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The former Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs made striking declarations yesterday evening that have gone unnoticed. He said that when he was Minister, the Spanish government made ‘great efforts’ to talk to governments around the world so that they would not adopt favourable positions on the independence of Catalonia. Margallo says that there were secret negotiations and ‘no one knows the favours we owe to a lot of people for making the declarations they made’.
These are declarations made on the ‘El Cascabel’ program on 13TV yesterday evening, straight after the debate with the former president of the government of Catalonia Artur Mas in the Ateneo in Madrid.
In the interview, Margallo repeats that Mas has recognised to him that independentism has lost international battle. ‘From the moment I arrived in the ministry, we called a meeting every Friday of the year for five years and we gave very specific instructions to ambassadors and consuls to avoid any offensive, and Mas has recognised that it worked out well, that no one abroad has recognised them.’
And he goes further, when he insists on the effort that they had to make to close the diplomatic doors on independentism. ‘Nobody knows how much effort this took us, nor the favours we owe to a lot of people for the declarations that they made. ‘And he goes on, ‘This cost us a lot of work. I was in the Baltic countries four times, and it is not that we have particular economic interests there, but rather that we have the subject of Catalonia and the Baltic Way. I have been to Canada, to the Vatican I don’t how many times … This takes up an enormous amount of energy.’
Vagaries and slander
What do the ‘efforts’ to which Margallo amount to? Shortly before the 27-S elections, the Spanish pressure produced vague declarations from some leaders. The most specific declaration at that time came from the then Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that an independent Catalonia ‘would no longer form part of the EU and that it would have to join the queue behind the candidate countries.’ All that they managed to get from Barack Obama was a phrase at the time of a visit from Felipe VI, that ‘The United States wants a strong and united Spain’; and from Angela Merkel, an even vaguer declaration, saying that ‘the European Union treaties guarantee the integrity and sovereignty of the member states’ and that she shared Rajoy’s position in that ‘national and international legislation had to be respected’.
Margallo, in his declarations on 13TV, highlighted the fact that he had been to the Baltic countries four times to deal with the Catalan case. There are well-known precedents of diplomatic tension between Spain and the Baltic countries concerning support to Catalonia’s independentist process. Former prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis made declarations to the ACN agency in 2013, a few days after the success of the Via Catalana, saying that Latvia would recognise an independent Catalonia if the process were carried out legitimately. On the same days, also to the ACN, the Lithuanian Prime Minister, Algirdas Butkevicius, said that Catalonia had the right to self-determination.
As a result of these declarations, Margallo called the Latvian and Lithuanian ambassadors to consultation in Madrid to make the authorities of both countries rectify in their declarations. The diplomacy of both countries initially said that they had been misinterpreted, but the Latvian Prime Minister wanted to make it clear that he ‘said what he said’ about Catalonia. Dombrovskis, the current vice president of the European Commission, suffered for his words: a slander campaign through a supposed police report published in the Interviú magazine, according to which, Dombrovskis received money in exchange for defending the sovereigntist process. The Latvian fraud office recently denied the slander.