Catalan “embassies” around the world with political representation?

      When I was writing my paper for my Master course, I found some piece of news and blogs very interesting. They speak about the creation of  “Catalan embassies” around the world. I was so interested in this issue that I made a small research in regard to this issue. The Catalan government has created delegations is some countries of Europe, and in America. They are in France, Germany, United Kingdom, Belgium, United States and Argentina. It is curious how one delegation-embassy from the foreign affairs department of the Catalan Government is in….Madrid!

Catalan Flag

Catalan Flag

      All people know the historical reality of Spain. It is  state with much historical nationalisms (Basq, Galeic, Catalan, Spanish). It  enrich Spain in the cultural and values point of view. But it also  creates a lot of troubles in politics. We are so different sometimes to from each other, that it is almost impossible to find a common way in order to do things.

      I may emphasize the difference between commercial office and delegations. The difference is while commercial offices have an economical aim, the delegations have a political intention. Almost all regions from Spain, and some European regions, have commercial offices representing their business and products. However, only Catalonia has political representation “in the back”  of its state: Spain. Like normal embassies, the delegations assume functions of political representation in a state level.

      The wish of representation in Europe by itself is so great that Catalan government created in some countries “embassies” for Catalan citizens, and the government is planning to open more in other countries. They are not really embassies as we understand because Catalonia is not a country and it cannot have more embassies than the Spanish state. But these buildings or places, called delegations, have in almost all cases the same functions as an embassy. They represent the Catalan society and  its reality, organizing activities (like Cervantes Institute for Spanish culture) in order to promote the Catalan culture.

Catalan Delegation in Berlin
Catalan Delegation in Berlin

      An an article from a newspaper (in Spanish) says that the aim of these wrongly called embassies is the “symbolic operation and the need to provide a political and cultural face to Catalonia in specific countries or institutions” .  It means that although the delegations are only buildings without very not so much Spanish official representation in an international context, they try to find political representation in countries and in different international institutions. For example, the objective of the Catalan delegation in Paris is to find the way on how Catalonia could join the UNESCO. Or it looks logical if there is a Catalan delegation in New York (in the Rockefeller Center ), the cultural center and the most strategic international place in the world.

      Well, it is ok for me and I feel the objective is fair. I mean I see with good eyes the creation of these places of promotion the Catalan culture, the wish of political representation by Catalonia itself, and a place where Catalans can resolve their bureaucratic problems with the Catalan Government. However, I am not sure if it is the best way. I don’t think embassies, delegations or whatever you want to call it, have long future anymore.

      New technologies, communications facilities and the economic straits are forcing us to rethink diplomatic network in many countries. In today’s Europe I don’t see embassies working as before. In two years I have been in Sweden, I only went once to the Spanish embassy. The reason was the ambassador had organized a dinner for Erasmus students.

     I do no think opening more, and more delegations, consulates, etc in order to consolidate representation and visibility around the world  is the best way nowadays. The EU needs less borders and divisions, and less institutions working on the divisions. It is an old Europe. But at the same time the new and future Europe needs cooperation between all members, and the reconnaissance of its sub members or regions.

      Or maybe, and being honest, because  2,2 millions of Euros per year is too much in order to promote the Catalan culture around the world. Quite expensive I guess. Furthermore, with the economical crisis, and being Spain one of the countries doing  worst in the statistics, looks logical to think again if it is the best way for the Catalan representation. I don’t think is sensible to represent “something” Catalan in the world while some population in Catalonia cannot find a job, or the Government cannot afford enough support for the needy people.


Javier Ruiz Soler

@spanishwalker on Twitter

2 responses to “Catalan “embassies” around the world with political representation?

  1. This is indeed an interesting phenomenon and, as you put it, it has to do with the assertion of a symbolic presence and not with the practical or functional expected effects. Using the word “embassy” suggests a certain “statehood” that Catalonia does not possess but that it wishes to claim. It would be interesting to see if other regions with strong identities are likely to follow in the Catalan footsteps. I assume only the very rich ones will have money for such an expensive PR.

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