The Catalan President asks for a broad agreement to define the legal framework for a self-determination vote in 2014
On the occasion of the Catalan Parliament’s main annual debate, called the Debate on General Policy, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, asked the political parties to work on a broad “triple agreement” on the exact date, question and legal framework for holding a self-determination vote. Furthermore, Mas stated that he wanted this agreement to be reached before the end of the year, in order to have the road paved for holding the vote in 2014. However, he did not say whether the question will be exclusively about Catalonia’s independence from Spain or whether a third way will also be included as an option. Besides, Mas re-affirmed his will to negotiate with the Spanish Government on the legal formula for organising a referendum. However, he also stressed that if Madrid completely rejects talks on holding a self-determination vote, there is nothing to negotiate on.
Barcelona (ACN).- On Wednesday, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, asked the political parties to work on a broad “triple agreement” on the date, the exact question and the legal framework to hold a self-determination vote in Catalonia. On the occasion of the Catalan Parliament’s main annual debate – called the Debate on General Policy – Mas stated he wanted this agreement to be reached before the end of the year, in order to have the road paved for holding the vote in 2014.However, he did not make clear whether the question will be exclusively about Catalonia’s independence from Spain or whether a third way will also be included as a voting option. Besides, the Catalan President re-affirmed his will to negotiate with the Spanish Government on the legal formula for holding the self-determination referendum, in order to hold the vote “at least within a framework of tolerance”. However, he also stressed that if Madrid continues to reject to even talk about holding a self-determination vote, there is nothing to negotiate on. In this hypothetical scenario, Mas pointed to his ‘plan B’, which is “to call for plebiscite elections”, where some parties would run with a crystal clear support for Catalonia’s independence from Spain. Mas explained that a large part of the “Catalan society is tired” of the relationship with Spain, “where no future is to be seen”. “Catalonia feels real affection for Spain – it loves it; but Catalonia does not trust the Spanish State anymore”, he emphasised. Therefore, he pledged publicly that he “will work tirelessly” to ensure that Catalans are able to vote in 2014 on their collective future and decide whether they want to stay within Spain or not. Opposition parties will formally reply to the President’s speech on Thursday, also addressing the plenary of the Catalan Parliament.
On the first day of the Debate on General Policy, the President of the Catalan Government addressed the plenary session of the Catalan Parliament. His speech was mainly divided into two parts; the first dealt with Catalonia’s self-determination process and the second with the difficult economic situation.
“The majorities have to follow their path doing things in such a way that minorities do not feel excluded from the common project”
Mas wanted to give a formal reply to the 1.6 million citizens who, according to the Catalan Police, demonstrated on the 11th September (Catalonia’s National Day) and formed a 400-kilometre-long human chain supporting independence from Spain. Mas referred to the so-called ‘Catalan Way towards independence’, but he also stressed that his responsibility is to be “the President of all Catalans”, those in favour of the independence process and those who reject it. “I am fully aware that I represent an entire people, which in Catalonia’s case is a very mixed people”, he stated. However, he also emphasised that “minorities cannot block” the way initiated by a majority of Catalans. Despite this remark, he immediately added that those minorities have also to be included: “The majorities have to follow their path doing things in such a way that minorities do not feel excluded from the common project”.
The Catalan President stressed that “all together we will have to build the country” resulting from the self-determination vote. “The country resulting from the vote has to be built together, because the country belongs to all of us, without any exception. And the country formed by the 7.5 million Catalans is what remains [after the vote], no matter what its structure or political status”, he said. Once again, Mas insisted on the need to hold a self-determination vote because when in a country “historical” issues are being put on the table, “there is only one solution: voting”. “Ballot boxes are the solution, and not the problem”, he said.
The Catalan Government has reduced its budget by 20% since 2010
In the second part of his speech, Artur Mas defended the efforts made in the last three years to guarantee the sustainability of the Welfare State in Catalonia. “They have paid off”, he emphasised. Mas guaranteed that the budget cuts implemented through the last three years are “reversible”. He explained that since 2010, the Catalan Government has reduced its own budget by 20%, despite exclusively managing essential public services such as education, healthcare and social services. It was a “huge, painful and urgent effort”, stated the Catalan President. However, Mas highlighted that the Spanish Government has not undertaken the same levels of effort and “has loaded on the Autonomous Communities’ shoulders the effects of the crisis”, despite the fact that they exclusively manage the public services closer to the citizen.
The Catalan Government will not reduce the salaries of public employees in 2014 if the Spanish Government compensates the tax on bank deposits
Mas also promised that public employees will not have their salaries reduced in 2014 if the Spanish Government compensates the Catalan Government for banning its tax on bank deposits. “If next year this tax is compensated, we will use the money to reinstitute the fourteenth payment of the Catalan Government’s public employees”, Mas stated.
Public employees in Catalonia have their salaries paid in 14 payments and, since 2011, the Catalan Government temporarily cancelled 1 of those payments, representing a 7% wage reduction. The Catalan Finance Minister announced weeks ago that the measure would also be in place in 2014, in order to reduce public spending with the ultimate aim of reducing the public deficit. In December the Catalan Government approved a tax on the banks’ global deposits (completely different from a tax on individual deposits) in order to increase revenue, but the Spanish Government immediately opposed it, despite the fact that it is already in place in other Autonomous Communities. To do so, Mariano Rajoy’s Cabinet approved its own tax on bank deposits, but fixed the rate at 0%, making it totally ineffective. It was the Spanish Government’s legal way to block Catalonia’s tax. However, Madrid refused to compensate Barcelona economically for the lost tax, as the law clearly indicates it should. The Spanish Government argued that the Catalan Executive approved the measure in an irregular way and was not yet in place when they approved their own tax. The issue was taken to the Constitutional Court, which means the final decision could take years to arrive. However, the Catalan and Spanish Finance Ministers are still negotiating to find a solution.