Prohibited sub-state public diplomacy: the attempt to dissolve Catalonia’s DIPLOCAT
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The attempt by the Spanish state to dissolve the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT) in the aftermath of the 2017 Catalonian referendum on self-determination is an interesting story in and of itself but it also has implications for understandings of public diplomacy and relationships between state and sub-state governments. This article is the result of academic and practitioner collaboration to provide a detailed critical account of the recent occurrences in Catalonia’s public diplomacy history. One part of the authorship provided an auto-ethnographic account of his experiences and a history of DIPLOCAT’s activities, providing evidence where necessary to confirm accuracy. Once this was completed it was sent to the academic party of the authorship who had control over the structure, theoretical framework and the critical analysis that is provided on these pages. The research reveals that DIPLOCAT managed the pro-independence organisations within its consortium relatively well. However, its dissolution in the aftermath of the 1st October 2017 referendum appears to be case of guilt by association with a group of organisations that Spanish central power sought to punish and dissolve. This is despite DIPLOCAT following a similar strategic focus and structure to its predecessor organisations, which were tolerated by Madrid, and the Rajoy administration not seeking the closure of public diplomacy organisations in other Spanish regions with similar structures. To this end, DIPLOCAT was targeted by Madrid for two reasons. First: its work, and its foundation under the acronym DIPLOCAT in 2012 amidst other pro-referendum and pro-independence pivots in Catalan politics, led to a (not unreasonable) perception of its preference for Catalan statehood; and second, the very fact that it gained traction with distinguished international audiences and was perceived as being successful at raising Catalonia’s profile and foreign awareness of issues surrounding the province at a time when Madrid would have preferred a greater amount of control over the political narrative. As such, Madrid’s hard-fisted actions reveal their own tacit awareness of their communications weaknesses and fears over the power of DIPLOCAT.
KeywordsCatalonia/Catalunya Referendum Sub-state Public Diplomacy DIPLOCAT
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