Quim Torra appeals to world leaders to intervene to 'avert a European crisis' over Catalonia

The Catalan President has appealed for international mediation after issuing an ultimatum to the Spanish Government on a new independence referendum

CATALAN PRESIDENT Quim Torra has appealed to a diverse array of world leaders to step in and offer mediation in his government’s ongoing conflict with Madrid, after issuing an ultimatum to the Spanish Government demanding progress on a second, mutually agreed independence referendum.

On 2 October, Torra stated that he expected a result in the ongoing negotiations between the Spanish and Catalan governments within the month, setting November as his final deadline.

Torra warned: "It is necessary for [the Spanish] president Sánchez to make specific commitments. We have been more patient than was required of us by the public.

“We have political prisoners, exiles, and thousands of prosecuted citizens. Our patience is not endless."

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In an official letter sent to president Pedro Sanchez on 3 October, Torra invited the Spanish president to a new bilateral meeting in the Catalan capital of Barcelona. However, Catalan media has reported that Spanish Government sources insist that now “is not the time” for such a summit, despite a mutual agreement between the two leaders after their first meeting in August that a “political solution” to the Catalan crisis was necessary.

In the face of intransigence from Madrid, Torra has sent further letters to 43 world leaders including several European prime ministers, US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pope Francis, suggesting they act as mediators or observers between the Spanish and Catalan Governments.

Despite both China and Russia having their own histories of suppressing nationalist insurgencies, Spanish media has reported that Catalan Government sources attribute their inclusion in the correspondence to their positions as permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“We have political prisoners, exiles, and thousands of prosecuted citizens. Our patience is not endless." Catalan President Quim Torra

Notably, Torra did not send a copy of the letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, despite the presence of France on the Security Council. France also has a significant Catalan population, with some parts of the country being considered part of the wider ‘Catalan Countries’ or Els Paisos Catalans.

Torra wrote: "It is obviously in the interests of both sides, and of the world, for this process to succeed, since an orderly and peaceful resolution of the situation is the only means remaining to avert a European crisis.”

However, Torra has been unbending in his demand that the ongoing imprisonment of pro-independence politicians and activists must end before progress can be made, commenting this week: "If any of the prisoners are convicted and sentenced to prison for their beliefs, then it is my assessment that the public demands for an independent republic will become overwhelming."

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While the Catalan President remains resolute, the Catalan Parliament has this week been riven by discord between the dominant pro-independence parties. The root of the disagreement lies in their response to rulings from the Spanish Supreme Court ordering the suspension of former president Carles Puigdemont, who remains in exile, and several other MPs on charges on rebellion, due to their involvement in the 2017 independence referendum.

Pro-independence parties passed a motion on 2 October rejecting the rulings and stating that prosecuted MPs could only be replaced by colleagues from within their own parties.

While Esquerra (ERC) have announced Sergi Sabrià as their chosen substitute for former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras and MP Raül Romeva, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), Puigdemont’s party, have rejected replacing Puigdemont and three other MPs who are currently in prison, stating that they will continue to vote by delegation. They refute the court’s right to, in effect, sack the four MPs.

Elsewhere this week, Albert Rivera, leader of the right-wing unionist Ciutadans party, has stated that he is open to the far-left pro-independence party CUP being declared illegal, potentially undermining the Catalan Government, whose majority depends upon the CUP’s support.

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Speaking on Spanish public radio, Rivera agreed with Pablo Casado, leader of the recently deposed right-wing Spanish People’s Party (PP), who said on 3 October that CUP could be outlawed for endorsing pro-independence grassroots action which Casado characterised as “violent.” While CUP have endorsed civil disobedience, it has thus far only engaged in peaceful protest.

Casado has raised the possibility of employing the same law that was used in 2003 to ban Batasuna, which Spanish courts deemed to be the political arm of the armed Basque nationalist group ETA.

In addition to offering support to Casado’s interpretation of the law, Rivera proposed reforming electoral laws to set a 3 per cent threshold for parties entering the Spanish Congress, which would eliminate all representatives from the two main Catalan pro-independence parties, Esquerra (ERC) and PDeCAT, as well as threatening the inclusion of other regional or minority parties.

As both Ciutadans and the PP fall short of the necessary parliamentary majority to make these legislative changes, they have appealed to Spain’s ruling Socialist government to support their proposals.

Picture courtesy of Premsa SantCugat

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