Six government offices to open abroad as foreign minister bows out
As Ernest Maragall hands over to Alfred Bosch, his department will launch plan to recover Catalonia's lost influence in EU
The Catalan government on Tuesday will approve the opening of six new offices abroad, for the Baltic, the Nordic countries, central Europe, the Mediterranean, the Balkans and Portugal.
The move comes as the Minister of Foreign Action, Institutional Relations and Transparency Ernest Maragall steps down from the post, to be replaced by Alfred Bosch on Friday.
One of Maragall's last acts as minister will take place on Tuesday evening, with the launch of the ‘Europe Plan,’ an initiative from his department to recover Catalonia's “influence” in the EU, which government sources say has been undermined in recent years by the Spanish government's efforts to link all Catalan foreign action with the independence movement.
The plan comes out of the foreign department's aim to combat the "erroneous" image that the Spanish authorities have tried to spread of Catalonia abroad, as a part of a nationalist populist wave sweeping Europe in places such as Hungary and Poland. "We are not populists, we are not nationalists, and we want to show that," said one source.
Catalonia can "contribute a lot" to Europe
Department sources also accused the Spanish authorities of vetoing Catalonia's access in the European Union, to make it seem as if the country had turned its back on EU institutions. Yet the sources insisted that Catalonia backs the EU: "We want to make it clear that we are an actor that can contribute a lot," to the European debate, they added.
The foreign ministry also said it wants to "recover its presence in the European Commission," which has not officially received a Catalan president since Artur Mas in 2013. It also claims that there are a number of European actors who are "ready to listen to what Catalonia has to say," and that are "willing to engage in dialogue."
The Europe Plan will have three stages. The first aims to lay out the Catalan government's views on Europe, the second will begin a "process of public participation," and the third, based on conclusions from the first two stages, will lead to the drawing up of a white paper on the policy and strategy the government should adopt in its dealing with the EU.