Politics 14/03/2021

Laura Borràs: "It is evident that during the last legislature the inviolability of the Parliament was not preserved"

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BarcelonaLaura Borràs (Barcelona, 1970) became on Friday the sixteenth person to hold the presidency of the Parliament of Catalonia (the third woman). She faces her mandate claiming the task that Carme Forcadell did until 2017 and questioning the one that in the last legislature developed Roger Torrent: she says she wants to return to make the Parliament an "inviolable" chamber before the interferences of the executive and judicial powers. She attends the ARA a few hours after being elected.

Why did you decide to become president of the Parliament?

— I was running for the elections with the legitimate ambition of being able to govern the Generalitat. The result was practically a dead heat between the two parties [Junts and ERC]. From that moment on I could have chosen to be vice-president of the Government or president of the Parliament. And, after a slow, deep, rigorous and, I believe, honest reflection on the result, also in coordination with JxCat, I have chosen the option of the Parliament to be able to do more work in the first person, since the work of a government is more collegiate. I want to recover the political importance that the Parliament has, that it becomes the seat of popular sovereignty without interference from other powers.

Did you not see yourself in a government with Pere Aragonès as president?

— It's not that I didn't see myself there. It's just that not everyone always has the opportunity to make a choice, and I have chosen the presidency of the Parliament.

What is your main objective as president of the Parliament?

— To maintain the inviolability of this Parliament, its independence, to guarantee that it is the seat of the sovereignty of the people. On the other hand, we are in 2021 but we do not have a 21st century Parliament, and the pandemic has shown us that we have to make use of all the digital tools. I also spoke of digitalisation, modernisation, transparency, austerity and integrity so that there is no external interference.

Has this inviolability of which you speak not been guaranteed in the last legislature?

— I think I have been very explicit in mentioning President Forcadell, of the Bureau of the eleventh legislature, and in establishing links with this Bureau. The Parliament has to be able to guarantee that it is the place where the representatives of the citizens can carry out the work they have been entrusted with without external interference, and this has not happened in the last legislature.

President Torrent has not allowed to talk about everything? 

— It is very clear that if we look at how this legislature began and how it ended, the Parliament did not preserve its inviolability, it was not respected. We started by not swearing in President Puigdemont and we ended up losing President Torra's parliamentary seat. It is precisely about learning from what happened and trying not to repeat it.

What will you do when there are judicial requests that you believe should not be accepted?

— Maintain the inviolability of the Parliament, respect the rules of procedure, which are the essential democratic principles of the separation of powers. That is why I have spoken of not allowing these external interferences, and I have spoken of the possible interferences of the executive or those of the judiciary.

Do you assume that at some point you may be disqualified?

— I assume that I come as President of the Parliament to maintain inviolability and, therefore, to allow Members to speak about everything that they consider appropriate. 

The CUP has not voted for you because of the suspicions of irregularities in the Institució de les Lletres Catalanes.

— It is a no vote, and you will have to ask those who decide not to vote about this. We have given votes to the CUP so that it can be at the Bureau.

There are several MPs with open proceedings in the justice system. How do you have to face it from the Bureau?

— It is one of these points of negotiation. We live in a context of lawfare. We live in a context of political persecution and, therefore, we have to find a point of union between the independentists to protect ourselves from this judicialisation of politics.

Therefore, if oral trials are opened against some of the MPs or against you yourself, won't they be suspended from their posts?

— We have proposed an agreement to protect the rights and freedoms of MEPs. And in the justice system this has a destination, which is a final judgement. Well, it is a matter of agreeing that this should be in the event of a final judgement. Protecting us means this.

Until there is a final judgment, therefore, the Members will not be suspended and you will not consider yourself suspended from your duties?

— Negotiations are still open.

What will you do if at some point an oral trial is opened and, therefore, you find that in theory, by Article 25.4, you would have to be suspended?

— We are also negotiating a reform of the rules of procedure in several respects, and the presumption of innocence is a fundamental right.

There are other MPs who, due to the 1-O [the Catalan independence referendum], are prosecuted for crimes of embezzlement, disobedience and disclosure of secrets. Have you agreed with ERC on what to do about this?

— When we talk about this anti-repressive pact we want to say this, that we are all aware that we are in this context of lawfare and that what we have to do is to protect ourselves.

Do you foresee any reform, therefore, of the rules of procedure?

— Yes, we do. The Rules of Procedure need to be adapted to many issues. It is a Parliament that, unfortunately, has become obsolete.

Would the idea of allowing remote investiture be included in this change of the rules of procedure?

— The telematic world is a world that is here to stay, some of us have known this for a long time, others have needed the pandemic to occur before they realised it. Therefore, a Parliament cannot remain on the sidelines of these issues and if you can vote and you can make an appointment and you can take office, then naturally you can also be invested.

In JxCat's electoral programme they said that in the first parliamentary session they would have to ratify the declarations of sovereignty and the DUI [Unilateral Declaration of Independence] of 2017. Then you specified that the DUI will be voted on when it is sustainable

— We were very clear. What we said is: we have to continue along the path. How will we do it? By going through all the routes. And we said: as we do not renounce independence, neither do we renounce any route to reach it, and this implied from an agreed referendum, agreed with the Spanish state, which would be the quickest and most painless way to reach independence, to, naturally, the activation of the DUI, which is the point where we left off in the autumn of 2017. What does the result of the polls tell us? There is no single pro-independence strategy that has been validated, because there is a seat difference between the two main forces. Now we are negotiating and we will try to find this pro-independence unity that people are asking for.

And how are these negotiations with ERC going, in recent weeks?

— There will continue to be negotiations because we know that we have a deadline, and I will have to start consultations to find out if we can go to an investiture.

Meritxell Serret was present at Friday's parliamentary session. Can you imagine that one day the president Puigdemont will be there?

— I would imagine it in a space of freedom and in a state that is democratic. We are working for this to happen. We have celebrated, I believe that all good and democratic people, that the people who were in exile can return as well as the people who are unjustly in prison can leave.

What do you plan to do in the face of xenophobic or hate speeches in Parliament, now that there are far-right MPs?

— This is an issue that worries us democratic forces. We have been working on an alliance that, even so, has lasted 10 minutes. In the constitutional session there has already been a pact with the far right [the PSC and Vox voted against the delegation of vote of Lluís Puig]. The attitude against the extreme right cannot be intermittent, it has to be permanent, it has to be out of conviction, it doesn't have to be due to convenience.

For weeks you have been talking about the pro-independence strategy, have you reached any conclusions about how to confront the dialogue table?

— It is obvious that the dialogue table does not work and it is obvious that we do not need to dialogue with the Spanish state, we need to negotiate. Politics is negotiation. We share this basic principle. The problem is when it is not fulfilled by those who have to be part of the table.

Therefore, do you have a common strategy with ERC for this negotiating table?

— We are working on this and progress has been made on a common strategy.

And what will this common strategy consist of?

— It is very important to begin to translate the majority of votes and seats for independence that we won at the polls into political consequences. We have worked on how to proceed with respect to the inviolability of the Parliament, but also on the possible solution to the conflict and, therefore, we need all the elements that allow us to verify objectively what progress is being made. This implies planning a timetable, defined agendas and guarantees that [the roundtable] is not just an alibi so that the Spanish state can say that it has an open path that in reality it is not following.

Should these guarantees also include external mediation?

— There are several indicators, but what is important is to be aware that what we have to achieve is to be able to move forward, not to act as an alibi for any strategy of the Spanish state. We need to translate the result of the ballot boxes and try to resolve this political conflict. Therefore, we need to do it by following this path of dialogue, because we are always there, in the negotiations. But we have to wait to see what the results are in order to be able to analyse whether they are there or not, and to decide how to continue moving forward.

And if they are not there, what is your way of exercising this right to self-determination?

— Ours is already there and we are presenting it. It started with this path of negotiation with the State and then culminated with the activation of the declaration of independence. Therefore, we are here to see how we can achieve a united position to move forward together.

So, do we understand that if the negotiation does not work, a unilateral declaration of independence will have to be made?

— If the negotiation does not work, we have to continue moving forward and we have to find other ways. We have proposals, but we are negotiating with ERC on how this will happen, if the time comes.

What must be the role of the president Carles Puigdemont in this legislature?

— The president Puigdemont is a Member of the European Parliament and, therefore, he internationalizes the Catalan cause from the heart of Europe and he does it in every session, in every plenary session of the European Parliament.

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