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15th Apr 2024

Catalan separatist in next year's EU election race

  • Maylis Roßberg Raül Romeva, the European Free Alliance's leading candidates — the so-called 'Spitzenkandidaten' — for the next EU elections. (Photo: European Free Alliance)
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On the morning of Saturday 14 October, an auditorium in the French city of Strasbourg was bathed in a particular shade of purple, with two pieces of EU terminology in the air: self-determination and Spitzenkandidaten — in a variety of languages.

"What do you think of the other candidate?" a male voice asked the man next to him in English as they poured their coffee.

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  • "Faced with those who question the whole European project, we instead demand the ambition to build a new better Europe," Rossberg said (Photo: European Free Alliance)

"He's got a good speech, I must say," the first replied, before walking away from the bar.

The candidate they were talking about was Raül Romeva, a 52-year-old politician who, together with 23-year old Maylis Roßberg, will be the European Free Alliance's (EFA) leading candidates — the so-called 'Spitzenkandidaten' — in the next EU elections, to be held between 6 and 9 June 2024.

And although their first public appearance as Spitzenkandidaten took place on a rainy morning in the Alsace region, by then everyone in the room knew these two names and the story behind them.

EFA is one of the 10 European political parties, but the only one fighting for the right to self-determination, they say.

The party has 10 MEPs in the EU assembly and forms a political group with the Greens, making them the fourth-largest force in the Parliament with a total of 72 seats.

Over the weekend of 13-14 October, EFA organised its first congress in the party's history, which brought together its members from 41 parties and 19 different European states to select the candidates and launch their campaign for the EU elections.

The party represents the voices the other parties forget about, Romeva said: "We are here to tell the club of European states that a Europe that does not listen to its own peoples and citizens is no longer tenable".

Everywhere in the auditorium where they launched their campaign, you could read their motto "For All", which stands for a Europe for all minorities, voices, and citizens, and with it their key priorities: democracy, sustainability, prosperity, diversity, and solidarity.

"Faced with those who question the whole European project, we instead demand the ambition to build a new better Europe," Rossberg said.

This is especially the case after the many crises that Europe has faced and is still facing, such as climate change, Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and, most recently, the divided front in the Gaza conflict, EFA representatives said.

In April, the European party announced that it would present a tandem of leading candidates.

Now there are some faces to add to these voices, those of a young woman and a man with a green background fighting for the self-determination of his people.

Romeva, who was imprisoned for four years after the illegal referendum in Catalonia in 2017, represents what the EFA calls the stateless nations, such as Catalonia itself, Scotland and Wales in the UK, or Flanders in Belgium.

Rossberg, on the other hand, represents minorities living in European member states, such as the Hungarian community in Romania, the Turkish Muslim community in Greece, or Rossberg's own Danish community in Germany.

The choice of a young candidate like Rossberg is no coincidence. In the last 2019 elections, EFA chose Oriol Junqueras as its top candidate, who was then jailed for his role in the failed 2017 referendum on Catalan independence.

This time around, the EFA has opted for a strong message around the integration of women in politics, young talent and experience, and building a better world for the generations to come, they have explained as part of their strategy.

"When we [the youth] are invited to the table it is just for the picture," Valentina Sercla, the president of the youth division of EFA said.

"We don't need paternalism, we need to have a say in the conversation, and also to be taken seriously", she added.

The choice of location was also no accident. "Alsace is a land that best represents the Europe we believe in, the Europe that overcomes conflicts through dialogue and negotiation, the Europe that builds bridges," said EFA President Lorena López de Lacalle.

The congress covered everything from the situation in Scotland after Brexit, to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the South Caucasus, and the new Israeli-Palestinian war.

And it was done with a common understanding: Europe must present a united front in the face of the challenges ahead, and strategic autonomy must include the social, environmental, and regional aspects that make up the EU-27.

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