Three years after the speech of Spanish king Felipe VI in response to the Catalan independence referendum, the exiled president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, addresses the effect of that discourse in an interview with ElNacional.cat. He speaks by videoconference from his office as an MEP at the European Parliament, in Brussels, during a break between committees and meetings. Puigdemont, who a few weeks ago published his second book on the independence process, La Lluita a l'Exili ("The Struggle in Exile"), also analyzes the role played by Felipe VI in the tension between Pedro Sánchez's executive and the Spanish judiciary. With regard to the forthcoming Catalan parliamentary elections, he emphasizes the need for the pro-independence vote to break through the 50% barrier in order to have "political consequences". Also, the JxCat party leader calls for the next Catalan legislature to aim to materialize the international recognition of the Republic of Catalonia.
The king’s speech on 3rd October appears in your first book, where you explain that you didn’t even want to watch the speech because you said it would affect you too much and you needed to have a clear head. Did you see it in the end?
I read it. I saw fragments of his non-verbal language. I was warned, by the royal house, that we would not like the speech. I was very concerned, not because of what he might have said about us but because it was a rupture, there was a disruptive element in relation to what had hitherto been the role of the head of state, a neutral head of state, who should be the head of state for everyone, and has a reserved role in the constitution - which that day he decided to destroy. By not observing it.
I didn’t think the king was so unintelligent. It was a giant step toward his abdication
In this second volume you explain that you trusted in the king, whom you thought would fulfill the role of arbitrator reserved for him by the Spanish constitution, and then on the 3rd October Felipe VI chose to be political and "lost Catalonia".
I didn’t think the king could be so unintelligent, make such an elementary move, as to get involved in politics. And, moreover, the politics of the right and the far right. Because, if he did that, as he effectively ended up doing, it was clearly a giant step toward his abdication and dethronement. It is clear that he lost Catalonia that evening. And it was he himself who decided. Since then, Catalonia has no longer had a King. That day he decided to abdicate, live on television. And to tell a large proportion of Catalans that he did not want to be their king. And moreover, that he would go a por ellos - he would go after them.
Since then, the king’s visits to Catalonia have been hugely difficult. In fact, last week there was a strong controversy over his absence at the graduation ceremony for new judges held in Barcelona...
That's to be expected. He decided to stop being the head of state of Catalans. Not only that, I reiterate, he authorized the a por ellos against a part of Catalan society that wanted to vote. Even that part which wanted to vote no. The king put himself at the head of a coup perpetrated mainly by judges - in which the police also participated - in a partisan way and contrary to what the constitution is. So what do you expect? Just look at the polls that have been published - those of the Catalan polling agency CEO because the Spanish public CIS agency does not dare to ask about the king. Since then, the monarchy's ratings have been very low.
The king decided to come out of the closet, in this regard, as a partisan person, of right-wing and far-right ideology, "nostalgic" in many ways for the previous regime
When you see three years after that October 3rd that there are situations of tension between the powers of the Spanish state, such as the one last week between the judiciary and the Spanish government because the king did not attend the judicial event in Barcelona, what do you think?
That confirms our theory. There is a long-running coup in process, which the king decided to take the lead; a coup d’état that instead of being carried out, as historically [attempted], by the Acorazada Brunete military division and the rattling of sabres, in this case, has been promoted by the so-called Brigada Aranzadi [grouping in the judicial establishment] and the sabres have been replaced by the rustling of judge's robes. But the king is one of them. And he decided to come out of the closet, in this regard, as a partisan person, of right-wing and far-right ideology, "nostalgic" in many ways for the previous regime. And if he has a government before him which, as it happens, is partially formed by a group of leftists like Podemos and that especially irritates the most extreme wing of the judiciary, it is normal that he wants to continue being politically active. He feels in some way that he has the backing of legal bodies that become spokespeople for the royal palace, for the uneasiness they have because there is a government that they just don’t like. This invalidates the head of state and invalidates the judiciary as part of the solution, because it is clearly part of the problem.
Has this response in Catalonia and situations such as this tension with the government you describe affected the image of Felipe VI abroad?
Of course. It was a very serious mistake. Nobody understood it. Nobody buys it. They consider that the Spanish monarchy made an error. If, in addition, we add on the mistakes that the monarchy has been making, the members of the royal family, the whole scandal of former king Juan Carlos I, which also involves Felipe VI, it all means that there is a somewhat cautious attitude towards the king of Spain. This is a problem that they have created all by themselves. Today, it is obviously not a model royal house among the parliamentary monarchies of Europe.
As for the independence movement, in the statement you made to mark the anniversary of the 1st October independence referendum you said that the time has come to go "further" and complete the route marked out for the referendum, instead of just maintaining the position which that vote signifies. What did you mean by this?
Completing the route means that Catalonia must be recognized as an international republic. This is the goal of an independence process, the end of the path. Today we are much clearer on how to pave this journey. It is a journey full of uncertainties, risks, threats. But it is the only way. We must all be involved in the final resolution of this path, and we must use all the democratic means at our disposal to achieve this.
Now it's time to materialise in a legislature the steps for the international recognition of the Catalan Republic
How should that be materialised? The upcoming Catalan elections have been proposed as a plebiscite. What should be done? A new roadmap?
We need to talk more about ratifying a result and it must have political consequences. We need to establish how we continue the process we started, which is a process that has not stopped. Sometimes maintaining a position is enough to keep it going. But now it's time to be active, purposeful and to materialise in a legislature a whole series of steps that propose the international recognition of the Catalan Republic. I think we have time to do that if there is sufficient political force.
Above 50 per cent, there are political consequences, if not why would we even be discussing the need to exceed 50%
Does this mean that in the next elections JxCat will propose this route so that it will have political consequences?
JxCat will put forward the programme it has to put forward, and propose what it must propose. What I am saying is a message addressed to the whole of the independence movement. If we have been saying for many years that we must pass the 50 per cent threshold, it is because people give political value to that, because we say that having 47.5 per cent is not the same as having 50.1 or 51 per cent. If it is not the same, it is because from 50 upwards, a different sort of politics is carried out and there are some political consequences. We won't say to people, now we will do the same as when we had 47.5 per cent. What I propose to the whole of the independence movement, institutional, political and social, is that we agree, within this strategy of treating one another as allies, on what political value and what political consequences we will give to the fact of being more than 50 per cent. Don't try and tell me that we will do the same as when we are at 47.5 per cent, because if that were true, why would we even be discussing the need to exceed 50%.