Lola García, Barcelona
06/30/2019 00:25 Updated 6/30/2019 7:25 AM
Manuel Valls tries to speak good words towards Ciudadanos and its leaders, Albert Rivera and Inés Arrimadas, but he cannot avoid being very critical of the current strategy of a party that gave him its support to be a candidate for mayor of Barcelona and with which now he has broken. Valls claims to have two objectives: Barcelona and the unity of constitutionalism. The latter opens the door to occupying political functions beyond the city where he was born, in the future.
Your expectation was to win the mayoralty of Barcelona but you only got six councilors; has it been more difficult than expected?
No. I have lived a unique year professionally and personally. I am happy to have lived an extraordinary political experience.
Do you think your decision to favor Ada Colau as mayor was understood?
I think so. It is a matter of convictions. I said in the campaign that we had to prevent Barcelona from falling into the hands of the independence movement and we succeeded, despite achieving a mediocre result.
Does pro-independence seem worse than “left populism,” as you say?
Yeah sure. Neither Colau nor the BComú bases are pro-independence, despite their ambiguities. Having on both sides of Plaça Sant Jaume pro-independence officers questioning the rule of law and the Spanish justice would be very dangerous. For Barcelona in the international arena, and for Spain, it would be a very complicated challenge. We are entering in another political cycle for Barcelona.
Could it be said that you forced Colau to choose between independence and non-independence?
Politics is having to choose. In my case, it was Maragall or Colau. She has also had to choose. She could live it in the Plaza Sant Jaume after her election. That she tries to be forgiven with gestures is a bit childish, it does not deceive anyone. She knows that this choice has changed history in Barcelona.
Without Citizens in your group, will it be easier to reach agreements with the municipal government?
There has always been a tradition of covenants, right? We have to be positive and useful. I have two objectives: the union of constitutionalism in Spain and Barcelona. I’m going to concentrate on both.
Did the elites pay for your campaign? Have they helped you?
I have almost 40 years of political experience and without any stain as a public servant. This type of attacks are political and more oriented to put pressure on Colau.
Colau accused you of being the candidate of the elites.
Criticism of elites is a characteristic of populism, here in Europe and in America. It is at the center of Trump’s speeches. That does not mean that the elites do not have to change, that justice and social fractures are not problems. But criticism of elites is often dangerous. A society like Barcelona without elites would not be what it is. There would have been no Renaixença, Modernisme, or Olympic Games, or Barça … The Catalan bourgeoisie, which does not exist or is not organized, has helped and helps separatism.
The newspaper Ara published that they paid you 20,000 euros per month.
It was a false information. I never got that money they said. All my incomes and properties – I do not have any of them – appear in my public statement as a councilor. It was a last attempt to manipulate or reverse the investiture vote. The subsequent campaign against the companies and also businessmen that appeared in the text and that followed the publication gives us an idea of how people related to the independence movement behave.
Is there any possible offer to oppose the independence movement?
I have already said that I am concerned about the division of constitutionalism. The divisions in Catalan society will take a long time, a generation, but constitutionalism should have a strategy towards Catalonia. There are principles of defense of the rule of law, respect for the work of judges … which everyone should share.
Why do you think constitutionalism is divided? Do not the PP, PSOE and Citizens share everything you say?
There are differences in discourses. We need a long-term shared strategy, a presence of the State in Catalonia, defending the Constitution and the Crown in Catalonia, political strategies in the good sense of the word on issues such as media, school or Mossos, that Catalonia is not an issue causing division in the rest of Spain … For example, when Zapatero comes and makes certain statements is exasperating for a Catalan constitutionalist. He should be more cautious. It is serious that he says that he hopes the sentence does not compromise the dialogue. Another issue is that separatism abandons unilateralism. Part of the solution will come from the Catalan society, but the constitutionalists cannot play with the concepts of the separatists, such as pressuring the Supreme Court.
If the independence movement exceeds 50 percent of the vote, do you see a referendum viable?
The independence movement has achieved a vote of almost 50% in European elections. That is why the divisions of the constitutionalists to form the government of Spain or here, in Catalonia, are serious in the face of the challenge we have. There is no door open in Europe for a referendum, but we have to recover a story, a relationship, feelings between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. And that requires effort, strategy and time. The Catalan issue would have to be the center of a pact between the constitutionalist parties. It is a long-term job.
Do you think that the PP, Cs, and even barons of the PSOE, use the Catalan conflict to seek electoral revenues?
Those who break the pact, the Constitution, the Statute, the regulations of the Parliament, are the pro-independence parties. They are the first responsible. In Catalonia there are no prisoners or exiles. Ciudadanos has had a very important role in Catalonia from 2005 to 2017 because it stood up. And we have to be grateful to Albert Rivera and Inés Arrimadas because they represented a form of resistance to what was happening here. But there is the impression, fair or unfair, that Ciudadanos has abandoned Catalonia a bit, that it has sacrificed Catalonia to its interests in the rest of Spain, but that cannot be the sole headline. Despite my break with them, I hope they can recover a positive strategy. As part of the solution will come from the Catalans, Citizens must have a clear strategy for Catalonia, and not only can be phone calls or just expecting the situation to worsen. A long-term solution must be found, which is a clear and positive response from the Government, the State,and Spanish institutions.
Would you support Sanchez’s investiture?
I think we are loosing a great opportunity: a pact between constitutionalists, which could still materialize, but we must leave personal agendas aside. In Barcelona we did it. Unlike Barcelona, Pedro Sánchez can seek the support of the Constitutionalists and not depend on Podemos and the nationalists. Podemos does not represent the dangers of a few years ago, but it remains ambiguous on the issue of sovereignty and poses problems in the economic, social and European facets. Relying on Podemos could be a mistake. It is a moment of national emergency. Spain has been living for four years without political stability, and the PP and Citizens must support this government in one way or another. And propose pacts, on immigration, economy and Catalonia. If they do, they will have medium-term political returns. And it will be a message to Europe that the independence movement and populism have been marginalized. Spain is a great country, and Pedro Sánchez has regained prominence for Spain, which is today a vital country for the EU.
Has Rivera broken up with you or have you broken up with Citizens?
Nobody understands that the party that has been in the front row against the independence movement prefers Maragall instead of Colau. But everything started before. I was the first to request a health cordon against Vox, and Rivera refused and invented a health cordon with the PSOE. It is a pity what is happening. Criticism of Citizens try to erase how much positive they have done in Catalonia. The contribution of Cs has been positive, but now they must leave personal agendas aside and think of Spain as a whole. It is a mistake to believe that you can come to power with the strategy of “the worse, the better”. Direct or indirect alliances with Vox are political and ethical errors and take their toll. A progressive liberal party like Cs cannot agree with Vox, it messes with your hands and your soul.
Would you like to participate in a government of Pedro Sánchez?
I will be clear. The issue of my participation in a government of Spain has begun with a trivial comment and has become a mountain. I do not think it’s time to raise it. For a sense of political respect for Spain and France. The project for Barcelona is a city project in a Europe in which cities form networks, but state policies involve interests, state secrets … I do not see myself, today, in a government in Spain. In the future? I will always be willing to work for the unity of Spain, the European project, the future of the Mediterranean, the issue of immigration and the relationship with Africa, climate change … And we can do it from Barcelona. I see many ways to do it. But I need to think during the next weeks and months about my professional and political future, without haste.
Could you work from the new party that is going to be created, the Democratic League?
The creation of a constitutionalist party in Catalonia can be very useful, but with the condition that it does not break constitutionalism. Just doing pujolismo and constitutionalism at the same time is very complicated. I did not come here to be a candidate for all elections, to participate in the reform of Catalanism or to create parties. I am not participating in the creation of any new party. It is normal that political solutions are sought, but they must have an objective. And be careful with everything that divides. One of the consequences of this whole process is the conviction of many that I have always been a leftist and progressive person. And it seems to me very important that the point of view of the criticism of nationalism grows from the left, constitutionalist, as I think it was perceived in my Saló de Cent speech.