María Jesús Cañizares
06.05.2019 00:00 h.
A cultural paradiplomacy, led by a fugitive from Justice, banned by the Constitutional Court and allowing the Government of Quim Torra to evade control of Spanish embassies. The external projection of Catalan culture has become a valuable instrument of internationalization of the procés. This is what the Court of Auditors warns against in its latest report on Catalan external action.
Thus, while all the focus on the violation of state powers is placed on the newly activated Diplocat, suspended during the implementation of Article 155, the Generalitat maintains an important cultural diplomacy network through which it organizes and finances acts of promotion of the procés. And it does not hide it: the website of the Ministry of Culture establishes that “cultural diplomacy is today a basic tool to structure any type of international action strategy. Culture allows us to exchange ideas, information, traditions and values that entail mutual enrichment and that favor understanding”.
Very useful ‘Soft power’
The audit report of the Court of Auditors on the resources allocated to the execution of the external action policies of Catalonia (2011-2017 financial years) points in that direction. “The explanation of the interest for the celebration of activities that mainly affect the cultural field can be found in a mention made by the delegate of Italy in the annual report of 2016, when he points out that ‘culture has proven to be a very useful soft power to generate interest and empathy towards our country. For this reason, activities of a cultural nature have been prioritized to avoid the interference of the Spanish embassy; these activities allowed the assistance of prominent Italian politicians”.
The Court of Auditors alludes to the speeches that the delegates of the Generalitat usually make during the Diada of September 11, centered in the last years on self-determination.
The MP of Citizens, Susana Beltran, has presented a resolution proposal in the Parliament to urge the Govern to comply with the ruling of the Constitutional Court issued in 2016, which prohibits this cultural diplomacy. Likewise, the initiative proposes the annual appearance of the foreign action minister to give explanations on the adequacy of cultural activities with projection abroad.
However, this cultural activity is part of a parallel network to the aforementioned department – led by ERC – created by Carles Puigdemont and Torra, and integrated by advisers who travel and collect salaries of up to 100,000 euros and who refuse to explain their activity.
In fact, little is known of the agenda of these “cultural ambassadors” because, in the case of temporary positions, they are not obliged to explain their daily activity. “The temporary staff does not have the status of high position and its functions are confined to those of trust and advice, thus being excluded from its functional scope the institutional representation. For this reason, the temporary staff does not have what Law 19/2014 (Transparency) called official agenda, which refers only to those who have the status of high officers or authority”, explains the Government in response to parliamentary questions from the opposition.
At the head of this cultural diplomacy is Lluís Puig, who in August 2018 was appointed director of the Program for the Development of cultural projects of international scope. His salary amounts to 87,270 euros. Puig, ex-Minister of Culture, escaped, as did Puigdemont, to Brussels to avoid imprisonment because of the organization of the illegal referéndum of the 1-O.
The ruling of the TC
Two years before, in 2016, the Constitutional Court (TC) amended some precepts of the law of foreign action and relations with the European Union, including the so-called cultural diplomacy. The Statute of Autonomy foresees the promotion by the Generalitat of “the international projection of the social, cultural and sports organizations of Catalonia and, if applicable, its affiliation with related international entities”, but the TC specifies that this statutory precept does not protect “public diplomacy” and that the references of the law to “a clear bilateral relationship between the Government of the Generalitat and the consular bodies of other States” are “in open contradiction with the exclusive competence of the State in this matter”.
That same year, the doctor in Management of Culture and Heritage by the University of Barcelona (UB) Mariano Martín Zamorano, and the assistant professor doctor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology of the University of Valencia, Joaquim Rius Ulldemolins, analyzed the relations between the State and the Catalan community in the report ‘Cultural diplomacy, a State policy? Articulation and absence of intergovernmental coordination in the external cultural action of the Spanish State’.
These authors explain that, over the years, “the Generalitat acted by re-dimensioning its cultural para-diplomacy and reorienting it towards a decidedly proto-diplomatic profile”. They also refer to the creation of the Institut Ramon Llull, which, as an imitation of the Cervantes Institute, channels subsidies to cultural and / or university entities abroad. As reported by this newspaper, a total of eleven British universities have received grants from the Catalan Government amounting to 561,233 euros, mainly through the Institut Ramon Llull, within the framework of its internationalization strategy of the procés.
“They do not respect the laws and put in the hands of a fugitive an activity of which we know nothing because it is an eventual position”, denounces Beltran, referring to Lluís Puig. She considers that this foreign policy “is anti-European, because it does not respect the rule of law, one of the pillars of the EU. The Govern does not assume that an autonomous community is subject to the principle of institutional loyalty, transparency and external unity with the Spanish Government”.
“What values of the Catalan society can promote a fugitive from Justice?”, asks the MP of Cs.