Catalan delegation opens in the Nordic Countries
The office in Copenhagen aims to foster Catalan business in the region and help boost its culture internationally
The Catalan delegation in the Nordic Countries was inaugurated on Wednesday in Denmark. Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, attended the event in Copenhagen, along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Raül Romeva and the new delegate, Francesca Guardiola. As well as speeches by Puigdemont and Romeva, the opening included a music show by the Catalan-Swedish conservatory student Fredrik Stand, a literary reading by the Danish writer Marie Tourell Soderberg and a performance by a human tower.
The aim of the delegation is to foster bilateral relations with Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and help boost Catalan business and culture in the region. The office also aims to provide support for the Catalan community living in the Nordic Countries, as well as working with international organizations based in the area.
12th delegation abroad
The Nordic office is the 12th delegation to be opened by the Catalan government abroad. It all began in Brussels in 1986, when Catalonia opened its first office to represent the country to the European Union. The network of delegations includes offices in such countries as the United Kingdom and Ireland, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal. New delegations in Geneva, Poland and the Baltic countries, and the Balkans were opened this year. Beyond Europe, the Catalan executive also has offices representing it in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Criticism of the delegations in Catalonia
However, not everyone in Catalonia agrees with the delegations. In September 2016, the Catalan branch of Spain’s ruling People’s Party, the PPC, called for the offices abroad to be closed. The party claimed that the executive should prioritize spending in other areas, such as health care, because “no one uses” the delegations.
The offices, however, help to promote the internationalization of Catalonia not only at a political level, but also, and especially, at business level. Delegations also host cultural offices to promote artists abroad, while they play an important role at helping Catalan expats líving in foregin countries.
According to the 2017 Catalan budget, the government will spend €18 million euros this year on foreign action, out of a total of €34 billion of public spending. Spain spends around €780 million on the same field. Yet, Catalonia is not the only area in Spain with delegations abroad. The Basque Country has five delegations, including offices in Brussels and New York, and Andalusia also has one in the EU capital. In fact, most regions in Spain have at least one delegation abroad.
2015: Catalan independence in the Danish Parliament
The opening in Copenhagen is one of the highlights of President Puigdemont’s official visit to Denmark on Wednesday and Thursday, only a month before the October 1 referendum. Yet, Catalonia’s political situation is not at all new to the country. In May 2015, Denmark’s parliament, the Folketing, passed a proposal requesting that Spain and Catalonia establish “a peaceful and democratic dialogue” on self-determination and “the issue of Catalonia’s independence.”
Not many Danes at the time were aware of the debate in the national parliament, but that changed when the Danish media starting publishing pictures of Catalan buildings waving the “Dannebrog” (the Danish flag) as a way of showing their gratitude towards Denmark and its people for debating Catalonia in the parliament.
Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands
In fact, the issue of self-determination recently came up in Denmark. In April last year, after a meeting between Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Denmark, the Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen argued that “the Commonwealth of the Danish Kingdom makes the countries stronger,” even though he added that he respected the wishes of the other two regions to be independent.
“I respect that both the Faroe Islands and Greenland want to work on their own constitutions,” he said, adding: “The government is positive about a dialogue with the Faroe Islands and Greenland regarding the questions that might occur during the work on the constitutions.” Nevertheless, in June 2017, the Danish Prime Minister also said that he found it difficult to see how Greenland could be economically independent.