Teresa Freixes holds the Jean Monnet Chair and is the president of the NGO Citizens for Europe. The Spanish jurist analysed the danger that populism and nationalism pose for Europe on Capital Radio's Atalayar microphones. In addition, Freixes highlighted the role of European youth for society and also gave her point of view on how violence is making its way into Barcelona's nights.
Citizens Pro Europe is an NGO that seeks to promote European values and warn against populism and radical nationalism.
Indeed, as we have seen throughout history, these currents of thought can do great harm, both extreme nationalism and populism of all kinds. The European Union has repeatedly warned that we must be alert to these currents because they are, let's say, shots in the European ship's waterline.
What do you think about the damage that has been done to a whole generation of young Europeans who have been forced to get by between two major crises? Are they a generation that needs Europe's institutional encouragement?
Of course, not only in Europe, young people are the future. We are not eternal and we have to be replaced by new generations. It seems incredible that we are not aware of the value of young people for all societies and of the care we must take of their educational and personal needs and as members of society, because theirs is the future.
We are certainly at a new crossroads in Europe, and we must talk about what is happening on the European continent, about these lessons that are being learned from the pandemic, what conclusion can be drawn?
We have to say that we have been lucky because the European Union finally had its doubts, its pros and cons, the internal wars between countries that did not want to support the creation of European funds for all member states that accused other countries of embezzlement or wastefulness, in the end the European Union has reached cruising speed in the economic sphere and that is where it is doing best. I suppose that because of its own experience, the European Union was really born as a European Economic Community and therefore it develops the whole economic issue of the market, competition, etc., much more deeply than other policies that have appeared many years later. This experience of all the economic cooperation in Europe, together with the cohesion policies that are basic in the European Union because the markets do not work with territorial dysfunctions and imbalances between them, the markets need this cohesion and society needs this social cohesion. From the beginning there were many doubts, although in the end the joint action that has existed between the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the European Parliament has articulated a whole series of funds and economic aid in different areas so that the States can access this type of funds. On the other hand, to think that these types of funds will solve everything is an entelechy, they will help to alleviate the economic consequences of a crisis that was already there before but that the coronavirus pandemic and all its social and economic components, etc., has made much worse.
It always remains in our minds that Spain is not doing things right in this matter and it seems that it is going to be very difficult for this money to reach the country's productive fabric. I understand Teresa that you must be disheartened seeing and suffering what is happening in the nights of Barcelona and Catalonia these days. It is giving a terrible image of the region and the country.
It is terrible, especially because it could have been prevented by both Catalan and Spanish institutions. What is happening breaks everything, it breaks with coexistence and with the economy. What we are experiencing will help to revive all the economic spheres, all the consequences of the crisis, not the opposite.
This is going to make business worse, it is going to make companies look for other, safer places because obviously they don't have to be exposed to this gratuitous violence. Are all these demonstrations really in defence of freedom of expression? If anyone thinks so, they haven't understood what the issue is about. It is not freedom of expression that is being defended, nor are the forms of defending any right under the multiple forms of violence that are being exercised during these days. The European Union, especially in connection with the Council of Europe, which is the one that deals most with fundamental rights issues on the ground in practice in the States, really has its programmes and its projects, is very concerned about this; this violence is the result of a whole series of hate speech practices that turn into hate crime. We have to take care of the language, that is to say what is explained, what values we are spreading in our young people and society in general because the hate that language can translate is very often transformed into hate crime, into hate crime, and this is really a tremendous failure of today's societies. It is a kind of cancer that if not stopped in time can leave results that can be horrific.
It has come to light that among those arrested for these incidents were young French and Italians and, of course, young Spaniards from Catalonia, is there a multinational of vandalism?
This goes back a long way, and that is why I say that things could have been avoided. It is worth remembering that quite a few years ago, European summits and international events could not be held in Barcelona because Barcelona was also a target for the hordes. In those years I had a job with a lot of mobility around the European summits, it was when we were negotiating the Charter of Fundamental Rights, I met the same groups in Nice, Genoa, Paris, Berlin, everywhere is an international that has its connections and you have to be realistic, it exists. It turns out that now, in the midst of the pandemic, with all the controls we are subject to with the regional and municipal confinements, the international of anarchism and violent populism is descending on us, there is something wrong here.
Who is pulling the strings and who is financing all this?
I don't know, but I think that all political leaders should be very attentive to this whole series of phenomena and take all appropriate measures to prevent all these things from happening. They are united by a total disregard for the law and a criminal nature, because this is criminality. But I would like to insist on the fact that these people are being financed and all this is organised.
That is for sure, there are manuals circulating on how to carry out the actions or how to provide material; therefore, it is clear that this has an organisation behind it.
A first step was taken in the European Parliament a few days ago on the lifting of the immunity of Carles Puigdemont, the fugitive from Spanish justice who was president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, what forecast can we make about the procedural situation of Puigdemont, will we see him in Spain soon?
That does not depend on the European Parliament; its competence is to lift his parliamentary immunity so that he can be tried in Spain for the crimes with which he is charged. So that he can be tried in Spain as he is in another European Union country on the run, because he left, he fled so as not to be tried here. A European Arrest Warrant has been issued, it is currently on hold, but it will be reactivated, and the authorities are the ones who have to execute it. In other words, he can be tried in Spain if Belgium does not grant him immunity. We have always had this stumbling block, but if the European Parliament understands that he must be tried and therefore lifts the immunity of the judge in charge of this matter in Belgium, perhaps it thinks that this Euro Order should be granted and that he should be tried; this would be the normal thing to do between Member States. Because the Euro Order is precisely about a relationship of trust between European countries in such a way that when someone has a problem in one State, going to another State does not mean that this person can escape justice. It is like when someone in Spain commits a crime in Albacete and goes to Santander, well, they are claimed in Albacete and from Santander they are handed over. Among European Union countries this should be the norm and, in general, this is what happens. The Euro Order works in more than 90% of the cases, but it turns out that in this particular case everything is stuck and we are going to have to wait and see what happens.