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The response of the Democrats must be calm, tranquil and moderate. But also very firm

Manuel Valls

11 OCT 2019 – 00:00 CEST

Picture-Demonstration in Barcelona in favor of the politicians in prison, last Tuesday. Marta Perez EFE

The incoming publication of the Supreme Court ruling will surely write a special page in the history of Spain, but it will be an exercise of a democratic country in which the judiciary makes its decisions in accordance with the laws within the framework of the law community Europe has built. It will be an excellent opportunity for Catalan and Spanish society in general to show their rejection of any populist temptation.

It makes no sense that it is promoted from various instances, some of them institutional, an improper, stunned and, let’s say it clearly, not democratic response to a judicial decision. The ravages of populism are well visible in other countries. But we have to hope that sanity, common sense and respect for the rules and institutions will prevail here; without them it would be impossible to understand the successes of this country in the last 40 years.

I have always said that politicians still on remand are not political prisoners; and even the escaped are not political exiles. I reiterated it the day I took possession of my position as city councilor councilor of the Barcelona Pel Canvi municipal group in the Barcelona City Council, and I keep to it now. That June 15, at the end of the investiture in which we stopped the entry of the pro-independence group to the mayoralty , I said, in the Saló de Cent, addressing one of the defendants, Joaquim Forn, present in the event: “In a democratic country like ours, there are neither political prisoners nor exiles. There are political leaders responsible for their actions”.

No instance has granted these people, men and women who have enjoyed the benefits of one of the most advanced democracies in the world, that status behind which they and their followers have tried to stand on this painful stage. It is a status, that of a political prisoner, that is granted to those leaders who fight for democracy in totalitarian countries and who face dictators from the street, raising their voices and with their lives in constant danger.

This is not the case with what has happened here. We all know. The imprisoned politicians used the highest European democratic standards to penetrate the system and try to break it from within, even without even representing the majority of Catalans. There are millions who still oppose their actions and their plans.

Politicians still on remand are not political prisoners, nor are the escaped political exiles

Justice will ultimately be the one judging these facts. History will too. It was a coup d’Etat from within the State that stunned this society, which divided it and caused economic, social and cultural damage from which it will not recover in decades. A coup that did not have a single ally outside our borders and deserved the rejection, as illegal, of the highest representatives of the European Union.

European Union … what magical words, guarantors of our model of life, coexistence and civilization. I would like to remind you that not a single Member State has appeared before the Court of Justice of the European Union to make any claim related to the hearing that must decide whether Oriol Junqueras enjoys immunity as a MEP. Is the European Union a protector of dictatorships or totalitarian regimes?

A few days ago, after a visit to one of the prisons where the defendants are, a friend of one of them, a former member of the Government, commented that they are aware of their mistakes, but that everyone agrees that the best way to continue encouraging their followers and maintaining their role as martyrs of independence is to proclaim: “We will do it again”.

A large social majority thinks otherwise and expects and wants those events to be buried. Some of those people who come to visit them should explain the truth of what happens outside the prison and that the country, despite the problems they have raised, tries to move forward and recover normalcy. Citizens, and especially those Catalans who have seen in this political action a supremacist, anti-democratic and illegal coup, must wait for the sentence with tranquility. The sentence, whatever it may be, can create political and media debate, but it will be accepted.

Those who will react by attacking the system will have to face new legal actions that will conclude with new sentences. The idea that the State must imprison two million pro-independence followers is a fallacy, because the many people without cause who raised their voices, went out and asked for an independent Catalonia did not step on the courts, nor did they go to jail for their ideas.

It is not independence that awaits sentencing. Neither are the ideas of the defendants. It is their acts. It is for that reason that I think that, in the face of the crossroads this sentence represents, the response of the Democrats must be calm, tranquil and moderate. But also very firm.

The law acts. Let us, within the framework of our democracy and the rule of European law, the Supreme Court make its decision. It will be the job of each citizen to look forward, assuming that the law must be complied with and that nothing, nobody, nor any chimera can challenge it with impunity.

Manuel Valls is a city councilor in the Barcelona City Council and former Prime Minister of France.



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