Puigdemont warns Catalan Republic still “a long way to go”

Catalan president challenges Madrid to say if it will accept the result of the upcoming Catalan election, says his government chose not to implement independence on the ground seeking to avoid Spanish state violence

President Puigdemont and ministers, during speech in Brussels.
President Puigdemont and ministers, during speech in Brussels. Author: Elisabet Nebreda
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont admitted there is still a “long way to go” until the Catalan Republic can be implemented. Speaking from Brussels, Puigdemont explained that the Catalan government had not promoted specific measures to consolidate the Republic on the ground, seeking to avoid a “highly aggressive” response entailing “enormous violence” that, according to “data from proven sources,” the Spanish authorities were ready to deploy in the aftermath of the 27 October independence declaration. The Catalan president also said he accepts the upcoming 21 December Catalan election despite the fact it has been called by Spanish president Mariano Rajoy under the application of article 155 and under the current suspension of Catalan autonomy.

Puigdemont has insisted his cabinet is “legitimate”, some of its ministers now in Brussels and others in Catalonia. Those in the Belgian capital are seeking to provide clear proof of “the Catalan problem in the institutional heart of Europe and the serious democratic deficit that exists today in Spain”, as well as to confirm the determination “of the Catalan people and its commitment to self-determination and an agreed solution.” Those cabinet members remaining in Catalonia, including vice president Oriol Junqueras, continue to “carry out their political activity as legitimate members of the Government of Catalonia” despite “limitations imposed by the Spanish state’s confrontational strategy.”

The Catalan president, who is in Brussels with 7 cabinet ministers, said that his government had to admit, a few hours after the proclamation of the Republic, that a “negotiated, under dialogue” solution would be “impossible”. Faced with this situation, Puigdemont said, his cabinet chose to maintain the “values of peace, respect, plurality and neutrality of the administration” as a priority. “We could have forced [Catalan] officials to start a struggle for hegemony [against the Spanish state], but we chose not to do so. We had previously said that we would not put civil servants at risk, and that is what we have done,” he went on. “If this attitude has the price of slowing the construction of the Republic, it is reasonable to pay it,” because “the Republic for all can not be built out of violence.”

Puigdemont also explained that he will remain in Brussels until it does not become clear that his possible trial will have “guarantees” in Spain. Spain’s Prosecutor's Office yesterday lodged a complaint against Puigdemont, the other members of the government and the Parliament’s Bureau over rebellion, sedition and embezzlement charges.

Reaction” of the international community

As regards thid, Puigdemont addressed “the international community and especially the European community”, and asked them to “react” and to realize that “the case of Catalonia is the cause of the values on which Europe is founded: democracy, freedom, free expression, reception and non-violence.” The Catalan president warned that “allowing the Spanish government to tolerate the violence of the extreme right, and [allowing that Spain] can imprison, up to 30 years, people” who are persecuted not for their “crimes” but for their “ideas” means “to put an end to the idea of Europe. And this is a too expensive price that all of us will pay.”

Until today, the proclamation of the Catalan Republic has not received any international recognition. The presidents of the European Council and the European Parliament, Donald Tusk and Antonio Tajani, have rejected it.

Respecting” election result

Puigdemont also challenged the Spanish government and “the 155 bloc”, as he collectively referred to parties supporting Catalan autonomy suspension (PP, PSOE and Citizens’ Party), to say if they “will respect the outcome” of the 21 December poll. “I want a clear commitment on the part of the [Spanish] State: will it respect a favorable outcome to pro-independence forces?”, he asked. “If it does not, it will mean that in Catalonia there are first and second class citizens.”

This demand was voiced one day after tvice president of the Spanish Senate Pedro Sanz said that article 155 would be again enforced if a Catalan pro-independence government sought to bring the Catalan Republic into being after the 21 December election.

Shortly after Puigdemont’s Brussels speech, the Center for Opinion Studies (CEO) of the Catalan government released data of the 2017 third barometer of political opinion. To the binary question on whether Catalonia should be independent or not, 48.7% of respondents said “yes” while 43.6% said “no”. It is the largest record for independence in CEO’s whole historical series of barometers.

In the same study it is concluded, however, that pro-independence parties (Together for Yes and CUP) will lose an overall 2 percentage points in the 21 December election (46% of the votes, down from 48% in 2015). Both parties will still be able to win a combined absolute majority, with 68 to 72 seats (absolute majority is at 68). The three unionist parties supporting article 155 enforcement (Citizens’ Party, PSC-PSOE and PP) will reach a combined 40% of the votes, which will allocate them 52 to 56 seats. Meanwhile, Catalonia in Common (Catalunya en Comú), an alliance standing for a mutually agreed referendum, is set to win some 10% of the ballots and 12 to 14 seats.