"We are suffering a situation of political instability that affects both the Catalonian and the Spanish economy"Redacción
Interview with Josep Lluís Bonet. President of the Freixenet Group, by Carmen P. Flores
Josep Lluís Bonet is, as well as being a businessperson, jurist and university professor, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Spain, and the Fira de Barcelona. For some time now, he has become a spokesperson who has is solitary denounced the political situation in Catalonia and the repercussions it was going to have on the economy. Bonet is concerned about, and struggles for political stability and hopes that the elections on the 21st December will bring that political stability within the Constitution and the Statute.
Is the independence movement destroying the Catalonian economy and destabilizing the Spanish one?
Yes. I think that the "Procés", which in any case leads nowhere, has done a considerable amount of damage to the Catalonian economy, and obviously, also to the Spanish economy. The damage is already here, but I think we are still in time to stop it becoming irreparable. We are suffering a situation of legal instability: on one hand, the Constitution, and on the other, independence.
Now, with implementing Article 155 and the elections of the 21st December next, things can be fixed, but it is clear that it also depends on the election results and above all, on the policies that emerge from the new government that is formed. If we go down the Constitutional path, this can be fixed. On the other hand, we follow the same path that started badly in October, it would be a disaster for Catalonia, bad for Spain, and even bad for Europe.
You are one of the few Catalonian businessmen who have been warning about the situation in Catalonia for a long time. Why have others been silent?
In this, I am quite respectful of the attitude of others. I think everyone does what they want, but I do think they should have talked to their people. An employer is the leader of their company and all their workers depend on them. They should have told them what they thought. I recognize that there are businessmen who are pro-independence, although I personally do not share that position and I think they are wrong, as the current situation is showing.
Do you mean that there has been a failure on the part of employers?
In the sense that I have just said, yes, because the leader is the one who has to explain where things are going and what the company situation is, and what can happen, so that afterwards there will not be nasty surprises.
Is there also division in the business world?
Of course there is. We have a group of businessmen who are pro-independence, who are quite respectable, but most of them are not, nor do they agree with the line taken. The results are obvious.
How do you think this political and economic situation has come about?
This has been some time in the making. In Catalonia there has always been some independence movement, but before it did not represent more than 10% of the population. Not like now, when is something like more than 40%. This started up in President Pujol's time, when we already talked about the national construction and he proposed it based on three fundamental pillars: the educational bias, the control of the media and social control, and this is what has happened, and it has led us into this situation.
I would like to add that as regards the Spanish government, I believe that there has been an abandonment of its functions in Catalonia. An abandonment of their values, as real as the Catalonian ones, but they have not taken care of themselves.
If at the end there are only just the one, but not both, it produces imbalance that is not good. The Spanish government has not done its own duty. You have to respect others, but you have to discuss your own proposals and defend them, otherwise it is a bad state of affairs that leads to the current situation.
Is the companies' flight a failure of both the Spanish and Catalonian governments?
It means the failure of the terrible Govern, because some leaders say that they love Catalonia, and watch as leading companies leave the territory, the country, This is a terrible failure that we will all pay for. However, it is also a failure of the Spanish government because this situation also destabilizes Spain. Why have appropriate measures not been taken? It's a good question.
Do you think that the companies' flight has left Puigdemont, Junqueras and their political parties indifferent?
I don't think no. What happens is that they are prioritizing the defence of ideals, which, as has been shown, are not going anywhere.
Has the role of the trade unions been not clear?
I think so. The unions have to position themselves more, and clearly explain the subject, that is what they are there for, but they have not done so. This has happened with many other people, who have been guilty of excessive prudence, when the contrary has been needed most.
How do you see the boycott of Catalonian products?
I think that it's wrong. The boycott is a bad thing. Although we do not have a clear idea of how far it goes. We will see this at the end of the campaign. We have to take into account the disturbance that has occurred this October, which I call a black October, in which all sectors have suffered a downturn and has been accumulated on top of this boycott. We will have to wait until the end of the year to be able to make a quantitative assessment of the consequences.
How can we stop this boycott?
I think we have to explain to the general public that this should not be done, because it is a matter of rationality, injustice and even convenience, because if a product is good, we should not stop using it for ideological reasons.
In addition, is hurting many people in the rest of Spain. Many Catalonian products have their origins in other areas of the country. We have to convince everyone that the best thing to do is carry on as normal.
What role is the Spanish Government playing in this conflict?
The Government are concerned, and try to be supportive of the Catalonians. A few days ago, there was an assembly of all the Chambers, as a gesture of solidarity. We have also held a meeting of the board and the employers' organisation INCIDE, which I preside over. The Chambers are there to help this get solved.
Are you worried that after the 21st December elections, a government like the previous one will be repeated? If so, how would you see the future of the economy?
I'm worried, of course. What I want is for whatever government ensues, I ask them to respect the Constitution and the Statute and therefore the Rule of Law, this is, democracy. We should not forget that what happened this October with the unilateral declaration and the consequences we are suffering. We have to not lose sight of it, because we have to learn from our mistakes.
Has your professional and personal positioning affected you in this conflict?
For now it is not apparent. I believe that we should say what we want to, always respecting people. My intention is only to do what is beneficial for people. This is what I have tried to do, but we will see in the future what happens, and if I will pay a cost for it both areas.