Junqueras in Madrid: independence explained as a mathematical equation

ERC president defends his decision not to attend Catalonia Day demonstration

3 min
Oriol Junqueras during his speech at the Foro Europa in Madrid

Madrid"Is it easy to get a headline out of this guy?", a member of the Forum Europe organisation in Madrid asks journalists once Oriol Junqueras's intervention is over. Those who still do not know him cannot believe the ERC's digressions during his first public intervention in the State capital since his release from prison. But Junqueras is like that. One needs know how to interpret him. And in his own way he launches the three messages he wants to transmit. One to the ANC, one to Junts and one to Manuel Marchena.

The presenter of the event, José Luis Rodríguez, shoots the first question point-blank: "Do you regret not attending the Catalonia Day demonstration?" And Junqueras, breaking his usual hermeticism, answers clearly: "Yes. Why? Because we are convinced of our integrating and inclusive message". A way of saying that the ANC's message is neither integrating nor inclusive. Asked what he thinks about the ANC's proposal to declare independence in the second half of 2023, Junqueras goes back to the usual Junqueras, and in this case resorts to a mathematical metaphor. "Look, if independence were an equation, time is not an independent variable. It is a variable that depends on another variable, on the democratic strength that we are able to accumulate". It is clear, then, what Junqueras believes was one of the great mistakes of the Independence bid: setting time limits. Independence can be achieved when there are "broad social majorities", and that is what ERC is working on, according to Junqueras.

In the first row ERC MPs and senators are listening, very much in need of self-esteem after what was a difficult Catalonia for them. In fact, it is not clear if Junqueras is speaking to the Spanish government or to his party members, to keep them from wavering as JxCat applies pressure. "We are very convinced of our strategy, but there is no other strategy on the table," says Junqueras, who encourages them not to be afraid to confront ideas with the Spanish government at the negotiating table. Asked directly if he believes that the coalition government could break up, he says that he considers it "improbable". At one of the tables there are also JxCat MPs and senators like Josep Pagès and Josep Lluís Cleries. And while JxCat does come in for criticism, Basque nationalists from PNV and EH Bildu are praised.

Message to Marchena

The setting for the breakfast is the famous Palace Hotel, a place that tries to transmit an image of magnificence and glamour that North American clients in shorts and a baseball cap on back to front conveniently take care of ruining. Junqueras's last message, and this one was intended for the Madrid audience, is for Manuel Marchena, president of the court that sentenced him. "Now I can open more [international] doors than before I went through prison. I would like to think that those who made the decision were perfectly aware of that," he says with a half-smile. And the fact is that throughout his speech the president of ERC repeatedly insists that international organiszations and European courts of justice have agreed time and again with Catalan independence supporters.

Esther Capella, Oriol Junqueras and Marta Vilalta at a breakfast briefing in Madrid.

In the end Junqueras gets his way and manages to slip into his answers reflections on monetary policy and world demographics ("Did you know that before 2050 Nigeria will have more inhabitants than all of Europe, including Russia?"), with which he basically seeks to project the image of him not as a politician, but as a university professor acting as a politician due to special circumstances. When he comes down from the stage he is approached by Father Angel, founder of the NGO Mensajeros por la Paz and an emblematic figure of the Spanish workerist Church. Among the audience the presence of Pepe Blanco, a minister in Zapatero's government, stands out, but there is no one else from the PSOE or the Spanish government.

Before leaving, Junqueras approaches a waiter, who looks at him with a dumbfounded face, to thank him for the work done. He does not notice that a few steps further on the organiser of the breakfast is berating the workers. It is clear that he didn't like something, besides Junqueras's speech.