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Catalonia takes the October 1 referendum to Stockholm

A day after opening the delegation in Denmark, Catalan officials travel to Sweden for a debate about self-determination


31 August 2017 07:44 PM


Helle Kettner | Stockholm

Only a day after celebrating the official inauguration of the Catalan government’s delegation in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, officials continued further north to participate in an event about the self-determination process and the October 1 referendum. The academic conference “Self-determination within the European Union: the case of Catalonia” was held at the Stockholm headquarters of the Swedish independent think tank, Arena Idé, which jointly organized the event. The think tank, which was founded in 2000 by the Swedish union movement, generally deals with economic policy and labor market issues, as well as those related to democracy and welfare.

The event jointly organized with the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat) was presented and moderated by Lisa Pelling. According to the head analyst at Arena Idé, the think tank hosted this event from a European perspective as they “want to look into what the wider implications might be for the European Union, when regions drive towards self-determination or even independence, such as Scotland.”

  • "It inspires a lot of people who are looking to bring democracy closer to the public”

    Lisa Pelling · head analyst at Arena Idé

The Catalan case ‘especially interesting’

Pelling argued that the Catalan case was especially interesting, because it “inspires a lot of people who are looking to bring democracy closer to the public.” Even so, she stressed that she believes “it is difficult to see how the current nation states in Europe can split even further. It is a complex and complicated process and there are no given answers.” The matter’s complexity was exactly what made it interesting for this think tank to host an event like this, she added.

The keynote speaker at the event, Diplocat Secretary General Albert Royo, gave the inaugural speech, titled “Towards an independent Catalonia within the EU?”, in which he explained the current situation of Catalonia to the 40-odd people attending the event.  

In an interview with Catalan News before the conference, Royo argued that “it is useful for Catalonia to take part in these kinds of debates so as to be able to convey the message that Catalonia needs solutions to what is happening in the country." "People should be allowed to have their say as part of a community,” he added. Furthermore, he argued that people should “avoid a paradox in which those countries obtaining independence through violence have been welcomed by the international community, while Catalonia’s peaceful and democratic process is being ignored or even blocked with legal or political arguments.”

At the subsequent panel discussion, research fellow at the European Program of the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI), Niklas Bremberg, and Josep Costa, teacher at the Department of Political and Social Science of the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona engaged in an academic debate about Catalonia’s situation.

Why the Nordic countries?

According to Royo, the Nordic countries are a priority for Catalonia because of their “attachment to democratic values. They all accept the right of self-determination, and some of them have even exercised this right themselves and understand that democratic values should always be respected in a political conflict like the one we are experiencing in Spain.” He further argued that Catalonia has many links to the Nordic countries from both a commercial and social point of view, as many Nordic people live in or visit Catalonia and vice versa.

Royo also stressed that the Nordic countries inspire Catalonia “to design our society in social, political and democratic terms,” he said, adding that “we have many things to learn from them.”

What can the Nordic countries do for Catalonia?

According to the chief analyst at the Swedish think tank, the Nordic countries can serve as an inspiration for Catalonia, as “all the Nordic states are more or less the size of Catalonia, if Catalonia were to be its own country.” She also stressed the developed model of cooperation on all levels. “Churches, trade unions, other civil society organizations, governments, ministers and parliamentarians all cooperate, so this could be a model for more independent regions, where you would also have this layer of interdependence and cooperation.”

And what can Catalonia do for the Nordic countries?

The Diplocat secretary general insisted that Catalonia wants to “contribute to the main international discussions and play the role of a responsible international player.” He thus argued that Catalonia can contribute to some of the main challenges Europe is facing, such as the fight against terrorism or global warming, for example.

Meanwhile, think tank analyst Pelling said Catalonia was relevant to the Nordic countries as they are all “very interested in the future of the European Union. Of course, we are also interested in knowing how a possible new position for Catalonia could and would influence the EU and how they intend to deal with the consequences of this struggle.”

Yet, the chief analyst didn’t see much chance of Catalonia becoming an independent state right now. Instead she argued for the importance of “another way of bringing a sense of self-determination to people” and stressed that she was not sure whether “new independent states were the right way to go.” She also showed skepticism about the October 1 independence referendum, saying that a vote like this “would have an influence on other people than just those living in that territory.” She therefore argued that all stakeholders in the process should be included, which in fact would also include Sweden, which “is affected by what goes on in Spain and Catalonia, because we are members of the same union,” she concluded.

Catalonia actively present in the Nordic countries

Thursday’s academic debate in Stockholm was not the only event in Scandinavia these days. The Catalan president Carles Puigdemont visited Denmark on Wednesday and Thursday to inaugurate the new delegation in the Nordic Countries located in Copenhagen. The aim of this new office is to foster bilateral relations with Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, as well as boost Catalan business and culture in the region.



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  • During the panel debate about Catalonia at Arena Idé (by Helle Kettner)
  • Audience at the academic conference at the Swedish think Tank Arena Idé (by Helle Kettner)
  • Diplocat Secretary General Albert Royo during his keynote speech (by Helle Kettner)
  • The Catalan case debated in Stockholm (by Helle Kettner)