Mas: “They are shamelessly going after me”
The Catalan President explains in a new book how his determination to let the people of Catalonia decide their future in an independence referendum has affected his personal life. In a very human account, Mas admits he has become “a hated person in some parts of Spain, particularly Madrid”. The leader of Convergència i Unió also rejects in the book the idea of a unilateral declaration of independence, saying that the process should not be “rushed” into and that politicians should trust the people of Catalonia to hold a vote. “If we really believe in the project, it will go ahead”, he says.
Barcelona (ACN).- The president of Catalonia, Artur Mas, opens up in the new book “Servir Catalunya. Artur Mas. L’home, el polític, el pensador” (To Serve Catalonia. Artur Mas. The man, the politician and the thinker) and explains how leading the political process towards independence is affecting his personal life. “They are shamelessly going after me. I have now become the object of a perverse desire for some. I am a hated person in some parts of Spain, and particularly, in Madrid”, he confesses. The president also argues against a unilateral declaration of independence, saying that those who want to “rush into” the process are actually showing “a lack of trust in the determination of the Catalan people” to have a referendum. “If we really believe in the project, it will go ahead”, he adds.
The book is a compilation of conversations between the Catalan president Artur Mas and writer Teresa Pous. It is a personal and human depiction of Mas and includes his thoughts about the political process started in Catalonia.
In the book Mas admits that he might have to face “personal sacrifices” if the path towards independence continues. “I will have to be one of the first to act as an example in that sense”, he said. In fact, the Catalan President admits he has “sometimes” thought about throwing in the towel but that this idea has lasted “only a few seconds”. “This means two things: one, that I have thought about it, two that it hasn’t lasted long”, he adds.
The President says that he would only resign if he had to face a “very serious” family problem or if he realized he was “more of a problem than a solution to the country”. Nonetheless, he argues that he will keep leading the process as far as he feels fit for it and considers that he has the trust of the people.
In the books the President of Catalonia and leader of the centre-right nationalist coalition Convergència i Unió admits that the last election “complicated things” although he “accepted” the result. In November 2012, Catalonia held elections. Mas and his CiU coalition ran with the promise of holding an independence referendum –as did the traditionally pro-independence party in the country, the left-wing Esquerra Repubicana de Catalunya (ERC). The results showed overall support for independence, but Mas’ party lost 12 seats while ERC, now his allies in Parliament, gained 11. In this context, Mas states the need to show “great leadership” to complete the process successfully.
Mas argues that his party is in a “very difficult position” because it’s the only one that assumes “almost in complete solitude” the responsibility to run the country in these difficult economic circumstances. “The truth is the government doesn’t receive much help. One party, ERC, helps, but in general we don’t get much support. We are in the worst situation possible and very much alone. And this causes serious exhaustion”, he recognizes.
According to Mas, the new situation in Parliament forces him to arrange “all kind of agreements and small negotiations” with other parties to keep the country going and passing essential measures. The Catalan President says the government is facing a “very complicated situation” because it has to deal with the economic crisis and recession, unemployment, the growth in poverty, cuts, the rise in taxes, the lack of understanding of some political rivals, the “lack of loyalty” from the Spanish government, lack of autonomy to put forward new legislation or the “coldness” showed at an international level to Catalonia’s call for independence.
Trust in Catalonia
In the book Mas rejects the idea of a unilateral declaration of independence in Catalonia, saying this shows “a lack of trust in the determination of the Catalan people” to have a referendum. “If we really believe in the project, it will go ahead”, he adds. According to Mas, those who want to declare independence as soon as possible seem to have little confidence in the current pro-sovereignty majority in Parliament and are therefore showing “weakness”. According to Mas, Catalonia started the path towards independence only 8 months ago and things should not be rushed into.
Mas says that the world expects Catalonia to show that it is trying all possible options to hold a vote on independence. This, he thinks, will be more broadly accepted than going unilaterally. Besides, Mas argues that before declaring independence, Catalonia would need to have ‘state structures’ to be able to function as an independent country. “The day after declaring independence, would I have to call the Spanish president and ask him if he could please collect our taxes? This would be ridiculous!”, he says.
According to Mas, a unilateral declaration of independence would not be accepted readily, but he recognized that even a referendum won’t mean “an easy path” because negotiations would need to be started with Spain, the European countries and the rest of the world.
A Spanish offer?
Mas says that some “might think that the Spanish could offer Catalonia some kind of big alternative” to independence, such as the fiscal autonomy enjoyed by the Basque Country coupled with a strong self-government and a recognition of Catalan cultural and linguistic identity. This, according to Mas, would be “an alternative worthy of consideration” but “it doesn’t exist”. “The Spanish government has not put this offer on the table, so this means it doesn’t exist; there is no possible alternative” to independence, he adds.
In fact, Mas says he is very “sceptical” about the “capacity” of the Spanish government to offer “an interesting and attractive settlement” to Catalonia. In any case, he thinks such an offer should be voted on in a referendum to let the Catalan people decide which political relationship they want to have with Spain.
Mas thinks that Catalans should demonstrate that they “don’t want to start a fight with Spain” but rather to be able to decide their own future in a democratic referendum. He asked citizens to use “the head and the heart” in order to guarantee a successful process. “If Catalonia votes in favor of freedom, it will be free. Catalonia wants to emancipate from the Spanish government, but not to create new borders. We love the people of Spain”, he concluded.