"We send [the king] a message, a reasoned message, loaded with the legitimacy of what we represent, it cannot be ignored. That will determine what attitude we have to take". In this preview of an interview president Carles Puigdemont has granted El Nacional, he comments on a letter he, along with current Catalan president Quim Torra and former president Artur Mas have sent Spanish king Felipe VI in advance of the monarch's visit to Tarragona this Friday. It will be the king's first visit to Catalonia since Torra took office, but the Catalan president has not yet confirmed whether or not he will attend. "Institutionally, the king of the 3rd October is not welcome in Catalonia," says Puigdemont.
On 3rd October last year, two days after the Catalan independence referendum, the Spanish king gave a speech on events, criticised by some for a lack of neutrality and not mentioning those injured by police repression of those trying to vote.
The king has to choose what he wants to be, if he wants to remain a wall which doesn't recognise an immense majority of Catalans or be [the head of a] European parliamentary monarchy.
This Friday, the king will be in Tarragona with Pedro Sánchez, in his first visit to Catalonia since Quim Torra became president. There's been a lot of debate as to whether the president has to go to the event headed by the king or not and the Catalan government has published a letter from three presidents [Artur Mas, Torra, yourself] addressed to the monarch. Is it a last opportunity for dialogue?
Firstly, it's already huge that we have to remind the head of state that his duty is to be the head of state of all, those he likes and those of use he doesn't like. Otherwise, he's not the constitutional head of state and, as such, his figure would face a very clear constitutional crisis. But we have to remind him. He's not acted, he's not behaved like a head of state of all the citizens of the Spanish state. Secondly, he's neglected a role which has been sorely missing for many years -especially since 3rd October and his indescribable speech-, which is the role of moderation and arbitration in the face of conflicts which are constitutional, which are political, which are not criminal. Otherwise, what's his figure for? We remind him of that. And we remind him that if dialogue isn't encouraged, if the conditions for a political resolution of a political conflict are not set out, we'll be right back there. And the king has to choose what he wants to be, if he wants to remain a wall which doesn't recognise an immense majority of Catalans, as the polls say, be they supporters of independence or not, or if he wants to act, as one should suppose he should do, like [the head of] a European parliamentary monarchy.
What does his response have to be? What gesture are you expecting?
He'll know what he has to do. It's not up to us to say what he has to do. It's up to us to send him this letter with the legitimacy of the [electoral] majorities who have backed us, president Mas, president Torra and myself. As such, it's not insignificant, not negligible. And he would do well to listen.
Do you believe he'll listen?
I'm not in the shoes of the royal household. It's clear that he didn't listen on 3rd October. There's a tradition of not listening. It's never too late for anything. If he would start by listening, which I believe isn't unconstitutional yet, it would give a clear signal that he's understood the message Catalan society was sending to the Spanish state: First, that things cannot continue in this way under any circumstances; second, that we want to decide our future; third, that we want to decide our future by all voting; and fourth, that we have the right to self-determination because we're a nation. And, as such, we have a right not only recognised by the United Nations, but also endorsed by the Kingdom of Spain.
He's been distancing and shrinking the figure of the head of state
President Torra, in a postscript to the letter, asks for a meeting this Friday. Could this be a first gesture?
So far, he's been missing the opportunity to make gestures. To explain his 3rd October speech, to address himself to a very significant portion of Catalonia, which doesn't now feel Spanish, which is openly republican, he's missed all the opportunities he's had. He's been distancing and shrinking the figure of the head of state. He has opportunities, yes, this Friday he has a very clear one. But our responsibility is to send this message, as president Torra has said, to be available whenever he wants to speak, because it's quite unheard of that it's not yet been talked about, that the head of state hasn't had the slightest interest in knowing what this part of his supposed citizens think about the conflict we have.
It's clear to us that with the king from 3rd October we're not going anywhere, that we don't want the 3rd October king and that currently we've got the 3rd October king
Torra hasn't said whether he'll go or not. From the letter, we have to deduce that he'll go there...
The letter is very clear. Is it the king of 3rd October who will open the Mediterranean Games, or is it another king? I believe we deserve to know it. Because we are sure in Catalonia, not just independence supporters, the immense majority of Catalan democrats, it's clear to us that with the king from 3rd October we're not going anywhere, that we don't want the 3rd October king and that currently we have the 3rd October king and now he has an opportunity to clarify exactly which king is coming for the inauguration in Tarragona, the king who said a por ellos ["go get them"], who supported the violence and repression, who spoke only to part of his citizens, or the one who behaves like the head of state of a European parliamentary monarchy. We don't know.
So, depending on which king will come, you'll know if the president has to go or not?
President Torra will decide and will make a good decision.
What advice have you given him?
I don't advise him on these things. President Torra doesn't need my advice on this issue to take a decision. We talk about many things, naturally, but whichever decision he takes, which he's thought long about as is clear from the letter, will be valid for me.
If they do meet in the end, should this be Torra's message, a last opportunity to try to redirect the situation?
The king has a role as arbitrator and moderator, he doesn't have to negotiate political details ever, but he has the duty, as head of state, if he wants to be head of state of everyone, he has the duty to listen, and to respect, something he hasn't done so far. For him to listen and respect would be an important leap forwards in the attitude of the current head of state and probably also in the attitude of the Bourbon dynasty in relation to Catalonia. We'll see, we probably can't be very optimistic about this necessary rectification from the monarchy towards Catalonia. But it's his decision. They will decide if they want to remain with their back turned on Catalonia or even [directly] against a significant majority of the population of Catalonia, which doesn't accept this repression or, on the other hand, they want to start to act like the head of state [sic] of a European monarchy.
We Catalans don't like the king of the 3rd October
If the president accompanies the king in Tarragona, will people understand why he remains beside the king who gave that speech after the attacks on 1st October? On the other hand, if he doesn't go, do you fear it might seem that he's relinquishing representation of the country to the king and Spanish prime minister?
It will depend a lot on the royal household's response to this letter. It's normal. We sent him a message, a reasoned message, loaded with the legitimacy of what we represent, it cannot be ignored. That will determine what attitude we have to take. But, in any case, the decision president Torra will take will represent me.
The king of the 3rd October isn't welcome in Catalonia
The king's next appointment in Catalonia is in Girona. The mayor, Marta Madrenas, has made it clear she doesn't want the Princess of Girona Awards to be held there again. What's your opinion, having been the city's mayor?
The decision is very correct and fitting. Institutionally, the king of the 3rd October cannot be welcome in Girona, like he isn't in Catalonia. He's already come on previous occasions and confirmed that we Catalans don't like 3rd October kings. If he's read the CEO survey, I suppose someone will have explained to him that he's achieved something which no other institution has, for some 60% of Catalans rate the Spanish monarchy at 0 [out of 10]. As such, it's a logical, democratic, civil consequence for a head of state who clearly acts against a majority of the population of Girona. As such, it's normal that, in institutional terms, Girona city council and society should act based on that. It shouldn't surprise anyone.
What more do the Roca brothers have to demonstrate in service of the country?
The decision by the Roca brothers to provide a space for the prize-giving has provoked a certain backlash, for example from city councillor Lluc Salellas? You've come out in support of the brothers. Are you worried that such situations arise?
Of course, because institutional and political responsibility is one thing, and individual and private another. I feel represented by everyone's hospitality, in private terms, I feel represented by the quality and excellence of El Celler de Can Roca, demonstrated again yesterday in the gala of the 50 best restaurants in the world, achieving second place after having been third. What more do the Roca brothers have to demonstrate to serve the country in the way they can serve the country? They are not politicians, and they are not asked to take part in politics, they have to do it through quality, excellence, valuing local products, explaining our wines well, being highly committed to the tertiary sector and society in general. From this point of view, their establishment has its doors open to everyone. For me, as a country, it's a point of pride that it should attract the interest of so, so many people from around the world. I felt I had to explain that we shouldn't confuse things. I want to live in a country where everyone is welcome on private land. A restaurant, a football game or a theatre, it doesn't matter. Not only absolute respect, but also I felt the need to come out to help people who, furthermore, have done a lot for this country.