The Catalan President asks Spain to “listen carefully”, “don’t get angry”, and offer solutions, “if it has them”
“Listen, and listen carefully. Do not get angry if you don’t like what you see. And put solutions on the table, if you have them”, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas told Spain the day after the 1.5 million strong demonstration for Catalonia’s independence. He also stated he will work to create “state structures”. The Spanish Government refused to comment directly on the event, stating it should be analysed “coldly”. However, it said Spain and Catalonia should have other priorities.
Barcelona (ACN).- “Nothing will be easy, but everything is possible”, stated the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, the day after 1.5 million citizens demonstrated peacefully for Catalonia’s independence from Spain. Mas delivered an official statement on Wednesday morning reacting to the colossal independence demonstration that had completely saturated downtown Barcelona on Catalonia’s National Day. Mas offered a direct answer to the demonstrators. Catalonia “sent a very strong message wishing for freedom and the will to become a normalised people among the world’s countries and nations”. “Even if there will be many obstacles, many difficulties, few precedents in Europe with our situation, even if the Spanish State will see this process with significant hostility and strong opposition, everything is possible if there is a will, large majorities, and capacity to resist”, he stated. The Catalan President said he will work on creating “state structures”, the first one being “Catalonia’s own treasury”, able to collect all the taxes, as Navarra and the Basque Country already have. The Catalan President also sent a message to Spain: “Listen, and listen carefully. Do not get angry if you don’t like what you see. And put solutions on the table, if you have them”. Catalan nationalism is proposing a new fiscal agreement between Spain and Catalonia, reducing the Catalan solidarity contribution to the rest of Spain by half. This fiscal agreement has the support of almost 80% of the Catalan population according to the polls and should guarantee Catalan citizens a fairer share of their own resources. However, the Spanish Government and Spanish nationalism oppose.
Currently Catalonia annually pays around 8.5% of its GDP to pay for investments and services made in the rest of Spain. It represents an annual amount of €17 billion, while the Catalan Government had a €7 billion deficit in 2011. This accumulated fiscal deficit has resulted in Catalonia having the largest debt of Spain (€42 billion), while it is also the main contributor in absolute terms to subsidise poorer parts of Spain. Furthermore, the Catalan Government is obliged to meet the strict deficit targets and is implementing significant budget cuts that directly affect public services, administration, and infrastructure, therefore having an impact on citizens’ lives. In addition, after Spain’s fiscal redistribution scheme, Catalonia ranks lower in terms of wealth, even ending below the Spanish average while poorer Autonomies rank above Catalonia and the Spanish average.
“If there is not an agreement”, “Catalonia’s way to freedom is open”, said Mas before the demonstration
On Tuesday, a few hours before the demonstration, Mas stated that his duty is “to protect Catalonia” and “to give Catalans the tools to ensure their future”. He warned that “if there is not an agreement”, “Catalonia’s way to freedom is open”. On September 20th, Mas and the Spanish Prime Minister will meet and the Catalan President will present the fiscal agreement proposal. The Spanish Government said on previous occasions this was out of question given the current situation.
The Spanish Government avoids reacting to the demonstration
In fact, the Spanish Government has not given any answer to Mas or to the 1.5 million Spanish citizens demonstrating. This Wednesday, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria, stated the demonstration should be analysed “coldly”. She also said that Spain and Catalonia should have other priorities, taking into account the economic crisis. In fact, Spanish nationalism played down the demonstration, before and after it happened. For instance, the Spanish public TV broadcaster only covered the Catalan independence march, which was the largest demonstration ever made in Spain in democratic times, 21 minutes after the evening news had started.
The four main reasons behind the Catalan claim for independence
The four main reasons behind Catalan claims: Spain’s little respect for Catalan language and culture; Spain’s lack of recognition of its plurinational nature; the attempts to recentralise Spain and trim Catalonia’s self-government; and, Catalonia’s excessive fiscal contribution to pay for investments and services delivered in the rest of Spain. The fiscal agreement might solve the last reason, which is fairly recent considering the economic crisis. However, if an answer is not provided to the three others, Catalonia will have difficultly finding its place within the Spanish State.
In fact, the President of the Madrid Region, Esperanza Aguirre, stated this Wednesday that obviously Catalonia has not found this “comfortable place”. Aguirre stated that probably the most sensible course of action would be to reformulate the entire Autonomous Community model. Besides, the President of the Basque Country, Patxi López, said that the Catalans probably suffer economically, which should be addressed.