The arrival of exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont in Geneva, having managed in practice to avoid the obstacles which the Spanish state has put in his way, marks the start of several days in which the issues of Catalonia, human rights in Spain and self-determination will be debated in a series of round tables to be held in the Swiss city, as part of the annual week focusing on human rights organized by the United Nations.
Beyond the evident failure of Spanish diplomacy, incapable of preventing this debate from occurring in an international forum, in the midst of its offensive of repression against the Catalan authorities who held the independence referendum on 1st October and proclaimed a new republic, there are three points worth highlighting.
The first is the international interest in the Catalan case, reflected in the fact that tickets were exhausted well in advance for one of the forums in which Puigdemont will take part, as well as in the numerous accreditations of foreign journalists at the event. Spain's official discourse, accusing the independence movement of carrying out a coup d'état, is seen as nothing more than a cardboard façade in many countries north of the Pyrenees.
A second feature of interest is the unity shown by the independence movement and the representatives of its different political groups when presenting their case abroad. This has been seen perfectly in the confluence of speeches from Puigdemont and exiled ministers Toni Comín, Lluís Puig, Clara Ponsatí and Meritxell Serret - up till now. In Geneva, Puigdemont, number one of the Together for Catalonia (JxCat) list, and Serret, of the Catalan Repubklican Left (ERC) will coincide, and we will see if they are able to distance themselves from the current climate of confrontation between their respective parties in Catalonia. And if Anna Gabriel of the CUP party ends up taking part, we'll be watching closely.
Finally, there is the question of how the international media will choose to report the event, given that it is very predictable how the Spanish media will cover it. The Catalan conflict needs to increase its networking of international sympathy. And in Geneva, the focus on human rights violations, the questioning of fundamental rights and the deterioriation of democracy means the Spanish state is being viewed with a perspective that is far removed from that of its European partners. The job of persuading international public opinion to defend these values should be a task taken up by a wider group than just those who are pro-independence.