Antoni Abat Ninet: “Haven’t the ‘tweeties’ left the port? So why are we holding back?

Catalan MonitorArticles, Interviews

Photo: Antoni Abat Ninet (Credit: Vilaweb)

By Andreu Barnils, Vilaweb, 11th January 2018

Antoni Abat Ninet. Forty-three years old. Professor of Law at the University of Copenhagen, having previously worked at Stanford, Georgetown and ESADE. In 2016, he made an influential speech in the Catalan parliament which greatly change the pro-sovereignty road map: after his intervention, many people went from wanting to have elections to eagerly desiring a the referendum. Now VilaWeb has asked to speak again to discuss his view on the possible outcomes in Catalonia at present. His preferred choice of option is summarized easily: civil disobedience.

What do we do now, professor? What are we to do about the investiture [of a new Catalan President of Parliament], for example?
You published an article by Professor Resina, who proposed firm civil disobedience. I agree. To begin with – the investiture – if you read the regulation of the parliament, the investiture can be performed digitally – because this is not prohibited by the law.

It can?
If someone is telling you that it can’t, this means they are intentionally reading the regulations in a restrictive manner, and I would not have faith in their upholding its intentions. There are many supporting arguments from constitutional law, which could be used to favour online investiture. And the special protection that the rights of representatives have in the chamber, too. This is explained in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The Catalans would do well to start thinking about the ECHR as a guarantor of our fundamental rights, rather than considering passing through Spanish justice as a necessary procedural evil. In summary: undertake an electronic investiture and keep a part of the government and the presidency in Belgium, and another, in the Principality. It simply cannot be that a formality, based on a willfully restrictive reading of the regulations, means the president cannot take his legitimate seat. Man, in that case, they’re simply using article 155 as carte blanche. First they produce a coup d’état using an unconstitutional article, then they don’t accept the result of the elections and want to impose obstacles and restrictive readings of rights so that the President cannot take office. Well, no! That is why I believe that an act of strong disobedience would be for the President to take office. And we would have a president of the Republic, President Puigdemont, in Belgium. And a government president here. Two roles. A president and a prime minister. And step by step, we’d continue consolidate what has been started.

And if Spain attacks, with more judges and prison? We move forward anyway?
Indeed. And if we do not have representatives who have the courage to do this, put others in place who do. Because some have softened. Maybe another generation must come forward. In this kind of situation, we have only two options. One is to ask: is there someone buying AK-47s, here? Obviously not. Well then we have to go for the other option, which is firm disobedience by the government, and taking advantage with every political step, as we move forward. Because otherwise, what do we do? Become martyrs?

Before the 1st of October [Referendum] I thought: this is going to go on for months. Now I think: this is going to go on for years.
It depends of the various rhythms. And we cannot allow that the Spanish set the pace. This cannot be. We must move onward and upward. And we ,ust move forward, knowing that we have around a million Spanish people in our country who not only favour violence, but want more. This is all well and good, and we must know how to handle this too.

“One unified people”, they say…
And do you think this has not happened to other states? During other processes of independence? There is always internal tension. I return to Resina’s argument: violence is counterproductive. They think they can show the world that we are Spanish, by force. By violence. And that is very depressing and it does not work. If those in favour of violence have managed to maintain their positions vis-à-vis the international community, this is because there are a number of strong interests that the Catalans have not been able to break. And now it seems as if the international community is having a debate, and that Europe is starting to lean towards accepting the results of a [bilaterally] agreed referendum. It seems, yes, that they would agree to that. But that plane has flown…

It’s too late?
Indeed. We’ve missed the boat. There is nothing else to do. We get hit with truncheons for defending ballot boxes? What are we talking about, here? They kick grannies for defending a ballot box? We are talking about violations of fundamental rights here. They must pay for this. All of them. And the European Union, too.

Let’s move on to discussing the political prisoners. A raw and delicate theme. There are those who say that there cannot be prisoners with political power. None. Because you can’t roll out a political agenda mediated through your criminal lawyer, at your side. [Advising] do this, don’t do that. This would refer to Junqueras, Sànchez and Forn.
Yes, the subject is very still very raw. The question I ask is this: do political prisoners help to achieve the consolidation of the Catalan Republic? Or slow us down? This is the question we must ask. We have to be raw. And think it through from a cold point of view. Are they useful for achieving the goal? What happens though, is that thinking it through like this really cuts us to the quick. But how we respond to this, might, or might not, for example, allow the President of the Republic to cross the border and come to Catalonia, protected by the people, for example. Maybe soon, maybe later. We have to prepare for these kinds of things. We have to consider acts of strong disobedience. Bam! Haven’t the “tweeties”* who were shipped in left the port? So what are we waiting for? *[Ed: national police and guardia civil officers who were brought in from outside Catalonia, for the 1st of October referendum, some of whom were based on a rented cruise ship which happened to have a large “tweety bird” painted on its hull – hence the popularization of the moniker.]

Maybe we are waiting for organization, to lead mobilizations on the street?
I’m sorry, but the government should be doing that leading. Also leading strikes, or economic interventions. The politicians must lead by example. The Government of the Generalitat owes the country for the effort it went to on October 1st. Something with real teeth has to be done. And we don’t want to hear “long live 155” on anyone’s lips just to be released from prison.

Counselor Ponsatí said it well: We approached Spain and Europe with a lily in had [Ed: innocently, naïvely]. It’s Europe that told Rajoy to put the brakes on, and sit down at the negotiating table. And that didn’t happen…
Whatever went on, in the end they accepted article 155. In a shameful way, some of them. I’m not going to name any names, but there are politicians on both sides who acted spinelessly. They submitted to the shameful imposed elections. Great… and then we win, and what have we to aspire to? The decaffeinated and centralized “autonomy” of 1978? No way. We have to move ahead. It seems to me that we have won it. But now we have to put it all into effect. Should the government be taking the first step forward? Of course. They need to lead by example.

Are you critical of what happened after October 1st?
Very critical. The statements about avoiding deaths, or acting to avoid violence, I still don’t really feel sure about what went on. If they are going to arrest or seize you, they will come to parliament. Let them try when there were a million people standing outside. Let’s see what they do.

Yes, but the risk. You do that, and you’re in the same position still, but now with ten deaths on the table.
Well, with ten deaths we would not be in the same place.

I wrote this letter to point out something that, in principle, did not seem necessary to me, since it is obvious, but after seeing the kind of unjust interpretations and assumptions that were made on social media based on my interview I have found it necessary to clarify the meaning of my words. Some have interpreted my answer to a question from the interviewer who explicitly raised the scenario of 10 deaths, specifically this part: ” with ten deaths we would not be in the same place”, and said this is a kind of suggestion that I would be defending the need for people to die. Obviously, this was not my intention in any case, there is no such suggestion in my mind. Not being in the same place does not mean being closer or further from anything, or being in a better or worse situation, but simply finding yourself in a different place, and if that place involved deaths, it would certainly be a place that nobody would want to be.

In addition, to contextualize the answer, in the subsequent question, where the interviewer asks if with 10 dead the EU would get involved, I respond that with more than two hundred deaths in the events of the 6th of October, not a single political objective was achieved, and events which should never be repeated were lived. I invite those who unfairly interpret and my words to analyze all my published papers, writings, opinion articles and other written and oral works, where they will not find a single sentence where I support violence, hatred or terror of any type. On the contrary. Some of my literally transcribed expressions from a telephone conversation, expressed on paper, may have resulted in uncertainties or not been clear, and I would like to re-assert, now, my firm support for civil disobedience, firm, but peaceful.

In any case, the purpose of this clarification is to negate any implied support of violence on my part, and abov all, to avoid that my words might be interpreted in such a way so as to be prejudicial to the case of Catalan independence.


100, and the European Union would get involved. With ten, you think?
It’s a point to be debated, yes. On October 6th they killed 256 people. And nothing happened. And then they went at President Companys, who backed down. I don’t know. I’m saying my piece, and not backing down. I am going to Palau. Let them come find me and take me. By force, if they must. With Christ as my witness. But I think they didn’t stick to their guns because they somehow thought the force of the referendum would be enough. But the next day, no. It caught them with their pants down. Maybe they weren’t expecting 2.2 million people to vote. But they were certainly well organized, nonetheless. Requesting international recognition through delegations, and international bodies. But then, in the end, for whatever reason, which perhaps somebody will explain some day, they swallowed article 155, they cowed.

So, the thesis is that we missed out, but not by much? We continue to be humble. Not all these occurrences are treasonous or resignations. Maybe we are the Rayo Vallecano and sometimes we lack a bit of strength, but not convictions, no?
Listen, I totally agree. But now, here comes my criticism. Be honest. Explain it. We have the strength to declare independence, but not to implement it. Say that. Explain that to me! This was not done. This is a criticism I still have. However, it generated empathy. They moved forward, and many thought there would be a moment it would all de-rail. But they moved forward and were thrown in jail. It was as if a family member of ours was thrown in jail. We are all touched by this. These people are in jail for doing what we asked of them, what we celebrated. They are what you would have done exactly the same. How can they be in jail now?

I see you as skeptical of Europe.
And now I’m skeptical of Europe, you are right. And very optimistic and very happy with the our country. Very proud of being Catalan. That we have managed to get this far, and we continue to fight, despite all the shit we are going through, with a coup d’état, with 155, with threatened companies, and that people went on to defend October 1st, and win on the 21st of December. Spectacular. That’s why I think that when three or four are mobilized even a little, the chain reaction can be very powerful. Because we’ve got sympathy from Europeans. Especially in the Scandinavian countries. Now is the time to say to these people listen, we are in a state of emergency and living without guarantees. Here, the procedures of the Spanish constitution are not even being applied.

And how do we paralyse the economy, without the support of the major unions?
We have us. Are we so few?

Anything else to add?
Let’s move forward! Optimism! It’s a tougher move for them, than us. With all of their money, a coup d’état and home rule, and we are still here? Come on! Let’s attack. We have a clear mandate: civil disobedience, and firmly!

Original Link: