Former Spanish President’s Letter to the Catalans sparks controversy
Felipe González said that the situation in Catalonia “resembles the German and Italian ventures of the 1930s”. The former Socialist leader and Spanish President between 1982 and 1996 accused Catalan President Artur Mas of placing “himself in a position above the law” and of “losing democratic legitimacy”. According to González, the coalition ‘Junts pel Sí’ (Together for Yes) “could be the start of a real dead end for Catalonia”. “How can they want to take the Catalan people into isolation, into a kind of 21st-century version of what Albania once was?”, he said in an article published by the El País newspaper on Sunday. His comments outraged independence supporters in Catalonia. Josep Rull, from ruling party CDC, described González attitude as “very sad”, regretting that his only recipe for solving the Catalan issue was to warn of an imminent “apocalypse”.
Barcelona (CNA).- The former Spanish President Felipe González has sparked controversy with an open letter published on Sunday in El País newspaper in which he compared the Catalan situation with that of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. “What it most resembles is the German and Italian ventures of the 1930s”, he wrote, while describing the plans of the coalition ‘Junts pel Sí’ (Together for Yes) to declare independence if they win the next election. González admitted that it is “hard” for him “to express it in these terms out of respect for the tradition of coexistence in Catalonia”, but added that Catalan President Artur Mas will be placing “himself in a position above the law, no longer representing all Catalans and losing democratic legitimacy”.
According to González, the coalition ‘Junts pel Sí’ (Together for Yes) “could be the start of a real dead end for Catalonia”. “How can they want to take the Catalan people into isolation, into a kind of 21st-century version of what Albania once was?”, he said in the article, published on the front-page of the El País newspaper.
González argued that Mas “is tricking the supporters of independence” because the “public space” that Spaniards share “as a nation state” cannot be “arbitrarily and illegally broken up”. For González, the project of ‘Junts pel Sí’ is a “strange and ridiculous front” that will break the law and have a “number of consequences”, including division in Catalonia and isolation in Europe.
The general coordinator of Catalonia’s ruling party CDC, Josep Rull, said González’s remarks were “very sad”. “Felipe González’s recipe for Catalonia is the same as that of (former Spanish PP President) Aznar: fear, apocalypse and harsh and disgraceful remarks”. In a Tweet, Rull added that González “will never understand” that the Catalan movement is led by “thousands of Catalans”.
The leader of the coalition ‘Junts pel Sí’, former MEP Raül Romeva, said that González comments were not surprising. “Time and time again they’ve told us that we don’t have the right to have an opinion, not to mention the right to express that opinion at the ballot box!”, he regretted. Romeva said he would be happy to talk to any Spanish politician about the issue of independence, but wondered whether they would be willing to listen.
Catalan MP David Fernández, from the radical pro-independence party CUP, criticised González for his “trivialisation of Fascism and Nazism”. According to him, the former Spanish President remarks were “miserable” and “disgraceful”, and merely a sign of the “desperation” of the ‘no’ camp. The CUP is running in the next election separately from ‘Junts pel Sí’, but supports the plans to declare independence.
Comments welcomed by ‘no’ camp
The leader of the Catalan Socialists, Miquel Iceta, welcomed Felipe González’s comments, saying he is someone who “knows and loves Catalonia”. “He is a friend that warns us of the risks of certain political options”, he argued. Iceta added that he “totally agrees” with González. “Independence is a dangerous project for Catalonia and a risk that we cannot assume”, he said.
The Spanish Vice-president, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, from the conservative People’s Party, also welcomed the article. “We need to welcome the fact that he wrote (the article) and that he highlighted that Catalan society is being torn apart and laws need to be upheld”, she said. Referring to the pro-independence coalition, Sáenz de Santamaría said that “it is very scary” to find politicians “willing to break the law, because then they are not acting within the democratic procedures”.