The Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia, known as the Diplocat, has been officially reactivated today by its consortium, formed by representatives from different Catalan authorities and organizations, including chambers of commerce and universities.

The Diplocat was closed down by the former Spanish government as part of the application of Article 155, which suspended Catalonia’s autonomy. The Catalan government decided in June to stop its liquidation, arguing that it was illegal.

President Quim Torra and Foreign Affairs Minister Ernest Maragall formally announced the reopening of the Diplocat on Wednesday after a meeting with the board of the organization.

New director to be appointed

The former secretary general of the Diplocat, Albert Royo, will not continue as head, and will be temporarily replaced by the Secretary General of Foreign Affairs of the government, Natàlia Mas. The board is expected to nominate a new director for the Diplocat in its next meeting.

The Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia was considered by unionist groups as one of the main reasons behind the internationalisation of the independence case, and Spanish police officers are including the organization in their investigations into alleged misuse of funds.

Diplocat was often blamed by Madrid as the reason behind some international press editorials being in favor of a referendum or critical of the Spanish government’s stance on Catalonia. An MP from unionist party Ciutadans (Cs) accused the then Spanish government of not “doing enough” to stop the “propaganda” that, according to him, Diplocat disseminated. “Diplocat has managed to create an international idea that Spain nowadays has something to do with that of the Franco years,” said MP Juan Carlos Girauta.

These and other similar comments explain why Diplocat’s closure became one of the cornerstones of Spain’s direct rule in Catalonia. Former vice president Soraya Saénz de Santamaría joked about it, asking an audience of supporters: “Do you know what the Diplocat it’s called now? Diplocat in liquidation.” The joke turned against her months later, when her PP government was removed from power. Then, social media users edited her Diplocat video to have her say the PP is “in liquidation”.

Employees reinstated

The Diplocat will try to get back all the employees dismissed by the Spanish government during direct rule. Although the shutting down of Diplocat was announced immediately after the Catalan declaration of independence, at the end of October, workers were fired some months later, in April.

Diplocat employees always said the organization would be reinstated with the end of direct rule and denied they held a bias towards independence. They pointed out that “all delegations” visiting Catalonia through them “had the chance to meet with all parties with parliamentary representation as well as with diverse and plural entities from civil society.” They also said that all parties, including those supporting direct rule, had participated in the organization’s initiatives.

They also insisted that, from Diplocat, they “invited people who are clearly opposed” to independence to all their events and sessions, with debates often having “most of the participants clearly opposed to secession.” Diplocat workers said that their actions had always fallen within the scope of public diplomacy, which is different from regular diplomacy. “The actions of Diplocat were not aimed at setting up relations with foreign governments, but rather at broadcasting the Catalan reality to individuals and entities abroad,” they added.