JAUME MASDEU, BRUSSELS. CORRESPONDENT
Carles Puigdemont has the power to appoint and dismiss any position in the Foundation (Getty images)
It was born with the goal of escaping any 155, so it installed its legal base in Belgium and basically acts through the virtual world. After two and a half years of discreet existence, when Junts established it as a condition for a government agreement, the Consell of the Republic has assumed a role that it had never enjoyed. To take advantage of the wind in favor, the Consell has launched the Republican Digital Identity, with its QR code, with more symbolic value than practical utility.
There are 94,000 registered in the Consell per la República, and with a sharp increase in registrations in recent days, according to sources close to them. It was established in the Palau de la Generalitat in October 2018, as a result of the investiture agreement of Quim Torra, and it describes itself as “the first stone of a new independent State of Europe, which is Catalonia”. It says it wants to represent all the pro-independence sectors, but from the beginning the dominance of Carles Puigdemont has been clear and, consequently, the distrust of ERC, which has led it to distance itself more and more from the entity, and to freeze its presence.
It is a private entity, with 94,000 associates and enough income to support six people
To escape the Spanish legal framework, the Consell per la República avoids the legal base in the Peninsula, which is why it has been established as a non-profit entity in Belgium. And it has done so under three names: Consell per la República, and CatCip and CatGlobal, two associations that provide services. Sometimes, these denominations are the ones that appear when making the payment when registering.
It is, therefore, the combination of a private association in Belgium, based in Waterloo, with the aim of actively participating in Catalan political life. Regarding the budget, they do not provide details, but the income comes exclusively based on the mandatory registration fees (10 euros), the periodic fees and voluntary contributions (variable), in addition to, lately, the payments to obtain the Republican Digital Identity (12 euros in physical format, bamboo card, and 6 for digital).
More than 94,000 registrants represent a one-time income of close to one million euros, to which must be added the regular voluntary fees; Consell sources calculate that they contribute more than a third of the total members. Enough budget to support six full-time people, some in Belgium and others in Barcelona, as well as a part-time IT specialist.
It is the technical staff at the service of the governing council, which is the entity’s political management body. Twelve members in which the dominance of its president, Puigdemont, is reflected: he is the one with capacity to appoint and remove them, and whose natural participants are members of the Government of the Generalitat dismissed by applying article 155. Antoni Comín is the vice president, and two other former councilors claimed by the Spanish justice, Clara Ponsatí and Lluís Puig, also participate.
Also featured are Elisenda Paluzie, from the ANC; Antoni Castellà, from Demòcrates, and Aurora Madaula, from Junts. The CUP is not represented as such, although Guillem Fuster, coordinator of Poble Lliure, one of its organizations, participates.
The only ERC representative on the governing council is Isaac Peraire, deputy secretary general for internal coordination of the party, although he has “frozen” his participation. Before the last Catalan electoral campaign, Peraire proposed to interrupt the political activity of the Consell per la República to preserve its independence, given that ERC, Junts and other pro-independence forces were entering the electoral race. “I was left alone,” says Peraire, commenting on the refusal of his proposal, which is why, from that moment on, he has kept his participation paralyzed; that is, he has not participated in any meeting or debate. “The Consell has not represented the plurality of the pro-independence field, perhaps it was not its objective”, says Peraire, although he adds that it can be an instrument for independence. Peraire doubts that the leading role of the Consell is a real obstacle in the government pact and considers it rather an excuse to hinder the process. ERC’s distancing from the Consell has already appeared from the beginning and has grown over time. Meritxell Serret, until a few weeks ago delegate of the Generalitat in the European Union, was not part of the Consell per la República, despite being a former councilwoman, and has criticized it for having “a partisan bias that has weakened it”. By the way, Peraire was the driver who accompanied Serret on her surprise trip to Madrid on March 11 to appear before the Supreme Court.
After its premiere in October 2018 in the Generalitat, the Consell per la República, in December the same year, also performed in Brussels, with 800 people at the Flemish Royal Theatre. However, the main mass event took place in February 2020 in Perpignan, where it brought together more than one hundred thousand people. Its last political position was taken on March 29, with a political statement in which it invited ERC, Junts, the CUP, Òmnium Cultural and the ANC to a bilateral dialogue to debate the “reformulation of the governance of the Consell to facilitate the insertion of the aforementioned collegiate management in its institutional structure”.