- Consul General, Consolat de Mar
Interview translated from Catalan to English, originally posted in El Punt Avui. Read the original here.
What are the functions of the Cònsul Major (“Consol General”) of the Consolat de Mar (“Consulate of the Sea”)?
My role focuses on getting the Consolat de Mar to be in the room with the boards of directors of our companies. It is an institution of 750 years of existence with an extraordinary historical legacy. The Chamber of Barcelona managed to recover it in 1956, but despite this, there have been hardly any arbitrations and activities. So, in the midst of a pandemic, I accepted the position of Cònsul Major on the condition that it was accompanied by a revitalization process, and we are immersed in this challenge.
Right now, the paradox is that it is an institution that is better known internationally than at home. It will be necessary to do a lot of pedagogy.
In academia, in international arbitration and in global maritime and land law, the Consolat de Mar is recognized and valued as the root for mediation and maritime law. But our own society and economic world do not know about it. For this reason, I want to shake up the institution, to recover the historical legacy and the authority it once held but with the tools of the 21st century. This means maintaining what I would say is Catalonia’s most global brand. Well, actually, I would say we have two: Barça and the Consolat de Mar.
You want to recover the Consolat de Mar brand, but also its activity. In wich way?
To revive the Consolat de Mar, we have focused on arbitration and mediation, which is the way to resolve conflicts without going to court. In 2020, we contacted the Generalitat because, as much as the Centre de Mediació Familiar de Catalunya (“Family Mediation Center of Catalonia”) has become a benchmark for the State, we undestrand that when it comes to the economic and business side the referent must be the Consolat de Mar. After all, we invented business mediation and have been practicing it for centuries! We have also signed agreements with Catalan bar associations to suggest that conflicts should no longer be resolved under the notion of winners and losers: that is the complete opposite of mediation, in which the conflicting parties find means of coexistance and an agreed resolution, and this is how future collaboration is guaranteed. However, one of the biggest enemies of mediation is the legal profession.
In what sense?
As lawyers, we are trained to believe that, in order to resolve conflicts, you have to go to court. That is perceived to be more interesting economically, we are used to the culture of confrontation as a way to generate income. So we have to convince lawyers that mediation will be more effective, that the client will benefit more and therefore become more loyal. Because mediation improves the relation between cost and opportunity, we must break the deeply rooted culture of judicialization. But, first, lawyers must be trained in this practice, as currently they do not have real knowledge of it. I myself was anti-mediation until very recently. Before taking the reins of the Consolat de Mar, I did not believe in meditation as a useful practice but, as soon as I got to see how it works first-hand, I realised it offers a qualitative leap when it comes to dealing with a conflict. Emphasis must be placed on entrepreneurs, freelancers and partners linked to an economic activity, and on the manager of the conflict, which is the legal professional.
To celebrate the 750 years of the institution, you are preparing an international congress of mediators.
Yes, that’s right. The visibility of the Consulate depends on contributing to the knowledge of mediation and arbitration. In addition to the celebratory activities, we are working on three major future projects. On the one hand, we are collaborating with Xarxa Vives to create a University Chair of the Consolat de Mar, to award the excellence of arbitrators and mediators. The other big project is to become promoters of the use of blockchain in all commercial traffic in the maritime field. We are talking to insurers, banks, maritime transit companies and the Catalan blockchain center to make it a reality. Right now, only 1% of maritime merchant traffic uses electronic currency, because it is not trusted. The Consolat de Mar is the institution that could solve this lack of trust.
What is the third project?
As I have already advanced, it is to promote mediation and arbitration, but with a special emphasis on the Mediterranean region. In fact, the Association of Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce (ASCAME) has recognized Barcelona, and in particular the Consolat de Mar, as a coordinating center for mediation and arbitration courts in the Mediterranean region. We want to become an international lobby in arbitration. These are projects that can generate a big leap if society and the business world believe in it. I took on the commitment to recover the institution. And we are on the right path. There are difficulties and problems, of course, but we have a jewel in our hands and it would be a crime not to take advantage of its potential. It must be an institution of the Catalan-speaking chambers and it must be porous.12/15/2022