Junqueras Catalonia seeks foreign support for breakaway from Spain FT .pdf
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January 25, 2016 8:58 pm
Tobias Buck in Barcelona
The new Catalan government will press ahead with its plan to
form a breakaway state from Spain over the next 18 months, and is looking to foreign
governments, the EU and financial markets to raise the political pressure on Madrid.
Oriol Junqueras, the regional finance minister and deputy president, told the Financial Times
in an interview that his government had a mandate from the Catalan people to push for
But he also insisted that the campaign to create an independent Catalan republic had
implications far beyond the region and the Spanish state — and pointed in particular to the
“challenge” posed by Madrid’s towering public debt load.
“We are convinced that this process is neither unilateral nor bilateral,” Mr Junqueras said.
“This is not just between the Catalan republic and Spain, or between the Catalan Republic, the
EU and Spain. There are also many elements that have a private character . . . The management
of Spain’s debt load is a challenge. Public debt is currently around €1,000bn and economic
growth continues to be funded by high public deficits.”
The minister argued that a deal to divide the debt between an independent Catalonia and a
separate Spain would be better for the country’s creditors than leaving the debt to be paid by an
“untrustworthy” government in Madrid alone.
“Does it suit financial markets better to have just one interlocutor who until now has shown that
he is neither very efficient nor trustworthy? Or is it better to have another interlocutor, with the
obvious determination to be both efficient and trustworthy? I think it is better to have an
interlocutor who has that willingness.”
His remarks are likely to surprise Spanish bondholders, who would typically regard a country
break-up as a negative event — and are currently buying Spanish debt at record-low yields.
But they highlight a crucial facet of the Catalan independence camp’s strategy, namely the
attempt to “internationalise” their secession struggle by drawing in foreign actors, and steadily
raising the political and economic cost for the Spanish government.
“Who can put pressure on Madrid? The supranational institutions can. Funds that own Spanish
debt can . . . There are many actors who have a relevant opinion in this,” Mr Junqueras said.
He acknowledged that Spain had so far shown no sign of shifting its position on Catalonia,
which Madrid insists has no right of self-determination under the Spanish constitution.
But Mr Junqueras went on to highlight the country’s long history of territorial losses. “Neither
did they want the independence of Argentina, nor of Chile, nor Mexico, nor the Low Countries,
nor Cuba. This just shows that these processes don’t depend on the will of one of the two
After months of political drift and uncertainty in Barcelona, Catalan independence leaders say