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  • Longest-serving foreign correspondent in Spain: country needs political calm
  • Madrid, Nov 29 (efe-epa).- The longest-serving foreign correspondent in Spain has recounted the highlights of his more than half a century of newsgathering in the peninsula in an exclusive interview with EFE and reflected on the country's need for the political stability fostered by its Constitution.

    Robbert Bosschart (the Netherlands, 1945) has since 1966 been a foreign correspondent in Spain for the Dutch public television NOS and other international media during which time he has chronicled Spain's transformation from a military dictatorship into a democracy.

    He recalled how, when Spaniards voted in favor of the then new 1978 Constitution they paved the way for what he described as the longest period of political stability in Spanish history, adding that the pact nowadays may require some updating.

    Bosschart was critical of the current political leadership for what he said was a lack the vision compared to those who negotiated the 1978 charter.

    The veteran Dutch correspondent heaped praise on the liberties achieved by Spain's society, saying it was something simply "unthinkable" back in 1975.

    Fluent in Spanish, Bosschart began as a freelance journalist in 1963 while studying Spanish at the University of Barcelona, where he also learned the local Catalan language.

    Later, he spent 25 years as the correspondent for NOS, the Dutch public broadcaster, and a 10-year stint at Spain's CNN+ news channel.

    Nowadays, he writes articles on Spain at the Montesquieu Institute and has authored various books.

    When asked to recall the Constitutional debate while in Barcelona, and if there was any way of foreseeing today's Catalonian independentist movement, Bosschart replied: "Not at all. Barcelona was a cosmopolitan city on the level with Berlin, Paris or Beirut; it was an open city. The Catalonian sense of belonging has always existed, but back then it was a tolerant place and acutely aware that if it was going to achieve democracy it had to be for all of Spain.

    "Catalonia was one of the most enthusiastic regions backing the new constitution, with 90.5 percent voting in favor," he said.

    He said there was none of the fierce propaganda unleashed in Catalonia in 2011-12 demanding self-rule.

    "I never understood why out of seven million Catalonians, two million believed that fairy-tale," he said.

    The journalist also recalled the dangers surrounding the nascent democracy, especially when Spain voted on Dec. 6, 1978, in favor of its new constitution.

    "There was an ongoing dirty war with three military coups brewing. The population knew if they wanted democracy, they had to vote in favor."

    The Dutch correspondent believes the nationalist issues currently afflicting Spain can be solved: "Of course they can, just as Europe ended nationalist hatreds after two world wars."

    When asked whether ex-dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco, was still too much of a presence in the news today, Bosschart replied: "The problem with the Franco-Yes, Franco-No in the Valley of the Fallen (his mausoleum) is not a problem of where to place the body, it implies that the Spanish state must condemn the person that was still executing people by garroting them in 1974 and still ordering firing squads just a month prior to his death."

    In Bosschart´s opinion, the Spanish state and society must expose a despicable dictatorship.

    ja/mrp/hh

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