The Catalan referendum was a challenge to Spain’s unity but also a “a fraud, a masquerade and a scam,” Spain’s Ambassador to Greece Enrique Viguera told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency’s (ANA) Dimitris Manolis in an interview published on Wednesday. He expressed confidence that the crisis in Spain will be overcome, however, and his conviction that the Constitution and the law were on the side of the Spanish government, which was also supported by most governments worldwide.
ANA: Spain is facing one of the most serious challenges in the history of its democracy in terms of its unity. Is there room for dialogue to resolve the crisis? Given the speech of the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on the referendum results, is the Spanish government going to invoke Article 155 of Spain’s constitution, which allows the national parliament to suspend the status of autonomous regions?
Yes, Ι cannot deny the fact that this is a serious challenge. It is a challenge but we have to really qualify what it’s going on. I would call it a challenge, ιt is. But at the same time what is going on is a fraud, a masquerade and a scam because most of the present declarations of the separatists’ and independentists’ representatives are based on illegal acts, on breaches of the Spanish constitution.
So, on the speech of the Catalan President on Tuesday, if I have understood him correctly, he declared independence, but then he said that he would ask the Parliament to suspend it. But there was no discussion in parliament later on. So I don’t know exactly what’s going on. Everything is very much confused.
What the Spanish government would do; I don’t know. This is very important juncture.
We are speaking right at the moment when the Spanish government is convening (Tuesday morning). I hope that there would be a formal reply. We will hope that this formal reply will work.
I would like to underline the fact that Spain is a fully functioning, advanced democracy, one of the most advanced in the world. I am very proud of the levels of freedom and the rule of law that we have attained. So we expect to remain at the same level of freedom and liberties we have in Spain.
On the other hand, I also acknowledge that some of the regions, notably Catalonia, have the most wide-ranging self-government in the world. This is at the level, if not higher, of Flanders or Quebec or of some of the regions and they now manage more than 90 pct of services, including education, health, etc. This entails a lot of financial management.
So, given these facts it is quite difficult to understand what it is going on. And particularly how things have come to this point.
ANA: Are you optimistic?
I am optimistic because I am convinced that legality and the constitution are on our side, on the side of Spanish government. I think most of the world governments share the same opinion, and particularly the countries of the European Union.
It is very clear that our constitution gives the possibility of enhancing autonomous government, but within the unity of the state. If this can be changed, even the Spanish constitution can be changed; there are certain procedures to do that. If we need to do that we can do that. And I think the Spanish people are perfectly prepared to face the problem and the situation.
ANA: Are you worried about the unity of Spain?
Really, I would not be that worried. I know that it is a challenge but this is only a minority. You have to take into account that it is a government that has the support of different groups, among them people who are radical.
They don’t even represent the majority of the Catalan people according to the last elections, by which they have got majority of seats but not majority of the votes.
I think it is not reasonable that a minority imposes a way of thinking on such important issues upon the rest of the Catalan people and on the Spanish nation.
ANA: Please, could you comment on the images showing police officers beating people?
The use of force was proportionate to the aim of these court decisions – mainly to prevent an illegal so-called referendum from taking place – and I think the effect was in this sense positive. Of course, the negative side was that independentists showed these images to accuse the Spanish government of repression concerning these sort of things, which is absolutely not the case.
ANA: Mr. Ambassador, you were recently appointed as Spain’s new ambassador to Greece. What is it like to have an office under the Acropolis? What would be the main objectives of your tenure in Greece? What message would you like to send to the Greek people?
Relations between Spain and Greece have always been very close. Relations are so close and people are so close that it is very easy to be working in such an environment. For me it is a privilege to be here; it is a very casual open atmosphere and a very nice atmosphere to be working in. There are many things that can be done and I think that the economic situation in Greece is getting better, so this will make things and my work certainly easier, because I am sure that there will be more appetite for Spanish companies to grasp opportunities and come here to invest in Greece. Actually, I had a meeting yesterday with the representative of Spanish companies in Greece discussing, for example, an investment of Apivita, which is a well known company, Iverolla, Ferrovial, which is working on a highway to Ioannina, it is fantastic. I was there last week and I think there are many possibilities to do synergies and developing our relations.
ANA: What is the importance of strengthening bilateral relations and what are the prospects for further deepening? Do you think there is more room to boost economic cooperation between our two countries and which areas? Is there any investment interest in Greece?
Absolutely. Not only Spanish companies here but also Greek activities in Spain. Both Spain and Greece are pushing in the same direction within the European Union. We have common interests, being Mediterranean countries, and we have the same mentality concerning European integration. I think we can do a lot to create conditions to have a more integrated Europe.