Academics and politicians call for the Catalan problem to be solved with the principle of democracy
DIPLOCAT – PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos declined to participate in today’s conference at the Complutense University in Madrid
Even though Catalonia is one of the important topics in current Spanish politics, in Madrid it is often talked about in stereotypes or without depth. For this reason the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT) and the Political Science Faculty of the Complutense University Madrid (UCM) organised a conference at the campus of this university.
In charge of welcoming the audience this lunchtime were Heriberto Cairo, Dean of the Faculty, and Ferran Mascarell, Delegate of the Catalan Government in Madrid. Cairo reaffirmed the university’s commitment to being a place for debate, in spite of the pressure received not to host the event. Mascarell reminded that in Catalonia many people have the feeling to live in a politically unjust system, which does not respect their identity, and asked for a political solution to the question.
Afterwards, two debates about the Catalan Process took place. The first one dealt with the Catalan process from an academic point of view, in which participated Antonio Elorza, Professor of Political Science at the UCM; Mercè Barceló, Professor of Constitutional Law at the Autonomous University of Barcelona; Jose Luis Villacañas, Professor of Philosophy at the UCM; and Manuel Pastor, Professor of Political Science at UNED. Before the start of this round table, five people from the public raised banners against the Catalan process and interrupted the event for a few minutes.
Necessary constitutional reform?
Elorza, who spoke out in favour of self-determination of South Tirol, explained that in contrast in Spain, self-determination of Catalonia can only be the consequence of a constitutional reform. He also showed himself critical with the democratic quality of the Catalan process and accused the Catalan Government of promoting the process against the majority of the Catalans. Mercè Barceló answered that the Catalan process is not only legitimate, but also constitutional, considering that the right to self-determination can also be found within constitutional law. Barceló concluded with the question what to do with Catalonia if the Catalans maintain their will and the Spanish Government maintains its position of rejection.
Villacañas spoke out in favour of a constitutional reform and a real con-federal agreement, which he considers the best solution for heirs of imperia as the Spanish one, evoking the creation of a Hispanic Commonwealth. Villacañas, who thinks that the position of PP is part of the conflict and that PSOE does not position itself clearly, said that “in Catalonia there is a basis for a conflict right now, but no basis for a solution.” Finally, Jaime Pastor made an approximation of history and underlined that the challenge of the independentists is to increase their majority, which he already considered as being significant.
In the second roundtable, which took place in the afternoon, several politicians participated: Raimundo Viejo, Group of Podemos/En Comú Podem/En Marea; Santiago Vidal, spokesman of the Group of Esquerra Republicana in the Spanish Senate; Miriam Nogueras, Catalan Group (Democràcia i Llibertat); and Quim Arrufat, Member of the Catalan Parliament, CUP political party, (2012-2015).
PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos pass
Representatives of the Groups of the Popular Party, Socialists and Ciudadanos were also invited but declined to take part. The Secretary General of DIPLOCAT, Albert Royo-Mariné, regretted this decision, “especially if one takes into account that some of these parties then accuse us in Parliament and social media of lack of pluralism”.
Raimundo Viejo explained the pluralist positioning of Podemos in relation with the Catalan process, explaining that even though not being independentist, they understand the presence of independentists in some of their platforms. He reaffirmed the commitment of Podemos with the right to decide of the Catalans. According to Viejo, Podemos is the first opportunity since 1978 to construct a Spanish identity which is not based on the negation of plurinationality.
The judge Santiago Vidal reminded the audience that the constitutional texts are not untouchable and that they can be reformed in line with the democratic principle, as defended by the Canadian Supreme Court. He also spoke of the irreversibility of the sovereignty movement, and explained that the constitution-making process is already on-going. Finally he gave some details on his ideas for an independent Catalonia in the future, with for example open lists and limitation of mandate.
State in favour or against?
Míriam Nogueras was surprised that after so many years, the debate on Catalonia continues to be alive, and justified this with the attitude of the Spanish state, which has, until now, avoided dialogue, as have done the three political parties which decided not to participate. In her function as business woman she said that Catalan SMEs need their own state instead of a state against them, and furthermore criticised the lack of independence of TVE when informing about Catalonia.
The last to speak was Quim Arrufat, who explained the country model defended by CUP as an independentist and anti-capitalist leftist movement. Arrufat mentioned some mistakes when talking about Catalonia: to consider that Catalonia is uniform, that there is a territorial problem instead of a problem of democracy and sovereignty, and to not see the implicit background of class struggle.
During the debate the public asked amongst others about the real viability of independence within the EU, the possibility of redirecting the process with a new fiscal pact and the role of Catalan civil society.
Picture: Ferran Mascarell and Heriberto Cairo (Catalan News Agency).