Madrid (ACN).- Two days after the demonstration by 1.5 million people for Catalonia’s independence from Spain, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, gave a conference in the Spanish capital city. Mas, who is also the leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), sent two clear warnings to Spain. Firstly “do not make the mistake of downplaying” Tuesday’s massive rally, as it would be “a great mistake” since the march was not “a summer fever” that arrived suddenly and will soon go away. In fact, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has not commented on the demonstration yet, and hours before it took place he defined it as “a mess and dissonance”. The Spanish Government is avoiding comment and none of its members attended Mas’ conference in Madrid, which is unusual in similar cases. The leaders of the main opposition party, the Spanish Socialists (PSOE), did not attend the event either. However, the Head of the King’s House, the Spanish Monarch’s right hand man, was present, something not so usual. In front of a crowded audience made up of international press, Catalan MPs and businesspeople from Catalonia and Madrid – although with significant absentees – the Catalan President delivered his second main message: “Catalonia needs a state, it needs state tools” to solve its problems.
“Our project has been trying for decades to reform Spain to make our own state” Mas said. However, Catalonia has failed to transform Spain, as the Spanish State has never found a comfortable place for Catalonia, with “a permanent invasion of jurisdiction”, a “chronic” fiscal deficit, a lack of investment, funds “always below the population”, and “scorn by the Spanish institutions” of Catalonia’s self-government, needs, language, and culture. Now Catalonia is “tired” from “the lack of respect” and the “disloyalty”. In fact, Mas stated that the “fatigue” is “mutual”, as “Spain is also tired of Catalonia asking and complaining”. Therefore, Mas proposed that Spain recognise Catalonia as a nation, as the large majority of Catalonia feel they form a nation, as in Scotland, Wales or Quebec. He dared Spain to call for a referendum to resolve the issue democratically. However, “if Spain denies the fact of Catalonia being a nation”, “many issues will not be solved”. For the Catalan President, in this situation it is logical and legitimate for a people to solve their future “peacefully, democratically and in a strictly European way”.
The Catalan President delivered a speech at the core of the Spanish capital reproducing what he had said the day before in Barcelona, the morning after 1.5 million Catalans were demonstrating for independence from Spain. Mas asked Spain, and in particular the Spanish political class, “to note down” what is going on in Catalonia and not to make “the greatest mistake” of downplaying it. Out of a Catalan population of 7.5 million, 1.5 million citizens went on the streets last Tuesday to directly ask for independence. Mas said that the equivalent proportion would be 9 million Spaniards. “This is not a summer fever”, said Mas. The Catalan President said that, after this demonstration, he not only has the mandate of the Catalan Parliament to negotiate a new fiscal agreement with Spain, but also a mandate from the streets “to understand, listen and fit” their claim, offering an answer.
Meeting with Rajoy to discuss a new fiscal agreement
Mas noted that on September 20th he has a meeting with the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, in which he will propose a new fiscal agreement for Catalonia. Currently Catalonia is obliged to transfer around 8.5% of its GDP annually to pay for investments and services in the rest of Spain. This 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 in 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 Autonomous Communities rank above Catalonia and the Spanish average.
Mas explained the reasons for the current situation
According to Mas, there is a “mutual fatigue” between Catalonia and Spain, similar to the process between northern and southern Europe. “Northern Europe has got tired of southern Europe, and southern Europe has got tired of northern Europe for its way of doing things. And between Catalonia and Spain a feeling of fatigue is appearing, and I believe it is a mutual fatigue”. According to Mas, “Catalonia has got tired of not being able to progress within the Spanish State” and “Spain is tired of Catalonia’s way of doing things, always asking and complaining”. Mas emphasised that Catalonia is tired after “35 years of effort trying to modernise the Spanish State” and contributing to its stability without getting any recognition or respect. Mas noted that the Catalan support, and CiU’s in particular, was essential in some key events of the recent Spanish history, such as the approval of the Constitution and the Moncloa Agreements, dismantling the military coup d’état in 1981, accessing the EU, joining the Euro, fighting ETA terrorism and approving many austerity measures. Spain’s answer to Catalonia’s loyalty has been “a permanent invasion of competences”, a “chronic fiscal deficit”, funds “always below the population”, and “a scorn by the Spanish State institutions”. Catalan is therefore tired of a lack of investment and a fiscal deficit of €17 billion a year, added to an uneven and “disloyal” split of austerity obligations, and a lack of sensitivity towards Catalonia, its specific needs, language and culture. Since it is always the same old story, “at the end Catalans said enough, it cannot continue like this”.