Versió en CATALÀ disponible aquí.
ORIOL JORDAN. In the past ten years, Catalonia has switched to sovereignty claims and it has drawn the attention of the world. The historical demonstration of 11 September 2012, with 1.5 million people in the streets claiming for self-determination, was the culmination of the multiple local unofficial referendums about the independence of Catalonia. Anna Arqué was a crucial member in that campaign. Building on that experience, the International Commission of European Citizens (ICEC) was created and she is its spokeswoman in Catalonia. This body starts collecting one million signatures today all around Europe to support being granted the universal right of self-determination.
-We are getting more and more sceptical about Europe. Don’t you think that the EU will turn a deaf ear to this by saying that they will not interfere in internal affairs of Spain?
Definitely. That’s why we have to overcome these walls on our own. As always, there is technical politics and we must overcome it. In Catalonia, in 2009 the technical politics rejected by unanimity one Popular Legislative Initiative aimed to discuss about self-determination in the parliament. After one specific project, society managed to change this refusal to a wide support in this issue, as the parliament passed in late 2012 a declaration in favour of self-determination. And this year they have just passed a declaration of sovereignty. Has the legality changed in these years? No. There’s been social politics. This idea of the Catalan revolution and social protest is the one we aim to export to Europe, overcoming all the technical issues.
EU institutions are political and not cultural ones. When a political institution signs a treaty, it acquires a political responsibility to set the tools, rules or anything else needed to enforce this right.
– What are you seeking when trying to collect 1 million signatures for self-determination?
We aim to highlight the European citizens’ will, which is actually also emphasised by the EU, considering that this year is the Europe’s Citizen Year. The rules approved by the community are to be applied by the citizens, no matter the legality, the hurdles and interpretation of the ruling governments. Political bodies sign international treaties, like the universal right to self-determination, and that must have a political value, apart from trying to look good.
– And how do we exercise this universal right? Currently, the competence to call for referendums is on the EU member states.
The universality does not have any time or competence restrictions. We want to show with a specific and internationally-agreed project that a way to show that we belong to the EU is to claim to enforce these rights in the EU. This institution has to match its expectations as a Nobel Peace Prize. ICEC will gather the people who support this idea. We offer them a place where to give their support for the first time, because there has never been a way to show people’s support for a widely accepted idea. This initiative is an opportunity for European peoples to gain access to this right.
– You are the Catalan ICEC spokeswoman, the body set to coordinate the project. What are their supports?
It is all about anonymous people, specialised in fields such as International Law and associations supporting to enforce this right. We are also backed by people not coming from any stateless nation.
-After the petition drive which is the next step?
ICEC will start a diplomatic activity path at a European level. It will not be about claiming for the right of self-determination, which we already possess. European Commission has to officially include it, it is its duty as a signer of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the other hand, we are planning a great demonstration in Brussels where we expect people from all around Europe to come.
How will you get the signatures?
The deadline to collect the signatures is in one year time, both through the website europeancitizensdecide.eu and personally as well. People will be able to fill in a form in different places round the country, as it happened when we organised the local referendums about Catalan independence. The person who signs it will be certain to have done as they will receive a confirmation email. We will arrange meetings at a regional level to coordinate the petition drive. We will explain some interesting facts about the petition drive and the European rules with regards to it.
Our advantage is that we have a wide experience from the informal local referendums on independence. The name of the website where signing will be available, europeancitizensdecide.eu is, inspired by ‘Catalonia decides’ (the motto of the referendums campaign). We are definitely going to take a lot of ideas from that social movement.
– We assume that most of the supports collected will come from Catalonia, but is there any concern on reaching the minimum amount of signatures in other countries such as Austria or Ireland?
No! ICEC has the collaboration of some social and political agents from stateless nations and we also have supports from Spanish or German intellectuals. This network and previous experiences will let us meet the number of signatures required for each of these countries.
From a personal viewpoint, you have taken part in the national organiser committee of the referendums campaign and have also tried politics. How do you feel about this process of metamorphosis of the Catalan society from traditional nationalism to self-determination?
I wouldn’t call it metamorphosis. The ones who have changed the most are the political parties and the government. After 30 years of CiU-ruled governments, the peoples’ feelings were deactivated. They could express another attitude when the political leaders finally matched with the peoples’ feelings.
– Concerning the current situation: the scenario seems to need the support of some parties traditionally far from independentism, such as PSC, ICV or UDC. Can you imagine of a scenario in 2014? Referendum, plebiscitary elections with extraordinary coalitions, unilateral declaration of independence…
It shouldn’t take us more than 6 months to call for a referendum. In fact, the key is to call for it. Schedule it. This will be the way we will gain credibility in Europe and will show them how solid and mature the country is. They are waiting for that. When you mix up the EU, then you can easily notice how weak the Spanish democracy is. We can’t remain inactive, otherwise the parties will be the only ones deciding.
– Finally, one wish.
The political independence of Catalonia.