In English Voices From Spain

Speech delivered by Josep Borrell on 29th October 2017, Barcelona

[In Catalan] I didn’t expect to be with you again here in Barcelona, and we are many more today than last Sunday.

I must admit that it’s hard to come again. The truth it I didn’t want to come again. I couldn’t come because in this Autumn day, with this sky so blue, this beautiful country, we all would have preferred to be in the beach, in the mountain, rather than being here in a demonstration once again.

I was in the mountain, in my homeland. [In Spanish] I was in the mountain, in my homeland, in the Pyrenees. Yesterday I was watching the leaves in the trees, red and yellow, mixing between them in the colors of the Spanish and the Catalan flags.


[In Catalan] Yes, the forest in autumn. [In Spanish] The forest in autumn had the same colors I see here, the red and yellow. [In Catalan] The red and yellow, mixed up, together, representing the unity of Spain and Catalonia.

And it has been difficult to come because you don’t know how beautiful is the music that the fallen leaves make when you step on them and the floor becomes a carpet of leaves. It is the music of the peace. The music of tranquility. It is the music of the brotherhood. It is the music that must guide the spirit of the people of good will. My friends, I’m here also because I have heard again, this morning, Mr Puigdemont saying that he speaks in the name of the people of Catalonia.

[Shouts and boos]

[In Spanish] Don’t worry, look: Mr Puigdemont can speak on behalf of a part of Catalonia, but I am part of the people of Catalonia too. [In Catalan] I am too part of the people of Catalonia and he doesn’t get to speak on my behalf. [In Spanish] And I didn’t want to come, I didn’t want to come because as it is said in the Quixote, never second parts were good, and I don’t know whether I will be able, once again, to make my heart speak to your intelligence. I don’t know whether I will be able, once again, to explain what we have to feel in this dramatic moment of the history of Spain. A moment terribly difficult and dangerous.

[In Catalan] It is a moment in which everybody must keep a cool head to be able to face the difficulties coming towards us. This is a difficult moment in our history. It is a moment in which we all must keep calm to behave as civilized citizens of a people who must stitch its injuries if it wants to keep on living together. And I hope that justice does soon its work and demand responsibilities to all those who are doing this damage to Catalonia.

[Shouts demanding prison for Puigdemont]

[In Spanish] Here we go again. Here we go again. Listen to me. Listen to me. Do not put yourselves at the same level as them.

I’m here also because I heard Junqueras say, he was asked by a journalist: [In Catalan] “Excuse me, but what happens if in Barcelona, or in Hospitalet, or in Lleida or Tarragona, those opposed to the independence win the elections, that would be a very bad thing for the independence movement”. And the answer of Mr Junqueras, terrible, was “That would be very bad for the dignity of the Catalan people”.

That’s why I’m here. So that in our dignity we can vote whatever we wanted. The dignity of the people is to live together and in peace. Mr. Junqueras, you are a totalitarian.


So, if the Catalans don’t vote what you want, it is the dignity of the people what is lost.

No, the dignity of the people is to allow everybody to express themselves freely. And if turns out that there are not enough voters of the kind you want, then don’t violate the Statute of Autonomy as they have done.

My friends, maybe we are here because many of you, for many years, when it was time to vote in regional elections, didn’t do it. It may be that we are here because many people renounced their duty as citizens and didn’t go to vote, and now we have a golden opportunity 53 days from now. And this time, this time, this time, this time… nobody will stay at home!

And I’m also here because I read a piece in a newpaper from a person who dared to say the following: [In Catalan] “We have to be careful because the unionists will go to vote like vultures feasting on a corpse”. [In Spanish] “We have to be careful because the unionists will go to vote like vultures feasting on a corpse”. [In Catalan] How is it possible to be so brainless and to have so little respect to say things like these?


Yes, we will go to vote, but not like vultures feasting on a corpse, not. Like citizens who know that the history of their country, their wellbeing, the end of this “process” that is the worst that has happened to Catalonia, depends on their vote.

And I also want to address, as Frutos has done, that part of the Left that is so condescending with the nationalism, so understanding and ready to forgive everything the nationalists do. No, Mrs Colau [Applause] The application of the 155…


[In Spanish] No, Mrs Colau, no. You, who are the empress of ambiguity, can’t say that the 155 is a blow against democracy. It is the instrument that the Constitution provides to restore the legality when someone violates it.


And it is not an eccentricity of the Spanish Constitution. It is copied over from the article 37 of the German Constitution. It is in all the federal Constitutions. It is the only way to make the law be respected precisely by those who should have the higher obligation to do it.


No, Mrs Colau, no. When the laws of Independence were approved with 72 votes, when the Statute of Autonomy required that they were at least 90, you shut up. You didn’t say a word. Do not come now explaining what the blows to democracy are, because the blows to democracy begin when the fundamental laws of a country are violated.


Mr. Junqueras, you told us that no businesses would leave Catalonia.


I have already become a “Junquerologist”, because I know everything he’s said. [In Catalan] “Nobody will leave! Nobody! On the contrary, they will fight each other to establish themselves here!”.

Well, no, 1800 have already left.

Mr. Junqueras, you have the historical record of flight of business from a country. In less than 15 days, one out of three of the businesses with more than 550 employees has left. And are you still so shameless to say that it is of no consequence because there are still two hundred thousand? Are you so shameless to say it is of no consequence because they have left to the “Catalan Countries” [1]?

Do you think that Mr Draghi in Frankfurt cares at all about the Catalan Countries?

How can you, as economy vice-president, say that it is of no consequence if 1800 businesses that represent a volume of 40% of the GDP of Catalonia has left? It is an historic tragedy, Mr Junqueras!

Don’t take us for fools!

Allow me to make an arithmetic trick. Imagine that you have four euros, you have a coin of two euros and at home you have two euros in two hundred coins of one cent each. And you lose the two euros coin. And then Mr Junqueras comes and tells you: don’t worry man, because you still have two hundred coins, and you have only lost one! I have lost half of my patrimony, and you tell me to don’t worry because I still have two hundred coins!

This person is the economy vice-president of the Govern of Catalonia


And he’s the one in charge. Yes, yes. I can assure because I know for a fact [in Spanish] that there was an agreement so that there were neither 155 nor a declaration of independence, and when Mr Junqueras pushed his radicals to put pressure on Mr. Puigdemont, he flinched and rolled back his decision. But we will have elections, and we will have to go out and vote to defend the return to normality.

There is one thing that I want to tell you which is very important, listen to me: if there had been truly a declaration of independence, [in Catalan] if there had been truly a declaration of independence many of you who are here would have lost your jobs. [In Spanish] You would have lost your jobs. Because the economic crisis would have been of such magnitude that many people would have paid for it with their jobs. And if this is not going to happen is precisely due to the article 155.


Because its application will make the businesses and the markets understand that that thing of independence is not going to happen. And since it is not going to happen, they will go on as usual. But if it really happened, the economic catastrophe for Catalonia and for Spain too, would be huge.

I’m about to finish, and this time I address the Spaniards. Not only to you here.

[In Catalan] Not only to you here, Spanish Catalans, to the Spaniards that are not Catalan, let me tell you something: [In Spanish] We have to go on living together, and to go on living together we must extreme the respect and reconstruct the affection, even if it is hard.


Even if it is hard. The other day I showed you the European flag and I told you: “This is my starred flag”. Somebody sent me a letter saying : “you hide behind the European flag to avoid showing the Spanish flag”. No, it’s not true. Here they are both of them, the Spanish and the Catalan. Both, together. Because I want my children and grandchildren to have symbols they could see themselves reflected in, which they can identify with, that represent their collective identity. A flag is something more than a piece of cloth painted in colors. A flag represents an identity. And we have both. The Catalan and the Spanish.


And that is incorporated into our Constitution. But listen to me also all those Spaniards that are watching us on TV: Let’s not commit the error. Let’s not commit the error of believing that because we have a written Constitution that we respect and we defend, we have also a built political body, they are different things. The Constitutions are based on consensus and they must be adapted and reformed to adapt them to the current situation and allow that the coexistence allows integrating everyone.

My friends, I go back to the forest. [In Catalan] I go back to stare the yellow and the red and the blue sky. But from now on for 53 days we have work to do so that the day we vote, we vote out the nationalist government of Catalonia.

[Applause and shouts of “We will vote”]

Thank you, and strength, because we have ahead 53 days of hard work.


[1] Translator’s note: Catalan independence supporters often claim the unity of a wider territory than the current region of Catalonia where Catalan or similar languages are spoken. This territory comprises also the regions of Valencia, Balearic Islands, the eastern part of Aragon and part of the south of France. All these lands are called collectively “Els Països Catalans” or “The Catalan Countries”.

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