London, United Kingdom | Puigdemont explains Catalonia’s roadmap towards independence to the international audience at Chatham House
Coorganised by DIPLOCAT, it was the main event in the President’s official trip agenda
Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, described Catalonia’s process for becoming a new state in front of some 200 international professionals from different fields this Thursday at Chatham House, one of the most important think tanks in the world, in an event coorganised by the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT). Puigdemont emphasised that “it is not an economic movement” and that the government will always “opt to negotiate a consultation” but will not lead such demands, as this has already been repeatedly requested without any willingness to negotiate “from the other part”.
The Catalan President said he is convinced that “when the time comes” the European Union “will show its big ability to adapt” and will not let Catalonia, “whose economy represents 2% of the European GDP”, go. “We will adopt the 3,363 international treaties which Spain has signed in order to be perfectly integrated within the context of the free and democratic nations worldwide”, he added.
President Puigdemont started his talk by reminding the audience of the “historic results” of the 27-S Catalan Elections. “On 27 September, the people of Catalonia expressed their views through the ballot boxes, voting massively with a turnout of 74.9%, the highest ever in the history of elections for the Parliament of Catalonia”, he emphasised. “A majority of Catalans adopted a position in favour of independence, of embarking on their own way forward, to uphold who we are but, above all, to progress and to enjoy greater wellbeing”. Therefore, the Catalan government enjoys “majority support to instigate a process towards independence”, assured Puigdemont but admitted that “to get there” a “larger majority” is needed. “This is a task that needs to be addressed over the coming period”.
“We stood in the elections with the promise of completing the step towards independence within approximately 18 months”, explained Puigdemont. During this time, the government’s commitment is “to prepare and have the state structures available that do not currently exist” and which are “necessary” for Catalonia “to operate as an independent state”. “Once this process has been completed, it will once again be the turn of our citizens, who will need to decide at the ballot box whether they want to choose a new constituent parliament and move towards a definitive proclamation of independence”, he stated and nuanced that the Catalan government “will not take this definitive step without democratic validation”.
“Europe will not let Catalonia go”
After the talk some of the attendants addressed questions to President Puigdemont, most of them regarding the Spanish government’s attitude towards the process and its refusal to negotiate. “We would like to do it in the Scottish way” insisted Puigdemont “but to be like Scotland, Spain should act like the UK and this is not likely to happen”, he lamented. In this vein, he emphasised that Catalonia’s priority is “to reach an agreement” and conduct this process “with as much as consensus as possible”. However, “to agree a democratic consultation there must be someone at the other end of the table”.
Regarding the fitting of a potential Catalan state within the EU, Puigdemont said that he is convinced that “Europe will show its big ability to adapt” and “won’t let Catalonia go”, bearing in mind that “it represents 2% of the European GBP, has a strong potential in terms of entrepreneurship, knowledge and the a strong brand which is Barcelona”.
Moreover, Puigdemont assured that an independent Catalonia will “fitwithin the context of the free and democratic nations in the world” and to ensure this, the Catalan government “will adopt the 3,363 international treaties which Spain has signed in order to know how the Catalan state will be able to relate to the rest of the world”.
Willingness to negotiate a referendum with Spain
Puigdemont assured that the Catalan government will “follow with much interest” the upcoming movements to form a new government in Spain. “Of course we will be willing to negotiate a referendum”, he answered in response to a journalist’s question “but we will not lead such a demand, because we have already done it, so many times: we asked that from the Spanish Parliament, and they said ‘no’, we asked for that from the Spanish President, Mariano Rajoy, and the answer was, again, ‘no’”, he lamented. However, he assured that the Catalan government will be “the last to give up on negotiating”.
Much more than an economic movement
“Catalonia’s push for independence is not an economic movement”, he stressed. “We want to contribute to the development of the poorest regions in Spain but we want to do so in an equitable way” as “Catalonia’s loss of economic resources which never return to Catalonia is absolutely unfair”, he stated. “It is unfair that we don’t have enough money to attend the needs of the most vulnerable considering that we are a rich region which contributes to the funding of infrastructures in Spain which are useless and loss-making”, he lamented. “To cape it all, we suffer constant aggression toward our culture and language and repeated unfulfilment of economic commitments and planned infrastructures for Catalonia”, he concluded.
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Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is an independent policy institute based in London. Its mission is to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.
Founded in 1920, Chatham House is the second most influent think tank in the world, according to the Foreign Policy magazine and the University of Pennsylvania ranking. It engages governments, the private sector, civil society and its members in open debate and confidential discussion on the most significant developments in international affairs. Each year, the institute runs more than 300 private and public events – conferences, workshops and roundtables – in London and internationally with partners. Its convening power attracts world leaders and the best analysts in their respective fields from across the globe.
Last updated: 24 May 2016