The Spanish Government vetoes the Catalan President in a Euro-Mediterranean forum in Barcelona
The tension between the Spanish and the Catalan Executives is increasing. The Spanish Government refused to allow the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, to deliver a short welcoming speech to the participants of the First Economic Forum of the Western Mediterranean. This event will take place in Barcelona on Wednesday, within the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean Secretariat (UFM), a building owned by the Catalan Government. It will bring together 10 Ministers of Foreign Affairs and it will be part of the 5+5 Dialogue, which is formed by 5 EU Member States and 5 North African countries. The Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, will chair the meeting and he only allowed Mas to come as a part of his delegation, Mas will be permitted to join the meeting but not to speak. In similar meetings, presidents of other Spanish Autonomous Communities, including Catalonia, have been allowed to address participants.
Barcelona (ACN).- The tension between the Spanish and the Catalan Executives is increasing. The Spanish Government refused to allow the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, to deliver a short welcoming speech to the participants of the First Economic Forum of the Western Mediterranean. This event will take place in Barcelona on Wedenesday, within the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean Secretariat (UFM), a building owned by the Catalan Government. It will bring together 10 Ministers of Foreign Affairs as well as representatives from business associations and think tanks. The event will be part of the 5+5 Dialogue, which is formed by 5 EU Member States (France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain) and 5 North African countries (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia). The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, will chair the meeting and will only allow Mas to come as a part of his delegation: Mas will be permitted to join the meeting but not to speak. In similar meetings, presidents of other Spanish Autonomous Communities, including Catalonia, have been allowed to voice their opinion. Not to mention many people will speak at the Forum, including the Director of the European Institute for the Mediterranean (IEMed), a Barcelona-based international think tank partially funded by the Catalan Government. Mas announced on Tuesday he would attend the Forum’s kick off in order “to welcome participants” at the Palau de Pedralbes, although he was “upset” about not being allowed to speak in “an informal meeting with non-governmental presence”.
Tension between Madrid and Barcelona increase
This veto comes after last week’s protocol episode, when the Catalan President refused to attend a business event in Barcelona because the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister insisted to chair it at the last minute. Mas is Catalonia’s top public figure after the King of Spain and the Spanish Prime Minister. In such a position, he refused to attend last week’s event “in order to preserve the dignity of the Catalan Presidency”, he said. However, the Spanish Government totally rejected Mas’ attitude, despite the fact Madrid had pushed for making last-minute changes to put the Catalan President in a secondary position.
In similar meetings, similar speeches have been allowed
On Wednesday the First Economic Forum of the Western Mediterranean will take place in Catalonia’s capital city. This international meeting, which will be attended by 10 Foreign Affairs Ministers (from Algeria, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia), will be held within the Union for the Mediterranean’s headquarters, which are based in Barcelona’s Palau de Pedralbes. During such events, it is highly usual for the President of the Catalan Government to attend the meeting for a while and to welcome the participants with a short speech. In other parts of Spain, Rajoy has allowed such speeches in similar meetings. Furthermore, Wednesday’s meeting is partially organised by the international think tank IEMed, the third of whose funds come from the Catalan Government. Not to mention the Euro-Mediterranean Forum will take place at the Palau de Pedralbes, a building owned by the Catalan Government and offered at no cost to the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) to host its Permanent Secretariat.
The Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister states that “the programme is full”
The Spanish Government announced a few days ago that the Catalan President would not deliver any speech. The Catalan Executive immediately insisted they would like Artur Mas to welcome the participants and be allowed to briefly intervene in the Forum. It was obvious that Mas’ intention was to deliver a two or three-minute long welcoming speech without any political message. Madrid had no obligation to allow Mas’ intervention, but it is a common practice to allow similar speeches in such meetings. The Catalan Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, announced he would try to solve the matter with the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Manuel García Margallo. However, Margallo stated on Monday that “the programme was full” and that there was no time for Mas’ speech. Sources of the UfM and the IEMed, who have excellent relations with the Catalan Government and are co-organising the Forum with the Spanish Executive, stated the programme was mostly decided by the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Catalan parties protest for the veto
Catalan political parties, including the opposition ones, are quite outraged at the Spanish Government vetoing Mas at the First Economic Forum of the Western Mediterranean. All of them, except the People’s Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government – and the anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C’s) think the veto is an offence to the dignity of the Catalan Presidency and against Catalonia’s self-government institutions.
The ‘number 2’ of the governing Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida (who is opposed to Catalan independence) asked the Spanish Government for a little common sense and said they should allow Mas’ speech, as otherwise it would be “a veto”. The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) protested against “the sectarian and authoritarian attitude” of Madrid. According to them, the Spanish Government wants “to prove who rules the place”. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) – which is part of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) – considered that Mas should have “a relevant position” in such a meeting. The PSC asked Mas not to attend in order to preserve the “institutional dignity” of the Catalan Presidency. A similar stance was shared by the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), who also believed that Mas should refuse to go to the meeting in protest. The Conservative People’s Party (PP) – running the Spanish Government – emphasised the idea that the meeting was chaired by Rajoy, “as the President of the only nation existing in Spain”. The PP added that Mas, “as President of an Autonomous Community”, could attend the cocktail reception and welcome the assistants there individually. The anti-Catalan nationalism and populist party Ciutadans (C’s) said that Mas “should accept he is not the president of a state but of an Autonomous Community”. The radical left-wing and independence party CUP stated it is “not normal” for the Spanish Government to veto the Catalan President. However they asked Mas “to be more concerned about issues beyond protocol”.