Published at Diari Ara, February 1st, 2017.
Catalan government spokeswoman Neus Munté says the vote could be brought forward depending on the circumstances, if it were to benefit “the strategy”
After radical left CUP party finally agreed to support the 2017 draft budget, the Catalan government met this Tuesday with a debate about bringing the referendum forward on the table. Having passed, in the words of the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, “the stress test”, the voices proposing an acceleration of the referendum timetable have multiplied. Also this Tuesday, the minister of the Presidency and government spokeswoman Neus Munté admitted that the vote “could take place earlier if the circumstances made it advisable “.
Despite emphasising that there is a “very clear timetable” setting the vote for “the second fortnight of September at the latest”, Munté also said that, “as a result of the extreme judicialisation” that Catalonia is suffering, “some aspects of the timetable may be altered”. Nonetheless, she stressed that any change would have to be “always to the benefit of the initial objective: to hold a referendum with the maximum guarantees”.
What’s more, the minister noted that everything needs to be ready before an independence referendum can be called. There needs to be a consensus between all the pro-sovereignty representatives and the date “has to serve the strategy for the ultimate objective: to be able to hold the referendum and do it properly”.
ARA has already revealed that, in private meetings in the middle of January, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont had mentioned the possibility of bringing the referendum forward if the Spanish state were to accelerate the legal processes, and if the parade of public officials before the courts were to escalate.
Munté stated that the entire cabinet will give their support to the first of those officials, ex-president Artur Mas and ex-ministers Joana Ortega and Irene Rigau in their trial for the unofficial 2014 independence referendum which starts on Monday 6th. She argued that “despite the difficulties”, the objective was still to “go from one law to the next” without leaving any gaps as a way of safeguarding everyone and the holding of the referendum.
Door open to dialogue
Munté emphasised, however, that the Catalan government was keeping the offer to negotiate the referendum with the Spanish government on the table and that it will continue making gestures to demonstrate its willingness to talk. One of these gestures could be the pending meeting between Puigdemont and the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, for which, Munté said, no date has yet been set.
Nevertheless, the minister recognised that it’s difficult to believe in the dialogue when Spain’s governing PP party accuses the Catalan executive branch of “xenophobic and totalitarian practices”. She considers it intolerable that the Catalan government could be accused of xenophobia, especially when Xavier Albiol, leader of the Catalan branch of PP, has a reputation for making “shocking statements which would be intolerable in any other democratic state “.