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Puigdemont in Brussels to defend Catalonia’s right to hold an independence referendum

Catalonia is seeking an agreement with Spain to celebrate an independence referendum but if Madrid continues to refuse to negotiate, the vote will go ahead anyway in 2017. This is the message that the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, will send to the European Parliament in a conference on Tuesday evening that is expected to be attended by about 300 people, including MEPs, international journalists and diplomats. Puigdemont will be accompanied by his two most senior ministers: Vice President Oriol Junqueras and Minister of Foreign Affairs Raül Romeva, both former MEPs and both in charge of organising the referendum. The talk has caused a stir amongst Spanish unionist MEPs, who have urged their colleagues to avoid it. The leader of the Spanish People’s Party in the European Parliament, Esteban González Pons, wrote to all his Brussels colleagues saying that the referendum plans are “an unconstitutional act, which goes not only against Spain, but also against the deepest principles and values of the EU”. Puigdemont, said on Twitter that the so-called “dialogue operation” of the Spanish Government with Catalonia “has already arrived in Brussels”. In an ironic remark following González-Pons’ letter, the Catalan President regretted the Spanish People’s Party (PP) stance on the issue.

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23 January 2017 08:14 PM

by

ACN

Brussels (CNA).- Catalonia is seeking an agreement with Spain to celebrate an independence referendum but if Madrid continues to refuse to negotiate, the vote will go ahead anyway in 2017. This is the message that the Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, will send to the European Parliament in a conference on Tuesday evening that is expected to be attended by about 300 people, including MEPs, international journalists and diplomats. Puigdemont will be accompanied by his two most senior ministers: Vice President Oriol Junqueras and Minister of Foreign Affairs Raül Romeva, both former MEPs and both in charge of organising the referendum.


The talk has caused a stir amongst Spanish unionist MEPs, who have urged their colleagues to avoid it. The leader of the Spanish People’s Party in the European Parliament, Esteban González Pons, wrote to all his Brussels colleagues saying that the referendum plans are “an unconstitutional act, which goes not only against Spain, but also against the deepest principles and values of the EU”.

Esteban González Pons said that he won’t go to the talk, and urged his colleagues to do the same: “I ask you to not attend either. Your presence could be used to create the false impression that the European Parliament supports this call for an illegal referendum”, he pointed out. A Swedish MEP from the Green Party, Bodil Valero, regretted the Spanish government attitude. In an email also sent to all MEPs, Valero said that she will go to the event and hoped that “many others go too”. “Especially as I’ve heard that the Spanish authorities, just as they used to do, are trying to stop the talk”, she pointed out.

The Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, said on Twitter that the so-called “dialogue operation” of the Spanish Government with Catalonia “has already arrived in Brussels”. In an ironic remark following González-Pons’ letter, the Catalan President regretted the PP stance on the issue, suggesting that it is another example of the unwillingness of Madrid to listen to Catalonia’s demands.

The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfonso Dastis, said last week that Madrid will confront “any attempt to justify what is not justifiable” in Brussels. Although he did not specify any particular action, the Spanish minister argued that a referendum in Catalonia is illegal and that the Spanish Government is making sure everyone abroad understands “the legal parameters of Spain and the current situation”. He later softened his tone, saying that it is “legitimate” for everyone to defend “their political ideas”. His colleague in Brussels, González Pons, added however that the talk to be held in the European Parliament could have been held in “a bar or a cafeteria”. “They just rented a room”, he said.

In press remarks, González Pons admitted that the room, the biggest in the EP building, may well be full of people on Tuesday evening, but only “Green MEPs, extreme-left MEPs” or even “extreme-right MEPs” will attend. In fact, the conservative politician added that the Catalan referendum, which has the support of 80% of people in Catalonia, is seen in Brussels as a “Spanish Brexit”.

However, organisers have confirmed so far the participation of hundreds of people, including MEPs from the European People’s Party (EPP). The event will run at the same time as a reception hosted by the new EP president, Antonio Tajani, who will meet with the Brussels diplomatic corps only two floors below the conference. Sources from the Catalan Government said they are not at all concerned about the fact that the two events will be running at the same time.

Besides pro-independence MEPs Ramon Tremosa (ALDE), Jordi Solé (Greens/EFA) and Josep Maria Terricabras (Greens/EFA), who sponsor the talk, other Catalan politicians who will attend include Francesc Gambús, from the EPP, and Ernest Urtasun, from the Greens. Socialist Javi López will not attend, arguing that it is a partisan event, and not an institutional talk of the Catalan Government.

The talk

The conference, ‘The Catalan Referendum’, will be hosted inside the European Parliament in what will be the first official visit to the European institutions by the Catalan President since he took office last year. Puigdemont travelled to Brussels last May but did not visit the EU institutions. The Catalan Government has decided to hold the talk in the European Parliament because it is the house of European sovereignty. However, the trip does not include any meetings with EU officials.

Puigdemont, Junqueras and Romeva will stress that Catalonia has always been pro-European and intends to stay in the European Union if it becomes independent. The Catalan President and the two ministers in charge of the referendum will also argue that a vote is supported by a vast majority of citizens in Catalonia and should not destabilise the EU.

The Catalan Government wants the event to become an opportunity for diplomats, EU officials, MEPs and international journalists to understand the referendum plans. Puigdemont gave talks at Chatham House in London and the Science Po in Paris last year, but the European Parliament conference with Junqueras and Romeva on the 24th of January will be his biggest diplomatic event so far.

 

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  • The Catalan President Carles Puigdemont with the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, Alfonso Dastis (by ACN)

  • The Catalan President Carles Puigdemont with the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, Alfonso Dastis (by ACN)