Catalan President gives Rajoy a last chance for negotiating an independence referendum
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, assessed November 9's participatory process, when 81% of the 2.3 million participants voted for independence, despite the Spanish Government's obstacles and threats. On Tuesday, Mas asked the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to stop ignoring reality and start negotiating a mutually-agreed referendum on independence, like that in Scotland and Quebec. Taking into account Rajoy's attitude for the last 2 years, Mas was said to be "quite sceptical" but highlighted that Catalan representatives have always wanted a mutually-agreed vote, which is "the best" option. Mas also announced he was starting a round of talks with pro-self-determination parties – including the Socialists (PSC) – "to listen to everybody" about organising plebiscitary elections. In fact, he warned Rajoy that plebiscitary elections on independence can be called if he continues to refuse to negotiate. Besides, Mas confirmed that on Saturday that the Catalan Government's website had suffered a cyber-attack on a gigantic-scale, which was "organised by professionals".
Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, assessed November 9's participatory process, when more than 2.3 million citizens cast their vote and a 81% majority voted for independence, despite the Spanish Government's obstacles and threats. On Tuesday, Mas asked the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to stop ignoring reality and start negotiating a mutually-agreed referendum on independence, similar to those in Scotland and Quebec. Mas acknowledged that he was sceptical about this, taking into account the experience of the last 2 years and Madrid's first reactions after November 9. However, he highlighted that Catalan representatives have always wanted a mutually-agreed vote, which would be "the best" option. In the letter that Mas sent to Rajoy, he emphasised the need "to establish the conditions for setting up permanent dialogue", although it cannot involve giving up on self-determination demands, as the Spanish PM has requested on previous occasions. Mas explained that a wide majority of the Catalan society shares this demand and that his job is to find a way to make it possible. "More politics and fewer courts", Mas told Rajoy. At the same time, Mas announced he was starting a round of talks with parties recognising Catalonia's right to self-determination – including the Socialists (PSC) – "to listen to everybody" about organising plebiscitary elections. However, he told Catalan parties that the elections "are not an objective but the tool" to "hold a definitive consultation vote" on independence. Mas also warned Rajoy that early elections transformed into a plebiscite on independence are the last option but are on the table if he continues to refuse to talk. The Catalan President also confirmed that his cabinet will take a budget proposal for 2015 to the Catalan Parliament, and that he hoped to find enough parliamentary support. In fact, he told pro-self-determination parties that approving such a budget would give them credibility in the eyes of voters. Besides, Mas stated that on Saturday the Catalan Government's website suffered a cyber-attack on a gigantic-scale, which could have only been "organised by professionals". These attacks are being investigated and the Catalan Government could take them to court. Lastly, Mas also announced that the Catalan Government will take to the European Union the Spanish Government's ban on its decree fighting energy poverty, by which families-in-need can postpone paying their energy bills during the winter months.
On Tuesday early afternoon, the Catalan President, Artur Mas, gave a long press conference after the weekly Cabinet Meeting to explain the next steps he will adopt after Sunday's important symbolic vote on independence. Mas wanted to convey three main messages: November 9 is a turning point; he is launching a round of talks about organising plebiscite elections on independence; and, he urged Rajoy to negotiate as it can be the last chance before such a plebiscite is called. Furthermore, he also announced that the Catalan Government was expanding its appeal to the Constitutional Court with Rajoy's statements from Saturday, in which the Spanish PM acknowledged that Sunday's participation process "was not a referendum, nor a consultation, nor anything similar". However, despite making such a statement, the Spanish Government appealed against it and the Public Prosecutor's Office is investigating and might file a complaint against Mas and other members of the Catalan Executive for November 9's vote.
A democratic mandate is still needed after November 9
Firstly, a democratic mandate to build an independent state is still needed since November 9's vote, despite being a great success, is not "the definitive consultation vote". With November 9's massive participatory process, which represents "a turning point in Catalonia's history", Catalans "earned" their right to have a binding vote on independence, Mas said. However, such a democratic mandate will only come from a mutually-agreed referendum with the Spanish Government or early elections transformed into a plebiscite on independence. Mas sent a message to the Catalan political parties: the only reason to hold early elections would be to decide on independence, as otherwise there is no need for "ordinary elections". Those early "elections are only the tool to make the definitive consultation vote", if the Spanish Government does not agree on negotiating a mutually-agreed referendum. "The tool cannot be transformed into the objective" since the goal is a fully-democratic vote on independence and not elections 'per se', he stated. "If objectives are switched", "there will be great confusion", he warned.
A round of talks during the next few days to analyse the possibility of calling early elections
Secondly, in line with the previous point, Mas announced a round of talks in the coming days with "the Catalan parties that ran in the last [Catalan] elections supporting the right to self-determination" in order "to listen to everybody" about the steps to be made after November 9. In case there was any doubt, Mas stressed that he was referring to the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State two-party coalition CiU, which groups Christian-Democrat UDC and the Liberal CDC (Mas' party); the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC; the Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA; the alternative left and radical independence party CUP; and, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which is part of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). Those 5 political groups hold 80% of the Catalan Parliament's seats. Mas will ask those parties for their proposals after Sunday's massive participatory process and about their views on calling early elections, to be transformed into a plebiscite on independence. The Catalan President insisted that this last option should only be used if parties can guarantee that these elections will not be ordinary ones and, instead, will become "the definitive consultation vote" on independence. Mas announced that in some 10 or 15 days, once he had talked to everybody, he will decide whether or not to call early elections.
Despite the ERC having shared a parliamentary stability agreement with the governing CiU for almost the last 2 years, the Catalan President highlighted that now the Government is in a minority position in the Catalan Parliament because "it took the risk" to launch the participatory process that replaced the original consultation vote scheduled on November 9. However, Mas did not want to criticise the ERC but neither did he want to privilege it over the other parties in the round of talks. "We will listen to everybody, including the CiU", he stressed.
A letter to Rajoy urging him to negotiate a mutually-agreed referendum
Thirdly, Mas confirmed he had sent Rajoy a letter to urge him to negotiate a mutually-agreed referendum, following "the British or the Canadian way". The Catalan President highlighted that Catalan representatives have always preferred this formula, and that they would be thrilled to sit and talk about it with the Spanish Government. However, at the same time, Catalonia cannot wait indefinitely for the Spanish Government to react, particularly after 2 years of a 'no-to-everything' attitude, he said. Mas told Rajoy that November 9 was "the culmination" of a sustained mobilisation of the Catalan society for the last 2 years, and that "reality cannot be ignored".
Therefore, "in parallel" to the letter, Mas is holding the round of talks with Catalan parties to carry on with Catalonia's self-determination process."After November 9, the process has been strengthened", he stressed. However, he denied that such talks were a way to threaten Rajoy, pressurizing him to either negotiate or face early elections. Mas was particularly insistent that he did not want to threaten the Spanish PM and that both ways were moving on "in parallel", because Catalan representatives cannot simply wait for a signal from Rajoy, particularly when no signal has been sent in the last 2 years. On the contrary, the Spanish Government "has activated the Public Prosecution Office after November 9", highlighted Mas. Despite this scenario, Mas acknowledged that a mutually-agreed referendum "would be better for everybody" and that, if Rajoy accepts to talk, he will immediately react and sit with the Spanish PM.
Mas also asked Rajoy "to establish the conditions to set a permanent dialogue", which has been intermittent in the last few months, the Catalan President acknowledged. Within such a dialogue, they should talk about how to organise a self-determination but also about the 23 proposals on specific policies that Mas gave Rajoy in their July meeting. "These are urgent issues", "affecting public services" and "the whole society", the Catalan President stressed.
Mas confirmed a massive cyber-attack on Saturday
The Catalan President also confirmed that the Catalan Government's websites suffered a large-scale attack on Saturday, comparable to the massive attacks at "world level", he said. Such an attack was not amateur and could have only be made "by professionals", added Mas. The Catalan President explained that the cyber-attack not only made the information websites collapse, but also threatened basic public systems, such as IT systems for health emergencies and drug prescriptions, which are entirely managed by the Catalan Government. For almost the entire normal working hours on Saturday, all chemists' in Catalonia were not able to process drug prescriptions because of the massive cyber-attack. Such a hostile action took place the day before the participatory process and civil society organisations campaign for independence also suffered wide attacks on that day. The origin of the attack is being investigated and the Catalan Government will very likely present a judicial complaint about it in the next few days.
Budget and energy poverty
Furthermore, the Catalan President also confirmed that the Government will take the budget proposal for the next year to Parliament to be approved, despite it no longer having support from the ERC. Mas said he wanted to guarantee that civil servants and public employees will receive their full salary in 2015, after 3 years of budget cuts to reduce public deficit. And the best way to do so is by having a budget bill. He told pro-self-determination parties that not approving a budget for 2015 will not be understood by voters and that approving it would give them greater credibility.
In addition, Mas announced they will take to the European Union the Spanish Government's ban on the Catalan Government's decree to fight the so-called 'energy poverty'. Catalonia approved a series of measures to help families in need to avoid suffering power and gas cuts during winter months, by basically delaying the payment of their energy bills. However, the Spanish Government surprisingly considered that this was discriminatory to citizens in the rest of Spain and appealed against it, going against Catalonia's self-rule powers once again.