Guest commentary of Carles Puigdemont for BLICK
«The Catalan Crisis is a European matter»

Carles Puigdemont, former President of the Government of Catalonia, criticizes the European Union. In his guest commentary for SonntagsBlick he writes: «It pains me to admit that the European political institutions watch on in silence.»
Publiziert: 26.10.2019 um 19:18 Uhr
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Exiled former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.
Carles Puigdemont

In Autumn 2017, Catalonia embarked on its journey towards becoming an independent republic. It was clear for all to see that it was not simply the folly of a few people but rather a response to a democratic petition lodged by a broad base of the general public always open to dialogue, consensus and permanent negotiation. We were well aware that the road ahead was not without its difficulties, but we also knew that it was the only way ahead if we wanted to survive as a society. All the attempts to achieve accord between Catalonia and Spain through dialogue over the 40 years since the ratification of the Spanish Constitution had failed.

Two years later, we are even more sure. Under the guise of a sacred quest for its unity, the Spanish State has unleashed a severe wave of repression in response to the petition of Catalan society. Spain has disregarded politics and assigned the responsibility for ‹resolving› this conflict to the criminal courts which, incidentally, are perceived as the one of the least independent judiciaries in the whole of the European Union.

In July, the European Commission published a Eurobarometer report on the Rule of Law, which surveyed citizens from the 28 countries of the Union. One of the questions focused on the extent to which they believed that, if their rights were violated, there would be independent courts in their country to defend them. 77% of Spaniards responded that Spain has to improve significantly in this respect, compared to 15% of Danes and 35% of Germans with regard to their respective legal systems. This difference is so large that, in fact, the Spanish State ranks as the second worst EU country, after Cyprus, where an even greater proportion of citizens have little faith in judicial independence.

With an incapable political system and a heavily politicised judiciary, what could possibly go wrong? As a result, there have been mass reactions throughout Catalonia against the Spanish political system’s drift towards authoritarianism. It is not just a group of political and social leaders who have been convicted, it is the 2.3 million people who went to vote in the referendum on 1st October 2017.

It is clear, therefore, that we have a long road ahead of us, filled with hardships and suffering. The sentences announced a few days ago, of between 9 and 13 years in prison for having organised a referendum, are an explicit message from the Spanish State that buried the dictator Francisco Franco, but not his legacy. The King of Spain, in his indefinable and misguided speech on 3rd October 2017, renewed the mandate issued to his father, King Juan Carlos I, by the fascist dictator on his deathbed: «All I ask of you is to preserve the unity of Spain.» For the Regime of 1978, unity is more important than freedom, democracy and peaceful coexistence. This maxim was left well entrenched by Franco, and the Spanish political and judicial system has upheld it to this day. The Supreme Court’s ruling is intended to make this very clear.

We have explored all possible routes forward before considering the option of constituting an independent State. Improved self-government, a new fiscal relationship with the State, a non-binding consultation to ascertain the opinion of the Catalan people; none of these options have been accepted. All attempts have been rejected with Spanish fervency. Even the Statute of Autonomy approved by large majorities by the Catalan Parliament, the Spanish Parliament and the referendum (2005-2006) was overturned by the Constitutional Court. Even today, the Spanish Prime Minister will not deign to answer the telephone when the President of the Catalan Government calls him. We are confronted by the structural inability of the Spanish political system to reach a compromise. The idea of reaching a pact, an accord, which would involve making concessions, is still seen by the Spanish political culture, based on its imperial and Francoist heritage, as a sign of cowardice. 


What option would you be left with if they closed the door on all channels of dialogue? You would defend the dignity of your country before any consideration of comfort and fear. That is exactly what we are doing, beyond simply fighting to become an independent republic. We are defending democracy because it is the best way to defend our dignity.

What about the European Union? It pains me to admit that the European political institutions watch on in silence. The EU allows the police of one of its Member States to use violence against its citizens. The European club of states allows Spain to set the agenda, while turning a blind eye to the shameful fact that three members of the European Parliament, who received more than two million votes, are prevented from taking up their seat. The idea that voting is the essential foundation of democracy or that the people’s decision is sacred will be irreparably damaged if we continue to be prevented from assuming our mandate.

If you do not believe that it matters that the winning electoral list of the European elections in Catalonia, which I headed, remains without representation, the European Union therefore accepts this key democratic principle is no longer indestructible. This enshrined principle once set the standard for the rest of the world in matters of peace and freedom. Moreover, the Union ceases to be an attractive project in the eyes of societies such as Switzerland, where the will of the people is the foundation of the entire system.

Therefore, we insist that the Catalan Crisis is a European matter, even if Brussels officially continues to look the other way.


Carles Puigdemont i Casamajó

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