Latvia and Lithuania say the press offered a “biased” version of their Prime Ministers’ statements on Catalonia

In two exclusive interviews with the Catalan News Agency, the Prime Ministers of Latvia and Lithuania answered questions on Catalonia’s independence and self-determination process. The statements were badly received by the Spanish Government. The Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister summoned the Latvian and Lithuanian ambassadors in Madrid and met with them on Monday morning. Despite the video showing how the Lithuanian PM literally stated “each country has to find its own way” and “has the right to self-determination” referring to Catalonia, the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a note stating that the press had offered a “biased and wrong interpretation”. Additionally, Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry also issued a note saying the interpretation was “biased”. However, at the same time, a Spokesperson of the Latvian PM stated he had nothing “to take back” from the interview, in which he was asked about recognising an independent Catalonia and stated “if there is legitimacy in their process, then I would say, theoretically, 'why not?'”.

The Latvian Ambassador in Madrid entering into the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry to met with García Margallo (by R. Pi de Cabanyes)
The Latvian Ambassador in Madrid entering into the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry to met with García Margallo (by R. Pi de Cabanyes) / ACN


September 16, 2013 10:36 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Foreign Affairs Ministries of Lithuania and Latvia respectively issued on Sunday evening and Monday afternoon a note in which they stated that their Prime Ministers’ statements about Catalonia’s independence and self-determination process had been reported in a “biased” way by the press. The statements were badly received by the Spanish Government and the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel García Margallo, summoned the Latvian and Lithuanian ambassadors in Madrid on Monday morning in order to clarify the issue. Last Friday and Saturday, the Catalan News Agency (CNA) published two exclusive interviews with the two Prime Ministers on the occasion of the 400-kilometre-long human chain supporting Catalonia’s independence from Spain, which was inspired by the ‘Baltic Way’. In the first interview – which was made in English – the Latvian Prime Minister, Valdis Dombrovskis, was asked if Riga would recognise an independent Catalonia. He admitted his country had “no official position” on the issue but that “if there is legitimacy in their process, then [he] would say, theoretically, ‘why not?’”. The CNA reported both these statements in its news article and included an audio clip and a video with Dombroskis’s words. In the second interview, the PM of Lithuania, Algirdas Butkevicius, stated “each country has to find its own way” and “has the right to self-determination” referring to Catalonia. The interview was in Lithuanian but an official interpreter from the Lithuanian Government was translating the answers immediately after they were made. In both interviews, the CNA informed both governments in advance about the interviews’ main questions, including Catalonia’s self-determination process, the so-called ‘Catalan Way towards independence’ and the comparison with the ‘Baltic Way’, which inspired the Catalan human chain. Therefore, both leaders had the opportunity to reflect on the interview’s questions and in any case they were forced to improvise their answers. Furthermore, the Lithuanian PM was mostly reading his answers during the interview.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Latvia issued a note on Monday afternoon, after its Ambassador in Madrid, Janis Eichmanis, met in the morning with the Spanish Head of the Diplomacy, José Manuel García Margallo. The note stated that the press had offered a “biased” version of the interview with the country’s Premier, Valdis Dombrovskis. The Latvian PM, when he was asked by the CNA about recognising an independent Catalan state he literally said “that if there is legitimacy in their process, then I would say, theoretically, 'why not?'”. He also added that in the event of a unilateral declaration of independence, things would be “more complicated”, as it was reported by the CNA on Friday. The Foreign Affairs Ministry note stated that Latvia’s official stance on an independent Catalonia “has not changed” and added that these questions are “Spain’s internal policy, which have to be dealt with according to the Spanish legislation and Constitution”. The note also stated that the independence process of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania cannot be compared with any other process within nowadays European Union. The note concluded by saying how Latvia “appreciates the good relations with the Kingdom of Spain”.

The Spokesperson of the Latvian PM: “he said what he said” and “he has nothing to take back”

Despite the Latvian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s note, the Spokesperson of Dombrovskis, Martins Panke, told the CNA on Monday afternoon that the Prime Minister “said what he said” [please refer to the audio clip attached]. Panke added that the Latvian PM “was very clear” and “has nothing to take back from the interview” with the CNA. The Spokesperson insisted that Latvia does not have an official stance on the recognition of a hypothetical independent Catalonia. The same statement was made by Dombrovskis and included in the CNA’s original news article. In fact, Panke explained that Madrid requested the meeting with their Ambassador because they wanted to know “if Latvia had a clear position” on the issue.

Besides, in the interview, the Latvian PM affirmed that whether an independent Catalonia and Scotland would enter the European Union had not been “worked on with a sense of urgency” yet at EU level. The PM also admitted that some discussions had already taken place at EU level about what would happen if a territory of a Member State secedes, but a final decision had not been taken yet. The Spanish Government is repeating in many press conferences and forums that an independent Catalonia would automatically be kicked out of the EU.

Lithuania rectifies its PM statements, accusing the press of offering a “biased and wrong” version

Lithuania was the first country to issue a note clarifying its Prime Minister’s words, despite being the second one whose Ambassador was summoned by the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister. The interview with the Lithuanian PM was published by the CNA on Saturday, a day after the interview with the Latvian Premier and a few hours later it was known that García Margallo had requested a meeting with the Ambassador from Riga. The Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on Sunday afternoon it was also summoning the Ambassador from Vilnius – Audra Plepyté –  and the Baltic country’s government issued a note that same evening. Plepyté’s meeting with García Margallo lasted some 20 minutes, similar to the time of the meeting with the Latvian Ambassador.

The note stated that the Foreign Affairs Ministry “is concerned about biased and wrong interpretations [of the interview] of Lithuania’s stance on Catalonia offered by the Spanish communication media”. In the interview with the CNA, Algirdas Butkevicius, Prime Minister of Lithuania, literally stated that “each country has to find its own way” and “has the right to self-determination”. The CNA used this statement as headline but also reported that the Lithuanian PM added that Catalonia’s independence has to be discussed “within” Spain, and “according to the legal basis”, including “international law”. The CNA news article included a video of Butkevicius’s answers, which were made in Lithuanian and immediately translated into English by an official interpreter from the Baltic country’s government.

The context of the ‘Baltic Way’ cannot be compared to today’s Spain

The note from Vilnius’ Foreign Affairs Ministry stated that “all the domestic issues have to be solved according to the democratic and legal measures which exist in each country, and respecting the Constitution”. The text expressed the “pride” of the Lithuanian Government regarding “the path the people of Lithuania took towards its independence and the ‘Baltic Way’”. It also added that “the occupation of the Baltic countries by the Soviet Union and the situation in Spain cannot be compared” and “it is not correct [to make such comparison]”, since Spain is “a democratic country, a member of the EU” and “a close partner in the EU and NATO”. The Lithuaninan PM had already stressed the differences between the context of the ‘Baltic Way’ of 1989 and that of the ‘Catalan Way towards independence’, as it was reported by the CNA. Butkevicius explained that “today the situation within the European Union is completely different”, since the “the EU is a democratic union of states that respects political rights and is based on free will”. However, the Lithuanian Premier also emphasised he was “very happy that the Lithuanian model inspires people from other places”, as with the Catalan human chain. In the interview, Butkevicius added that the ‘Baltic Way’ “now belongs to the entire humankind”, as it was recognised by UNESCO. “Lithuania recovered its independence in a unique way. It might be considered as a model for humankind to reach independence in a peaceful way”, he concluded.