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Spanish diplomats warned French journalist against moderating an event about Catalonia

Spanish diplomats tried to pressure the moderator of an event with former Catalan president, Artur Mas, in Brussels. The correspondent from the French newspaper Libération, Jean Quatremer, admitted on Tuesday that when he agreed to present the event with the former Catalan president, he received some “news from Madrid”. “They called to ask me why I had accepted, and if I was sure about what I was getting into, and obviously I was,” said the correspondent, stressing that he is not in favor of independence. During the conference, Mas defended the demands for a referendum in Catalonia and said regretfully that “the only” dialogue that the Spanish state offers to the Catalan people is with “the judges”.

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26 April 2017 10:51 AM

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ACN

Brussels (CNA).- Spanish diplomats tried to pressure the moderator of an event with former Catalan president, Artur Mas, in Brussels. The correspondent from the French newspaper Libération, Jean Quatremer, admitted on Tuesday that when he agreed to present the event with the former Catalan president, he received some “news from Madrid”. “They called to ask me why I had accepted, and if I was sure about what I was getting into, and obviously I was,” said the correspondent, stressing that he is not in favor of independence. During the conference, Mas defended the demands for a referendum in Catalonia and said regretfully that “the only” dialogue that the Spanish state offers to the Catalan people is with “the judges”.


The conference, organized at the Generalitat’s delegation in Brussels, was a conversation between Quatremer, one of the European capital's most experienced journalists, and Mas. During the conversation, the former Catalan President defended the “democratic” arguments in favor of a referendum and he denied that independence is a “selfish” movement based on pure economic arguments. Moreover, he said that the European Union “does not understand” why Spain answers the Catalan concerns solely through the courts.

Former Catalan president, Artur Mas, warned that it is unacceptable to deny the Catalans’ democratic right to decide their own future “without even talking about it” while “condemning” those who try to organize a vote. “A nation wanting to decide its own future is a completely normal thing,” said Catalonia’s former president, pointing out the “great number of countries” declaring themselves independent over the last several decades. “Many of them have been through violence, though. Is it more legitimate to achieve your own state with violence than with a referendum? That is very strange,” he said, emphasizing that if actors in violent situations are listened to, movements like the Catalan one should “always” be listened to as well, since they are “totally peaceful”.

Furthermore, Mas expressed that if Catalonia is able to celebrate a referendum “with a reasonable turnout” and “without violence” that would already “be a very important victory”. “For us the democratic issue is the most important one, the right of self-determination, since we are a nation, more than the issue of independence in itself,” he said, pointing out, however, that “an important part” of the country does want to create their own state.

During the event on Tuesday, Artur Mas said that a referendum would be “a remarkable service to democracy”, also in the European Union, and he emphasized that Catalonia is “a small, civilized, and peaceful country, which is not in favor of violence and which has aspirations for the future.”

Spanish pressure

\u2028Tuesday’s event in Brussels began with the Libération correspondent, Jean Quatremer, explaining how, soon after he had agreed to participate, he received a call from Madrid. “They called to ask me why I had accepted, and if I was sure about what I was getting into, and obviously I was, but I am not at all in favor of independence,” he said.

Indeed, the call to Quatremer is not the Spanish foreign office's first attempt to stop a Catalan event abroad. Also in Belgium, the nationalism expert from the University of Lovaina and moderator of a DiploCAT-hosted debate on the situation in Catalonia, Vincent Laborderie, ended up rescinding the right to speak from a Spanish embassy diplomat, who had questioned the event's independence. “I do not know how they do diplomacy in your country, but this is not a very diplomatic way of doing things,” said Laborderie to the embassy representative, Laura Martínez, who had originally introduced herself as a student and then, some minutes into her comments, admitted that she was a diplomat.

Also in Brussels, a principal European think tank, the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), cancelled an event in 2014 at the last minute in which the president of the National Transition Advisory Council, Carles Viver i Pi-Sunyer, was to participate. Sources from DiploCAT suggested the cancellation was due to “pressure” from Spanish diplomats. That same year, the presentation of the Dutch translation of Victus, a book written by Albert Sánchez Piñol which was supposed to be held at the Cervantes Institute of Utrecht, was unexpectedly cancelled due, again, to maneuvers from the Spanish Embassy.

At the European Parliament in Brussels in January, the head of the Spanish Conservative People’s Party (PP) group, Esteban González Pons, asked his European colleagues not to attend the speech of Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, Catalan Vice President, Oriol Junqueras, and Catalan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Raül Romeva. The Swedish European Member of Parliament, Bodil Valero, from the Greens, lamented this attempt from the Spanish People’s Party to influence the rest of the parliamentarians’ agenda. During the September 27 election campaign, the European Commission published a clearly manipulated answer from its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, on the consequences of Catalan independence within the EU. They later attributed the manipulation to "human error". In the original text, in English, he did not refer to Catalonia, while the Spanish version talked about Catalonia's expulsion from the EU and the unconstitutionality of independence.

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  • The correspondent of the 'Libération', Jean Quatremer, and the former Catalan President, Artur Mas during the event in Brussels on April 25 (By Laura Pous)

  • The correspondent of the 'Libération', Jean Quatremer, and the former Catalan President, Artur Mas during the event in Brussels on April 25 (By Laura Pous)