Marlene Wind, a professor at Copenhagen University and director of its Centre for European Politics, is an expert on the European Union. She is also an experienced polemicist, and on Monday she held a public debate with Carles Puigdemont, the ousted Catalan premier who has been living in self-imposed exile in Brussels ever since the illegal independence declaration of late October.
Despite speaking to a sympathetic audience filled with supporters of independence, Puigdemont had to take difficult questions from Wind, who asked whether democracy is just about holding referendums or whether it is also about upholding the rule of law, and if the rights of the approximately 50% of Catalans who reject independence were being respected by his rushed independence push.
She also noted that Catalonia is Spain’s wealthiest region and enjoys greater self-rule than Germany’s federal states, before asking Puigdemont whether he simply wants to get rid of his poorer neighbors. “Are you just spoiled?” she asked him point-blank.
Following the public sparring, the Danish political expert spoke with the media and accused the ousted leader of “creating a circus” in Denmark. She said that Puigdemont is “very skillful at presenting himself as a victim of the Rajoy government.”
Question. Is the Catalan independence rhetoric gaining any traction in Denmark?
Answer. Personally, I don’t think that Europe can be built on the basis of identity demands; that seems like something out of centuries past. This type of movement leads to the wrong place: to a balkanization that should make us afraid. We need to build bridges: it is necessary to de-escalate this conflict. Speeches like Puigdemont’s create the opposite effect.
Q. Is it a coincidence that he showed up in Copenhagen on the same day that he was nominated as the candidate to become the next Catalan premier?
A. He has made us the hostages of his circus act. Puigdemont is very skillful at presenting himself as a victim of the Spanish government. We did not invite him to come here.
Q. But the suggestion came from here.
A. We were asked for hospitality and we granted it, but we did not ask him to come. The university must be a forum of debate, but if we hadn’t asked him difficult questions it would have been pure propaganda.
Q. As an expert on European politics, do you believe that one may declare independence with 50% of the votes?
A. With those figures, there are certain steps that should not be taken. It is very problematic to do politics purely on the basis on surveys and referendums. Democracy means going to the polls, but it also means respecting the rules and the rule of law: that is the big difference between the Scottish referendum and the Catalan referendum.
Q. Do you think that the situations in Spain and Poland are comparable, as Puigdemont claims?
A. I think this comparison is completely unfair. Rajoy may be criticized, and you won’t be seeing me defending the use of violence. But the situation can in no way be compared with Poland.
English version by Susana Urra.