The Secretary for Foreign and EU Affairs, Roger Albinyana spoke before the European and External Relations Committee (EERC) this morning in the Scottish Parliament to explain the different strategies used by the Government of Catalonia in matters of external and foreign action. Albinyana was asked to speak before the EERC by Scottish parliamentarians alongside María Ángeles Elorza and Lukas Van Hamme, representatives of the foreign affairs departments in the Basque and Flemish governments, respectively. Also on behalf of the Catalan representation and joining Secretary Albinyana in the Committee was the Government’s delegate in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Josep Manuel Suàrez.
During his initial intervention, Albinyana made reference to the fact that the Government of Catalonia’s external action dates back since the Spanish democracy was restored, noting that the Catalan delegation in Brussels was established in 1986 and at the time it was the only delegation to the European institutions established by a Spanish autonomous community. The Secretary for Foreign Affairs also informed the Committee on the general outline of Catalonia’s international presence, stating that aside from the seven Government delegations, Catalonia also has a network of thirty-seven “ACCIÓ” bureaus throughout the world to promote innovation, internationalization and investment in Catalonia, as well as various offices from the other entities, such as the Catalan Tourist Board or the Ramon Llull Institute.
Albinyana explained to the members of the Scottish Parliament that Catalonia’s Foreign Action is an instrument to “serve the needs of Catalonia as well as its citizens” in accordance to four main pillars: 1) the Government’s institutional representation; 2) the internationalisation of the Catalan economy and the attraction of foreign investment; 3) the attraction of tourism, and 4) the bolstering of Catalan language and culture. In this sense, the Secretary explained that Catalonia’s delegations and its other foreign offices are an efficient investment because they protect the fundamental interests of Catalonia.
The Foreign Affairs Secretary also spoke about the Government’s initiatives in matters of public diplomacy and media projection, alluding to the creation of Diplocat, Catalonia’s Public Diplomacy Council, and the Eugeni Xammar Programme as examples of this global projection.
Once the initial interventions were concluded, the representatives were then asked a series of questions by Scottish parliamentarians concerning the mechanisms put in place to finance the foreign delegations. Additionally, they were well inquired on the issue of how the regional government’s foreign action fits with the legal framework of their respective constitutional systems. Regarding this matter, Albinyana regretted the “difficulties” that the Catalan Executive has found with the Central Government when carrying out the country’s external action (a view shared by his Basque counterpart) and made reference that other sub-state delegations, Québec for instance, have a diplomatic status granted to them by their own State, a condition which has been constantly denied to Catalonia by the Spanish Government.