The EU can be prosperous even if it comprises of scores of small independent nations, says fugitive former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont. If the number of members was an issue, the EU would not accept new ones, he adds.
The former Catalan president is a wanted man in Spain for organizing a referendum on the independence of his home state two years ago. Voices opposing Catalan independence came not only from Madrid, but also Brussels.
For example, then-European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it would be impossible to manage the EU, if it had 98 members, which, he predicted, would eventually happen if Catalonia was allowed to do what it wanted. Puigdemont said this line of reasoning has an obvious flaw.
“They told us: ‘Taking in Scotland, Catalonia, Flanders – that would be too complicated’. We could take that, but at the same time the EU was seeking to expand from 28 members to 30 or even 32. They are negotiating with Kosovo, [Northern] Macedonia, Albania on their accession,” he said in an interview with former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa on RT Spanish. Puigdemont said the EU could be a functional union with wealthy and happy residents, even if composed of tiny countries.
There is, of course, an obvious distinction between the lands he mentioned. The former three are parts of internationally-recognized states. Albania and Northern Macedonia are sovereign nations in their own right while the status of Kosovo is highly disputed.
Puigdemont argued breakaway regions like Catalonia should not get a different treatment simply because of how borders were set sometime in the past.
Mapmakers will have to make changes many times, because, thankfully, borders do change. Our aspiration is that those changes were enacted not through wars, marriages among royal families, and colonization, but according to the will of the people.
Puigdemont insists that the example of a non-violent battle for independence which he and his supporters set should be welcomed. Otherwise people with similar aspirations would see that “the only way of becoming independent is [through] war and armed conflict, with the international community intervening later, as was the case with Yugoslavia.” For instance, Bougainville Island, which has a long history of a violent struggle for independence from Papua New Guinea, is currently trying to become a sovereign state through a referendum.
The Spanish government, he said did exactly the opposite when they used force to terminate Catalonia’s independence bid and put the leaders of the region on trial. Madrid, Puigdemont believes “has trouble negotiating and making concessions. It’s almost chauvinistic, this impulse to force others instead of talking to them, because talking is thought to be for cowards and weaklings”. In contrast, Madrid negotiated with the Basque armed group ETA, he pointed out.
An independent Catalonia would grant its people the same right of self-determination that it was denied by the Spanish government, Puigdemont said. Val d’Aran, a small mountain valley in the north of Catalonia is one area where people may seek one.
“Those living in that part consider themselves a separate people, and they are. They are Occitan, they have their own language. And if one day they decide to realize their right and vote ‘yes’ by a majority of votes, we will recognize them,” he said.
And if anyone else asks to become an independent republic, they will not be thrown into jail for it. Nobody will be expelled, persecuted, criminalized for executing their right. Asking shall never be a crime.
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