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Interview with Roger Albinyana, Secretary General for Foreign and European Affairs, Generalitat de Catalunya.
By Kathie van Bronckhorst & Enrique Muñoz Salido
The Model United Nations Conferences give young people from many countries the opportunity to contribute their views about how we can resolve international issues which challenge us today and will inevitably shape their future. In your opinion, what does the CMUN to Catalonia?
Among the activities organized by ANUE, there is one that has achieved something unique and almost autonomous: the Catalonia Model United Nations (C'MUN) conference in Barcelona. C'MUN began in 2005, when the Association was looking for a type of activity aimed at young people, but larger than a typical conference made by experts. ANUE was looking for something challenging, motivating and original. C'MUN was born in 2006 and it was indeed the first simulation of the United Nations body in Spain addressed to university students. The Government of Catalonia has always been an active supporter of the event taking into account especially the enthusiasm of the participants. We are convinced that C'MUN is a successful experience and a cornerstone of ANUE’s work. It is very interesting for the Government of Catalonia to emphasize that C'MUN attracts participants from all over the world in Barcelona and gives the opportunity for students to learn, discover and share skills and experiences. We are also proud of the intense and fruitful discussions that C’MUN brings to Barcelona and I’ll encourage you to maintain successful debates these days. Finally, let me congratulate you for your interest and engagement in multilateralism. You are and will be confronted with the challenges mentioned before, and it is important that you engage with their solution.
There is a new tendency of some EU members States to restrict free movement to EU citizens. What is your opinion on the compatibility of this kind of policy with the European principles?
As a shared political project for unity based on diversity, the European Union should insist on real progress in the freedom of movement of people. Insufficient emphasis has been given to citizens and their actual ability to move freely across our Union. This includes necessary progress in the area of civil law, so that citizens can be certain that their rights will be safeguarded wherever they are in the Union. Care should also be given to facilitating procedures for citizens that have chosen to move around the Union, in areas such as succession rights and divorce settlement.
Wikileaks is a genuine and independent information source that oversteps governmental interests and prioritizes the right to information. What do you think is the borderline between people’s right to information and the security of a State? When do you think one must take precedence over the other?
We fully support the right of citizens to information. A key priority of President Mas is to make Catalonia a country of transparency, and several relevant measures have already been taken in this direction. We have created a Government website on transparency and accountability based on Transparency International evaluation parameters; we have published the salaries of all elected and appointed officials and elaborated an ethical code of conduct for these and for appointed public officials. In addition, the Catalan Parliament is drafting a law on transparency and access to public information. Having said that, we should bear in mind that some information between States can be sensitive and this certainly creates a difficult situation. Governments also have to be able to communicate confidentially. Confidentiality and transparency are not mutually exclusive, but rather two sides of the same coin.
It is clear that there is no simple method in establishing post-conflict reconciliation. However, taking into consideration the rise of internal conflicts in the European arena over the past decades, what do you believe are the essential steps in building lasting peace in the region?
The EU has been built on the basis of trade, relations and diplomacy. Diplomacy is a key element in the construction of an economic and political Europe. Undoubtedly, the development of a coherent European foreign policy is essential if the Union is to play a role in the world. The Union must focus on its traditional strengths and put a very strong and special emphasis on human rights and democracy promotion. Foreign policy must always promote and defend European values and in a way that reflects the uniqueness of the European Union. The development of the External Action Service will make European States more visible on the international stage and also will be a key element in providing the Union with the tools for greater coherence and efficiency.
In this sense, the EU should develop its foreign policy potential enabling it to act in a way proportionate with its weight in financing development and peace building policies. The EU also has a clear agenda of human rights and bring its experience in conflict resolution and crisis management to bear. In this sense, the EU should also be involved in humanitarian relief missions where either human conflict or nature has caused devastation.
Exacerbated by the Arab Spring, the MENA region has witnessed a surge of political change and a proliferating sense of terrorism. The 2014 Arab Summit warned of the “enormous” dangers in the lack of Arab unity. With a UN peace mediator appealing that the region is in danger of being dragged into conflict, what role, if any, do you feel Western players hold in easing tensions in the Post-Arab-Spring scenario?
Firstly, I would emphasize the relevance of the Mediterranean as a priority region for Catalan foreign action, given its proximity and important historic, economic and cultural links. In this regard, Catalonia has always lent relevance to the Euro-Mediterranean Process and the value of hosting the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean in Barcelona. The Government of Catalonia has closely monitored the events and development of the Arab Spring, which began with demonstrations in Tunisia against the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and quickly spread to other Arab countries. Despite the unexpected magnitude of these uprisings, the EU has engaged politically with a wide range of government, opposition, parliamentary and civil society interlocutors in the Arab region; the EU has recognized the challenges of the political and economic transition faced by the region as a whole. It has also recognized the need to adopt a new approach to relations with its Southern neighbors. Therefore, the delivery of development aid from now on and will focus, internally, on good governance, human rights democracy and rule of law and thus reflects the response to the events of the Arab Spring.
Although progress has been made towards gender equality, it remains a long-standing critical issue in almost all societies, both in developed and developing countries. The importance of this matter is reflected in the UN statements that highlight the critical role women have to play in the post-2015 agenda. What do you think are the most common challenges that women still have to face in current societies and which are the key elements to bridge the gender gap?
The world today faces huge challenges which require urgent attention. According to the United Nations, persistent inequalities and struggles over scarce resources are key determinants of situations of conflict, hunger, insecurity and violence, which in turn are key factors that hold back human sustainable development.
Regarding violence against women, it is both a consequence of the inequalities between women and men as well as an obstacle to women’s full participation in economic, social, political and cultural life. There is no doubt that violence against women has a cross border dimension and needs to be tackled at international level. There is a need for minimum standards, common definitions and action to prevent Violence against women and to better protect half of our population.
United Nations – UN Women leadership is needed more than ever: UN-Women should help to ensure that a life free from violence becomes a reality for all women in the world. It is true that action in tackling violence against women has long been a priority for UN. But until now there has been no overarching strategy to prevent violence against women, despite the clear global dimension of the problem.
This article was published in The Clarion, the official newspaper of CMUN , the Model United Nations of Barcelona. Read the other articles:Erdogan Won the Elections Despite the Graft Scandals
or read the whole issue here.