Gemma Tramullas interviews Vicenç Fisas
8 April 2021
Vicenç Fisas /RICARD CUGAT
Vicenç Fisas. An expert in conflict analysis and peace processes, in “Repensar el ‘procés’ a través del diálogo” (Icaria) he puts his long experience at the service of a negotiated solution to the conflict between Catalonia and Spain. In a long interview at his home in La Floresta, in the Collserola mountain range, he insists on his criticism of the methods for obtaining independence, details his peace initiative in the Basque Country and reveals the impact of the stroke he suffered the day before the application of 155.
You say you do not want to give lessons or tell politicians what to do. So, what do you want to do with your book?
I want people to reflect on data, numbers, statistics, and international comparisons. In the last 50 years, 33 referendums have been held and none of the unilateral ones have achieved independence.
The constructive attitude is basic in the tradition of the culture of peace from which you come. Do you see anything positive in the ‘procés’?
Many things. To begin with, it has put on the table the fact that there is a problem that we have to manage in some way, and that challenges both sides. This is good, although for me the management has been a disaster.
“For me, the management of the ‘procés’ has been a disaster”.
The day after the 1 October referendum, when Puigdemont asked for international mediation, you sent a note to a ‘conseller’. Did he reply?
Yes, to tell me that he had received it, but these people went to prison and could no longer be active as before. I do not interfere in what politicians have to do, let them do what they want, but on the basis of real things, not imagined things. Confusing dreams with reality is a big mistake.
Do you feel unheard?
Not now, but it has been a long journey through the desert. Since 2017 many people have started to think that things have not been done well enough. Politicians find it difficult to make this reflection in public, but it is not a question of apologising, but of saying that things could have been done better, of using more realistic arguments and approaching things with more time and a broader consensus.
“Negotiations will never be on the right track if there are still people in prison”.
Repression and prisoners do not make it easy.
Negotiations will never get off to a good start if there are still people in prison. The Spanish government should have kept its promise that the crime of sedition would be reviewed by the end of the year.
Did you vote on 1 October?
I never answer questions like that.
My personal actions are irrelevant to what I am trying to do, which is to share analyses with all sectors that want to listen in order to improve the way things are done.
In the introduction to the book you talk about the difficulty for the conflict analyst to maintain neutrality. The difficulty increases when you have the conflict at home.
Working on one’s own conflict affects more and in fact it is not recommended. I learned this in the Basque Country. Between 2000 and 2003 we engaged in dialogue with all parties, from the PP to Euskal Erritarrok-Batasuna. Nothing was ever leaked about those contacts, and this is the first time I am recounting it in detail.
“In Catalonia, without having armed groups, politicians have been incapable of talking to each other”.
Why do you include this experience in a book about the ‘procés’?
Because in those years ETA was still killing. In 2000 they killed Ernest Lluch but nobody withdrew from that dialogue. In contrast, in Catalonia, without having armed groups, politicians have been incapable of talking to each other, which is the first thing to do.
This requires discretion.
We have to dedicate hours, days and weekends to these contacts and do it in quiet places. I have invited people from the Basque Country to my house in La Floresta, some of whom had to be escorted and others who killed, and we have had very interesting conversations. You can’t go to a negotiating table to make demands without first going through this stage of sustained dialogue.
Which politicians would you invite to your home to talk about Catalonia and Spain?
I have been willing to talk to everyone and I have invited everyone.
“I would meet with the devil himself to talk about whatever is necessary. In my job you have to be willing to do anything, otherwise you don’t get involved”.
All of them, without exception. In the past I have met with people who have blood on their hands and I would meet with the devil himself to talk about whatever it takes. In my job you have to be willing to do anything, otherwise you don’t get involved.
So much stress has caused your health to suffer.
My emotional system has suffered very strong crises due to situations I have lived through in Colombia, Somalia, Rwanda… When I finished the exercise in the Basque Country, I had to be admitted to hospital. My brain exploded and I lost my memory. That’s why I’ve had to be very cautious when it comes to Catalonia.
I had a stroke on 26 October 2017. I always joke that I was the first preventive victim of the 155″.
You suffered a stroke shortly after the referendum. Do you associate it with your experience of the conflict?
No. I had a stroke on 26 October 2017, the day before the application of 155, and I always joke that I was the first preventive victim of 155. My muscle strength is affected, I temporarily lost my ability to read, and I have had to relearn how to speak.