Catalonia's future "always Mediterranean and European", states Catalan President at Euromed summit
In front of the foreign affairs ministers of 22 European Union Member States, those of the southern Mediterranean countries and the Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, gathered in Barcelona for a summit on trade and the fight against jihadism, the Catalan Government President, Artur Mas, said in his opening speech that "Catalonia and Barcelona were born as Mediterranean and have developed as both Mediterranean and European". The Catalan President, who addressed the audience in Spanish, English, Catalan and French, also stressed that Catalonia's future horizons are "always Mediterranean and European", underlining "the umbilical cord with Europe and the Carolingian Empire that has never been broken". "We have the vocation of being a Mediterranean and European capital city", he added. In turn, Rajoy highlighted that Barcelona is "the Spanish capital of the Mediterranean".
Barcelona (ACN).- In front of the foreign affairs ministers of 22 European Union Member States and those of the southern Mediterranean countries, gathered in Barcelona for a summit on irregular immigration, trade and the fight against jihadism, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, gave the first opening address, in which he emphasised that "Catalonia and Barcelona were born as Mediterranean and have developed as Mediterranean and European". His words were followed by those of the Latvian Minister Edgars Rinkevic – since Latvia currently holds the European Council's rotating presidency; the High Representative of the EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini; and, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy. The Catalan President, who addressed the audience in Spanish, English, Catalan and French, also stressed that Catalonia's future horizons are "always Mediterranean and European", underlining "the umbilical cord with Europe and the Carolingian Empire that has never been broken". "We have the vocation of being a Mediterranean and European capital city", he added, before talking about the summit's specific subjects. In turn, Rajoy addressed the audience only in Spanish and highlighted that Barcelona is "the Spanish capital of the Mediterranean". He also said that Cervantes defined the Catalan capital as "Spain's honour". Rajoy called also for "unity" and "dialogue" to fight the jihadist threat.
The Spanish Prime Minister and the Catalan President exchanged a series of comments linked to the debate on Catalonia's independence in the opening of the ministerial summit of the Mediterranean countries, which is the most important meeting of this kind since 2008. The summit is being held in Barcelona's Palau de Pedralbes, a building owned by the Catalan Government that hosts the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean's Secretariat (UfM). The meeting is being attended by ministers from 32 countries: 22 European Union Member States and 10 of the southern and eastern Mediterranean shores. The foreign affairs ministers of Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania and the United Kingdom are not attending the meeting. The European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy, Johannes Hahn, was also present at the summit.
As opposed to a previous Euromed meeting in which the Spanish Government vetoed against the Catalan President delivering an opening speech (despite the meeting being held in Barcelona, in a Catalan Government building, and the Catalan President holding a higher protocol rank than a minister), this time it was agreed a few days ago that Artur Mas could give one of the opening addresses to welcome the participants and, after the opening ceremony, would leave the meeting. As a host and President of Catalonia, Mas would open the ceremony, while Rajoy, as the top representative of the hosting country, would close it.
Before the ceremony started, the Catalan President chatted with the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, Jose Manuel García-Margallo, while they were waiting for Rajoy's arrival. After greeting each other at the palace's gardens, Rajoy and Mas welcomed each of the ministers present. Despite journalists' requests for them to shake hands once again for the photos, none of them made such a gesture. The participants took a group photo and then entered the building for the opening ceremony.
Mas: Catalonia will always be "Mediterranean and European"
The Catalan President was the first to speak. Mas welcomed the participants in Spanish. Then, in English, warned them he would add a few words in Catalan, in which he stressed Catalonia's "Mediterranean and European commitment". Later on, he continued to speak in English about the meeting's subjects and moved onto French to stress the strategic importance of the Mediterranean region and its "role [which is] yet to be developed" at its full capacity. Finally, he concluded his speech in Spanish, once again welcoming the participants.
Artur Mas took the opportunity to highlight Catalonia's deep roots as a Mediterranean and European "territory". He stressed the "umbilical cord with Europe and the Carolingian Empire that has never been broken" and that "is still feeding the identity, reality and project" of Catalans. Mas went on to reference Winston Churchill, saying that the longest a country can look into its past, the further it will look onto its future. "Catalans can look backwards very far away, and for this reason we can also look onwards to very distant new horizons, horizons that we also imagine as Mediterranean and European".
The Catalan President directly addressed the Spanish PM and said that Catalonia "can play a key role in the Euro-Mediterranean region" due to its great experience in "strong business reality, significant human exchanges and a long tradition of political cooperation". Mas highlighted that Catalans are present in the main business, academic and cultural networks and he expressed "the interest of Catalan society and its institutions in the relations with neighbours from the southern and northern Mediterranean" shores. Thanks to a "cosmopolitan, integrating, open and dynamic character, Catalonia has become an economic, cultural and creativity centre in the south of Europe". Mas finally thanked the commitment shown by the EU and Mediterranean countries to Barcelona, by choosing to set up the headquarters of the UfM's permanent secretariat in the city.
Rajoy: Barcelona is "the Spanish capital of the Mediterranean"
The Spanish PM also took the opportunity to highlight the Spanish dimension of Barcelona and Catalonia in front of the distinguished selection of representatives from the international community. With a speech entirely in Spanish, Rajoy said that Barcelona "made Spain's name famous" throughout the world. The Spanish PM welcomed the participants and "wished them to take with them the memory of this great, famous, rich and well-founded city that, loyal to its Mediterranean vocation, continues to be – like yesterday and today – Spain's honour and flower of the most beautiful cities of the world, as the all-time greatest writer of Spanish literature said", referring to Miguel de Cervantes.
Besides this, Rajoy also praised "unity" as a factor needed to fight "the main threat we face nowadays", which is that posed by jihadist terrorism. In addition, he also requested "an honest dialogue" and he asked for "greater cooperation" among the countries neighbouring the Mediterranean Sea. Finally, he highlighted the many "common values" shared by those countries.