Almost 40 years ago Spain embraced democracy after a long dictatorship. Since then we have become an open country with a decentralised government in which autonomous communities enjoy the greatest degree of self-government in Europe. But all that is now at risk because of the irresponsibility of Carles Puigdemont and his separatist government in Catalonia.
By riding roughshod over those, like me, who reject his separatist agenda, Mr Puigdemont betrays true democracy. His brand of nationalism and populism is based on contempt for anyone who disagrees and the false idea that there are simple, magical solutions to complex national problems.
This ideology, which has caused so much damage elsewhere in Europe, has also made Catalonia — one of the most important economic regions in Spain — lose countless opportunities. Thousands of companies have been forced to flee because of the drive for independence from Madrid. We have lost investment and jobs as well as dividing our people.
We cannot allow separatism to wreak more havoc. Equally, we must insist that the central government in Madrid and the opposition Socialist Party listen to our legitimate concerns and reforms where necessary. My party, which is contesting the elections in Catalonia later this month, wants a regional parliament in which all parties work together to solve the real problems that Catalans — whatever their beliefs about independence — face. We must exchange selfishness for solidarity, illegalities for tranquillity, and confrontation for respect. Catalonia cannot continue to be a problem for Spain and Europe — it must be part of the solution.
If Mr Puigdemont and his separatists win power once more, they will do the same reckless things again. Those who have driven companies and investment away will not make them come back. Those who have divided society will not help reunite the Catalans.
On December 21 we have an opportunity, because we are not only playing with the future of Catalonia and all of Spain, but also of Europe. We are fighting for our future and for the memory of our parents and grandparents, who did so much to foster democracy. I am convinced we will achieve it together.
Inés Arrimadas is spokeswoman for the Citizens Party of Catalonia