During a visit to Lisbon today, the president of the Government of Catalonia, Quim Torra, said: “We will continue to internationalise the Catalan cause. It’s very important for us to have our own voice in the world and explain ourselves, because if we don’t, others will. We need to be able to send a message that focuses on freedom, civil rights and the right to self-determination that the Catalan people demand.”
“We’ll continue to make Catalonia’s voice heard around the world – politically, socially and economically,” he said. In line with this aspiration, the president announced that the Catalan government will reopen its delegation to Portugal in the near future, a step already taken in the case of some other delegations abroad.
Torra stressed the “very close historical, cultural, economic and social ties” that bind Catalonia and Portugal, which he said the Catalan government wants to make even stronger: “Portugal is a vital and extremely important partner for Catalonia. That’s why we want to be here: to explain our position.” The president also expressed his gratitude to the Portuguese parliament for adopting a resolution a year ago “inviting the Spanish state to find a political solution to the Catalan conflict based on the will of the people of Catalonia.”
“Yesterday, I met with some of these MPs and thanked them for being the first parliament in the European Union to come out in favour of a political, democratic solution based on the will of the people of Catalonia,” he said.
“Firm stand in defence of freedom of expression”
In statements to the media, the president said it was unacceptable that the Central Electoral Board had “banned symbols, colours and even words”, referring to the Board’s decision to prohibit Catalan public media from using the words “political prisoners” and “exiles”. “We’re living in a repressive, authoritarian state. The authoritarian drift of the Spanish state seems to have no end,” he said. He also called for people to stand firm in defence of freedom of expression and “speak out against what’s happening” in Spain. “More and more people around the world are realising that the violations of civil and human rights being committed by the Spanish state are absolutely intolerable from a democratic standpoint,” he said.
Torra drew attention to two recent manifestos: one signed by 41 French senators, condemning the “repression” of political prisoners and calling for “respect for fundamental rights and freedoms” in Catalonia, and another, backed by 700 Italian intellectuals, that urges the Spanish state not to judicialise the conflict and to seek a solution through dialogue. “International public opinion is more and more perplexed at what’s happening in the Spain,” he said.
Finally, responding to questions from reporters, the president challenged Spanish political forces to say whether they “are willing to accept Catalonia’s right to self-determination” – a right, he noted, that is recognised in Article 7 of the Portuguese Constitution. Torra said Spanish political parties should not play games with percentages or the idea of holding multiple referendums.
This evening, the president will speak at a conference entitled “Catalonia and the right to self-determination: an international perspective” at the ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon. The head of the Catalan government will be joined by José Pacheco Pereira, a historian and former vice-president of the European Parliament; Felipe Vasconcelos Romão, an ISCTE researcher on international politics and the author of Espanha e Catalunha: Choque de nacionalismos (“Spain and Catalonia: Clash of Nationalisms”); and André Freire, a professor and researcher at ISCTE-IUL.