Interview with Alex Rietman, Dutch journalist in Barcelona

Catalan MonitorInterviews, News Roundup

Catalan News Monitor. Photo by Lluís Brunet (Illustrator of the book ‘What Catalans Want’ which also interviewed Alex Rietman and 35 other observers of the Catalan reality. Available at Amazon).

What do they know about the Catalan Process in the Netherlands?

 In general, there is surprisingly little information published on the Catalan strive for independence in the Dutch media.  Most of the articles are rather short and limited to factual news. In the larger articles, there is a tendency to favour the vision of Madrid. This bias is to a large extent due to the fact that most correspondents are based in Madrid, and have little knowledge about the social and political reality of Catalonia. Not being able to understand Catalan doesn’t help either.

Do you think that it is possible that in the 21st Century a region of a UE State may Split off and create a new State?

Why not? If a European state, and the EU itself, is supposed to be truly democratic, I can’t see why a region would not be able to split up from a EU member state. If a majority of the population of this region decides to do so, of course. No state should be a prison for part of its population such as structural minorities, and modern democratic states much less.

Do you think a Catalan State would be expelled from the UE?

No. In any case, if Catalonia would be expelled from the EU as a result of strong pressures from the Spanish government, this exclusion would not last very long. A simple matter of mutual interests.

Foreign investments are at an all-time high mark in Catalonia. Business does not seem to be worried by independence. What do you out this down to?

Investors don’t like risks. So if they decide to invest, they do so after having studied the political situation thoroughly. They may come to either of the two conclusions you mention. The first option would imply that the failure of the independence movement would not lead to political instability. I’m not so sure about that. So I think the second option is more realistic.

Do you think the term “The Revolt of the Smiles” reflects the Catalan Process?

Maybe it was some years ago, when it was a revolution that seemed to be still far away. But I don’t think it is now. Besides, the “revolution of the smiles” sounds a bit too innocent and too Podemos-like in my view. The latest moves of the Spanish state prove that tough times are coming. Smiles will not be enough to tackle the problems.  

Do you think the Madrid press is impartial over the Catalan issue?

No. And I think no honest observer can say so.

Do you think the PP is guilty of ill-treating Catalans? Is there evidence of Catalanphobia in Spain as many insist?

Yes, there can be no doubt about that. It’s a well studied phenomenon with a century long history. It limits any effort by Spanish political parties to make a serious offer to Catalonia. Even if the Rajoy administration would come to the conclusion that it would be wise to negotiate with the Catalan leaders, they could not do so. They would be punished by  the voters and the opposition parties would take immediate advantage of the situation by portraying themselves as the true saviours of the Spanish nation.

What do you think of the suspension of Catalan MPs and other elected politicians from their posts?

 I think it is exactly the opposite of what an intelligent state would do.

It transmits the idea of a state that is unable to deal with a serious democratic problem: the fact that an important part – maybe a majority – of the most important economical region wants to leave the state. If the state would have allowed a referendum some years ago, a majority of the Catalans would have voted almost certainly no to independence. That may be too late now.