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"The Political Future of Catalonia and the Role of Public Diplomacy" (George Washington University)

Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, George Washington University, Washington DC, USA, March 16 2015

[All tweets are by This is Catalonia ‏@ThIsCatalonia, unless otherwise indicated. To be included, they have to have the hashtag #Catalonia_GW]

For full transcript of tweets, please click below on "Més informació"


[ IPDGC ‏@IPDGC  Follow today's panel convo on #Catalonia and #PublicDiplomacy at #Catalonia_GW until noon! ]

[ Catalan Institute ‏@CatInsAm #Catalan Event: "The Future of #Catalonia" at @IPDGC @GWTweets cc #Catalonia_GW http://ift.tt/NkhPI7 ]

.@adaystew "We will be talking about challenges to self-determination and challenges in #publicdiplomacy in these two panels. Self-determination and cases like Catalonia and Scotland pose challenges not only for the States in which they exist.

Roger Albinyana: Thank you very much @adaystew and very good morning to all of you. Let me thank the organizers at @IPDGC for organizing this conference. One can argue that Catalonia has been very active internationally since 1258. The Consolat del Mar is one of the oldest international legal documents in the world. Some 500 years later, John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States, founded the U.S. Consulate in Barcelona. We are very proud to see that our companies, like Grifols, are having success in the United States, and are even considered by the U.S. Government to be a regional asset in the Iberian peninsula. Catalonia and the Spanish Government are on different [wavelengths]: Catalonia calls for more self-rule, Spain seeks recentralization. Our foreign action allows us to interract directly w foreign entities, multinational organizations + civil society. Our foreign action priorities: internationalization of economy, strengthening bilateral& multilateral relations... strengthen connections with the EU, and support public diplomacy.

.@PJCrowley, Fellow at @IPDGC and former Assistant Secretary of State, introduces panelists.

.@MarcSanjaume: As a Catalan citizen it is an honor to be here, but also a duty and a pleasure to support my government. As Albinyana said, talking about Spanish and Catalan politics these days is to talk about self-determination. Self-determination is a somewhat paradoxical subject: the right to it has never been clearly established in international law, but many self-determination events have happened during specific phases in world history. The basis for self-determination, as Woodrow Wilson said in his Fourteen Points, is democracy and freedom. The dominant political model in Spain during the 20th century has been not democracy. There was a brief period of democracy during the 1930s, but this ended in a military coup d'etat. Minority nations are entitled to a certain degree of autonomy. So why are Catalans asking for secession now? This has a lot to do with the Spanish territorial model. The @Catalangov has said for a long time this model is not sufficient. Spain is not a multinational entity. Federal accommodation, as in Quebec, has not been implemented in Spain. 
M. Sanjaume

[ Kate Shea Baird ‏@KateSB @ThIsCatalonia @marcsanjaume Really? Isn't everyone talking about Podemos now? ]

[ Rodrigo Riaza Pérez ‏@rodrigoriaza   #Catalonia_GW when analyzing public opinion, lets not forget the most recent data: 48% reject independence. http://m.20minutos.es/noticia/2403739/0/barometro-ceo/aumento-rechazo/independentismo/ ]

@MarcSanJaume: According to the Constitutional Court, there is just one State, and some regions, and a single nation. Spain may have a regional system, but not a multinational one, no internal self-determination for national minorities. In 2006, the preferred options was status quo or federalism. Over the past several years, Catalonia tried to achieve greater self-rule through a revised Statute of Autonomy, but this was rejected by the Constitutional Court. This lack of internal self-determination has led to greater support for external self-determination. The status quo is no longer an option. There is clear support for more autonomy. Clear support in the Catalan Parliament for voting on Catalonia's political future, as shown up by MPs' votes. This situation has been described as a clash between democratic legitimacy and constitutional legitimacy. We can look at other examples of self-determination in liberal democracies for an apples-to-apples comparison. These other countries for comparison are the UK and Canada.
  • Voting and debating in Canada is based on 4 principles: federalism, rule of law, democracy, minority protection.
  • UK: voting occured on the basis of mutually agreed-upon Edinburgh Agreement, based on principles of respect.
Usually, when societies vote on secession, the secession vote loses. These referenda are defeated by the State. From an objective point of view, it is curious why the Catalans are not allowed by the Spanish State to vote on this.

Francesc Vendrell "International law is an evolving law. It is not static. What was not a violation in 1950 is one today. Whether a country supports self-determination or not is a highly political decision. We never thought in the 1980s that many countries had the right to self-determination. Reality of the collapse of the USSR and Yugoslavia led us to believe that they had this right to self-determination. There is no question that there is a bias against secession. We are told by the Constitutional Court, an eminently political court, that we do not have the right to call ourselves a nation. There's a knee jerk reaction against one more "little place" having its own country and one about being burdened by new issues. This will only change if there is a clear & compelling reason for governments to abandon their ostrich-like posture.  I often accuse my fellow diplomats of an ignant optimism -- they say "that's an issue that will be solved by itself". At some point there has to be a response from the central goverment; they cannot simply refuse to talk about it. 

F. Vendrell

[ Paul Togneri ‏@PaulTogneri  Looking forward to getting along to #Catalonia_GW. Was hoping that @xsolano might have been on the panel, no such luck. #CatYes ]

.@PaulWilliamsDC: The bad news is, Catalonia has a problem: it's called Brussels.

[ IPDGC ‏@IPDGC  Catalonia has a problem. It's called Brussels. Not New York, the Hague, 
or even Madrid. #CatalanPDatGW #Catalonia_GW ]

.@PaulWilliamsDC: "Madrid is not a problem because it's predictable". The Hague is also not a problem. While lawyers say there is no legal right, citing @UN Charter, you will also get many international lawyers who will talk about self-determination, and cite the same document. Both are correct. Both agree intl law neither provides for nor denies self-determination. New York is also not a problem. International community is not a problem. Diplomatic policy is "no -- until we say yes." In the past decades, this has happened 36 times. Brussels is a problem because it doesn't have policy or opinion. International community will be looking to them for cues. Brussels has used the ostrich head-in-the-ground strategy, and they're doing it incredibly well. After recognition of Croatia, coordinated EU policy on self-determination disappeared until Scottish case appeared. Even with Edinburgh Agreement, asking Brussels was like calling a disconnected telephone line or getting a busy signal. What you need to be prepared for is this battle of EU membership. Do EU Member States really get to decide who gets to join or will EU treaties continue with successor states? EU simply cannot disenfranchise 7 million European citizens.
.@PJCrowley (moderating discussion): Where are we going with competing political dynamics of democratic vs. legal legitimacy?

Vendrell: I don't see very much of an obstacle, we are talking about the creation of a European State already within Europe. Catalans are deeply European. The only conflict would be adding additional States to EU ..not already part of it... and mostly due to issue of immigration into the EU.

.@MarcSanjaume: We can see self-determination within Europe always as internal self-determination. Globally, minority nations in liberal democracies are not pushing for isolation, but for more integration.

Williams: Really have apples-to-apples when talking about Europe: there is econ. infrastructure, nationality infrastructure. New discussion point: simply reconfiguring Catalonia's status within structure of EU from sub-State to State actor.

.@PJCrowley: What are the factors we need to distinguish Catalonia from other stateless nations that might want their own State?

.@MarcSanJaume Moral principles of secession: respecting fundamental values, having functioning democratic system, no violence.

Williams: The only principle I would add is stability, because that is at the core of what policymakers are thinking about. This concern, this question of stability, is not applicable to Catalonia because of its place in EU infrastructure.

Question: What about the Catholic Kings? Did they not represent the unity of Spain in the 15th century?

Vendrell: There were different parliaments in the kingdoms of Iberia, and same monarch was the king of each of them separately

Question from the public: How can this not be a decision made by all Spaniards?

.@MarcSanJaume "Powers of managing economy are a key part of Catalan self-determination movement". Issue certainly has an effect on all Spaniards, but is the Spanish Government allowing for there to be dialogue and debate? As a political scientst I've been studying support for self-determination for many years. Only a referendum can say.

[ IPDGC ‏@IPDGC  Beginning the second panel feat. @adaystew @PJCrowley @A_RoyoMarine @Arturo_Sarukhan #CatalanPDatGW ]

.@adaystew Our institute made multiple requests to the Spanish Embassy to see if they would like to have someone on this panel. Unfortunately, things didn't work out at their end.

[ Reflexions NS ‏@reflexions_NS  @rodrigoriaza That sounds as objective as No need for the catalans to vote on indy because polls say most of' them are against it. ]

.@A_royomarine Sub-States are a new thing in the field of #publicdiplomacy. We are small and agile and close to our citizens. @Diplocat is a young institution, a public-private partnership between @Catalangov, municipalities, universities, etc. We try to communicate and explain to our constituents important issues. We recently held an event in Barcelona for local audience with @OpenSociety Foundation. Catalonia also has a clear international vocation. We try to provide accurate information and help produce debate. Our #publicdiplomacy efforts often take traditional forms: holding conferences, reaching mass media, providing multilingual website. We have given 15 interviews in foreign media, valued as $1M publicity campaign -- without the cost. We have general information & specific campaigns online: website, social media networks, Google+ hangouts. 

.@Arturo_sarukhan: The international system has moved to Twitter. The Nation-State is no longer the only actor in international relations. Now we have non-state and sub-state actors, cities, NGOs very involved in this process. Globally, citizens are not feeling represented by mainstream public institutions and political parties. It is at the local level where public policy is being re-invented. What we are witnessing right now is a return to some form of history's city-states. It is mayors and cities in the United States that are making public policy. This is where #digitaldiplomacy plays a very important role. A formidable conduit for creating a narrative. Before #publicdiplomacy effort, Catalonia was not very effective beyond brands of Barcelona & @FCBarcelona. These tools become a very important tool to create engagement, to create information, and to create a narrative. Any foreign ministry, ambassador, NGO, etc. that is NOT tweeting is doing so at its own peril. We use #digitaldiplomacy to interract with stakeholders and create a community. These tools have been extremely important in engaging with Mexico's diaspora community in the USA. 
[ MT @IPDGC Former Mexico Ambassador to US draws parallels with Catalans & others fighting for better public services ]

.@PJCrowley The dilemma in terms of the rising importance of soft power versus hard power, is the challenge of converting soft power into real influence, into concrete effects. And that conversion is not automatic. There is now an overlap, between what diplomats do behind closed doors and how this translates into outcomes.

.@AdayStew (Q): How does #digitaldiplomacy and other forms of #publicdiplomacy help Catalonia's political program? And we have to remember that external diplomacy in this sense also includes the rest of Spain. What are you doing there? How effective has it been? What can be done in Spain to put more pressure on Madrid?

.@A_RoyoMarine We have managed to become quite well known internationally. We did have a problem in terms of #countrybranding. We still have a challenge of country branding (@, El Bulli..) separate frm current political process. We have to convince Spain that we can live with each other, work together cooperatively. I am sure they (Spain) will be our best ally in Brussels. We are doing our best in the rest of Spain: organizing seminars, trying to create dialogue...

.@ In any U.S. relationship abroad, we are always in touch with opposition elements, but real communication is with the State.

.@Arturo_Sarukhan States still deal with States. But there are some States that are beginning to deal with non-state actors. This is where tension will play out. Even though Mexico has a right to self-determination enshrined in its foreign policy, it will still likely "wait and see.

Question: Which foreign policy tools have been effective for Catalonia in recent years?

.@A_RoyoMarine Work we have been doing with foreign press has been very useful, getting story covered by the main international media. Also the visitors' program, inviting individuals & groups from other European countries so they can observe situation. The best way to convince international partners is by inviting them to visit so they can understand what is happening.  

.@AdayStew There is also a challenge in terms of narrative because the majority of the international press is based in Madrid.

Now questions from audience at

Question: Will the @Catalanov plan to challenge Frankfurt establishment in Brussels given its high levels of indebtedness?

.@PJCrowley Anything perceived as adding a burden to the EU will be problematic. 1st solution is therefore Madrid.

.@A_royomarine  I was quite surprised by the question because nobody seems to doubt economic viability of an independent Catalonia. Annual 8% (€16B) deficit with Spain, about half of regional budget, is the current situation. We are not the wealthiest region in Spain; we're fourth. We are glad to be able to help poorer regions in Spain, but the real important issue is the political issue.

Question: I've seen huge amount of evidence for Spain being a multicultural reality. Why then have this self-determination process?

.@A_royomarine I agree that Spain is a multicultural reality but this isn't recognized in Spanish law.

.@adaystew question: Is most of your public outreach framed around "independence" or "self-determination"?

.@A_royomarine We are not campaigning for or against independence, but rather supporting a referendum on self-determination.

.@PJCrowley It is vitally important for Catalonia to keep forming a narrative with a different vision for Catalonia and Spain that people identify with and support.

End of our live-tweeting of the conference from in , thanks for following and sharing! 

Note. There is a summary of this seminar here ("Ofensiva diplomàtica sobre el procés sobiranista als Estats Units", Joan Faus, El Pais, 16 March 2015)

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