Unilateral referendum is a ‘reasonable option’ considering Spain’s attitude, say Swiss deputies

25.04.2017 - 10:13

Two of the members of the Swiss Parliament delegation who visited Barcelona last week understand that Catalonia will organize a unilateral referendum if the Spanish state continues in its opposition. The Swiss parliamentarians, Socialist Mathias Reynard and Christian-Democrat Yannick Buttet warn that the Spanish Government’s rejection of dialogue pushes Catalonia towards a unilateral independence referendum and that it is “reasonable” for the pro-independence parliamentary majority to fulfill its democratic mandate. “I am not saying that it is the best solution, but I understand the Catalan Government’s stance,” said Reynard. “What will be essential from a foreign point of view, is participation. We need to know how many Catalans vote, if the referendum is organized in a unilateral way,” added Buttet.

Reynard and Buttet, co-presidents of the Intergroup of Friendship with Catalonia from the Swiss Parliament, are part of a delegation of Swiss parliamentarians who last week had meetings with representatives of the Catalan Parliament and the Generalitat, including Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, the President of the Parliament, Carme Forcadell, and the Catalan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Raül Romeva.

“Seen from a Swiss point of view, it is difficult to understand that people are not allowed to express themselves,” lamented Reynard, who reminded us that in his country they vote “four times a year about all kinds of matters”. “When there is a conflict or a disagreement, the easiest thing to do is to discuss it and vote,” he insisted, criticizing “the obstruction” of the Catalan people’s wish of celebrating a referendum.

“We can understand that Spain does not want Catalonia to be independent, which is perfectly understandable, but preventing them from voting we cannot understand,” stressed the Socialist. “I share this opinion,” added Christian-Democrat Buttet, who reminded us that it is exactly “this habit of regularly voting” in Switzerland, which brings “stability and peace” to the country and “respect for different coexisting ideological and national sensitivities”. To Buttet, there is already a “crisis situation” in Catalonia and the months to come are going to be “decisive” for Catalonia’s future, but also for “Spain’s and Europe’s”.

“I’m getting the impression that the opposition comes from Spain,” says Reynard, who confirmed that he had held meetings with the Spanish ambassador in Switzerland, which have always ended up in Constitutionalist debates. “A certain political intelligence is needed, and to be open to dialogue and discussion as well,” defended the member of the Swiss Parliament, who criticized the ongoing legal actions against pro-independence politicians, which he sees as “intimidation”. “In Switzerland, it would be inconceivable,” he said. “We are surprised,” Buttet added, warning that you cannot “criminally persecute people for organizing a debate, as is the case of the President of the Catalan Parliament.”

Both members of the Swiss Parliament regret the current situation of “opposition” and they believe that a unilateral referendum in Catalonia is a possibility. According to Reynard, the election on the 27th of September 2015 gave “a parliamentary majority for independence” and people expect their representatives to “get involved” in fulfilling their democratic mandate. To him, it is “reasonable” that the Parliament wants to organize a referendum and the negative response from the Spanish Government to do so “pushes the Catalan Government towards the unilateral option”. “I am not saying that this is the best solution, but I understand the Catalan Government’s stance,” he added.

In a unilateral context, Buttet sees “turnout” as “essential” for the referendum result to be acknowledged both domestically and internationally. However, he states he is not the one to mark that necessary turn out, pointing out that it should be “previously” negotiated. The Conservative representative is also surprised, given that during his stay in Barcelona some people against independence have told him that “they would win, if there is a referendum”. “Then, why do they not want to ask people about this?” he asked.

The co-presidents of the Intergroup on Catalonia form the Swiss Parliament remind us that they already asked the Federal Government if they were willing to mediate between the Catalan and Spanish government in order to resolve the situation, especially bearing in mind their long tradition in this matter. “The answer was that it is possible to do so, but it has to be requested by Catalonia and Spain, and this is not the case. Therefore, Switzerland will not get involved without a demand from both sides,” Reynard explained.

The two Swiss parliamentarians were in Catalonia together with two other members of the Swiss Parliament on a trip organized within the program of international visits which the Public Diplomacy council of Catalonia (Diplocat) started in 2013. Last month a group of members of the Danish Parliament and also a group of French representatives visited Barcelona.


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