The main Catalan nationalist party points towards Catalonia’s independence
‘Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya’ (CDC), the Liberal force within the two-party Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition ‘Convergència i Unió’ (CiU), held its party congress over the weekend. For the first time in its history, CDC has claimed for Catalonia to have its “own state” in order “to avoid being erased off the map of cultures, languages, and world nations” as “Spain threatens Catalonia” and is no longer a “project that can be shared”. The current President of the Catalan Government and until last weekend the CDC Secretary General, Artur Mas, has now become the party Chairman. Oriol Pujol, son of the former Catalan president Jordi Pujol and Mas' close collaborator, has been elected the new Secretary General with 97.8% of the votes.
Reus (ACN).- For the first time in its history, the main Catalan nationalist party \u2018Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya\u2019 (CDC) has openly claimed for Catalonia to have its \u201Cown state\u201D, in order \u201Cto avoid being erased off the map of cultures, languages, and world nations\u201D as \u201CSpain threatens Catalonia\u201D and therefore is no longer a \u201Cproject that can be shared\u201D. Furthermore, CDC also defined the main guidelines for its main objective on the short run: setting a new fiscal agreement between Catalonia and the rest of Spain, which should be fairer to Catalan citizens and should guarantee public services\u2019 economic viability and infrastructures\u2019 competitiveness. Over the weekend, CDC held its 16th party congress in its 37 years of history and coinciding with the moment the party controls most of Catalonia\u2019s main public offices. CDC is the Liberal force within the two-party Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition \u2018Convergència i Unió\u2019 (CiU), which has been running the Catalan Government since December 2010. At the congress, CDC stressed its pro-independence profile and also changed part of its leadership. After 12 years being the party\u2019s Secretary General, Artur Mas, who is also the President of the Catalan Government, became the new party Chairman. Mas had his management report unanimously approved (with 99.9% of the votes). On Sunday, he passed control of the party\u2019s everyday issues to his close collaborator Oriol Pujol, who became CDC\u2019s new Secretary General, with 97.8% of the votes. Oriol Pujol is the son of CDC\u2019s historic leader, Jordi Pujol, who was the Catalan President for 23 years (1980-2003) and founded the party in 1974, during the Franco dictatorship. In what was the 16th party congress, an octogenarian Jordi Pujol abandoned his position as the party Chairman and became CDC Honorary Chairman, a new position created in his honour.
Between Friday and Sunday, the almost 2,000 delegates of CDC discussed the party\u2019s future in Reus but also reviewed the party\u2019s management over the last four years, since the last congress was held. Mas presented his management report as CDC\u2019s Secretary General to the assembly, which was unanimously approved with 99.9% of the votes.
CDC has passed from leading the opposition to chairing the Catalan Government
In these last four years, CDC has passed from leading the opposition to chairing the Catalan Government. Artur Mas has been running the party\u2019s everyday affairs over the last 12 years, including over the 7 years that CDC was in the opposition (2003-2010), a period referred by Mas as \u201Cthe desert crossing\u201D. In November 2010, CiU (the coalition formed by CDC and the Christian-Democrats UDC) won the Catalan elections. Seven months later they also won the municipal elections, achieving the best results in their history and winning in important cities where they had never won before, such as in Barcelona and Girona. Since then, they also control all the four provincial councils and almost all the county councils. Therefore, since the last elections, CDC is currently holding the greatest number of public offices ever, although in many places it does not have an absolute majority and has to agree with other parties. This is the case in the Catalan Parliament, when CiU has been implementing what they have called \u201Cvariable geometry\u201D, agreeing with a party on certain issues and with another force on other matters. Generally agreeing with the Conservative People\u2019s Party (PP) on budget and economic issues, and with the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) on items related with Catalan culture and nation-building.
The right to have \u201Cstate structures\u201D
In his first speech at the congress, Mas asked for Catalonia \u201Cto have the right to have the structures and power that enable us to guarantee our viability as a country, our identity, our culture, our future aspirations, and our dreams\u201D. Mas pictured a future Catalonia inside the European Union, a Catalonia \u201Cbeing the Massachusetts within the United States of Europe\u201D. However, if this united Europe is not possible, Catalonia cannot give up having \u201Cstate structures\u201D, taking into account its history, \u201Cequal or even older than of the rest of European countries\u201D, dating back more than 1,000 years ago.
\u201CThe party of the majority of Catalans\u201D
However, the Catalan President sent a warning: CDC cannot become a party \u201Cserving a given minority\u201D. Mas stated that CDC was born and has been developed to become the party of the majority of Catalans. Therefore \u201Cthe party willing to represent a large majority of the people has to do things in a way that the vast majority understands\u201D. This was a clear reference to avoid rushing down the road for Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain. Despite the warning, the original text of the political motion was modified as many congress delegates pressured to mention the support for an independent Catalonia. Finally, the formula used states that CDC\u2019s objective is \u201Cto promote the debate within society to build [Catalonia\u2019s] own State that guarantees the survival as a nation and the viability as a society\u201D.
CDC had traditionally avoided officially supporting Catalonia\u2019s independence
CDC has traditionally had quite an ambiguous official stance on the issue, avoiding the claim for Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain. Instead, the party has defended \u201Cthe right to decide\u201D. CDC coined a word to define this stance: \u201Csovereigntism\u201D. CDC has been defending Catalonia\u2019s sovereignty to decide its own future.
Nonetheless, over the last number of years, an increasing part of Catalonia\u2019s population supports Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain (43% according to the last official poll). Furthermore, most of CDC\u2019s members, especially the party\u2019s younger generations, clearly support Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain. And this idea is also shared by most of the party leadership, but on a personal level. For instance Artur Mas, President of the Catalan Government, has publicly stated that he personally would vote \u201Cyes\u201D in an independence referendum; however, he had always insisted that this was not the official stance of the party.
The \u201Cnational transition\u201D
However, Mas is aware that, currently, a majority of Catalans might not support independence from Spain, including part of CDC\u2019s electoral base. Therefore, pushing too much for Catalonia\u2019s independence will mean loosing a percentage of voters and fracturing the country.
In fact, Mas wants to captain what he defines as the \u201Cnational transition\u201D, a trip that Catalan society is undertaking towards the full acknowledgement of its national reality and therefore reach \u201Cfull sovereignty\u201D, through which the majority of Catalans would freely decide how they want their country to be structured and which relationship they want to have with Spain. Mas, paraphrasing a poem by Kavafis and re-arranged by the Catalan song-writer Lluís Llach, stated that \u201Cin the trip towards Ithaca, our fleet must be formed by all the boats of Catalonia, all the people, and if all is not possible, almost all\u201D.
Out of \u201Cthe rotten waters\u201D of Spain
Oriol Pujol, in his first speech as CDC\u2019s Secretary General, thanked the party members, the past leadership and especially his father, the former Catalan President Jordi Pujol, for reaching this position. Pujol quoted parts of his father\u2019s memories, such as the moment where he fears that Catalonia might find itself \u201Cin a quiet harbour of calm and rotten waters, and half-broken ships\u201D. Oriol Pujol said that under his father\u2019s and Mas\u2019 leaderships, Catalonia had \u201Coverpassed obstacles and escaped from these rotten waters\u201D. And continuing with the sailing metaphors, CDC\u2019s new Secretary General said that \u201Cthe boat, less broken, is now captained by President Mas\u201D and that there were already \u201Cmany large boats and little boats\u201D pointing \u201Ctowards Ithaca\u201D. Oriol Pujol directly said to Mas: \u201Ccertainly there will be more obstacles, and you indicated the transition, but furthermore you showed us to run away from a port that otherwise would have digested us\u201D.
Spain, a project that can no longer be shared
In the text approved by the assembly, \u201CCatalonia\u2019s own state\u201D is the tool to guarantee the Catalan nation\u2019s survival. The text literally states that in the last 30 years it has been proved that Spain\u2019s \u201Ccongenital and acquired lacks affect its viability as a project able to be shared\u201D, \u201Cand if it had ever been so, it is clear that it is no longer the case\u201D. The text adds that the \u201Cpolitical Catalanism [\u2026] has difficulties to explain the reasons to continue putting efforts into a purpose [finding Catalonia\u2019s place within Spain] that appears as impossible to reach, efforts that on many occasions are the source of confusion and a lack of understanding\u201D. CDC\u2019s political motion continues by saying that a nation needs a state that acts and that is felt as its own, but Spain \u201Cis just the opposite\u201D, because of Catalonia\u2019s fiscal deficit, of neglecting the competitiveness of Catalonia\u2019s infrastructure, and of not respecting Catalonia\u2019s linguistic and cultural identity. \u201CWe need an efficient and useful state that stimulates and contributes to our great capacities for economic, social and cultural growth\u201D.
CDC had spent \u201Cdecades\u201D defending how Catalonia should find its place within Spain
In his last speech, once the formula of had been accepted, Mas addressed the congress once again, this time already as the party\u2019s Chairman. Mas stated that CDC had spent \u201Cdecades\u201D defending Catalonia\u2019s right to be respected and how it should find its place within Spain. However, \u201Cit has been proven that this is not possible\u201D, \u201Cand needs a new strategy to continue existing as a people\u201D, he said. Finally, Mas stated that no one should believe \u201Cthis right to be and to exist\u201D as the will for confrontation, permanent contradiction or threat\u201D, but as a way of \u201Cself-affirmation\u201D. \u201CCatalonia does not want to be erased off the map of cultures, languages, and world nations\u201D, he concluded.
A new fiscal agreement between Catalonia and Spain
The 16th congress also defined the main guidelines for CDC\u2019s main objective on the short run: setting a new fiscal agreement between Catalonia and the rest of Spain, which should be fairer to Catalan citizens and should guarantee public services\u2019 economic viability and infrastructures\u2019 competitiveness. As the Catalan Finance Ministry stated this March, since 1986, Catalonia has been giving away each year 8% of its GDP. The money was transferred to the rest of Spain to pay for services and infrastructures, following the principle of territorial redistribution of wealth. However, Catalonia lacks the money to pay for equivalent services or infrastructures, and the Spanish Government tends to not prioritising projects in Catalonia. This directly affects Catalan citizens\u2019 everyday life, as it directly hits Catalonia\u2019s economy and society. Furthermore, this annual effort is not recognised at Spanish level, since the redistribution criteria are not transparent, numbers are not published and the Spanish Government unilaterally decides on the quantities.
Catalonia\u2019s own treasury
In order to correct this fiscal model that is unfair to Catalan citizens and undermines the economy, CDC is proposing setting a fiscal agreement between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. CDC has defined the main guidelines of this fiscal agreement and its non-negotiable conditions. They are the following: collecting all the taxes through a Catalan Tax Agency, abandoning the LOFCA model (the current fiscal redistribution model applicable to 15 of the 17 Spanish Autonomous Communities), and setting a limit to the money Catalonia transfers to the rest of Spain following the solidarity principle \u201Cin a level that does not undermine [Catalonia\u2019s] social cohesion and competitiveness\u201D. \u201CThe fiscal agreement means holding the key of the safe, and not something else\u201D, the text states.
The new party Chairman, Artur Mas, affirmed in his last speech at the congress that \u201Cthere are not a lot of possibilities [of Spain accepting this fiscal agreement], but we will use up all of them\u201D. However, if Spain refuses this new fiscal agreement, Catalonia will still have to collect all the taxes, \u201CCatalonia will have to build its own Treasury, because all the countries have their own treasury\u201D, he underlined. In the same line of creating its own state structures, Catalonia \u201Chas to be able to govern itself\u201D. Mas framed this Catalonia \u201Cinto the United States of Europe\u201D, as Catalonia is ready to put part of its sovereignty on Europe\u2019s hands. Catalonia will use its full sovereignty to decide making such step, as any other state within the European Union has done. However, if this united Europe is never created, or it arrives too late, Catalonia will still claim for \u201Cthe same powers that any other state has, the same powers of those who also defend their personality, the reason of being, their progress, and their welfare\u201D, Mas said. \u201CCatalonia will not be more than this, but it does not want to be less than this\u201D, he concluded.