Puigdemont decries Catalonia's legal defenselessness

During his stay in Paris, the Catalan president says a referendum can be held without changing the Spanish Constitution

"Catalonia is legally defenseless", decried President Carles Puigdemont yesterday during his address to explain "the future of Catalonia within Europe” at the Sciences Po de París political study center. "The legal system must be subservient to democracy, not the other way around", he reaffirmed, while denouncing the legal persecution faced by Catalan politicians who defend the independence process. For Puigdemont, this fact shows that "the Spanish state lacks democratic maturity”.

The Catalan president insisted that it would not be necessary to change the Spanish Constitution to hold a referendum: "There is no legal problem. It's merely a problem of political will". And he noted the broad support that this option has among the Catalan people.

As he had said in his speech at Chatham House in London, Puigdemont emphasized Catalonia's desire to remain as a member of the European Union after independence. "We are a nation that feels deeply European", he said. And he made it clear that Catalonia wants to be "an active player in building" the Europe of today --with all "the social problems and humanitarian crises"-- and of the future. Indeed, Puigdemont decried the fact that Catalonia, "with a long history of solidarity", cannot take in "some 4,500 refugees because Spain has prevented us from doing so".

A prestigious school

As in London, Puigdemont dedicated a good deal of his speech to explaining to the audience at Sciences Po how things have reached this point. And he stressed that "this is not a process that comes from nationalism, but rather from profound democratic roots". Some of the presidents of the Fifth Republic have come through this school, including Georges Pompidou, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, and François Hollande. The school —located in Rue Saint-Guillaume— is almost a requirement for the French politico-administrative elite and its faculty is of the highest caliber. Indeed, François Hollande himself lectured there two years before becoming president.

Once the speech ended, the Q&A began, which left no-one indifferent. One Spanish student complained that some voices have defined the separatist process as a coup d'état. The president answered him: "Who changes the laws? The military, as has been the Spanish tradition, or the people?" A Basque woman asked him not to leave them alone with the Spaniards, because "it won't be as much fun”.

The president concluded the discussion by suggesting that those who remain unconvinced read Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner for Economics. The American economist recently said that "an independent Catalonia is perfectly viable economically”.

"In Catalonia there is a problem with democracy”

Shortly before the conference, the President of the Generalitat said in an interview on the TV station France 24 that in Spain "there is a problem with democracy". "How is it possible that we can have legal problems for giving a voice to the people?" he reflected in reference to the open cases against the organization of the 9-N consultations. "Exercising democracy puts you in danger", he lamented.

The President insisted that he is willing to negotiate the conditions of a referendum with the Spanish government: "the question, the date, the percentage needed to declare the result valid ...", he detailed, and added: "If Spain proposes another question, we can go about it as the Scottish did, who chose between independence and “devolution max". After recalling Spain’s warning that "it will never accept that Catalonia may decide its own future", Puigdemont assured that the referendum will be held in any case. "We have the ability to do it, the parliamentary majority to do it, and the determination to do it", he said, and reminded that the vote will be held in September 2017 at the latest. "If we win, we will proclaim our independence", he concluded.

"If there is no chance for independence, why won't they let us hold a referendum?"

Also in an interview, in this case on France 3, Puigdemont insisted: "As politicians and as democrats, we are obliged to do what the people of Catalonia have charged us with doing" and for which there is "a clear mandate and sufficient parliamentary support": to lead the country towards independence. "We want independence so as to be a more viable State, to contribute better to the European Union, and above all, to guarantee a future for the people, because there is no future in Spain", he stated.

"If they think there is no chance of independence in Catalonia, why can't we hold a referendum?", asked Puigdemont in reference to the Spanish government, and he stressed that even though he will work for a Yes victory in the referendum, "as a democrat", he will accept that there could be a different result.

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