This morning, the President of the Catalan Government, Carles Puigdemont, chaired the opening ceremony of the International Forum on Reception and Integration of Refugees in the European Union which took place in the Sant Pau Recinte Modernista building in Barcelona. The Catalan president was joined by the Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau; the Secretary General of DIPLOCAT, Albert Royo and the Spain’s UNHCR spokeswoman Maria Jesús Vega.
During the event, Puigdemont called for “a common asylum policy” to be urgently implemented by EU institutions which would allow for “safe and reliable asylum” and ensure that the efforts to integrate refugees “are redistributed among the 28 [Member Sates] in a supportive manner”.
The Head of the Catalan Government also expressed his commitment to convince European governments of the need to reinforce the current EU institutions and “allow for better and more efficient solutions to the existing political challenges”, and to what is, according to the President, “the most serious humanitarian crisis after the Second World War”.
In front of over fifty politicians and international experts from twelve different countries, the President emphasized “Catalonia’s moral commitment with regard to refugees and asylum policy”, not only out of an ethical imperative but also given the country’s history. “Catalonia is a country which has also suffered its own exile”, he noted “most recently, in 1939, when 200,000 Catalans were forced to leave their homes as a result of the military victory by General Franco’s fascist army”.
After stating Catalonia’s “clear willingness to help improve the Mediterranean area of Europe and making it safer, more peaceful and democratic”, Puigdemont affirmed that “Europe has a crucial role in the stabilization of the [Southern Mediterranean] region”, and “it cannot turn a blind eye to the situation”.
Finally, the President stated that local and regional governments should continue working for the integration of refugees in society and provide “the same rights and duties that all citizens of Catalonia receive”.
In the closing session, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Institutional Relations and Transparency, Raül Romeva, announced the Government’s intention to draft a resolution that could summarise the spirit of the Forum and thanked the German city of Stuttgart for considering organising a second edition. Romeva also noted that neither individual states nor the EU “have lived up to the expectations, and from a political and administrative point of view, have failed”. “Now is the time to build and join together in order to correct these errors”, he added.
The Forum was organized by the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia and the City Council of Barcelona. The event allowed cities, regions, states, organizations and experts to exchange views and come up with viable solutions to the refugee crisis.