Catalan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Raül Romeva, was invited this Wednesday to give a speech in the Finnish Parliament and officially present the friendship group with Catalonia created in the Chamber by Finnish MPs from different parties. During the event, entitled ‘Introduction to Catalonia’, Romeva insisted that ‘the Spanish Constitution doesn’t impede holding a referendum’ in Catalonia and therefore Spain’s refusal to allow Catalans to vote on independence ‘is not a legal problem but a political one’. ‘Everything we aim to do is going to be legal; if Catalonia can’t vote within the current legal framework, then we will create a new one’, he said in front of MPs from 7 different groups of the 9 composing the Parliament. The Secretary General of the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT), Albert Royo, also attended the event and celebrated that other countries such as Switzerland and Estonia have also created friendship groups with Catalonia. ‘It proves that the neighbouring countries want to have direct access to Catalan sources’ and ‘get ready for what might happen in the upcoming months’, he told the CNA.
The event, organised in collaboration with the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia, included the presence of representatives from the Centre Party, the Finnish Party, the Left Alliance, the Popular Swedish Party, the Social Democratic Party, the National Coalition Party, and the Green League, as well as the main Finnish media. According to Romeva, this plurality ‘gives legitimacy’ to the friendship group and shows that ‘interest in the Catalan process goes beyond ideologies’.
The initiative was launched by MP Simon Elo, from the Finnish Party, who attended the 27-S elections in Catalonia as an international observer. ‘I feel that there should be a peaceful and democratic way between the Spanish Government and the Government of Catalonia to settle this issue’, Elo told the CNA. He also referred to the massive pro-independence demonstrations held in Catalonia on National Day for the past number of years. ‘Those images meant a lot to the media and people in Finland were really astonished to see that millions of Catalans hit the streets to ask for a democratic and pacific solution’, he added.
‘Our aim is to offer a democratic debate for a democratic problem’
‘Many of those who didn’t know Catalonia’s reality are starting to realise that this process is for real’, Romeva told the CNA. ‘Our aim is to offer a democratic debate for a democratic problem which is not going to disappear, no matter how hard they try’, he said, referring to the Spanish Government’s refusal to call a referendum in Catalonia. ‘What most of the international actors want to know now is how we are tackling this problem’, the Catalan Minister for Foreign Affairs insisted and lamented that ‘these are the questions that the Spanish State should be interested in asking’. Thus, he pointed out that ‘sometimes there is much interest in addressing the Catalan situation and discuss this topic in other countries, rather than in Madrid’.
According to DIPLOCAT’s Secretary General, the creation of the friendship group, ‘shows that there is interest abroad in what is happening in Catalonia’ and in ‘the Spanish Government’s inability to solve the problem democratically’, he said. ‘These countries want to have direct access to Catalan sources, direct access to what the Catalan Government has to say and they want to have first-hand information on what is happening and what might happen in the coming months, to be ready for it’, added Royo.
Finnish MPs call for a referendum as ‘the best solution’
The president of the group of friendship with Catalonia, Conservative MP Samuel Elo, opted for calling a referendum in Catalonia in order to overcome the deadlock with the Spanish Government. ‘In my mind the best option would be to have a referendum, because this has worked pretty well in places like Quebec in 1999 and in Scotland in 2014’, he said. According to Elo, the aim of the friendship group is to ‘listen to both sides’; a precept to which he believes Spain should also subscribe and present ‘amendments [in response] to the Catalans’ demands’ so that they can choose ‘between the two sides of the coin’ in the event of a referendum. ‘Catalans have the democratic right to have a process to decide whether they want to be independent or not’, continued Elo ‘and of course the right way for the Catalan Government to do this is to propose the demands’, he said.
In a similar sense, Left Alliance MP and vice president of the friendship with Catalonia, Li Andersson, supported the ‘self-determination right’. ‘I think it’s on a principle level, the whole principle of self-determinations is important and that’s why on a principle level I support the idea of referendums’, she said. ‘At least I hope that the Catalans will have the possibility to arrange a referendum’, Andersson told the CNA.
‘Of course I know the urge for a stronger autonomy [in Catalonia] is quite strong’, stated Anders Aldercreutz, Swedish People’s Party of Finland MP and member of the group of friendship with Catalonia. ‘I think people are quite eager to take this process forward’, he said, and admitted that Catalonia’s independence ‘might not be in the interest of Spain as a whole’ and therefore the Spanish Government ‘is not quite eager to take the process forward’. Although he insisted that ‘as a Finnish MP’ he might not be ‘the right person to propose a solution’, he admitted to holding ‘hope for the discussion to go forward’ so that ‘there might be some compromises’ taken by Madrid.
Romeva’s agenda in Helsinki
After the address in the Parliament, Romeva gave a talk at ‘Magma’, one of the main ‘think tanks’ in Finland. Founded in 2008, ‘Magma’ centres its activities on areas such as territorial and European integration, the defence of national minorities, and the consequences of structural and economic changes in states.
During this trip to the Finnish capital, which lasts until Thursday, Minister Romeva also met with institutional representatives, and held interviews with the national TV station YLE and the main Finnish newspaper ‘Helsingin Sanomat’.
The Catalan Ministry for Foreign Affairs plans to expand its foreign action to Scandinavia with a new Delegation of the Catalan Government due to open soon in Copenhagen.
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