The Future of Catalonia: Opening Remarks Tel Aviv University

Shalom, bon dia, good morning everyone.

Professor Rein, Maayan Nahari, thank you for your kindness and warm welcome.

Dear speakers, I am looking forward to hearing your ideas, your thoughts on the issue we will discuss today: the future of Catalonia.

I am confident the future of our country will be decided freely by its citizens in a democratic and peaceful fashion. There is no other way in the 21st century Europe. We, Catalans, are 7.5 million of European citizens. And, I’m sure, it will be eventually us who will decide our own future. And that will happen in spite of the authoritarian opposition, the state repression and the brutal violence we have to endure, both ordinary citizens and our political leaders, from the most corrupt government in Western Europe as it is Rajoy’s Popular Party government.

According to the chief inspector of Spain’s Unit of Economic and Financial Crimes, better known by its acronym (UDEF), Manuel Marocho, Rajoy’s political party used a parallel system of accounts to siphon bribes into party funds through “box B”. That’s illegal money. Appearing before a Spanish Congressional commission investigating the issue, Mr. Marocho, described the illegal network as totally corrupt. More than nine hundred members of the Partido Popular in political posts are currently being prosecuted for corruption. It’s shocking. Those that are using the judges, the courts, the constitution to smash the pro-independence movement, those that tell us we are out of the law just because we want to vote, those have practiced, for years, and I quote Mr. Marocho, “corruption in its purest form”. Even Rajoy himself allegedly received secret payments in opaque money for years, in a profitable corruption scheme. Why I am telling you that? Many believe that heightening, in a deliberate manner, the conflict in Catalonia serves a purpose: to cover up the huge corruption scandals that are rocking the Popular Party and the Spanish government. And this is just outrageous.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Catalonia is an old European nation. We have our own culture and our own language. According to opinion polls more than 80% of Catalan people want to decide their future in a referendum on independence. But the confrontational and nationalistic Spanish government and its political allies do not accept us as we really are, and refuse to treat us as a people and as a political subject. None of our arguments, none of our attempts at dialogue, none of our political majorities have been, up to the present time, sufficient reason for the corrupt Rajoy government to listen to the Catalan demands. Those demands have been expressed for many years in a democratic and peaceful way. And always massively. An aggressive Spanish and state nationalism is intending to turn the Catalan people into a permanent territorial minority, a people subjected to assimilation and to the whim of political parties whose ideas have neither been voted significantly by the Catalan citizens, nor reflect their political preferences.

Do you know how many Catalan people voted for the Popular Party in our last regional elections to the Catalan Parliament held two years ago, on the 27th of September, 2015, in a record 75% turn-out? Only 8.49% of the votes cast in Catalonia. A very small segment of Catalan society, indeed. This tiny minority has eradicated the democratic majority from the Catalan institutions. It has imprisoned the Catalan vice-president and seven ministers without bail, while the rest of the government, with our President, is in exile in Brussels; and it also threatens the Speaker and the Bureau of our Parliament with long jail sentences. The yellow ribbon I am wearing on my lapel is a vivid reminder of this intolerable situation: it is a sign of solidarity with the vice president and ministers of the legitimate government of Catalonia improperly imprisoned, along with two civil society leaders, by an authoritarian and, as we already saw, an extremely corrupt regime in Madrid.

On December 21st, elections are to be held in Catalonia under the state of emergency imposed by the Spanish government. The pro-independence parties will stand. But, what will happen if the result of the polls becomes a renewed mandate for independence? Will the result be respected? Or will it only be possible to apply the unionists’ political program, whoever receives the citizens’ support?

That’s the issue here, my dear friends, and democracy and fundamental rights are at stake.

Ladies and gentlemen, and those are my last words professor Rein,

Maybe some of you already know it. Many people in Spain refer to Catalans as the “jewish of Spain”. You cannot imagine how proud we are about that. Israel is a great country and we, Catalans, look at it with great respect and admiration. Respect and admiration for how you managed to build such a prosperous nation overcoming all sorts of harsh, crushing adversities. We look at you, and somehow, we mirrow ourselves. There is a great deal of sympathy in Catalonia for Israel. You should be very proud of yourselves and your country. And, we are certainly very proud to be your friends.

Thank you very much.