The Catalan President in Brussels: Catalonia “expects Europe will not let it down”
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, held a debate in Brussels, at an event organised by the think tank Friends of Europe. Mas praised Catalonia’s European and democratic traditions. He talked about the self-determination process he is leading, which will be “scrupulously democratic”, “absolutely peaceful”, “demonstrably transparent”, “with an ample majority” and “within the framework of the European Union”. “What I want for Catalonia is for it to be its own State that must, necessarily, share interdependencies within a more united and stronger Europe”, he stated. If Catalonia could not remain in the EU, he would still ask the Catalan people about their future, “as it is the most important thing”. The opposition parties criticised Mas’ trip before the start of the electoral campaign.
Brussels (ACN).- In Brussels, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, talked about his vision for Catalonia’s self determination process and its future within the European Union, in a debate organised by the think tank Friends of Europe. The Catalan President praised Catalonia’s democratic and European traditions, and he defended the Catalan people’s right to “peacefully and democratically” decide upon their own future. Mas explained the main principles of the self-determination process he is leading, which will be “scrupulously democratic”, “absolutely peaceful”, “demonstrably transparent”, “with an ample majority” and “within the framework of the European Union”. According to Mas, after being unable to find a “satisfactory” way to “fit into the framework of a Spanish state”, Catalans have the right to decide upon their own future. Therefore he has committed to allowing Catalans to hold a self-determination referendum within the next four years, if Catalans back him in the next elections. However, in the case that the Spanish State does not allow the referendum or pressures for the exclusion of Catalonia from the EU, Mas appealed to the core EU values of peace and democracy and hoped that “Europe will not let us down”, as “Catalonia has never in its history let Europe down”. “It would be senseless if a nation that forms part of the European Union and the euro, and that wants to continue to form a part, should not be able to do so”, he underlined. Mas emphasised he wants a more federal EU, with greater powers and a renewed political structure, to which Catalonia would “be willing to cede sovereignty”, and continue to be a net contributor to the EU’s budget, as it has been for many years. “What I want for Catalonia is its own State that must, necessarily, share interdependencies within a more united and stronger Europe”, he stated. He also defended Catalonia’s viability as a future state, remarking that small countries tend to be more efficient, adaptable and governable in a globalised world. According to Mas, Catalonia would be the 7th EU state in GDP per capita, the 13th in terms of aggregate GDP, the 16th in population and the 23rd in size. The opposition parties in Catalonia have criticised Mas’ trip to Brussels, taken just two days before the electoral campaign kicks off.
The Catalan President participated in a debate organised by the think tank Friends of Europe, with the title ‘Destination Europe: Catalonia’s future within the EU’. Mas delivered his speech before a crowded room, filled with international press correspondents, diplomatic representatives, EU institution high staff, MEPs and international analysts. The opposition parties in Catalonia have criticised Mas’ trip to Brussels, taken just the day before the electoral campaign kicks off.
“The right to decide […] is the most important thing”
Mas also emphasised that, if Catalonia is finally excluded from the EU were it to become independent from Spain, he would allow Catalans to vote on their future anyway, as they “have the right to decide”, and “this is the most important thing”. Furthermore, if Spain blocked the organisation of a referendum, Mas stated that he would look for other legal formulas, such as transforming a regular election into a plebiscite. He underlined that he proposes respect for the legal framework, including European and international legislation. In this context he reminded the attendees that “Catalonia has never in its history let Europe down” and he hoped “Europe will not let us down”. The Catalan President stressed Catalonia’s European, democratic and peaceful traditions, and he appealed to the EU’s core values.
A federal Europe and a Catalan state within the EU
“Our proposition is a clear one: to cede all the powers necessary to give real strength to the European Union while implementing policies that are closer to the people in fields such as health, education and social policy in those places where this can be done more efficiently and consistently”, stated Mas, emphasising the need for a Catalan state within a more federal European Union. “I am proposing a real European integration”, he underlined. “Let us recover the spirit of the founders” of the European integration project, he claimed, “a project whose ultimate aim is the creation of a federal structure that will group the States of Europe together”. For Mas this “old ambition” is the direction to follow at the current time and going towards “the United States of Europe”. However, a federal Europe “cannot be a copy of the USA on account of the significant importance of the people’s own languages and cultures, as well as their own histories. But this new, much more federal, European reality must be built on the basis of those nations which, having a clearly defined territory, history, language and culture, as is the case with Catalonia, have the will, as expressed democratically at the ballot box, to be their own player in the construction of this new Europe”.
“Decisions in Europe are taken in just a few chancelleries”
However, Member States are blocking greater European integration in order to defend their own particular interests, according to Mas. “Today’s European citizen has the impression that decisions in Europe are taken in just a few chancelleries and capitals of the most powerful member states and not in the European institutions themselves. And that the only subjects of debate are currency, market and economy”, stated the Catalan President. Mas quoted Delors, who said “No-one will fall in love with a Common Market”. “European citizens need to be enthused with more transcendental ideas than a mere market and so build, on the basis of our very diversity, a truly common project”, which includes Catalan citizens and their democratic and peaceful dreams.
“Just as the States can not act as a brake on the construction of the European project, neither can they act as a brake on the will of those nations without statehood that democratically and peacefully express their will to be one more player in this process of European construction”, stated the Catalan President.
“Willing to cede sovereignty to the European institutions”
A Catalan state would “be willing to cede sovereignty to the European institutions”, stated Mas. “Our process is much more than the recognition of our national identity within the framework of a united Europe, it is much more than a process to what some people call sovereignty, given that we are totally in favour of a Europe with federal structures where decisions do not require interminable negotiations and lengthy ratification procedures before coming into force”, he emphasised. “When I am asked in Catalonia if I want an independent State I reply that what I want for Catalonia is for it to be its own State that must, necessarily, share interdependencies within a more united and stronger Europe.”
The “urgent need to adjust the EU’s political and institutional structure to the new realities”
Mas recognised that the European Union is focused on the economic crisis at the moment, its recovery from it and creating the mechanisms “to avoid more crises such as this one appearing in the future”. However, “these questions […] cannot leave aside one fundamental, urgent issue: the need to adjust the EU’s political and institutional structure to the new realities of a world that is changing ever more rapidly and which calls for brave, imaginative responses from those in power”.
According to Mas, the current EU Treaties have already “been surpassed by the current crisis and there is a need to think of a new Europe that will recover its cohesion and its executive capacity so as to present itself to the world as a politically strong, coherent group, and to its citizens as a guarantee of their security and well-being and as a defender of the individual who must feel he or she is properly represented in its institutions”. According to Mas, Catalans want to contribute to this greater integration, through their right to decide on their own future and whether they want their own European state.
Calling for early elections as a democratic response to the claim expressed by many Catalans
Mas also explained that he called for early elections following September’s 1.5 million strong demonstration asking for Catalonia’s independence from Spain and Prime Minister Rajoy’s refusal to negotiate a specific fiscal agreement for Catalonia. According to Mas, Catalonia has been “decisive” in “modernising” Spain but it “has not been able to satisfactorily resolve the way it fits into the framework of a Spanish state that will not allow it to grow or develop its self-government”. Mas argued that, since many “citizens of Catalonia have shown their will in huge numbers on the streets”, he decided “to verify this will in the only way things can be so verified in a democracy, through the vote and through the ballot box”. Therefore, “the people of Catalonia can say, clearly and unequivocally, if they want to be consulted about their future and Catalonia’s status as a political subject during the next legislature”, he said.
Our proposition is based on the essence of democracy
“Our proposition is based on the essence of democracy, on the expression of democracy based on the right to decide. Catalonia must be able to decide democratically and peacefully what it wants its future to be within the framework of the European Union”, Mas stressed. Therefore he promised that “during the course of the next four years this process will lead us, if so approved at the election, to consult the people of Catalonia about what they want their future to be”.
The five principles of Catalonia’s self-determination process
Mas defined the five principles of the self-determination process he is proposing. “Once the consultation process is endorsed by the ballot it must be framed in the following terms:
- Scrupulously democratic. The entire process must be endorsed in its most significant aspects by the direct decision of the people of Catalonia.
- Absolutely peaceful. This process must show Europe and the world the way Catalans do things: with a positive spirit, the absence of violence and the willingness to reach agreements.
- Demonstrably transparent. The process must be clear and have a defined road map. Everyone must be sure about the situation facing them.
- With an ample majority. There must be an ample majority in Parliament on which to base the right to decide in order to start the consultation process. Having started the process this too must be endorsed by a sufficient majority, one that does not divide the country in two halves. I have always said that I would not want a majority of 50.5% against 49.5%.
- And finally, as I have already said, the Catalan process has a vocation to remain within the framework of the European Union and the euro. It would be senseless if a nation that forms part of the European Union and the euro, and that wants to continue to form a part, should not be able to do so”.
The 129th President of Catalonia’s self-government
Finally, Mas ended his speech as he had started it, reminding the audience of Catalonia’s history of democracy and self-government institutions. “I am the 129th President of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the president of an ancient European nation with more than 1,000 years of history, a cradle of democracy and, as our renowned cellist Pau Casals said, with one of the oldest parliaments in the world. A nation that feels, and wants to continue to feel, European on account of its history, its traditions and its vocation. A nation that expects Europe not to let it down”, he concluded.
Opposition parties criticise Mas for his trip to Brussels before the electoral campaign
Most of the parties running at the next Catalan elections, scheduled for the 25th of November, have criticised the fact that Mas’ trip to Brussels took place two days before the campaign kicks off and after last week’s trip to Moscow, where Mas participated in the business meeting Catalonia-Russia. The leader of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), Pere Navarro, has lamented that Mas “travels outside Catalonia on many occasions and on very few ones within Catalonia”. “Now he might know some people abroad, but we prefer to travel across Catalonia to get to know Catalans’ hopes and needs, in order to offer them a better future”. The People’s Party (PP) considered that Mas’ “international tour” has the objective of raising the Spanish bonds’ “spread index” within the international markets. “Mas has gone to Brussels to sink us even lower”, said Enric Millo, PP’s ‘number two’ in Catalonia. The leader of the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), Joan Herrera, was hoping that Mas would “profit from the occasion in Brussels and ask for the end of this suicidal austerity”. Herrera considered it was positive that Mas talked about Catalonia’s future within the EU but “if he does not say ‘stop to the austerity’ he is not a good president or a president who serves the people, but other interests”, he added. The leader of the anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C’s), Albert Rivera, criticised Mas for “spending everyone’s money” and “using public money for his campaign; a campaign that takes place more in Russia and Brussels than in Catalonia”.