Former MEP Romeva, on trial in Spain: "I consider myself a political prisoner"
The former Catalan Foreign Minister only replied to questions from his lawyer
MadridThe former MEP Raül Romeva followed Jordi Turull on the fourth day of the trial of the independence referendum in Madrid’s Supreme Court. The former Catalan Foreign Minister refused to answer the prosecution’s questions, as did ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, in keeping with the defence strategy adopted by their lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde. Romeva made his position clear, as the president of ERC did before him, "Since I believe that this is a political trial, I am entitled to the right to only answer questions put to me by my lawyer". After stating the position he currently holds, Romeva declared that he considers himself to be a "political prisoner".
Van den Eynde began by asking Romeva to outline his professional and political background. The ERC MP in the Catalan Parliament spoke openly of his political opinions, given the freedom allowed to him by responding to his lawyer’s questions, unlike Turull, who had to limit himself to answering questions put to him by the Public Prosecutor and the Solicitor General. "Every time I have stood for election, both with ICV [The Catalan Green party, Romeva’s former party] in the European Parliament and with JxSí (1) and ERC [the Republican Left, Romeva’s current party], the electoral manifestos have always declared the right of self-determination to be a legal, legitimate pursuit", declared Romeva, before reiterating: "There is no European treaty which prohibits the exercise of the right of self-determination. It does not exist". He recounted how his views evolved from being a member of a federalist party to supporting independence as a response to the ruling on the Statute by Spain’s Constitutional Court, which he called a "politicized court".
During the cross examination, Romeva defended the right to self-determination within the Constitution if the "political will" exists and if "democratic principles" are respected alongside the "principle of legality". According to the former minister, "We understand that this demand is perfectly compatible with the continuing constitutionalist dialogue. The rule of law cannot be imposed or subsumed to the concept of democratic legitimacy".
Romeva went on to argue that in order to achieve its objectives, the Catalan government has always used methods based on "civility, pacifism, responsibility, harmony, non-discrimination, dialogue and negotiation". He insisted that at no point was there ever any "incitement to violence", including during the demonstrations outside Barcelona’s Ministry of Economy on 20 September 2017. "Demonstrating can’t be considered an uprising and a protest isn’t a mob. And holding an opinion isn’t a crime. I saw a demonstration that day", Romeva declared, placing any blame on the security forces. "The only weapons that day were carried by the Guardia Civil officers [who were searching the building]“, he declared.
Romeva also focused part of the cross examination on the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including Diplocat, Catalonia’s public diplomacy council. When asked as to its functions, Romeva merely stated that the council conducts public diplomacy and explaining what institutions endorse it. Referring to his responsibilities as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Romeva declared that the Spanish Constitution lists only three restrictions: "The Catalan government isn’t allowed to act as a representative of the State abroad, it is not allowed to sign international treaties which affect the State and is not allowed to conduct consular activities". “I’d like see if someone can tell me when my department did any of these three things", Romeva declared.
The UDI, a political mandate to negotiate
Van den Eynde introduced a new element in Romeva’s cross examination with respect to Junqueras’, in that he asked the former minister about the significance of the declaration of independence [or Unilateral Declaration of Independence, DUI] of 27 October. "On 27 October we voted on a resolution to declare independence, taking into account the mandate which emerged from the elections on the 27 September 2015. At that point we reiterated the need to start negotiations to direct the political mandate. The political declaration gave us a political mandate to initiate a multilateral process", Romeva stated, while adding that he had not fled into exile because everything he had done was "lawful and legal". By way of conclusion, Romeva decried the fact that "those who are supposed to have engaged in politics failed to do so, passing the responsibility to a court of law", before adding, "I humbly ask you not to take on that responsibility, but instead to return it to the sphere from where it ought never to have left, that of politics”.
(1) Junts pel Sí was a Catalan political alliance and parliamentary group focused on achieving the independence of Catalonia from Spain