Politics 04/09/2021

Victòria Alsina: "I would like to push the Catalan electoral law through this legislature"

4 min

BarcelonaVictòria Alsina (Barcelona, 1983) is the Catalan Minister for Foreign Action and Open Government. In the past, she has also been the Catalan Government's delegate to the United States.

You have a teaching post at the University of New York. What attracts you to politics?

— I had a simpler life, a much better salary and fewer worries, but the moment they told me about it I took the plunge. Being part of the Government is an honour.

Your department is delicate. Of the 34 accused by the Court of Auditors, 19 have worked for the Catalan Foreign Office. Are you afraid?

— I'm not afraid and I think that many people in the department are in the same situation. We are convinced that we have a clear and resounding competence in foreign action. The issue of the Court of Auditors, in a certain way, is also a coup d'état to the autonomous State. The civil death of the people being prosecuted is being pursued.

Can you order the delegates abroad to organise a round table on independence?

— I could order them to do it or they could promote it, but it seems that the Court of Auditors limits freedom of expression.

So, out of prudence, you will not order it?

— We will do what is possible within the framework of the law. Therefore, we will do what we believe we have to do. I do not want the Court of Auditors to dictate to me what we should or should not do. At the same time we have to be smart and maximise our capacity for foreign action without putting workers at risk.

How is the independence process perceived abroad?

— The risk is that they place us in the internal affairs folder of a state. When they put you there, at an international level, it is much more complicated to be received. One of the important missions of Foreign Action is to say: listen, the conflict is not closed.

In order not to be in this folder, do you have to be a threat to Spain's economic stability?

— In the European case, the Catalan portfolio continues to be important, but we have to insist on the message that the conflict has not been solved, that it can be solved with amnesty, by following the recommendations of the Council of Europe.

What should be the position of the Catalan side at the dialogue table?

— It is a table that has always been at the disposal of the Spanish government to make a concrete proposal on how to solve the conflict. It is also important to introduce the Scottish case into the conversation, since it is clear that the relationship between London and Edinburgh is based on democratic principles.

The Spanish government rejects self-determination. How do you overcome this obstacle?

— We have two very separate starting points. I think that the list of recommendations of the Council of Europe could be a good start.

What specific point in the Council of Europe's recommendations?

— The issue of exile and the modification of the crimes of rebellion and sedition. The issue of not affecting lower-ranking officials. The issue of allowing full freedom of expression and not persecuting people for what they say. There are several points that could be a good start to break the ice.

Was 1-O [Catalan referendum for independence] and the declaration of independence understood abroad?

— It was followed with great interest. And I would say that it was understood, especially in Europe. I think there was a feeling that Catalonia was suddenly on the map as a pro-independence movement that was going all out, like Scotland. There was a before and an after.

And why didn't Catalonia take the step towards international recognition?

— The club of states is very conservative. I believe that in this first phase of socialising the conflict, things went well here.

You address issues of open government. Are you thinking of making an electoral law for Catalonia?

— It is one of the great Pandora's boxes here in Catalonia. I would like to see this Catalan electoral law through because it is not just about making the law, but it also makes it possible to regulate issues such as electronic voting. My total and absolute commitment is to do everything I can so that Catalans abroad can vote.

Only 4.2% of Catalans living abroad voted in the 14 February elections.

— It is ridiculous. The right to universal suffrage is being violated. There are 400,000 Catalans abroad. We have to give more support to this Catalan community.

The problem is that the parties are wary that with a new law they could be disadvantaged in the distribution of seats. How can this be resolved?

— It is a complex issue and that is why it has not been done. There are two scenarios: one is to make an electoral law of maximums, in which all this is ordered; the other, which is not ideal but perhaps more feasible, is to make an electoral law of minimums. You order, for example, at the Catalan level, the issue of the Electoral Board, the issue of electronic voting, etc..

And you leave the distribution of seats aside?

— Of course. I would like to be able to do it, because it opens up many possibilities, such as voting from abroad. It would be a way to solve some problems. There's a little loophole and it can be tried. I'm for doing it.

How can we take care of the Afghans?

— We have to participate in global challenges. We have received around 200 people. We want to take in refugees and we know how to do it. The problem is the regularisation of paperwork and here we have no direct way to solve it.