Law on the Catalan Community Abroad begins its parliamentary process
The Catalan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Raül Romeva, presented this Wednesday the draft of the Law on the Catalan Community Abroad, which is set to be passed in 2017. The Parliament rejected the two amendments of the whole bill submitted by Spanish Unionist ‘Ciutadans’ (C's) and the Catalan Conservative People’s Party (PPC) and therefore the law has now started its parliamentary process. The arrival of this bill in the Parliament is a step forward for the recognition of the Catalan community abroad, a historical demand. Romeva explained that its aim is “to recognise the Catalans abroad as subjects with rights and duties and addressees of the work of the Government”. One of the central aspects of the new law is the Register of Catalans living abroad, which Romeva described as “key”. “It should be the tool by which the Government can identify the citizens who live abroad”, he stressed.
Barcelona (CNA) .- The bill on the Catalan Community Abroad continues its parliamentary process and is expected to be passed in 2017. 97 MPs of the 135 in the Catalan Chamber rejected this Wednesday the two amendments of the whole bill, submitted by Spanish Unionist ‘Ciutadans’ (C's) and the Catalan Conservative People’s Party (PPC). Romeva explained that the law aims “to recognise the Catalans abroad as subjects with rights and duties and addressees of the work of the Government”. Furthermore, the Minister expressed his commitment to "reconsider" the collaboration with citizens abroad and to "recognise the role" of this group. One of the central aspects of the new law is the Register of Catalans living abroad, which Romeva described as “key”. “It should be the tool by which the Government can identify the citizens who live abroad”, he stressed. Romeva believes the register will help to face the “current problems of the right to vote faced by the diaspora, and overcome the serious democratic deficit” of these people.
“They deserve more than our distant sympathy, it is essential that we facilitate them to become part of the collective destiny of our people”, stated Romeva. “Our ability to add all the groups will allow us to progress with cohesion, coexistence and freedom”, he added.
‘Ciutadans’ MP Susana Beltrán was responsible for defending the amendment to the whole bill and asked Romeva whether living “outside the territory of Catalonia” included Catalans living in other parts of Spain. She also criticised that the law doesn’t meet the international, European nor Spanish regulations. “It is an unproductive law, against the natural rights we already have and that put us outside” of existing frameworks, she said.
Register of Catalans living abroad “is not an electoral census”
One of the most controversial points of the law is regarding the creation of the Register of Catalans living abroad. PPC MP, Juan Milián was especially critical of the Register and justified his party’s amendment to the whole bill by saying that the proposal wants to harm the interests of the Spanish state and those of the Catalans. “Maybe we need a new law, but not this to control and politically direct the citizens abroad, but another to help and provide tools for collaboration, not for subordination”, he said.
Catalan Socialist MP Ferran Pedret considered the bill to be aimed at “expanding the focus” of Catalans abroad so they can have access to all services, but warned that the register has to be used as an electoral census: “I do not know what is the Government’s position because it is not clearly shown”, he added.
Alternative left alliance ‘Catalunya Sí que es Pot’ (CSQP) MP, Joan Josep Nuet announced that his party will propose amendments in order to “strengthen the mechanisms that guarantee the rights” of Catalans abroad. “We don’t want them to feel like second-class citizens”, said Nuet, agreeing with Pedret on the fact that the register is not an electoral census.
“It looks fine for them that Catalans and Spaniards abroad had difficulty casting their vote”, stated CUP MP, Anna Gabriel, referring to the Spanish Government. According to her, Spain doesn’t want expats to be “entitled to challenge the regime that has expelled them”. In this sense she lamented that some groups are “obsessed” with the registry and that they think that all Catalans living abroad are pro-independence.
The five novelties of the bill
According to the Catalan Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the proposal includes five relevant novelties in comparison to the law approved in 1996. The current draft enhances the concept of “Catalonia Abroad” and will include all Catalans living abroad and not only the entities in which they are organised. Hence, the text proposes to regulate the relationship also with the 250,000 Catalan citizens living in other countries.
To build this new framework for relations, the law also aims to improve the Register of Catalans Abroad created in 2014. The goal is to make a leap forward to turn it into an instrument with greater precision that facilitates the creation of public policies aimed at this group.
In this vein, the bill also proposes some policies, such as the facilitation of the use of the Catalan language abroad - through pedagogical resources, the right to public health services for Catalans living abroad that visit Catalonia and their participation in the public service employment programme.
The law also aims at creating policies to support and advise on the international mobility of Catalans citizens and to facilitate their voluntary return later. Finally, the bill also seeks to promote the international projection of Catalonia through the citizens living abroad, in their role as active agents of public diplomacy.