A self-determination vote without a ‘third way’ and a more social budget for 2014
The President of the Catalan Government and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Artur Mas, and the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) agreed on speeding up the process of building “state structures” and drafting the “most social budget” in Catalonia’s recent history. In addition, Mas criticised the ‘third way’ between independence from Spain and the current situation proposed by the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and CiU’s ‘number 2’, saying that Catalans “have been trying” this way “for the last 100 years” and “it has never worked”. Spanish nationalist People’s Party (PP) and Ciutadans (C’s) called on Mas to stop the self-determination process. However, the main Catalan parties, from left to right and representing 77% of the parliamentary seats, presented a common text supporting Catalonia’s right to self-determination through a legal vote.
Barcelona (ACN).- On the second day of the Debate on General Policy – Catalonia’s main annual parliamentary debate, the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Artur Mas, and the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) agreed on speeding up the process of building “state structures” and drafting the “most social budget” in Catalonia’s recent history. ERC focused its initial speech on the Catalan Government’s budget for 2014, calling for “the socially fairest budget in recent years and decades” and criticising the Spanish Government’s “unfair impositions” regarding fiscal issues. It also made a claim for “a shared leadership” of Catalonia’s self-determination process, since “it goes way beyond politics and is deeply rooted in Catalan society and its economic network”. In addition, Mas criticised the ‘third way’ between independence from Spain and the current situation proposed by the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) and CiU’s ‘number 2’, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, saying that Catalans “have been trying” this way “for the last 100 years” and “it has never worked”. The PSC – which is part of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) presented itself “as an ally and not as an obstacle” regarding the self-determination vote, although they stressed the need to organise it with the agreement of the Spanish Government. The PSC also proposed that Mas explore forming an alliance with them “to guarantee social cohesion” and work for “economic recovery”.
The Spanish nationalist People’s Party (PP) accused Mas of “blackmailing” the Spanish Government. According to them, the Catalan Government avoided “bankruptcy” because it is part of Spain and profited from the Spanish Executive’s assistance. Mas replied to the PP – which runs the Spanish Government – warning that if they do not authorise a self-determination vote in Catalonia, “the [independence] stream will grow”. The Catalan President’s reply to the leader of the Catalan PP, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho,was ambiguous, since it might be interpreted as considering a ‘third way’, despite having ruled out this possibility earlier. Mas stated that Catalans should have the right to say whether they want the current status quo, greater powers or independence, opening the door to three different scenarios. The Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV) called for the legal process for organising the self-determination vote to be defined within the next month, and pointed out that the process has to be inclusive and driven by the Catalan Parliament and not the Government. The Catalan President asked ICV-EUiA to work on forming broad majorities to guarantee that Catalans can vote on their collective future. The anti-Catalan nationalist and populist party Ciutadans (C’s) asked Mas “to change, go away or call for anticipated elections”. The Catalan President asked C’s to support a legal and democratic vote on Catalonia’s future. Finally, the radical left-wing and independence party CUP warned Mas that “talking with the Spanish Government” will drive Catalonia “to crash against the wall of an historical defect”. Mas replied to the CUP that they “should not downplay Catalonia’s tradition of talking and reaching agreements”.
A text supporting a legal self-determination vote in Catalonia to be approved by at least 77% of the Catalan Parliament
Besides, the main Catalan parties, from left to right and representing 77% of parliamentary seats (CiU, ERC, PSC and ICV-EUiA), presented a common text supporting Catalonia’s right to self-determination through a legal vote, which will likely be approved on Friday by the Parliament. The CUP could also support the text, although it is still considering the final decision. The document is the same text resulting from the Self-Determination Pact’s first meeting, which took place in late June. This text has also been supported by the main Catalan business association, Foment del Treball, although they refused to participate in the pact stating their organisation’s mission was not political.
ERC asks for “the socially fairest budget”
The President of ERC, Oriol Junqueras, focused his initial speech not on Catalonia’s independence but on the economic situation and the budget for 2014. However, he also criticised the Spanish Government on several occasions for its disloyalty towards Catalonia and “unfair impositions”, such as the split of the public deficit targets among the different government levels. In addition, Junqueras concluded that, considering the current situation, there is “an urgent need” to build Catalonia’s own state. In this vein he called for an acceleration in the construction of “state structures”, an initiative shared with the governing CiU. In addition, he also emphasised that the claim of Catalan citizens has “surpassed politics”, the claim for independence “goes beyond politics and is deeply rooted in Catalan society and its economic network”. In this vein, he asked Mas to promote a “shared leadership” of the process with political parties and civil society. The Catalan President replied that he shares this view but that “we cannot all go” to negotiate with the Spanish Government. In addition, Mas guaranteed Junqueras that the budget for 2014 will prioritise social policies, after having adjusted all the taxes. Mas also gave a reminder that the Spanish Government still owes Catalonia 1.7 billion from 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The PSC proposes itself as “an ally” and calls for a ‘third way’
The Secretary General of the Catalan Socialists, Pere Navarro, asked Mas to see the PSC as “an ally and not as an obstacle” in trying to organise a legal self-determination vote in Catalonia. The PSC insisted that a negotiated solution should be found with the Spanish Government to hold a legal vote. Furthermore, Navarro stressed that the PSC will work to guarantee “Catalonia’s social cohesion”, insisting on a ‘third way’ between independence and the current situation, which will consist in turning Spain into a true federal country and giving Catalonia greater self-government powers. Besides, he proposed the PSC as a potential partner for economic and budget “agreements” seeking “stability”. Mas replied that Catalonia “has been trying third ways […] for the last 100 years” and “they have never worked”. In addition, the Catalan President answered Navarro that it is the PSC that does not want to reach agreements with the CiU and the other parties on the right to self-determination or on demanding a specific economic agreement for Catalonia within Spain.
“The 5 lies of independence supporters” according to the PP
The leader of the Catalan PP, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, accused Mas of carrying out “an immoral blackmail” on the Spanish Government when yesterday he linked the 14th payment of public employees to the financial compensation the Spanish Executive should pay the Catalan for banning the tax on bank deposits. In addition, Camacho stated that the Catalan Government would have gone “bankrupt” if the Spanish Government had not assisted it, stressing the benefits of being part of Spain. Besides, the PP leader declared that independence supporters base their claims on five lies. Firstly, “a majority of Catalans back the right to self-determination”. In this vein, she talked about “silent majorities” (as the Spanish Government did just after 1.6 million Catalans formed the 400-kilometre human chain). Secondly, “Catalans have the right unilaterally to decide Spain’s borders”. Thirdly, “the Constitution is a wall for democracy”. Camacho urged the Catalan President to undertake the legal processes to change the Constitution if he does not like it but she insisted that the Constitution bans secession and an independence vote. The fourth lie would be the motto “Spain steals from us” since, according to her, the Spanish Government “is funding” Catalonia. Lastly, the fifth lie is that an independent Catalonia “would be part of the European Union”, which is “completely impossible by the European treaties”. Mas replied to Camacho by saying that the idea which most unites the Catalan people is the right to self-determination, which according to several opinion polls has 80% support. He criticised the PP for talking about “a silent majority” and said that voting is the only way of knowing what the majority thinks. In addition, he sent a warning message to the Spanish Government: “the stream” supporting independence “will feed itself” and grow “with negative answers” from Madrid to the question of organising the vote.
A ‘third way’?
However, the Catalan President’s reply to Sánchez-Camacho was ambiguous in one point, since it might be interpreted as considering a ‘third way’, despite having ruled out this possibility earlier in the debate. Mas stated that Catalans should have the right to say whether they want the current status quo, greater powers or independence, opening the door to three scenarios.
ICV-EUiA presses for the legal process for the self-determination vote to be defined within the next month
The leader of the ICV-EUiA, Joan Herrera, pressed for the legal process for organising the self-determination vote to be defined within the next month. He said it should be done “from a plural stance”, since “more than 100 Members” of the 135-seat Catalan Parliament could back it. In addition, Herrera warned Mas against leading the self-determination process in a “unilateral way”, and he emphasised that this process should be driven from the Catalan Parliament and not from the Government. In this vein, he also stated that the negotiation with the Spanish State should be held with the Spanish Parliament and not with the Government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. On other matters, Herrera warned about “a social degradation” and he strongly criticised the budget cuts in public services and the austerity measures adopted. He also regretted that the Catalan Government had not raised or adopted certain taxes earlier, instead of reducing public salaries. Herrera also criticised the crisis in the democratic institutions and the corruption cases among politicians. Mas answered Herrera that he generally shared his views in the national dimension. The Catalan President said he preferred a negotiated referendum as it was organised in Quebec. However, the Catalan President did not share Herrera’s views on the social services, budget cuts and corruption. Mas insisted on the Catalan Government’s commitment to defend the Welfare State.
C’s ask Mas to “change, go away or call for early elections”
The leader of C’s, Albert Rivera, declared that they “are ready for running” if early elections are called. Rivera accused the CiU and ERC of “drifting” towards independence. He challenged Mas to “modify his drift towards independence”, “go away” in order to let the Government “do its job” or “call for early elections”. “Do not be afraid of ballot boxes” and “call for elections” he repeated. On the economic side, he proposed reducing the Catalan rate of Income Tax for the middle classes. Mas replied that if C’s want to know the Catalans’ opinion on the independence process, they should support the initiative to organise a legal vote on the issue.
The CUP warns against negotiating with the Spanish State
Finally, the smallest force in the Catalan Parliament, the CUP, warned Mas that talking with the Spanish Government about organising a self-determination vote will lead Catalonia “to crash against the wall of an historical defect”. The CUP Spokesperson, David Fernández, asked Mas for a better “synchronisation” regarding the self-determination process, since “freeing the country” requires “intelligence and collective bravery”. In addition, the CUP emphasised that the Spanish State will work on slowing down the process and scaring Catalans. In this vein he urged speeding up the process, working with civil society and “freeing the Catalan people”. Mas replied that the CUP “should not downplay” Catalonia’s democratic “tradition of talking and reaching agreements”. “It is part of our identity”, concluded Mas.