“An international mediation for Catalonia?” was the question Quim Torra and Elisabeth Decrey Warner tried to answer on this 17th of October during a conference organised by the Global Studies Institute.

After an introduction by Dr. Frédéric Esposito and Prof. Nicolas Levrat, we had the privilege to listen to Quim Torra, the current President of Catalonia. Wearing a yellow lapel pin to lend his support to Catalan political prisoners, he is in Geneva to reiterate his call for an international mediation about the situation in Catalonia and in Spain in a more general way. A year after the referendum on independence, there is an urgent need to find a way out from the lasting crisis. This is why Senor Torra had been asking since September for international support in his attempt to start negotiations with Pedro Sanchez, the new Spanish first minister concerning the region’s will for independence.

He starts his allocution by doing a parallel with Catalonia and Switzerland; a land he sees as an example of diversity (of languages, religions…), of self-determination and of democracy where so many referendums are held every year while one referendum in Catalonia plunged the entire country in the institutional crisis we know today. Quim Torra insists on how the government’s policy since then has been against all form of democracy and human rights. According to him, the referendum was a viable and democratic solution to the Catalonia issue and it could not be accused of breaking the law because “it cannot be illegal to use democracy”. However, Madrid has seen it as a form of violence and has been answering with systematic rejection and repression. Nevertheless, the blockage could be solved easily with political will. Indeed, such political instability is not good for anyone: this issue cannot monopolise the debate in Spain, as for Torra to say “the world is moving and is not waiting for Spain”. All of this explains his demand for an international mediation.

On this topic, the intervention of Elisabeth Decrey Warner was very relevant. Mrs. Decrey Warner is the Honorary President of the Appel de Genève (Geneva Call) and associate fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP). She was thus able to give the audience the key points of an international mediation and explained what she was excepting from the two sides of the conflict. An international mediation, she explains, is a very long process whose aim is to come to an agreement between two sides through the work of a mediator. There is an important work to be done ahead such as finding a mediator and a place of negotiations that suit both sides or the instauration of the “yes culture” that consists in agreeing on issues that seem insignificant but that allow to install a positive climate of negotiations. Mrs. Decrey Warner said that Quim Torra’s initiative was very positive as there is indeed a situation of emergency as some separatist leaders are still in prison or in exile and that tensions are growing in every region of Spain. Moreover, we saw thanks to some vert interesting questions asked by three GSI’s students that the UE could be one of the key actors of this mediation even if for now, it has not taken the issue as a major problem.

However, as a conclusion to the conference, Elisabeth Decrey Warner called Quim Torra out to argue that his side could not enter the negotiations if they only bring out the problem of the Spain government’s violence. Indeed, they need to go further and be ready to make compromises, something that the President of Catalonia we heard on this day at the GSI did not seem to be willing to; declaring that the only problem was his opponents never agreeing to negotiate, even if it seemed, in his words, that “to negotiate” meant more “to accept the referendum that took place last year”.