“The Europe of integration” would end if the EU expels an independent Catalonia, states the Catalan Government
The Catalan Minister for the Presidency and Spokesperson for the Executive, Francesc Homs, warned that “if a political solution cannot be reached” to keep Catalonia within the EU if it becomes independent from Spain, it would be “the end of Europe as a model for democratic and peaceful integration of the different peoples that form it”. On Monday, in a debate on ‘Catalonia’s political process’ held at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Law, Homs highlighted the fact that if EU Treaties had been interpreted “literally”, the financial bailouts for Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece would not have been possible. However, in this case, the EU reacted “with common sense” and for “the general interest”. Therefore, “since the EU is a project of peace and democracy, a political solution [for Catalonia] will be found, as the EU has ever done in all situations”, he stated.
Lisbon (ACN).- The Catalan Minister for the Presidency and Spokesperson for the Executive, Francesc Homs, warned that “if a political solution cannot be reached” to keep Catalonia within the EU if it becomes independent from Spain, it would be “the end of Europe as a model for democratic and peaceful integration of the different peoples that form it”. From Portugal’s capital, in a debate on ‘Catalonia’s political process’ organised on Monday by the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Law and Catalonia’s Public Diplomacy Council (Diplocat), Homs highlighted that if EU Treaties had been interpreted “literally”, the financial bailouts for Spain, Portugal, Ireland or Greece would not have been possible. However, in this case, the EU reacted “urgently”, “with common sense” and for “the general interest”. Therefore, according to him, if a majority of Catalan citizens expressed in a peaceful and democratic way that they want independence from Spain, “since the EU is a project of peace and democracy, a political solution will be found, as the EU has ever done in all situations”.
In Lisbon, the Catalan Minister for the Presidency, who is in charge of the Executive’s Foreign Relations, sent a message to the European Union institutions: a political solution needs to be found to keep an independent Catalonia within the EU if a majority of Catalan citizens freely, peacefully and democratically vote for it. Francesc Homs insisted that he is convinced that the EU will find such a solution, “because the alternative would mean that something that is expressed in a democratic and organised way cannot fit within Europe”. “And this would be the end of Europe as a model for a peaceful and democratic integration of the different peoples that form it”, he underlined.
“Despite Catalans being net contributors to the EU budget”, they strongly support the EU
Homs insisted that Catalans want to continue being part of the European Union if they achieve independence from Spain and he underlined that this will is shared by “both the political parties and the citizens”. “We have and we want to continue having Europe as our institutional and political reference framework, as well as being our reference at an economic and financial level”, he said. In this vein, Homs stressed that “despite Catalans being net contributors to the EU budget”, “we think that this political and institutional framework is the best space for growth”.
A Catalan state to improve relations with Spain
The Spokesperson for the Catalan Government asked the Spanish and European institutions to give a different answer than “no to all the demands”, “because on the table there is a project presented in a positive, democratic and pacific way”. Homs emphasised that Catalans want to build “a better country”, “with better tools to guarantee Catalonia’s economic and social progress”, and “also to have a better relationship with Spain”.
At this point, the Catalan Minister underlined that an independent Catalonia aims to have “tight and constructive relations with Spain, based on full cooperation”, since individual, sentimental, cultural, historical and economic links between the two sides are “very important”. “An attitude of mutual respect and [a relation] as equals will surely enable substantially improved relations between the two sides”, stated Homs. The Catalan Government’s Spokesperson stressed that the self-determination process and eventual independence “does not go against anybody, but [it is expressed] in a positive way; it does not want to break up but to build things”.
Self-determination is demanded by a majority in Catalonia’s society
Francesc Homs stressed that Catalonia’s self-determination process follows the democratic demand of a majority in Catalan society; “it is not the infatuation of a few”. He pointed out that in the last elections held in Catalonia, 107 Members of the 135-seat Catalan Parliament were elected with “a clear mandate” to support self-determination. In fact, almost 80% of the newly elected Parliament were from parties supporting such a right and clearly expressing it during their campaigns in the elections held in November 2012.
At this point, Homs reminded the audience that there were manifold reasons for arriving at the current situation. He mentioned that the Catalan Government was founded 650 years ago and that Catalonia lost its self-government institutions in 1714 when it lost the War of the Spanish Succession. He explained that Catalonia has always tried to develop its self-government by trying to reach agreements with the Spanish State. The last agreements were the Constitution of 1978 and the two Catalan Statutes of Autonomy (Catalonia’s mai law) of 1979 and 2006. However, those agreements were not respected by the Spanish authorities and they have been interpreted in an increasingly restrictive way.
Manifold reasons behind independence claims
The trigger that confirmed this backwards trend and ended the hopes of a majority that Catalonia could find a better accommodation within Spain was the Constitutional Court’s ruling against the Statute of Autonomy, issued in 2010 (4 years after the law was approved by the Spanish Parliament and through a binding referendum of the Catalan people). Homs also mentioned the Spanish Government’s refusal to negotiate a Fiscal Agreement for Catalonia in 2012, which might have been a third way between independence and the current status quo. “All this [the self-determination claims] is not born out of nowhere; it is the consequence of a long and patient process that has included several attempts [to reach] different pacts” between Catalonia and Spain, he said.
Homs also mentioned the fiscal deficit that Catalonia suffers and the Spanish Government’s lack of respect towards Catalan language. The Catalan Minister explained that Catalans, with a GDP similar to Portugal, give away €16 billion each year, representing around 8% of their GDP to pay for investments and services in the rest of Spain. Ironically, Catalonia has higher taxes than the rest of Spain as well and has great difficulties in paying for the same public services as other Autonomous Communities. In fact, 43% of the money collected through taxes in Catalonia is spent elsewhere. Therefore, this fiscal deficit damages public services, social cohesion and the economy’s competitiveness, since essential infrastructure is not built or is built with significant delay and after years of tiresome bargaining. Regarding the language, Homs mentioned the Spanish Government’s Education Reform, which goes against Catalonia’s school model, in place for the last 30 years, and the linguistic immersion principle. He also pointed out how the Spanish Education Minister said that his “aim is to Hispanicise Catalan pupils”.
Firstly, the vote; secondly, political negotiations
For all these reasons, Catalans want to hold a self-determination vote. Homs explained that this vote would not have direct legal consequences, since it would be a consultation vote. However the consequences would be political, since there would be a clear democratic mandate. After the referendum, Catalan and Spanish authorities “would have to negotiate” on the basis of the vote’s results, expressing the will of the majority of Catalan citizens. “The referendum has to be understood as the ideal way to start a democratic process, a political negotiation” he concluded.