“The Diada conveyed a positive message to markets”, B. Brasack (Germany)

Source: Nació Digital

First Posted: 30.09.2012

Author: Bernat Ferrer

Interview with german consul in Barcelona, Bernhard Brasack

German consul in Barcelona believes that the Catalan independence movement listed on the rise since the 11s and says that “there is no reason to be afraid” of a Spanish military intervention.

With a 204 milions euros in investments in 2010, Germany is the second country, after France by total investments. Also, it has over 500 firms established in Catalonia. All in all, it is clear that Germany is listed as one of the key elements in the secession process that Catalonia has begun.

Bernhard Brasack (Kiel, 1949) holds the post of Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Barcelona since July this year, long enough to acquire an idea of the Catalan society. Deeply impressed by the peaceful spirit that presided over the Diada independence demonstration, which he could watch from the consulate, Mr. Brasack said that Catalonia generates a lot of interest in Berlin, he is particularly curious about the role that eventually will the Socialists adopt from now on, and suggests that, in other parts of the world there has been no problem to overnight switch from German consulate, to German embassy.

- As a new consul how do you describe the events in Catalonia?

– Barcelona is a city with an extraordinary infrastructure, better even than Berlin. For example, the subway, the waste collection system, the police, the City … In addition, the city has a lot of diversity: Gracia, Sarria, the sea, the Eixample, Montjuic … It is an extraordinary city in Spain, Europe and the world.

- I realize that the city has captivated you

– Yes, very much.

- And politically, how have you seen it?

– For consuls, if nothing happens in a city, it is not very interesting. If something happens then attractive increases. In this sense, it is an interesting city. My duty is to get informed of the economic and political situation. On Tuesday I went to Parliament to see things firsthand. –

- What picture transmitting to Berlin, of the Independence demonstration of the Diada and the Tuesday in Parliament?

– Now I cannot go into details, but I report all the facts to the government, all the opinions, the position of the parties … My intention is to give a picture with all points of view, and learn how to the situation can develop. In Germany, there is a great interest on Catalonia’s situation.

- On Tuesday, at the Parliament, President Artur Mas announced the Parliament dissolution and elections which may give way to a government that promotes a referendum on independence.

– Yes. I informed my government, the motives of the government of Artur Mas, what does PPC think, the Catalan Socialists … And some prediction about the situation. It is a very common task for all embassies and consulates. But, as I said, usually there is no domestic political situation so interesting the one Catalonia is living. That is, I could be General Consul in Strasbourg which is also a city in which things happen. But in Germany there are no people interested in the political, social and economic of Strasbourg. Catalonia, however, is very important, economically and politically.

- The European region which currently generates more interest in Germany is Catalonia?

– Also the situation in Great Britain and Scotland, but the UK is not a member of the eurozone. So perhaps Catalonia is a little bit more interesting.

- You commented that, when you have passed the information to Berlin, have also warned your government on how all the Catalan process can go. Where do you think it can go?

– I have reported on the dissolution of Parliament, the motion granted by Parliament CiU and ERC … We will see the result in the next election.

- In Germany there is a fear of Catalan independence process?

– Fear among the population? No.

- And the government?

– Our government has no word on the subject, because it is an internal affair of Catalonia and Spain. We have a lot of interest, write reports, but we do not have an opinion one way or another.

- But if it ends up being a referendum on independence and win it, well that Germany must take a stand.

– Hypothetically, it would be possible. But diplomats are not talking about hypothetical things.

- What is no hypothesis is that Catalonia has more than 50% of German companies based in Spain. Last week, the Spanish government threatened that if Catalonia becomes independent, will leave the EU and companies will have to pay import duties. Would this affect the German economy?

– It is also hypothetical. I found  German businessmen that are centralist and others live in Barcelona. There are many opinions as I guess happens in all areas. Some may fear about insecurity or boycotts and others think otherwise, but there is no official views of companies.

- But internally do you study it?

– Yes, as usual.

- The German business in Catalonia would be willing to pay tariffs on trade with the EU?

– There are many different opinions and so far, only private opinions. There is not an official one. It is also an internal matter of Catalonia and Spain. Everything will depend on the outcome of November 25, if there is a majority of one party or not, whether there will be a coalition, and I see that there are many possibilities of coalitions because there are tensions between some parties … People vote and see what happens. In the center of Spain, we will see what the Socialist Party, both in Madrid and in Catalonia … Cannot predict what will happen.

- In any case, it seems to be a democratic process.

– This is good. The demonstration of the Diada was impressive of the Day: peaceful, a family party … The City Council had anticipated exactly where to park all the buses, there was no violence, and there was a peaceful atmosphere … The police, garbage, traffic … It was great to see so many people and nothing happened. This is good. It is also good for the image that others have of the case.

- That is, the manifestation of the Diada was positive for the external image of the independence movement?

– Yes, and also for financial markets. There are images that were in Madrid last week, when seen on television, who are equated with Greece. Yes, during the Diada there was such a situation, but not in this grade. This marks a major success I think.

- The demonstration was a key point for the international projection of Catalan cause?

– We will see the outcome of the election, which is what is really representative. It is a more democratic, more accurate, clearer definition of the opinions.

- On Tuesday, President Mas explained that he held elections because both the massive demonstration and by the Spanish government’s refusal to negotiate a fiscal pact, inspired mainly in the Basque model, but also the solidarity of territorial landers in Germany.

– The German case is a little different, but it is interesting that the PSOE think about a system like Germany, like Canada, like Australia. It seems that frustration also lies in the fact that people think they have no way to influence the policy of the central government, and in Germany it is different, because every Lander is involved in the Bundesrat, and the laws can be changed.

- You have made diplomatic career in various committees on disarmament and other related chemical and biological arms. Last week, an association of retired officers threatened the Catalan independence promoters with Martial Courts. Do you believe this is acceptable in today’s Europe?

– It is also a domestic issue.

- Maybe it’s a domestic issue, but many of the tanks Spanish army is using tanks are leased from Germany. So if these tanks intervene in Catalonia, this matter that also affect Germany.

– We live in a time when the role of the military is not the same as in the past. The political and social life has changed, so I do not think there is any reason to be afraid. These things, in modern Europe, with the euro, the European Court of Human Rights … times are diverse.

- Sometimes, Catalonia has been compared with Bavaria. Now, the German public would understand a secession of Catalonia, having in mind as only a “Bavarian Spanish”?

– No, it is not. In Bavaria have a dialect, and here is a language that is like Portuguese, Italian … is a distinct language, not just a dialect. Now, I do not know what the majority of Germans think about Catalonia. The Germans know Roman Spain, the Arabs, the Reconquest, the Catholic kings, Philip II … and the Civil War. Between Philip II and the Spanish Civil War and Franco, the Germans do not know much about Spain in general. And there are different opinions about Philip II. I also worked in Holland, and there are many people associating Philip II with the Inquisition, the military support of Catholics, the Eighty Years’ War … These are all things of the past, but also sleep in the subconscious of people.

- When you finish your term, within three or four years, do you see yourself leaving as ambassador?

– [Laughs] It is also very hypothetical!. However, after my job here in Barcelona, the truth is that afterwards I go on retirement!

- So, you would like to retire as an ambassador?

– [Laughs] Previously I worked in Yugoslavia, and the building that had our consulate general in Zagreb, capital of Croatia, now houses the German Embassy.

- That is, promoted automatically?

– Yes. Not a problem. But it is hypothetical, It is a decision of officials like me or the German central government. But if people of Catalonia and Spain in all processes, maintain democratic and clear civic positions, we’ll see how it all evolves.

(Translation: EM)