Catalan President: self-determination vote will have to "always respect an existing legal framework"
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, stated once again that the self-determination consultation vote will take place on the 9th of November but he also added that "things have to be done in the right way". In front of businesspeople at an event of Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce, Mas stressed that "both things have to come together", meaning voting and doing things right. He underlined that "this means always respecting an existing legal framework". After the controversies on whether the vote should take place if the Constitutional Court bans it, Mas insisted that the call will be based on Catalan legislation and that the Court might not ban it in the end. Besides, he admitted that Catalonia's "freedom" would come with some economic costs, but that those of continuing in the current situation would be much higher. Mas also said that Pujol's scandal "will not affect" him or the Catalan Government.
Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, stated once again that the self-determination consultation vote will take place on the 9th of November but he also added that "things have to be done in the right way". In front of an audience full of businesspeople at a lunch event organised by Barcelona's Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, the Catalan President stressed that "both things have to come together", meaning voting on Catalonia's political future and doing things right. Mas underlined that "this means always respecting an existing legal framework". After last week's controversies on whether the self-determination vote should take place if the Constitutional Court were to ban it, Mas insisted that the vote will follow the Catalan legislation and that the Court might not ban it in the end. He also added that the self-determination vote has to be organised within "a serious process", since "we cannot make ourselves look ridiculous" in front of the international community. Besides, he admitted that Catalonia's "freedom" would come with some economic costs, but that the costs of continuing in the current situation would be higher. Finally, he also mentioned the fiscal fraud scandal confessed by the former Catalan President, Jordi Pujol, the former leader of Mas' coalition, the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State CiU. The scandal "will not affect me, nor will it affect the Government of Catalonia", he stated.
On Thursday, the day after he met with the leader of the Spanish Socialist party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, Artur Mas insisted once again that the November's self-determination vote will take place. The message was also directly sent to a large representation of the business community who were listening to Mas' speech. However, Mas also sent the message that the self-determination vote will not be organised in a foolish way. "We cannot make ourselves look ridiculous", particularly when the international community is looking, he added. The vote "has to be done in a right way", Mas emphasised. "And this means always respecting an existing legal framework". "We are determined to make the ballot boxes available and to make it right", he highlighted. This has to be done "with a peaceful attitude and whilst listening to the majority expressed through the ballot boxes", the Catalan President added. He also said that the Catalan Government's "open attitude" and "will to talk" with the Spanish Executive will be "permanent", before and after the 9th of November.
The self-determination vote will be framed within the Catalan legislation
At this point the President of Catalonia reminded the audience that the Catalan Parliament is about to approve the law on Consultation Votes that will be the legal tool on which the self-determination vote would be called. Mas stressed that the Spanish Government could simply not do anything and just adopt a wait-and-see attitude, since the Catalan legislation would allow for the consultation vote to take place. In fact, Mas stressed that the vote scheduled on the 9th of November is a "consultation" and not a binding referendum.
Therefore, the Government, chaired by Mariano Rajoy, could have "a very easy" role. Once the Catalan Law is approved, the Spanish "State does not have to authorise anything; it simply just does not have to appeal against the Catalan Law", he said. "If finally [the Spanish Government] appeals against the law [as it has already announced], it can do so without asking for the law to be suspended", the Catalan President carried on. "The Constitutional Court can choose to accept or not accept the Spanish Government's appeal, and even if it accepts the appeal and suspends the Law, it can lift the suspension in a very short time". For all these reasons, the Catalan President insisted that it cannot be taken for granted that the self-determination vote will not take place on the 9th of November because of a hypothetical ban from the Constitutional Court.
The economic costs of the current status quo are higher than those of independence
The Catalan President reminded the audience that Catalonia is already doing things "in a right way" in many different areas, such as leading the job creation in Spain, leading exports, leading the tourism industry, leading the industrial direct foreign investment and leading the deficit reduction. However, according to him, Catalonia is not receiving "fair treatment" from the Spanish authorities in accordance with its collective efforts. On the contrary, the Catalan self-government is under constant recentralisation attacks, Catalan language is threatened by Spanish homogenisation measures, Catalonia's public services are under severe stress by reductions of public funds unilaterally decided by the Spanish Government, and Catalonia's economy is being slowed down by a huge fiscal deficit, meaning that Catalan taxpayers and companies pay a great amount for investments and services made in other parts of Spain, while the Spanish Government does not honour debts and does not make essential investments.
In fact, Mas admitted to the audience that Catalonia's "freedom" would also have some economic costs, since "it is not possible to think that such a process can be done for free". However, he immediately added that the costs of continuing with the current status quo would be higher for the Catalan economy, businesses and citizens. "Freedom has a price", but continuing in the same way " also has a price" and "it is probably higher", he said. Furthermore, Mas also stated that those who are speculating that " Catalan society will end up getting on their knees" and give in to the massive claims to hold an independence vote are "speculating way too much". "Denying the problem" is not an intelligent option.
Pujol's fraud "will not affect me or the Government", says Mas
Regarding the fiscal fraud scandal that has shocked Catalan and Spanish politics since the end of July, Mas said: "It will not affect me or the Government of Catalonia". The former Catalan President, Jordi Pujol, who chaired the Catalan Government between 1980 and 2003, confessed in late July that his family had evaded taxes and hidden money in fiscal paradises for 34 years. Spanish nationalist politicians and media immediately linked this to Catalan independence, which Pujol had supported since 2012. However, Pujol, who was leading Conservative Catalan nationalism for three decades, had always opposed independence and instead defended a devo max, with Catalonia staying within Spain. Furthermore, there are increasing news and rumours indicating that the Spanish authorities knew about Pujol's fraud for decades and covered him up as he opposed independence and, because of his charismatic leadership, was keeping pro-independence support marginal.