Spanish diplomats uneasy with Catalan debate group at Westminster

  • Hywel Williams said that “it is not up to Spain's diplomatic service” to “advise” members of parliament on the “activities” of the chamber

27.04.2017 - 16:11
Actualització: 27.04.2017 - 16:12

The creation of the debate group on Catalonia in the House of Commons is a thorn in the side of Spanish diplomats. The CNA has received confirmation that a Spanish diplomat met with at least two founders of the group, the Scottish National Party MP, George Kerevan, and the Plaid Cymru MP, Hywel Williams, in order to “explain his point of view” to them on the Catalan issue. In comments to the CNA, Williams said that “it is not up to Spain’s diplomatic service” to “advise” members of parliament on the “activities” of the chamber. Even though Williams described the meeting’s atmosphere as “extremely cordial, as these things are”, he admitted the diplomat was “clearly against” some of the motions on Catalonia that he had promoted recently.

According to Williams, the meeting with the diplomat from the Spanish Embassy in London conveyed a very clear message: “Clearly, he was against the sort of stances that I have taken recently in motions before this House,” Williams said. The Plaid Cymru representative asked the Spanish government to revise its position on the political use of the judiciary and the prosecution of elected representatives such as the president of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell. Another motion signed by Williams criticized the high fines and banning from office of former Catalan president, Artur Mas, and his former ministers, Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau, for their involvement in the non-official independence vote in 2014. The motion also defended the right of democratically-elected members of parliament to call referendums.

Questioned about whether or not the Spanish diplomat warned him against creating the debate group on Catalonia, Williams responded that “diplomats do not use that sort of plain language” and that the representative of the Spanish foreign office was “very polite” at all times.  Nevertheless, Williams confirmed that “the message was there”. “They would prefer that we were not doing these sorts of things,” he said. Williams added it was “not surprising” that diplomats “try to influence people who they consider to be influential” since it is part of their job to “promote the goals of their countries”.

Indeed, it was just this week that the correspondent of the Libération, Jean Quatremer, said publicly that someone in Madrid had called to ask him if he was aware of “what he was getting into” in agreeing to moderate a conference with former president of Catalonia, Artur Mas, in Brussels. Williams emphasized that his case as a deputy in the House of Commons is “extremely sensitive”. “The person I spoke to from the Spanish embassy did take a very diplomatic stance with me. In no way did he say ‘you must do this or you must do that’. And that’s, of course, what I would expect,” he added.

The Spanish Constitution “does not allow” a referendum

Williams also explained that from the Spanish embassy’s point of view the whole issue has to do with legal issues. He noted that the Spanish diplomat insisted on the argument that the Spanish constitution “does not allow” calling a referendum in Catalonia. Williams said that it was significant that the constitution was drawn up just at the final stage of fascism. Williams defended the position that if a constitution cannot be amended to answer the democratic demands of a part of the state over a long period of time, the situation becomes unsustainable.

The Welsh MP also added that changing the Spanish Carta Magna could be a very length and difficult process, while Catalonia needs a solution quickly. He also remarked that it was not acceptable that millions of people take to the streets and nobody pays attention to their demands. He recommended that Catalonia’s democratic demands be officially recognized and the vote results accepted.

Regarding the political use of the judiciary and the prosecution of elected representatives in Catalonia, the Plaid Cymru deputy stated his position clearly: “I am truly surprised that Madrid has chosen to go down this road. I cannot imagine anyone in the United Kingdom going to court to stop a referendum, and even less that the government would do so,” he said. Williams added that he “cannot understand how a state can tell its people that they are not allowed to discuss certain issues” and urged the Spanish government “to give a more creative and positive answer” to Catalonia’s political demands. Williams concluded that the Spanish State should consider territorial changes, since the current model does not seem to work.


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