Following are excerpts from a CNBC interview with Julia Chatterley and Carles Puigdemont, President of Catalonia
JC: You suggested that the lack of Government in Spain is a concern for Europe. How concerned are people and do you see it as eventually putting the economy at risk?
CP: The political situation in Spain is very surprising and generates worries not only in Spain but in Europe. And I believe that incapacity to govern the complexity and find smart solutions creates many worries and I don't see it as good news for the economy or for the politics in Europe.
JC: Do you think fresh elections at the national level will change anything because the polls look very similar and inconclusive?
CP: The reality, and that's my impression - is that all will remain the same. When it comes to Catalonia, things will be exactly the same and so as a consequence there will be a government that won't be able to make any proposal for a solution in Catalonia. I spoke to the different Spanish political leaders, and none of them gave me the impression that they wanted to move forward.
JC: We'll come back to the question of Catalonia which has clearly been a stumbling block in the coalition forming but do you think acting PM Mariano Rajoy should step down, should he let the PP's have a new leader, fresh perspectives?
CP: I am not going to speak about what the Popular Party should or shouldn't do because in reality, in this moment, Catalan politics already take decisions in a sovereign way, independently from what happens in the central government or Spanish parties. Undoubtedly, Mariano Rajoy has been a problem. But let's see what the voters will decide in Spain. And what role Mariano Rajoy will play if he has to continue or has to step aside in favour of a coalition. But I don't see political parties ready to make big sacrifices to move forward with the government.
JC: Do you think you have greater leverage at this moment because actually some kind of solution, whether it's greater autonomy, or eventually a promise of a future referendum is the only way a coalition will be formed in Spain today.
CP: I don't know because the only political party in Spain that proposes a referendum or a frame that could be useful for an agreement is Podemos. No other party even in a coalition goes beyond just announcing a simple constitutional reform. But when I ask what will the constitutional reform consist of? And with what majority will we produce it, no one can give me a clear answer. And in any case, any constitutional reform, which is what a coalition government could propose, requires the participation of every single political party in Spain. And I insist, I don't see any true wish to offer an agreement that would respect the wishes of the people of Catalonia.
JC: You say you are in a sovereign mindset. But in actual fact would you accept greater autonomy? Yes or No?
CP: The greatest autonomy that we are ready to accept is the right to decide. That would be greatest act of autonomy. And what the people of Catalonia would decide. If the Spanish state want Catalans to be consulted also on a proposal of more autonomy – or devomax – alongside an independence proposal we agree with that. But we want to be able to choose between the two options. And if the Catalan people chose more autonomy, of course we will respect that. But there would have to be this proposal on the table, and for the moment it doesn't exist. And I doubt very much that it will ever exist.
JC: So if you doubt very much it will ever happen, and we're on around a year in the timeline of your 18 months proposal to I guess some kind of a declaration of unilateral independence…?
CP: No. we are not anticipating for a unilateral declaration of independence. This is not our plan. Our plan is what the Scottish government had with the UK. It's an agreement to consult over the independence of Catalonia. And we will NOT abandon this plan until the end. And we will always invite the Spanish government to seat at the table to negotiate to reach that agreement because it benefits everybody. A unilateral declaration of independence is NOT the best solution, obviously. We keep hoping that we will be able to reach a solution.
JC: Let's move and talk about the UK referendum. What do you think of the prospect of the UK leaving Europe?
CP: The British people have the right to decide have the right to decide whether or not they want to be part of the EU. And I shouldn't interfere in this. I express Catalonia's wish of being in the EU. We'll see what happens. But I notice a paradox: the EU makes huge efforts to avoid the UK leaving while it threatens Catalonia with kicking us out if we declare ourselves independent. To be honest, I am very worried about the possibility of the UK leaving the EU. But of course, like in the case of Catalonia, we have to respect the right to decide of the British people on a relationship that part of the Brits consider is not satisfying enough. We will see what happens. And one final remark: the brexit vote is just 3 days before the Spanish elections and we will see what impact it can have.
JC: There's greater damage done to Europe if the UK leaves. Or greater damage done to the UK by leaving?
CP: For Europe, it would be an important loss. I don't know enough the internal situation of the UK to know what exact impact it would have, but it would also be serious. But without a doubt for Europe it would be very bad news if the UK leaves. But I insist, even if the decision of the British people is to leave the union, it will be in everybody's interest to reach an agreement that in practice can put in action a better relationship for both and lose what the UK considers the bad aspects of the relationship. I hope in practice we will be able to find a balance whatever the decision is.
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