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Mas explains Catalonia’s austerity measures to Liberal leaders in London

The Catalan President, Artur Mas, has met with the UK Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg at a summit of European Liberal leaders. He stressed that Catalonia is doing “its homework” despite the excessive and “continuous fiscal drainage” from the Spanish State, which “is unprecedented in Europe”. “European leaders must understand” Catalonia’s situation, Mas said. “We need to explain ourselves” […] “because otherwise the only image that is received abroad is distorted”. He also explained that Catalonia’s GDP is the size of Portugal’s and Finland’s, and has an export level similar to Denmark. Mas also criticised Rajoy’s recent tax increase.

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09 January 2012 11:55 PM

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ACN / Laura Pous / Gaspar Pericay Coll

London (ACN).- The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, participated in a summit of European Liberal leaders in London on Monday. As Catalan President, Mas was the only leader of a nation without a state present at the summit, which was organised by the UK Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. Mas spoke of the Catalan Government\u2019s austerity measures and gave a first hand account of Catalonia\u2019s reality, which more than often is portrayed incorrectly and other European countries get a \u201Cvery distorted image\u201D, sent by \u201Cinterested parties\u201D. \u201CEuropean leaders must have all the information\u201D in order to have an accurate picture of the situation in Spain and have their own opinion, he said. \u201CThe idea is being sold that the problem is the Autonomies and Catalonia\u201D; this is \u201Ca lie\u201D, Mas said. \u201CWe are doing our homework, we are leading the adjustment and austerity processes [in Spain], but European leaders must also understand that Catalonia is in a very delicate situation from a financial and resource point of view because it finds itself in a very atypical relationship with the Spanish State\u201D, explained Mas. The Catalan President stated that Catalonia has an excessive and \u201Ccontinuous fiscal drainage\u201D from the Spanish State, which \u201Cis unprecedented in Europe\u201D. He insisted on the importance of understanding Catalonia\u2019s economic and political reality as it \u201Cholds systemic weight within the European Union economy\u201D. Mas added that Catalonia\u2019s GDP is the size of Finland\u2019s or Portugal\u2019s, and has an export level similar to that of Denmark.

Prior to the summit, the Catalan President met bilaterally with UK\u2019s Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. Furthermore, Mas also had a meeting with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rütte; the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Olli Rehn; and the European Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, among others. The Catalan President criticised the Spanish Government\u2019s recent decision to increase the Income Tax levels, which place Catalonia among the territories in the world with the highest Income Tax levels (only behind Aruba and Sweden). Artur Mas pointed out that this tax increase goes against the electoral programme of the People\u2019s Party (PP) and the announcements made by the new Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, at his inauguration speech just three weeks ago.


Catalonia is \u201Cdoing its homework\u201D and \u201Cleads the adjustment and austerity processes\u201D

The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, travelled to London to participate in a summit of European Liberal leaders on Monday. He met with the UK\u2019s Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg; Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rütte; the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Olli Rehn; the European Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, among others. The Catalan President explained the efforts Catalonia is making to reduce public spending and meet the public deficit objectives. He explained the austerity measures the government he chairs has put in place, such as the 10% public spending cuts in 2011. In addition, he explained that many Catalan citizens are backing the budget cuts as they voted for Mas\u2019 party in the last elections. \u201CWe are doing our homework, we are leading the adjustment and austerity processes [in Spain], but European leaders must also understand that Catalonia is in a very delicate situation from a financial and resource point of view because it finds itself in a very atypical relationship with the Spanish State\u201D

Spain\u2019s \u201Ccontinuous fiscal drainage\u201D of Catalonia

In fact, Mas wanted the other European leaders to understand \u201Cthe delicate situation\u201D Catalonia finds itself in, \u201Cbecause it holds a non balanced relationship\u201D with the rest of Spain, which turns into \u201Ca continuous fiscal drainage\u201D of Catalonia\u2019s resources. It \u201Cis unprecedented in Europe\u201D. According to studies from the Spanish Ministry for Economics, Catalonia gives each year between 6% and 9% of its GDP to the rest of Spain for inter-regional solidarity; the difference depends on the calculation formula. Other studies, carried out in Catalonia, have shown that the figure could reach 10% or even 12%. Taking the Spanish Government\u2019s data and considering the weight of the Catalan economy, which is the size of Portugal\u2019s or Finland\u2019s and exports as much as Denmark\u2019s, the \u201Cfiscal drainage\u201D \u2013also called \u201Cfiscal deficit\u201D- represents between \u20AC12 billion and \u20AC18 billion per year. In 2011, the Catalan Government will have a \u20AC5.6 billion budget deficit, representing 2.66% of Catalonia\u2019s GDP. The majority of Catalans support inter-regional solidarity. According to recent opinion polls the vast majority of Catalans (76%) believe that the Spanish Government takes too much money away from Catalonia and would like the \u201Cfiscal deficit\u201D to be significantly reduced. If it were reduced by half or even by just a third, the Catalan Government\u2019s budget might not have a deficit.

Mas insisted that this \u201Cfiscal drainage\u201D creates \u201Cenormous difficulties\u201D for Catalonia. The President of the Catalan Government is aware that London is not the place to claim for a new economic agreement with Spain, but \u201Cwanted European leaders to be aware\u201D and \u201Cunderstand\u201D Catalonia\u2019s situation.

\u201CInterested parties\u201D blame \u201Cthe Autonomies and Catalonia\u201D for Spain\u2019s problems

With his trip to London, the Catalan President wanted to \u201Ccounterweight\u201D the \u201Cimages with distortions\u201D about Catalonia that the Spanish nationalists have sent abroad. \u201CWe need to be understood, because otherwise the picture of the situation is distorted\u201D, Mas stated. \u201CWhat comes from the \u2018Madrid bubble\u2019 is always very unidirectional, it only goes in one direction\u201D, he criticised. Therefore, the Catalan President said he wanted the European leaders \u201Cto have all the information\u201D so they could have their own opinion about Spain\u2019s situation. \u201CThey are being sold the idea that the problem is the Autonomies and Catalonia\u201D, he said; this idea is \u201Ca lie\u201D, \u201Cbiased\u201D, and \u201Cit is being spread by interested parties\u201D, he stated.

Yes to the Eurobonds, to the Intergovernmental Treaty and to the Euro-Mediterranean Railway Corridor

Artur Mas showed his support for the new European Union\u2019s Intergovernmental Treaty agreed to save the Euro. In addition, he stated the European Central Bank should have its mission expanded and create Eurobonds, which should be joined by a Eurobond market. In addition, Artur Mas proposed the creation of \u201Cproject bonds\u201D, as a way to finance expensive infrastructure. One of the infrastructural projects that could be financed with this initiative would be the Euro-Mediterranean Railway Corridor, which was recently included as a EU Transport Priority. It would link Barcelona and Tarragona ports, as well as Catalonia\u2019s main industrial and tourist areas, with Central and Northern Europe on international width standard railway for freight and high-speed trains.

The Catalan President criticises Rajoy\u2019s tax increase and puts the focus on growth and job creation

Mas criticised the new Spanish Government\u2019s decision to increase taxes such as Income Tax. \u201CWe acknowledge that the People Party and Mr. Rajoy have exactly done the contrary to what they said they would\u201D, Mas said. However, he understands that the new Spanish Prime Minister has taken over \u201Ca very complicated economic situation\u201D. \u201CWithout being in favour of the tax increase, we understand that the situation is very complicated\u201D and that \u201Cthe new Spanish Government has to send unequivocal signals that it will do whatever is needed to control the Spanish finances\u201D. Nonetheless, the Catalan President insisted in the need to avoid limiting austerity measures but to foster economic growth and job creation. In fact, the final document of the Summit proposes a \u201CEuropean Jobs and Growth Plan\u201D, \u201Cbecause problems cannot only be solved with austerity\u201D. \u201C We need to help each other in trying to make policies that guarantee economic growth, which we are lacking at the moment\u201D, the Catalan President claimed.

Mas leads the main Liberal party within Spain

The Catalan President, Artur Mas, is the Secretary General of the Catalan Liberal party \u2018Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya\u2019 (CDC) (\u2018Catalonia\u2019s Democratic Convergence\u2019), which is the main member of the two-party coalition \u2018Convergència i Unió\u2019 (CiU), which is the main Catalan nationalist political force. CiU runs the Catalan Government and is by far the main group within the Catalan Parliament, but it does not have an absolute majority. CDC is the main Liberal party in Spain. MEP, Ramon Tremosa, sits with the rest of the ALDE group at the European Parliament.

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  • The Catalan President, Artur Mas (right) talking to the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rütte (left) (by L. Pous)

  • The European leaders participating in the Liberal party summit, among which Artur Mas (by L. Pous)

  • UK's Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Catalan President, Artur Mas, talking this Monday in London (by L. Pous)

  • The Catalan President, Artur Mas (right) talking to the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rütte (left) (by L. Pous)
  • The European leaders participating in the Liberal party summit, among which Artur Mas (by L. Pous)
  • UK's Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Catalan President, Artur Mas, talking this Monday in London (by L. Pous)