Debate on Catalonia within the Arvamusfestival in Estonia
Diplocat invites Societat Civil Catalana to explain their arguments against the holding of a referendum on 1 October 2017
The Catalan independence process continues to generate interest around Europe as seen by the debate held at the Arvamusfestival in Paide, Estonia, on 11 August. This debate regarding the current political situation of Catalonia was organized by the Estonian Free Party (Eesti Vabaerakond) and the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat).
The participants were Rafael Arenas, chair of private international law at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and ex-president of the unionist group, Societat Civil Catalana, and Jordi Arrufat, representing Diplocat. It was moderated by Artur Talvik, president of the Estonian Free Party and president of the Estonian Parliament’s inter-group of support for Catalonia.
Arrufat began his intervention quoting Lennart Meri, former president of Estonia: “To deny a nation its right to self-determination is a slap in the face for its self-esteem.” Catalonia wanted to exercise its right to internal self-determination in 2006 but this right was denied it when the Statute of Catalonia met with a negative sentence from the Spanish Constitutional Court which ignored the specific situation of Catalonia within Spain. Arrufat went on to remember the judicial persecution of members of the Bureau of the Catalan parliament, the legal cases currently involving many Catalan councillors and mayors, and the interrogation of civil servants and members of the Catalan government by the Guardia Civil recently.
Arenas pointed out that there are politicians in Catalonia who have stated they will do whatever is necessary to achieve Catalan independence, even ignoring the law, and for this reason the courts and police have to act. Arenas said that in his opinion the right to internal self-determination can only lead to secession in cases of colonial territories. He went on to explain that, according to him, both the Catalan media and the Catalan education system are transmitting the message that Catalonia is different to Spain and that it is an occupied territory..
Arrufat responded by saying that Catalonia is not occupied but remembering that it was a sovereign territory until 1714 and, thus, Spain is not the oldest nation in Europe [as Spanish politicians often claim]. He also pointed out that the self-government of Catalonia did not begin with the 1978 Constitution, but that it was already recognized before the Constitution was passed. He explained that the internal self-determination of Catalonia ceased to exist in 2010. Since then most laws passed by the Catalan parliament – even those not related to independence, such as the laws regarding fracking and banning bullfighting –have been taken to the Constitutional Court by the Spanish government and suspended. Arrufat also reminded those present that laws are made by legislators and that in democratic societies, if there is a strong and consistent public demand for change, laws are adapted to what society wants. Changing the Spanish Constitution, however, is unviable as Catalonia is a structural minority within Spain.
At the end of the debate and discussion with the public, Artur Talvik asked members of the audience if they believed Catalonia had the right to become independent. Almost 60% voted yes, 20% no, and 20% abstained.
The Arvamusfestival is inspired by similar events which are held regularly in Nordic and Baltic countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Latvia and Finland, some of which attract up to 100,000 visitors. Albert Royo, secretary general of Diplocat, recognizes the value and importance of these festivals and for this reason Diplocat participates in them “taking the democratic challenge and political debate regarding Catalonia and Spain to the principal centres of debate and discussion in Europe.”
Last updated: 7 September 2017