Speech given by MHP Carles Puigdemont @KRLS at the Faroe Islands conference on self-determination
The self-determination referendum on October the 1st 2017, and the subsequent Political Declaration of Independence voted by the Parliament of Catalonia on October 27th were the first phase of the so-called “Catalan Process”. The Democratic implementation of the new Republic was prevented by the force and physical violence of the Spanish State against peaceful citizens.
After more than 7 years, of massive peaceful demonstrations, with millions of people mobilised in favour of independence, the biggest demonstrations after the fall of the Berlin wall.
Catalan society want to solve the conflict by respecting 2 principles:
1st. There must be a political dialogue.
2nd. A decision must be agreed by the Catalan people through a Referendum.
In Spain, instead of public recognition, the leaders who organised those peaceful demonstrations are in prison charged with sedition, for which they can receive 15-30 years of prison. Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart are in preventive jail, without having been condemned, treated like terrorists. Next week they’ll have been in preventive jail for 1 year.
Me and my government colleagues, are accused of rebellion for having organised the referendum, risking 30 years in prison. Six members of the Cabinet are in preventive prison, as well as the President of Catalan Parliament (Carme Forcadell), and 7 more are in exile, in Scotland, in Switzerland, or in Belgium.
Meanwhile, freedom of expression, freedom of information and freedom of assembly have been repressed and the authoritarian drive of Spain has been recognised as a European concern.
The only way to solve this conflict is dialogue: starting a negotiation with no red lines and a climate of respect for both sides. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez rejects again and again talking about Catalonia’s right to self-determination.
Catalan people cannot be tied to a State against their own will in the 21st century.
The Spanish Prime Minister has not taken steps to finish with the repression. His General Prosecutor (nominated by the Spanish Government) has to adapt to European standards and has to understand that organising a referendum cannot be labelled as a crime of rebellion or sedition. Treating a vote as an act of war seems the kind of thing that a Dictator would do, not a consolidated western democracy.
Prime Minister Sánchez should be aware that while there is instability in Catalonia, it will be very difficult for Spain to remain politically stable. There are many reforms to do, to be ready for next economic crisis. And political capital is limited.
It is my advice to Prime Minister Sánchez to talk with Catalan Government about a political solution and about self-determination as soon as possible.
Moreover, it must be understood that political prosecution has caused a real trauma in Catalan society. The State’s anger against Catalan citizens has been extremely high. We are a modern, technological society, open to the world, that could never have suspected that this level of violence would have been exerted living in a Europe whose foundation values are freedom and democracy. Can you imagine that this would have taken place in Scotland, or in Quebec, or in the Faroe Islands?
The Spanish State must leave anger and rage aside, as many Catalans want their own state and the Unity of Spain cannot be a religious principle. It is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of democracy.
We want to sit down, to negotiate a referendum on self-determination that is binding and internationally recognised. I have always said that it is worthwhile to do this again, if this time the other party, the one with the power of the force, Spain, accepts to participate in it and to recognise it. But otherwise, we will feel committed to the mandate of the October referendum, to implement the Catalan Republic without delay. We only want what has already been done repeatedly in other cases in Scotland or in Quebec. Also on November 4th, France has organised a referendum about New Caledonia’s self-determination. As a Catalan I would like to be in a different situation. Here, in the Faroe Islands, you are on the right direction to reach a DIU with Denmark for a new constitution that will respect hopefully your right to self-determination. Scotland made a deal with London for an independence referendum. And who knows if soon they will have a second one. And even Jacobin and centralist France have negotiated an independence referendum with New Caledonia.
But at the same time, I am happy and proud. European society (not Europe institutions) is moving, step by step. Today we, the small nations of Europe, are the forces of positive change. In the midst of a wave of authoritarian politics, we defend our right to self- determination, our right to democracy, our right to give our people a say over its own future.
We shall continue, because with our efforts, we are building a better and stronger Europe and a fairer world. In order to succeed, a globalised world needs to be based on a true sense of diversity, able to respect its minorities, to give them political power to decide their own future, to be able to define their own strategies for their future. To find their own concrete solutions for the global problems we all need to confront.
When I look into Scotland, or into New Caledonia, or into the Faroe Islands, I don’t see a problem, but a recede for our own common future. However, is not only us who can make changes possible. We need partners. Therefore it is fundamental that Denmark, France and the United Kingdom have understood that by allowing their people to vote, they are deepening the strength of democracy. There is no stronger border than the one that has been ratified in the ballot boxes.
Spain needs to set aside its obsession with the sacred unity and leave Catalonia become an independent and friendly neighbouring State. Of course we have some difficulties today in Catalonia and maintaining political unity is not the least of them. Repression has effects, and makes the worst fears from all of us to arise. This is what we need to fight against. We need to remember that our adversaries are those that used violence against ballot boxes, those that put our colleagues and friends in prison, and those that legitimise the repression instead of denouncing it.
Our adversaries can never be those that defend self-determination or independence in a different way from ourselves or those that want to vote against independence. Because it is a right. In our internal diversity we need to find our strength, not our weakest points. I have friends in prison. I have friends in exile. Party and Government colleagues, I wish they were not there and I wish they were immediately released. I wish they could return home tomorrow. I understand their sacrifice and I am grateful to them.
Catalonia is the only country I know in the European Union where so many politicians are ready to pay the price for their ideas and convictions. We need to be proud about it. And to keep up our peaceful right for independence and self-determination.
The current instructor of the Spanish State, 40 years after the approval of the Spanish constitution, after Franco’s death, 40 years ago, is not able to manage the challenges we are facing in the frame of the 4th industrial revolution. It doesn’t matter if the Prime Minister is Pedro Sánchez from the Socialist Party, or Mariano Rajoy from the Popular Party. It doesn’t matter. The problem lies much deeper than that. The day that this is understood outside and inside Spain, it will be easier to work towards a permanent solution.
Be ready, because my colleagues in prison risk to be condemned to many years in prison for crimes that were never committed. And the Catalan people will not accept it. I expect and I wish that there will be a massive nonviolent mobilisation in defence of our rights and in support of our colleagues in jail. Many people, still sceptic with independence, are democrats that cannot accept that innocent people remain so long in prison or exile. I believe in them, as I believe in the more than 2 million of pro-independence citizens that have resisted the pressure to give up. There will be ups and there will be downs. But is in the democratic dignity of our people that we’ll find the seed for a better future. Always peaceful, always nonviolent, but with a clear goal in our minds and hearts. Self-determination. And if this is the will of the people, establishing the new Catalan Republic.
Conference celebrated at the Nordic House (NORÐURLANDAHÚSIÐ), Tórshavn, capital of the Faroe Islands, on the 12th of October 2018