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Rise in number of visits by European politicians interested in independence process

The first of the six foreign delegations that Diplocat will receive between now and June arrives in Catalonia

"There is great concern in Europe over the consequences of Brexit and the electoral calendar of some countries, such as France and Germany, and the Catalan process is one element more in the current European scenario". So says Ferran Pedret, PSC representative and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament. Although it isn't the main headache for the EU, many politicians and MPs from European countries want to know what is happening in Catalonia firsthand, and more importantly, want to listen to all points of view.

In 2012, the Catalan Council for Public Diplomacy (Diplocat) launched a program of international visitors, (PVI) and have already hosted twenty-five. But with the acceleration of events and the imminent independence referendum, interest has spiked. From now until June Diplocat has six scheduled visits, and the first was yesterday, with a group of French lawmakers. All of the visits are similar: five or six MPs or politicians from the same country representing different parties within their parliaments who spend two or three days here with a varied program of interviews.

One of the usual characteristics of these visits is that the politicians ask explicitly for discretion and for their presence not to be made public. "They are afraid of reprisals by the Spanish embassies", said Albert Royo, General Secretary of Diplocat, in comments to ARA. "The people interested in what is happening in Catalonia are people interested in what happens in Spain, and want to be in good terms with the embassies", he added. The visits by these delegations of politicians normally include an interview with the Catalan President, a lunch with the spokespeople for all the political groups in the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, and interviews with representatives of associations interested in the process, such as the pro-independence groups, Federalists of the Left, and Catalan Civil Society.

"It was interesting to hear the various opinions of the supporters of independence, those who above all want a referendum and those who oppose it", noted Maureen O'Sullivan, an independent Irish MP who came in 2015 on one of these PVI, in statements to this newspaper. For Albert Royo, "the goal is for our visitors to draw their own conclusions about what is going on in Catalonia". "For us plurality is very important, and gives us legitimacy abroad", he added. Socialist MP Ferran Pedret is one of those who never misses a visit, but the PP and Ciudadanos are not always represented. "We don't need Diplocat to act as a liaison, because the parties already receive frequent visits from other countries", noted C's lawmaker Susana Beltrán. In fact, they feel that these lunches in Parliament with politicians from other countries are "an unnecessary activity", but admit that, if they are held, they attend whenever they can. "It's burdensome for C's and the PP to join in Diplocat events because then they can't make their usual criticisms that what we do isn't broad-based", commented Royo.

The leader of Diplocat noted that on one occasion when the PP refused to go to the lunch, they accompanied the foreign delegation up to the doors of the PP headquarters on Urgell Street so that they could grasp their view of things.

Diplocat also organizes a program of visits for foreign journalists and opinion-makers. In these cases they also present all points of view, even though "foreign media that have correspondents in Spain base them in Madrid, and they are conditioned by their environment".

Puigdemont's meeting with French parties

The first of the delegations invited by Diplocat, made up of four deputies from the main French parties --except for the National Front--, met yesterday with Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who reaffirmed his commitment to holding a referendum in September. In the afternoon they met with Carme Forcadell, the Speaker of the Parliament.

Learning from constituent processes around the world

The people must be the key to defining the basis of the future Catalan republic that the government is trying to promote. First, by deciding in referendum if they want independence, and if the "yes" vote wins, being involved in the drafting of a new Constitution. "We need a new generation of constitutional texts born out of active citizen involvement", said Raül Romeva, Foreign Affairs Minister, yesterday at the inauguration at the CCCB of a cycle of seminars that will compare the constituent processes of different European and Latin American countries. "Today we begin to design the constituent process", remarked Romeva, who sees the opportunity to define a constitutional text that is "different and better" than the Spanish Constitution. Switzerland, Ireland, Scotland, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile are some of the examples that will be studied in the cycle of seminars.

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