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“No one” can simply ban a referendum on Catalan independence, says FT International Affairs Editor

David Gardner argues in an interview with the CNA that politicians must find “political and legal ways for citizens to be able to express their will democratically”. The Financial Times International expert says that both Catalonia and Spain should agree to have a referendum and warns that “no one” can simply ban it. This journalist thinks it’s unlikely for Catalonia to become an independent country anytime soon but admits that most of the problems come from Madrid avoiding any kind of negotiation. “But they either negotiate or Spain will face a constitutional crisis”, he warns.


31 May 2013 03:16 AM


Maria Fernández / ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The International Affairs Editor at the Financial Times (FT), David Gardner, said in an interview with the CNA that Spain should offer Catalonia a \u201Cpolitical and legal way\u201D to decide on its constitutional future. Failing to do so could cause a \u201Cconstitutional crisis\u201D in Spain, which would add to the current economical and social problems and make the situation even more unstable. Gardner warned that \u201Cno one\u201D can simply ban a democratic referendum in Catalonia, therefore suggesting that constitutional arrangements in Spain should be changed to accommodate Catalans\u2019 desire to have their say.

Gardner admitted being surprised by the Spanish government\u2019s negative reaction to the call for a referendum in Catalonia, saying no such a thing has happened in the UK with Scotland. \u201CAlmost all the British establishment is against independence for Scotland. But not a single serious person has ever raised their voice to say: \u2018You cannot vote\u2019\u201D, he stated.

Gardner, who was the FT Spanish correspondent in the seventies and eighties and has lived in Barcelona, Madrid and the Basque Country, said that the political transition in the country was \u201Cincomplete\u201D. \u201CAll political transitions are incomplete, they are so difficult in that they imply compromises that can never satisfy everyone\u201D, he argued.

Part of the problem, according to him, is the so-called \u201Ccoffee for everyone\u201D policy, which means that all political power transferred to long established nations such as Catalonia and the Basque Country are usually transferred to other regions as well. \u201CThere is growing discontent in Catalonia and the Basque Country, the two regions for which the autonomous communities system was actually created. The model should be re-examined\u201D, he said.

One of the most important issues of content between Madrid and Barcelona is the fiscal system. In September, the Spanish government rejected the Catalan petition for a new fiscal arrangement, therefore prompting President Artur Mas to call early elections and promise that a referendum on independence would be held. According to Gardner, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy could have offered some kind of new fiscal arrangement to Catalonia. If he didn\u2019t it\u2019s because he didn\u2019t want to, he admitted. \u201CThere should still be some scope for negotiation of this issue\u201D, he added.

Gardner argued that it is \u201Cunlikely\u201D for Catalonia to declare independence unilaterally, adding that the political debate about its future \u201Cwill take a long time\u201D. In his opinion, the Catalan push for independence is \u201Cnot completely understood\u201D abroad, where everyone \u201Cwas surprised\u201D by it. Catalonia, he said, is usually portrayed in the international press as a region asking for more financial power. But this is not the only problem, he recognised.

This week, FT journalist David Gardner won the Ernest Udina Award from the European Journalists Association (APEC) in Barcelona. Discussing his award, APEC made reference to his \u201Cprofessionalism, independence, commitment and European spirit\u201D.


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  • Financial Times journalist David Gardner during the interview with the CNA.