Javier Arias Lomo
Updated: 07/14/2019 19:34:142
Juan Prat y Coll represents the conjunction of three identities: Europe, Spain and Catalonia. During his professional life, the diplomat has carried out various tasks, among which are the Spanish trade delegation in the Soviet Union and the General Directorate of Foreign Affairs, becoming one of the architects of the “Barcelona Process in the Mediterranean”. » He currently resides in Brussels, where he has also held the position of delegate of the Generalitat from 2011 to 2013.
What does the idea of Europe, Spain and Catalonia convey to you?
The cover of the book perfectly conveys this idea. The Holy Family appears, with the Atomium of Brussels and the shield of Rome. It is titled “From Cataluña to Catalunya”, but it could also have been called from Barcelona to Europe passing through Brussels, for example. Given the reality of the moment, I preferred to call it that way because of the fact that when I left it was written with “ñ” and now it is written with “ny”. I am a convinced Europeanist. I have been a diplomat for a long time, but above all I have spent many years in Brussels, in the stage of European construction. It was a splendid period. From the moment we joined the Commission, there were no political parties or stories, we were all Europeans and we all worked for the same goal: the construction of Europe.
Was it unexpected that you were appointed delegate of the Generalitat in Brussels?
Yes, that happens at the end of my career, when I was unexpectedly dismissed as an ambassador in The Hague. There was a change of ministers and it was my turn in the falling of the domino. They were looking for people, and I spoke with Duran i Lleida, who is the Catalan politician with whom I have always felt more identified. He told me that they did not want any party follower, so my profile suited perfectly. I thought it could be useful and it was. During the two years I was there, Catalonia became a benchmark among European regions. That has changed and now the Catalan delegation has a lady who is prosecuted by justice. Today Catalonia has become a problem, and in Brussels everyone is perplexed with what is happening.
How was your relationship with Artur Mas?
My relationship with Mas was always very good until he decided to hold mid-term elections. He did it after the September of 2011. He called us at the Palace of the Generalitat in Barcelona to tell us that in September he was going to Madrid to talk to Rajoy and that it was over if they did not give him what he wanted. When they formed the new government with ERC and they were forced to count on the CUP I went to see him to tell him that my profile was no longer useful, I showed him my diplomatic passport as ambassador of Spain and I said: with this, president, I cannot continue. He replied that he was sorry, but that he understood.
And Carles Puigdemont? Who do you think has more responsibility for the current situation?
Puigdemont is more a “cupaire” than anything else. I do not understand why Mas left this in his hands. Puigdemont was not up to the task of being president of an autonomous community like Catalonia, let alone the virtual one we have now. I can disagree with Mas, but he was a cultured and honorable man who made a mistake believing many things that he himself told and that he should not have believed. But he had another profile. Puigdemont, in Brussels, is already the laughingstock. How will you be a member of the European Parliament without swearing or promising the Constitution of a Member State?
Was money squandered in the delegations of Catalonia?
What was very expensive was the rent. I was surprised to find splendid offices right in the center of the European zone of the city. Although if you look at the one for Bavaria, for example, it’s like an embassy, a palace. Those of Spain are smaller, but that of Catalonia is undoubtedly the largest of the Spanish. Although all the drift of using the delegations to play the role of embassies came later.
What degree of responsibility has the Central Administration had in the independence issue?
The only responsibility is for those who have made unilateral decisions totally incomprehensible in a democratic country and its rule of law. Now, why did they think they could get here? That is the real issue. We all agree that we should do a bit of self-criticism, but talking to someone who wants to sit down with you as a foreign country is difficult. Mas and his team, especially forced by ERC, were wrong. They thought it was the right time for it: the serious crisis in Spain, the high rate of unemployment, especially among young people… They thought that uniting the traditionally separatist people with those who were against the system, such as the CUP, the situation would be favorable.
Have you paid any price for adopting that conciliatory attitude?
If I were in politics, I would have to pay a price like Duran i Lleida has, but since I’m not, I can express myself with the vision of the experience of these 45 years. Indeed, today we must have courage and more ability to go to the center. Now the parties on the right have gone too far to the right and those on the left, to the left. They have left the center empty. I thought there would be a political party which would occupy this space and no one has done so.
How do you see that the Euro-skepticism that has emerged in other countries has not triumphed in Spain?
It has not happened nor will happen. We have been pro-European since the first day. Other countries such as the United Kingdom have wanted to play another role in Europe without feeling European. Italy should surprise us because it has always been a pro-European country, but now they have had enough of politicians, and Europe has paid the price. And then there are the eastern countries like Hungary or Poland. They have a hard time giving a bit of their sovereignty to the European Union because they are in a historical moment different from ours, in which nineteenth-century ideas of independence and sovereignty predominate, when in reality in an interdependent world the only declaration which can be made is the one of interdependence. However, the most disintegrating position is the Catalan independence movement, of which neither they are aware, no matter how much they say they are European. The most anti-European thing that can be is wanting to disintegrate a State.