Urkullu: "Rajoy did not display a proactive attitude towards sorting out the situation"The Basque premier stated that "Puigdemont sought out dialogue between the 2 governments until the last minute" in the Catalan independence trial
Josep Maria Camps
The basque premier Iñigo Urkullu
Basque premier Iñigo Urkullu opened the ninth sitting of the Catalan independence trial in the Supreme Court and the second sitting with witness interrogations on Thursday. Urkullu had been put forward as a witness by the defence counsel of Josep Rull.
Urkullu took the stand shortly past 10 in the morning, being questioned by Francesc Homs, the defence counsel of Rull.
When questioned by Homs, he explained that his mediation in the conflict began on 19 June 2017, when Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont expressly asked him to carry out these tasks.
According to his statement, one month later, on 19 July, he held his first two-hour meeting with Mariano Rajoy in the Palace of Moncloa to exclusively discuss the political conflict in Catalonia:
"I told Rajoy that things could not go on the way they were, and I told him that the situation was getting out of hand, that he had to tread carefully, and he answered that he would do as little as possible and act as carefully as possible."
Urkullu added that, from June onwards, he had significant contact with people from different spheres, both in politics and in culture and the economy, but he did not give any names.
The Basque premier explained that, in the following months, he kept up with these contacts with the intention of carrying out mediation and that, on 4 October, the day after the general strike and the king's speech, said contacts intensified significantly.
He also quoted Santi Vila as one of the people who called him on the 4th, and he said that there were more people, even though he did not give any names, and that he told Puigdemont.
He said that he asked him once again to mediate, and that his attitude was always "open to dialogue":
"With regard to Puigdemont, I always found him open to dialogue and, moreover, that was what he requested from me: that I should open a means of communication that would lead to dialogue, and I found him absolutely receptive to my suggestions, which I also had the chance to see in the meeting he carried out as Catalan president, on 10 October, in the plenary session held in the Parliament of Catalonia."
"Subsequently, I was in written communication with Puigdemont over the 20, 21, 22 and 23 October, and during that time I conveyed to him my comments and suggestions regarding the unilateral declaration of independence, which I felt had had no normative value in the declaration made on 10 October. I also notified the Spanish PM of this, of what was happening on the 10th, as well as what could happen on 25 October in the Parliament of Catalonia."
"Puigdemont sought out dialogue that would allow for a stable relationship between both governments until the last minute."
Rajoy's attitude "was not proactive"
When questioned by prosecutor Jaime Moreno, Urkullu stated that Mariano Rajoy's attitude throughout this entire process was "to listen", but that he was not "proactive" towards finding a way to sort out the situation:
"It is an action ordered by a judge, but using judicial forces and corps. In any event, the Spanish PM had also renounced, as I said earlier, what could have been a propositional, or positive, or proactive attitude. His attitude was to listen, to provide unsatisfactory answers in some cases, but he was not proactive towards attempting to sort out the situation."
Puigdemont did not want to carry out the unilateral declaration of independence
When questioned by the government attorney, Rosa María Seoane, Urkullu stated that Puigdemont was reluctant to proclaim a unilateral declaration of independence or "UDI":
"I must say that he shared the comments I made to him, under no circumstances did he intend to make a unilateral declaration of independence. And that is what I saw on 10 October, prior to the development of the plenary session in the Parliament of Catalonia, during the plenary session of the Parliament of Catalonia and after the plenary session of the Parliament of Catalonia on 10 October."
The "pressure" from JxSi and from the streets on October 26
According to Urkullu's statement, on the morning of 25 October, Puigdemont had agreed to call elections at his behest, but he went back on his word the next day due to the "pressure" he underwent both from within Junts pel Sí as well as from the streets:
"I found president Puigdemont to have a very receptive attitude, which can also be seen from the agreement we reached on the night from 25 to 26 October, as well as from the conversations we held on the morning of 26 October, in principle a conversation we held at 10 in the morning, roughly one hour before the time he had set to appear before the media and which he later postponed until, at 2 PM on the 26th of October, he got in touch with me, lamenting that the people who had gathered, were demonstrating at plaça Sant Jaume were rebelling against him, that he understood that he was also under pressure from within his own parliamentary group, Junts pel Sí, and that he could not fulfil the agreement we had reached during the morning to dissolve parliament and to call elections, which is what I had suggested to him to attempt to avoid the application of article 155."
"I could not offer any guarantees"
In any event, Urkullu admitted that Puigdemont's commitment towards him did not guarantee that the application of article 155 would stop, because Rajoy had not given him an "unambiguous" answer on the subject:
"Ultimately, I had to tell Puigdemont, who was asking for some kind of guarantee from me, that I could not offer him any guarantees."
"At the most I had an inkling, to which I referred to, as there was also the context of what was taking place in the plenary session of the Senate, with an amendment put forward by the Spanish socialist party, a last proposal for amendment I addressed to Rajoy, to Puigdemont, to the general coordinator of PDeCAT, to the president of the Basque nationalist party and to the secretary-general of the Spanish socialist party, on 27 October, as well as another individual proposition for a vote that I also offered to a Basque PM."
"This inkling, however, was based on the possibility that, once the Parliament of Catalonia had been dissolved and president Puigdemont had called elections, and even if the application of article 155 was approved, the dispositions of the majority political parties, PP and the Spanish socialist party, would lead to article 155 ultimately not being applied. I I did not receive an unambiguous answer from the Spanish PM."
A key witness account
Urkullu's testimony was widely anticipated, especially due to the role he was known to have played as a mediator between the Catalan government and the Spanish government, and to know under which terms said mediation had taken place.
On 27 October, the date of the declaration of independence in the Catalan parliament and the application of article 155 of the Constitution, the Basque premier had said that "a solution was still being sought out".
- Catalan independence trial