· In an interview with the American daily, Mas stated that “the clear no” by Spanish President Rajoy to the proposal for a new fiscal pact has made Catalonia “change direction”.
· The newspaper points out that an independent Catalonia would rank ahead of a dozen of the 27 nations in the European Union in terms of GDP.
The Catalan President, Artur Mas, explains during an interview published today in the New York Times that recent events and decisions during the last weeks “have created a big feeling of hope among a big part of our society” and he reiterated that “our ideal is to be part of the United States of Europe”.
In the interview Artur Mas holds President Rajoy responsible for forcing Catalonia down the separatist path after unconditionally rejecting its demands for a new fiscal pact. “When you get a clear no, you have to change direction”, the President said to journalist Raphael Minder who interviewed him at the Palau de la Generalitat last Wednesday.
Although Artur Mas acknowledged that there was no guarantee Catalonia would succeed in imposing its claims on Madrid, he argued that “the worst-case scenario is not to try, and the second-worst is to try and not get there.”
In the article entitled “Catalan Leader Boldly Grasps a Separatist Lever”, the New York paper notes how serious the head of government is about his decision to let the Catalan people decide for themselves whether they want to remain a part of Spain. It also shows that the President would vote for independence if the opportunity arose and the desire of the Catalan population to continue being a part of the European Union.
The newspaper also refers to the snap elections on November 25th, which according to the author “could turn into an unofficial referendum on independence, after a mass rally in Barcelona on September 11th in which hundreds of thousands of Catalans demanded to form a new European state”.
In this respect, the New York Times quotes President Mas insisting that the decision to hold a referendum is “not about personal ambition”, making clear that the President would retire from politics once Catalonia achieved sovereignty.
In the article, Minder qualifies the President’s actions as “brinkmanship, as he applies to Madrid much the same tactic it has used to gain favourable treatment in its own dealings with Brussels: that is, that Catalonia [...] is simply ‘too big to fail’ without calamitous consequences that no one wants to see”. Because of this, the newspaper points to the risk that the Spanish government, which it describes as “squeezed, itself weighing a European bailout”, will not be in a position to appease Catalonia’s demands.
Profile of the President and Catalonia
The NYT also provides a profile of the Catalan president, whom it describes as a figure at the forefront of Spanish politics, with a long career as a public servant. It also explains his professional preparation, stating that “he stands out as a rare multilingual leader in Spain’s political landscape”. It observes that Mas has surprised even members of his own party by the determination with which he decided to challenge Mariano Rajoy.
The President of the Generalitat acknowledged during the interview that it will not be easy for Catalonia to become a new member of the European Union, particularly considering the opposition from Madrid, but argued that “Brussels has shown in the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union that it can adjust to much more dramatic and unforeseeable nationhood claims”.
In this sense, the newspaper shows that Catalonia, in spite of its debts, is a rich country with an economy similar in size to Portugal, which in case of independence would rank ahead of a dozen countries in the EU.
During the interview Mas also referred to the economic situation of Spain. He recommended that President Rajoy avoid further delay in making use of the bond-buying program devised by the European Central Bank, largely with Spain’s rescue in mind. In this respect, President Mas observed that the billions of euros Spain already received from the European Union since it became a Member State have played an important part in the country’s development.
“The problems of Spain now supersede its capacities, so that it needs help”, Mas stated. And he added: “If you have no other choice than to ask for a rescue, the sooner the better”. Asked where Spain would be without Catalonia, its industrial engine, President Mas made clear that “Spain without Catalonia is not insolvent but more limited”.