Green Socialist leader highlights the need to vote on social issues and budget cuts besides independence
Joan Herrera, the leader of the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist coalition ICV-EUiA, also held his own conference on Catalonia's political future and self-determination road map, after those of the Catalan President, the Spanish Prime Minister and three other political leaders. Despite supporting Catalans' right to vote on independence, Herrera rejected exclusively voting on independence, since after years of budget cuts and corruption scandals, citizens also have to vote on social issues and measures to clean up the democratic system. Herrera strongly criticised the austerity measures approved by the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and the People's Party (PP). The ICV-EUiA does not have an official position regarding independence and about half of its leadership and voters would support it, while the other half supports greater powers for the Catalan Government within a federal Spain.
Barcelona (ACN).- Joan Herrera, the leader of the Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist coalition ICV-EUiA, also held his own conference on Catalonia's political future and self-determination road map, after those of the Catalan President, the Spanish Prime Minister and three other political leaders. Despite supporting Catalans' right to vote on independence, Herrera rejected exclusively voting on independence, since after years of budget cuts and corruption scandals, citizens also have to vote on social issues and measures to clean up the democratic system. "There is a national conflict, of course, regarding the relations between Catalonia and Spain", but "we cannot reduce" the public debate to this single issue because "there is a social urgency" to "fight inequalities" and social exclusion, as well as a "democratic emergency" regarding corruption. The ICV-EUiA does not have an official position regarding independence and about half of its leadership and voters would support it, while the other half supports greater powers for the Catalan Government within a federal Spain. In this vein, he proposed four different consultation votes: on the model of state – including independence and a federal Spain; on social inequalities; on public healthcare; and, on the energy model.
Catalonia is "a complex country" and "we claim plurality", "not as a problem but as a virtue", emphasised Herrera, in front of some 500 people gathered in Barcelona on Monday evening. Herrera shared his views about Catalonia's immediate future and the main challenges ahead in a debate with a few members of the civil society who were asking him questions. A few members of other political parties were also present among the audience, including representatives from centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC and the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC). In addition, representatives from the main civil society organisations behind the massive pro-independence rallies from 2012, 2013 and 2014 were also there.
Left-wing parties should unite efforts
Herrera totally rejected the plan of the Catalan President and leader of the CiU, Artur Mas, who wanted to form a cross-party candidature promising to get full independence in 18 months. The Eco Socialist leader emphasised the need of left-wing parties of "uniting" efforts "to earn Catalonia's right" to hold a self-determination referendum and "to defeat the right-wing". Furthermore, he praised the role of civil society "to articulate" the country regarding manifold issues and debates, being independence from Spain, the environment, social protection or the fight against corruption.
The Eco Socialist leader strongly criticised CiU's austerity measures, as well as those of the People's Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government. Herrera also had strong words against the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), which together with the PP and the CiU, has "built" a "capitalist system" that allocates public contracts to a small group of private companies, developing a "legal corruption". The ICV-EUiA criticised the privatisation of public companies offering basic public services, such as water supply or healthcare.
Facing the "social urgency" and the "democratic emergency"
Herrera focused his speech on four main topics: Catalonia's right to self-determination and independence from Spain; the "social urgency" to fight inequalities and social exclusion; the "democratic emergency" to fight corruption; and the need for green policies. He also insisted on the duty to strengthen citizen rights instead of weakening them with conservative laws and policies.
The Eco Socialist leader strongly emphasised the need the fight poverty and unemployment, and protect the "most vulnerable" people, mentioning those without a job, a house or a minimum income. He highlighted that Catalonia is "the second most unequal country in Europe" after Latvia. Herrera explained that the income per capita difference among Catalonia's richest and poorest neighbourhood had doubled with the economic crisis, passing from a 3:1 ratio to a 6:1 ration.
Furthermore, he talked about corruption and urgency; the need to allocate much greater efforts to tackle this problem and regenerate the public sphere, defining the current situation as "a democratic emergency". He criticised the "legal corruption" represented by large-sized companies getting public contracts through grey tenders, accusing political and economic powers of being too close to each other.
Herrera also stressed the need to develop environmentally sustainable public policies, which are now shared by several parties while a few years ago they were only defended by the ICV-EUiA, he said. He focused on the energy model and he insisted on the need to develop green energies and a green economy. The Eco Socialist politician said that Catalonia is the most nuclear country in Europe, together with France, since it has 3 nuclear plants per 7.5 million people.
Catalonia wants "a relationship of equals" with Spain
Regarding potential independence from Spain, Herrera recognised that "the national debate" is among "the most important ones, but he also added that there are other issues equally important. The ICV-EUiA leader praised November 9's symbolic vote on independence, which was "unprecedented". He stressed that "1.8 million people" voted for independence back then, while 0.5 million preferred other options but also wanted to cast their vote. Such mobilisation levels in a non-binding and symbolic vote are extremely high, insisted Herrera. The results showed once again that "we have a complex country" and that "we need to listen to those supporting independence and those who are not supporting it".
According to Herrera, this is far from being a problem, since "plurality" is "a virtue". The ICV-EUiA concluded that what is clear is that "the country is saying we want a relation of equals" with Spain. This is "the only possible way" to solve the current conflict, according to him. And this means allowing Catalans to vote and to respect their decision.