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“No government has done as much as Catalonia's to adjust the economic situation” affirms the Catalan President

The Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad has published an interview with the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas. Mas states that “Catalonia’s intervention by Spain would be unthinkable” and “unfair, as no government has done as much as Catalonia's to adjust the economic situation”. Furthermore, he adds that “people’s reaction [against such an intervention] would be very strong”. NRC explains the austerity measures implemented by the Catalan Government to reduce its deficit, such as the drug prescription fee or public employee salary reduction. Furthermore, Mas complained that Spain’s Autonomies model has “decentralised spending but not revenue”; “we want to collect our taxes”, he affirmed, being another “state within a federal Europe”, contributing to regional solidarity.

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26 April 2012 10:03 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- Rotterdam-based newspaper NRC Handelsblad published an interview on Thursday evening with the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas. \u201CCatalonia\u2019s intervention by Spain would be unthinkable, people\u2019s reaction would be very strong against it\u201D Mas stated. Furthermore, according to the Catalan President, such an intervention \u201Cwould be unfair, as no government has done as much as Catalonia's to adjust the economic situation\u201D. In addition, Mas has doubts regarding the measures that the new Spanish Government is adopting, as they \u201Care not answering what Europe is asking Spain to do\u201D. Europe is recommending that \u201Creforms are made in unemployment grants, reducing public employee salaries, introducing a real [healthcare] co-payment, or increasing the TVA\u201D, and the Spanish Government is not doing so, stressed Mas. However, Catalonia has introduced a drug prescription fee and has reduced its public employee salaries, in addition to increasing university fees explained the Dutch newspaper. Furthermore, the NRC said that Spain ended 2011 with a 8.5% public deficit, and that less than 3% corresponded to the Autonomies, despite managing roughly half of public spending and sensitive areas such as healthcare, education and social policies. \u201CWe want to collect our taxes\u201D, Mas emphasised. According to him, Catalonia is like \u201CThe Netherlands of southern Europe\u201D, as like Dutch people \u201Cwe always had to fight for our country: you were fighting against the sea to gain space, we are doing so against our powerful neighbours\u201D. In fact, Mas defended Catalonia as \u201Ca state with a federal Europe\u201D, with greater powers, and with Catalonia contributing to regional solidarity.


\u201CWe want to collect our taxes [\u2026] without completely closing the tap\u201D on regional solidarity

The Catalan President criticised Spain\u2019s current Autonomous Community model, where \u201Cspending is decentralised, but not revenue\u201D. \u201CMany Autonomies find it more comfortable to have Madrid manage their taxes, but we want to collect our taxes, have our own Treasury, and be able to modify the laws in our own Parliament\u201D, Mas explained. When asked about regional solidarity, the Catalan President said that \u201Cwe are not selfish; we do not want to have everything for us. We do not want to completely close the tap on solidarity with other regions, but we want to make those fiscal transfers after having collected our taxes. This way it will be much more transparent\u201D. He also added that those transfers \u201Cshould not be eternal\u201D, and should have \u201Ca time limitation\u201D.

In fact, official studies recognise that Catalonia has been giving 8.5% of its GDP to the rest of Spain every year, for at least the last 26 years, to pay for services offered and investments made in other communities, an amount representing around \u20AC17 billion per year. The Catalan Government\u2019s deficit in 2011 was \u20AC7 billion.

Mas further reflected on the Autonomous Community model. \u201CIf the People\u2019s Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE) consider Spain\u2019s decentralisation has gone too far, they will be able to go backwards\u201D. However, if they finally decide doing so, Mas emphasised \u201Cthey will have to respect the historical realities of existing nations, mainly those of Catalonia and the Basque Country\u201D. \u201CEven Franco\u2019s dictatorship was not able to eliminate those realities. The current crisis will not succeed either\u201D, he concluded.

Catalonia, \u201Ca state within a federal Europe\u201D, being \u201Cthe Netherlands of Southern Europe\u201D

Mas compared Catalonia with the Netherlands throughout the interview. \u201CWe are like The Netherlands of Southern Europe\u201D he said. \u201CWe always had to fight for our country: you were fighting against the sea to gain space, we are doing so against our powerful neighbours\u201D, he added.

The Catalan President explained his future vision for Catalonia, being \u201Ca state\u201D like \u201Cthe Netherlands or Denmark, with the same rights\u201D within \u201Ca federal Europe, with strong powers in concrete areas, as in the United States\u201D, where some \u201Cregions would gain more power\u201D. In this Europe, Catalonia would be happy to pay for regional solidarity with other countries affirmed the Catalan President when he was asked about it. The NRC journalist asked if Catalonia \u201Cas the 28th EU Member State would be one of the richest Member States, and then it will not have to pay for transfers to Andalusia or Extemadura but to Bulgaria and Slovenia\u201D. \u201CExactly\u201D answered Mas \u201Cand we will pay. Maybe not so much as Holland, because we are not so rich. But we would pay what we would be asked for\u201D. Then, with a smile, he added, \u201Cmeanwhile, we are already very used to having to pay\u201D.

An interview in one of The Netherlands\u2019 quality newspapers

With the title \u201CCatalonia starts a battle with Madrid\u201D, the journalist Merijn de Waal published the interview with the President of the Catalan Government in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. This media is published from Rotterdam, as is one of the main quality newspapers in The Netherlands, being also distributed in part of Belgium. It is issued in the afternoon, with some 210,000 daily copies. Furthermore, since 2006, nrc.next is also published in the morning, with some 80,000 copies.

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  • The Catalan President, Artur Mas, in the Cabinet's Meeting Room (by O. Campuzano)

  • The Catalan President, Artur Mas, in the Cabinet's Meeting Room (by O. Campuzano)