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Catalan President insists citizens will vote after Rajoy asks him to give up referendum plans to start talking

The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, has insisted that he will call for the consultation vote on Catalonia's independence, despite the Spanish Government's obstructive attitude. Mas was answering Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who asked him to give up on his referendum plans in order to start talking. For the Catalan President, this is not an offer to talk but "an imposition". Mas insists that the reason for not allowing Catalans to vote is not legal, since several legal ways have been identified to organise such a vote, but a lack of political will from the Spanish authorities. The Catalan President sent a clear message to the European Union: "the dynamics of states cannot drown the dynamics of peoples". He emphasised that the democratic will of the Catalan people has to be taken into account by the EU. Furthermore he praised Catalonia for being an example of "integrating people with very diverse origins […] without falling into populist and xenophobic movements", which "have been emerging in Europe lately".

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23 April 2014 09:40 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, has insisted that he will call for the consultation vote on Catalonia's independence from Spain, despite the Spanish Government's obstructive attitude. Mas made this statement on Tuesday evening, in a TV interview. He was answering the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who asked him on Tuesday afternoon to give up on his referendum plans in order to start talking. For the Catalan President, this is not an offer to talk but "an imposition". According to Mas, Rajoy offers to talk but not about the issues a majority of Catalan citizens want to talk about. In front of the Senate plenary, Rajoy asked Catalan politicians to use "imagination" to solve the current situation, after the Constitutional Court and the Spanish Parliament rejected Catalonia's right to self-determination and the consequent referendum. However, Mas insisted that the reason for not allowing Catalans to vote is not legal, since several legal ways have been identified to organise such a vote, but a lack of political will from the Spanish authorities. In addition, in a public speech on Tuesday evening, the Catalan President sent a clear message to the European Union: "the dynamics of states cannot drown the dynamics of peoples" in an EU based on democratic principles, which goes beyond a mere Union of state governments and is focused on its citizens. Mas emphasised that the democratic will of the Catalan people has to be taken into account by the EU. Furthermore he praised Catalonia for being an example of "integrating people with very diverse origins […] without falling into populist and xenophobic movements", which "have been emerging in Europe lately". In fact, around 70% of Catalans have origins from outside Catalonia, but more than 75% of the total population wants to hold a self-determination referendum and more than 50% would vote for independence, according to many opinion polls.


"The dynamics of states cannot drown the dynamics of peoples" stated the Catalan President, which was a clear message to the European Union institutions, which are repeating that this is Spain's internal matter but send the message - not backed by an argumentation - that a seceded region would be out of the EU. Artur Mas insisted that Catalonia is "a country that exists", which has "a mobilised society" with "very diverse origins" which "desires recognition and particularly to get recognition for this message as a democratic power". "Maybe people talk too much about states, which are in sum administrative structures, and do not talk enough about the strength and dynamics of peoples", said the Catalan President.

Catalonia, an example of integration and conviviality

Mas added that Catalonia is an example of this idea, with an active civil society, with grass-roots movements and with peaceful and festive demonstrations to decide on the country's political future. Because Catalonia "is a country", which has survived throughout history thanks to the power of its people, of its civil society and its associations, he said. "We did not accumulate political power, nor military strength, nor a great demographic weight", "but if we can say today that we have our country it is because we have a very solid cultural base, thanks to our network of associations" and "a mobilised civil society".

In fact, the history of Catalonia is the history of surviving numerous episodes of political and cultural repression. But it is also a history of integration and conviviality, since 70% of Catalans have origins from outside Catalonia. Mas praised the fact that Catalonia has managed throughout its history "to integrate people with very diverse origins […] without falling into populist and xenophobic movements", which "have been emerging in Europe lately". "Catalans have integrated very diverse people into a common project", based on "conviviality" and "with a civic-minded attitude".

In fact, the celebration of Sant Jordi Day, in which Catalans offer each other roses and books as a sign of love, is "the best way of showing this way of doing things", he stated, of proving "this civic-minded way of doing things". In another speech given on Wednesday morning, Mas defined Sant Jordi Day as a celebration of love, but also "of culture and conviviality".

Rajoy asks the Catalan President to abandon self-determination plans

On Tuesday afternoon in front of the Senate plenary, the day before Sant Jordi, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, asked the Catalan President to give up his plans and demands to organise a self-determination vote as the main condition for starting talks. Rajoy totally rejects talking about Catalonia's self-determination demands, since they "go against national sovereignty" and against the decision reached by the Constitutional Court and the Spanish Parliament – where Rajoy's People's Party holds an absolute majority. Rajoy's argument is that he cannot allow a self-determination vote since the law does not authorise it, according to his interpretation of the legal framework.

On top of this, he cannot even discuss how to change the legal framework to make this vote possible. However, according to many Constitutional experts, there are up to 5 different legal ways to organise a self-determination vote in Catalonia if there was the political will to do so. As Catalan politicians have repeated on many occasions, the Spanish Government is using its own interpretation of the legal framework as an excuse firstly not to authorise the vote and secondly to reject any possible negotiation on this issue. For instance, they have interpreted the recent decision of the Constitutional Court as a total ban to self-determination, without taking into account that the Court was urging political powers to talk and work on a political solution.

Rajoy insisted that he wants "to talk", but he added that it is "very difficult" to do so with "someone who unilaterally decides to call an illegal referendum" without communicating it to the Spanish Government and the Spanish Parliament. He was referring to the agreement reached in December 2013 by a majority of Catalan parties on the exact question wording and date. Catalan representatives, including the Catalan President, have repeated on many occasions that they are willing to re-negotiate with the Spanish Government the legal way to organise the consultation vote, as well as the exact question and date. However, they will not wait forever for the Spanish Government to abandon its obstructive attitude, having already waited for a long while with no result.

In the face of this situation, Rajoy makes abandoning the demands for a self-determination vote the first condition for negotiations. However, for those supporting self-determination, this means talking about something else than their demands and therefore, in practical terms, it means not talking about the main issue, which is self-determination. According to many polls, between 75% and 80% of Catalans want to hold such a vote. In addition, more than 50% of Catalans would vote for independence. Many have been insisting that this is in fact the main reason why the Spanish Government does not even want to talk about holding such a vote, because they are assuming a scenario where there is a high probability of losing the vote and therefore they are imposing the current status quo.

Rajoy asks Catalans to use "imagination" to identify the way out of the current situation

On Tuesday, Rajoy went a step further in his lack of proposals regarding the self-determination demands from Catalonia. After rejecting the Constitutional Reform proposed by the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), which would aim to find a better accommodation for Catalonia but , Rajoy directly asked the Catalan politicians to use "imagination" to look for a way out of the current situation. "It's up to you to say what you want", said Rajoy, although he does not accept "right to self-determination" and "independence referendum" as answers.

The 'number 2' of the governing Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition (CiU), Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, replied directly to Rajoy on Wednesday. Duran i Lleida stated that the problem is not the lack of imagination but Rajoy's "lack of courage and lack of state sense to talk and reach an agreed solution". "The problem is not that we lack imagination, the problem is that we lack an interlocutor", he added.  "Europe has to know that Spain has a Prime Minister who does not want […] to talk with the Catalan President to solve a problem that is known in Catalonia and in many parts of the world", Duran concluded.

Catalans will vote, guarantees Mas

In a TV interview on Tuesday evening, before Sant Jordi Day, Mas talked more specifically about the self-determination vote, whose question wording and exact date were agreed among a large group of Catalan political parties last December. In this sense he guaranteed that he "will call the self-determination vote" and will organise it in such a way that it will be "very difficult" for the Spanish Government to block it. Mas insisted that after the negative answer from the Spanish Parliament and Government to the petition to transfer to the Catalan Executive the powers to organise a self-determination referendum, the Catalan Parliament will now approve its own law to organise a consultation vote, for which there is already provision in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy from 2006. With the new law, the Catalan President will have the legal framework to organise the vote. Mas stated that he will personally make sure that it is very difficult for the Spanish Government to block the new law through the Constitutional Court. However, if the Spanish Government finally blocks the vote, it will be exclusively for political reasons, not for legal ones, he underlined. This "lack of political will" has to be crystal clear "in Spain, in Catalonia, in Europe and in the rest of the world". However, in one way or another, Catalans will vote on their collective future, he insisted.

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  • Artur Mas addressing the press on Sant Jordi Day (by P. Mateos)

  • Artur Mas addressing the press on Sant Jordi Day (by P. Mateos)