Yesterday’s debate at the University of Copenhagen with president Carles Puigdemont provided some interesting moments, particularly when he was questioned by Marlene Wind, a professor of political science at the university. Wind asked Puigdemont several questions on a number of issues: whether independence movements could undermine the European project, if identity politics has anything to do with Catalanism or why Catalonia wishes to break away from Spain. Wind asked if Catalans were “spoilt brats who wanted to get rid of the poor”. After the debate, we spoke to her and asked her what she thought about Puigdemont’s address and the right to self-determination of Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
—How did you like the debate?
—It was good. Interesting.
—You were very harsh and direct, which I loved. What did you think of Puigdemont’s answers?
—I know from the start that he probably wouldn’t answer my questions. I thought his answers weren’t so good and perhaps he was not keen to reply. He was better than I expected: he was calm, taking notes and trying to reply. But, for instance, when I asked him about Putin I wasn’t asking about his influence on him and his people, but about the instability, the destabilisation of Europe, the break-up of nation states and what consequences that might bring … That was the point of my question because it’s something I’m very afraid of, like many other people. I think he dodged that question …
—Would you like to see Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy in this room one day?
—Why not? He would be welcome.
—There is a difference. Puigdemont is a journalist by trade, he is very approachable, whereas Rajoy won’t even agree to an interview for the NY Times …
—I once interviewed the NYT correspondent and he told me that Rajoy has no interest in the press.
—I’m sorry to hear that. A political leader should stand up and talk, engage with ordinary citizens. And doing that through journalists is absolutely normal. When you are an elected official, you are not a king. You must put your case forward. If that is his attitude, it is wrong.
—What’s your position on the Catalonia vs Spain issue?
—I loathe to see states breaking up. I am also very saddened to see the UK leave the European Union. I think the best way forward is not to break anything up, but to stay united. I dislike the idea of a Europe divided into a hundred different quarrelling states. I believe that would be a terrible scenario.
—Yet Denmark recognises the right of its regions [Faroe and Greenland] to self-determination and Spain doesn’t.
—Because they are very poor and we don’t mind. Sorry! I shouldn’t have said that. That’s something we do not obsess over. If they want to be independent, let them be.
—Then why do you obsess about nations not splitting up?
—Well, those regions are not going to leave. Nobody believes they will. They get a lot of money from us.