said: "Let's hope!"

While Rajoy always rejected any talk about an independence referendum, Maragall said that the new Catalan government would try to get Sanchez's approval for a referendum, but that it remained an "hypothetical consideration".

"We want to build a republic, earn the right to decide," he said.

The new Catalan government is led by Quim Torra, a hardline separatist known for previous insulting comments on Spaniards.

But Maragall, a moderate, explained that the regional executive's aim was not to try to push again for independence on the basis of the unrecognised referendum.

"We have to open a debate, to see if we increase social support for the republic," he said, using the word "republic" rather than "independence".

Not ideologically-obsessed

"Independence is an institutional concept, and a negative one," he argued. "Republic [means that] we want to build something - equality, dignity, justice".

Maragall, a former Socialist MEP, said he was in Brussels to "send a clear signal of the European commitment of the [region's] government and Catalan society".

A stone throw from the European Commission and Council, he insisted that Catalonia was "at home" there and wanted to "command respect, for what we do and say, not through special rights".

Asked how he intended to ensure that Catalonia would not remain a problem for the EU, a club of member states standing together to protect their integrity, the minister argued that this would be done "through the action of government, its responsibility".

In a jab at the previous regional cabinet led by Carles Puigdemont, who is still in exile in Germany, Maragall added that the new one would "demonstrate that we are respecting the rules."

"We do not want to appear as sectarian or ideologically-obsessed," he said.

Basque threat of 'second front' for independence

Last weekend some 175,000 people in the Basque country demanded a 'right to decide'. For some, it means more autonomy from Spain, others independence. "We want to open a second front within the Spanish state," says one Basque politician.

Puigdemont reclaims Catalonia's leadership

Back in Belgium after Spain lifted a European Arrest Warrant against him, the separatist former leader wants to be the real power behind the region's government and a new push for independence.

News in Brief

  1. EU hits Mastercard with €570m fine
  2. Romanian minister prepares to cancel corruption cases
  3. Sefcovic: no gas supply problems this winter
  4. Report: Commission warning on passport-sale schemes
  5. France summons Italian ambassador over colonial remark
  6. May U-turn on fee for EU nationals in UK
  7. French data watchdog gives Google €50m fine
  8. EU hits Russians with sanctions over Salisbury attack

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. France and Germany hope to revive EU with Aachen treaty
  2. May pushes defeated Brexit deal, offers no Plan B
  3. European Parliament targets 'fake' political groups
  4. What is fate of non-euro EU states after Brexit?
  5. Turkish NBA star takes on Erdogan
  6. 'Meme ban' still on table in EU copyright bill, says MEP
  7. Brexit power grab by MPs hangs over May's 'Plan B'
  8. Polish mayor's funeral marred by Tusk TV dispute

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us