The Catalan President insists on talking to the Spanish Government about the self-determination claims
Artur Mas, the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), is sceptical about the Spanish Executive’s desire to find a negotiated solution regarding Catalonia’s self-determination claims. Asked about the possibility of giving up the self-determination agenda in exchange for more economic resources for the Catalan Executive, Mas stated that “the Spanish Government will not exchange a better fiscal scheme for the self-determination vote”. However, he insisted that public finances are in “an emergency situation”. Therefore, he offered again for the Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) to sit in the Cabinet because “the situation requires adding strength” in order “to guarantee the survival of Catalonia’s self-government”.
Barcelona (ACN).- On the occasion of the first 100 days of his second term in office, Artur Mas, the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), gave a press conference and insisted on holding talks with the Spanish Government about the self-determination claims wanted by the majority of Catalan citizens. However, Mas admitted he is sceptical about the Spanish Executive\u2019s desire to find a negotiated solution as they are \u201Cat the Antipodes\u201D. Asked about the possibility of giving up the self-determination agenda in exchange for more economic resources for the Catalan Executive, Mas stated that \u201Cthe Spanish Government will not exchange a better fiscal scheme for the self-determination vote\u201D. He said he was basing his belief on the reactions of presidents from other Autonomous Communities. However, Mas insisted that Catalan public finances are in \u201Can emergency situation\u201D, as so it is Catalonia\u2019s self-government. Therefore, he offered again for the Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) to sit in the Cabinet because \u201Cthe situation requires adding strength\u201D in order \u201Cto guarantee the survival of Catalonia\u2019s self-government\u201D. Mas and the CiU have been sending several messages since the last November elections indicating the need for a great coalition government, formed by the main Catalan parties. The opposition parties reacted in a divided way, although no party announced it would join the Government. The ERC \u201Curged\u201D him to talk to the Spanish Government to organise the self-determination vote. The PSC asked him to totally switch his political priorities. The rest of the parties criticised the Catalan Government for the economic situation.
\u201CAn emergency situation\u201D due to four main reasons
The Catalan President gave a two-hour press conference on Wednesday, answering questions from journalists, in which he made an assessment of the political situation and the 100 first days of his second term in office. He also defined the current priorities of the Government he chairs. Mas stated that \u201Cnot only the Catalan Government but the country\u201D is in \u201Can emergency situation\u201D, since \u201CCatalonia\u2019s self-government\u201D is at risk. Mas explained that the Catalan Government\u2019s finances are in \u201Can emergency situation\u201D, due to a set of \u201Caccumulative reasons\u201D, the first one being the \u201Cchronic fiscal deficit\u201D. In fact, Catalan citizens receive much less in services and investments than the amount raised by their taxes, due to an unfair fiscal redistribution decided \u2013 with scarce transparency \u2013 by the Spanish Government. Official calculations show that Catalans give away an average of \u20AC17 billion per year, corresponding to some 8.5% of Catalonia\u2019s GDP, to pay for services and investments in other parts of Spain. Meanwhile, the Catalan Government is under-budgeted and the Spanish Executive does not invest the necessary amounts to keep basic infrastructures in Catalonia up to date, such as the short-distance train network.
Furthermore, Mas added a second reason: the money that the Spanish Government refused to transfer to the Catalan Government and invest in Catalonia despite being legally obliged to do so, according to the current fiscal scheme regulation. The Spanish Executive gives the economic crisis as an excuse, but the law does not oblige to invest an absolute amount but a percentage of the total investment. Meanwhile, the Spanish Government allocates funds for billionaire investments in other parts of Spain, such as the High Speed Train to Galicia.
In addition, Mas underlined the \u201Ctombstone\u201D left by the previous Left-Wing Cabinet, with billions of euros of delayed payments to fund investments, being the third reason. Between 2003 and 2010, the Catalan Government was run by a three-party coalition, formed by the PSC, the ERC and the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA). Back then, many infrastructures were built, in part to compensate for an historical lack of investments \u2013 mostly by the Spanish Government. However their payment was split into many years and delayed in time. In addition, the debt levels were raised. These past decisions currently represent that the Catalan Government already has part of its annual budget reserved for paying for the delayed payments and debt interest.
Lastly, Mas insisted on the \u201Carbitrary deficit targets\u201D imposed by the Spanish Government, which have obliged them to undertake severe budget cuts. In fact, with the current 0.7% deficit target for 2013, the Catalan Government would be obliged to undertake a \u20AC4.4 billion adjustment in a single year representing around 16% of the Catalan Executive\u2019s budget. Mas explained that they are carrying out \u201Can offensive\u201D to modify the current deficit targets and relax them, in order to guarantee \u201Ca fairer, more loyal and more correct\u201D internal distribution of the deficit objectives within Spain\u2019s public sector. In fact, in the last few weeks the Spanish Government has already given signs of being willing to relax such targets, but only if the European Union gives more room to the entire Spanish public sector.
\u201CThe [self-determination] vote has to be organised\u201D
Mas insisted that the self-determination \u201Cvote has to be organised because, from a democratic perspective, it is obvious\u201D. In this vein, he insisted that the priorities of the government he chairs have not changed; \u201Cthe Government\u2019s course has not been deviated\u201D, he stated. In the last Catalan elections, which took place in November, the parties supporting the organisation of a self-determination vote obtained 80% of the seats in the Catalan Parliament. In addition, Mas underlined the fact that supporting Catalonia\u2019s right to self-determination does not mean supporting its independence from Spain and the two things \u201Cshould not be confused\u201D. Therefore, as Catalan President, he has the electoral mandate from Catalan citizens to work towards organising such a vote, and this means talking to the Spanish Government about it. \u201CThe Catalan Government has the obligation to talk\u201D to the Spanish Executive, stated Mas. \u201CIt may be that, despite the talks, we do not reach an agreement, but at least we would have tried\u201D, he said.
Further \u201Cdiscrete meetings\u201D with the Spanish Prime Minister to be held
The Catalan President also explained the secret meeting he and the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, held last week in Madrid. Mas explained that both politicians agreed to hold further \u201Cdiscrete meetings\u201D, away from the media and political pressure. Mas explained that they did not reach an agreement regarding Catalonia\u2019s self-determination. However, he said it was positive that they had talked about it. In this vein, he insisted on his desire to continue talking in order to convince Rajoy of the need to find a negotiated solution enabling the self-determination vote. According to Mas, this vote could be organised in the current legal framework if the Spanish Government wanted it to happen. \u201CThere are the legal mechanisms to do it\u201D, he said. \u201CIf the Spanish Government wanted to, it could know the opinion of Catalonia\u2019s citizens\u201D, he said. However, Mas emphasised the fact that both governments are \u201Cat the Antipodes\u201D regarding this issue.
The need for a \u2018Great Coalition\u2019 Catalan Government
Furthermore, Mas insisted on his offer for the ERC and the PSC to sit in the Catalan Government. \u201COur formula is based on government going beyond the CiU\u201D, he said. In this sense he asked the main Catalan parties to have a greater political implication regarding the \u201Ccomplex\u201D political scenario, with the economic crisis, the survival of Catalonia\u2019s self-government and self-determination process. Mas emphasised that the offer is \u201Cpermanent\u201D and he said he will continue to insist.
The opposition reaction divided
The opposition parties reacted in a divided way. The ERC \u201Curged\u201D the Catalan Government to talk to the Spanish Government to organise the self-determination vote before Madrid completely \u201Ccloses the door\u201D. In addition, the ERC said that this week they will start to talk to the Catalan Government regarding this year\u2019s budget. The PSC asked Mas to rethink his policies and \u201Cundertake a Copernican turn\u201D with his priorities. The PSC considered that Mas is implementing a \u201Cdivision strategy regarding the national\u201D debate, which is \u201Cvery damaging\u201D. The People\u2019s Party (PP) \u2013 which runs the Spanish Government \u2013 thought that CiU \u201Chas been losing time in what brings Catalans to a dead-end [\u2026] for 100 days\u201D. In addition they are asking for a complete change of direction and to prioritise the recovery from the economic crisis. The Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) accused the Catalan Government of not honouring their transparency and economic commitments. In addition, they accused Mas of \u201Closing precious time\u201D and not organising the self-determination vote. The anti-Catalan nationalism and left-wing Ciutadans (C\u2019s) asked Mas to resign because he \u201Chas failed\u201D in \u201Call his priorities\u201D and he is \u201Cthe symbol of division\u201D between Catalans. Finally, the radical left-wing and pro-independence CUP warned that if the self-determination vote is not organised, the Catalan Government will be \u201Ca mockery\u201D. They also accused Mas of being \u201CAngela Merkel\u2019s local manager\u201D and they lamented his \u201Cprioritisation of austerity policies\u201D.