- The head of the Catalan government this afternoon delivered a conference in Brussels entitled “Destination Europe: the future of Catalonia in the European Union”, organized by the think-tank Friends of Europe
- Artur Mas stated that “it would not make any sense that a nation which is already part of the European Union and the eurozone, and which wants to continue to do so, is not allowed to do that”
- The President defended the need for Catalonia to have its own state that “must, necessarily share interdependencies within a more united and stronger Europe”
- The Catalan president observed that “as far as solidarity is concerned we are real champions” and reminded that in all of Europe no other case can be found where a country transfers 8% of its GDP
The president of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Artur Mas, this afternoon in Brussels asked for the involvement of the European institutions in the Catalan process of self-determination. “Catalonia has never in its history let Europe down, now we trust Europe will not let us down”, the President declared, after observing that Catalonia is “a nation that feels, and wants to continue to feel European on account of its history, its traditions and its vocation”. “It would not make any sense that a nation which is already part of the European Union and the eurozone, and which wants to continue to do so, is not allowed to do that”, the head of government stressed.
Mas defended that Catalonia has initiated the road towards a State of its own after finding that it “has not been able to satisfactorily resolve the way it fits into the framework of a Spanish state that will not allow it to grow or develop its self-government”. “Changing Spain has not done us any good. We have always helped it in difficult times, yet it has never respected us”, the President explained. And he added: “This is why people in Catalonia are asking us to try and do things differently”.
The head of government made these reflections during and after the conference “Destination Europe: the future of Catalonia in the European Union”, which he delivered this afternoon in Brussels, organized by “Friends of Europe”, one of the most influential think-tanks in Europe. Artur Mas addressed an audience consisting of diplomats, journalists, officials of European institutions, members of the European Parliament and representatives of companies and professional and business associations.
During his speech the President explained that the decision of the government to initiate this process in response to the mass demonstration of September 11th is motivated by “radically democratic principles” and is based on the idea that “Catalonia should be allowed to decide democratically and pacifically on its future within the framework of the EU”. “What is most important, more important than having a State of our own, is the right to be consulted on our own future”, he asserted.
In this respect, the head of the Catalan government explained that if the Catalan population so decides during the coming elections, a plebiscite will be held during the next four years to ask Catalan citizens their opinion on the future of Catalonia. Once the consultation process is endorsed by ballot, according to Mas it should be “scrupulously democratic” and “absolutely peaceful”, showing the world that Catalans do things “with a positive spirit, without violence, with the willingness to reach agreements” and “by large majorities”. The head of government also advocated a “demonstrably transparent” process “with a vocation to remain within the framework of the European Union and the euro” based on a “defined road map”, so that “everyone can be sure about the situation facing them”.
The viability of a Catalan State
As part of his explanation on the Catalan process of self-determination, Mas defended the idea that the viability of a future Catalan State does not depend on its size, noting that Europe clearly demonstrates that “on most occasions it is the small states that have greater ability to respond to the new challenges that arise”.
In order to substantiate this claim, President Mas explained that a future Catalan state “would rank seventh amongst European countries in terms of GDP per capita” and, as it has been up to now, would continue to be a “net contributor to the Union”. Both in terms of aggregate GDP and openness to foreign trade, Mas observed that Catalonia would “occupy the thirteenth place on the EU ranking”. In this respect, he also wanted to make clear that “given the current fiscal deficit with the Spanish state of 15 billion euros a year, if we were to have a State of our own we would have substantial additional resources”.
The President also pointed to other significant data, such as the fact that 40% of the research funds assigned to the Spanish State are granted to Catalonia; 28% of total exports from the Spanish State come from Catalonia; Catalonia receives 15 million foreign tourists, representing 25.5% of the tourists visiting Spain. With regard to foreign investment, Ernst & Young’s European Attractiveness Survey situates Barcelona, and by extension Catalonia, as the third most attractive area after London and Paris.
“As far as solidarity is concerned, we are the champions”
During the question time after the conference, the President stressed the degree of solidarity of Catalonia with other parts of Spain and explained that the fiscal pact proposed to the Spanish government did not only include the right to collect its own taxes, but also solidarity transfers. For this reason, he stressed that “one should not forget that Catalonia is an extremely generous country: every year we transfer 8% of our GDP to the rest of Spain”. He added: “There are no cases comparable to ours. As far as solidarity is concerned, we are the champions”, and reminded that in other parts of Europe, such as Germany, “the richest Länder transfer less resources than we do, and they still want to reduce their contribution”.
Towards a United States of Europe
During his conference in Brussels Artur Mas also referred to the future of the European Union and underlined that the decisions to be made these days cannot ignore “the need to adjust the EU’s political and institutional structure to the new realities of a world that is changing ever more rapidly and which calls for brave, imaginative responses from those in power”. A matter which the head of the Catalan government qualified as “fundamental and urgent” in a context in which, according to him, “the Paris and Rome treaties, as well as that of Maastricht, and even that of Lisbon, have been surpassed by the current crisis”.
Considering this new scenario, the President argued it is necessary to design a new Europe that “will recover its cohesion and its executive capacity” so as to present itself to the world as “a politically strong, coherent group”, and to its citizens as “a guarantee of their security and well-being and a defender of the individual”.
The President observed that during the recent years of severe economic crisis, “there has been a lack of a European, supranational focus when it comes to confronting problems and proposing solutions”, and asked the EU to return to its origins and its founding spirit in order to advance towards a “United States of Europe”.
A union of European States which, according to him, should be built “on the basis of those nations which, having a clearly defined territory, history, language and culture, as is the case with Catalonia, have the will, as expressed democratically at the ballot box, to be their own player in the construction of this new Europe”. In this respect he asked: “In a United States of Europe, with more than 500 million inhabitants and consisting of 60 or 70 States, why should Catalonia not be one of them? With less power than an independent State, but with more powers than it currently holds”.
In the same context, the head of government stated that “to want one’s own state within the framework of the European Union is to be willing to cede sovereignty to the European institutions”, which is why Catalonia is proposing to “to cede all the powers necessary to give real strength to the European Union” while implementing policies that directly affect people (health, education, social policy, etc.) “at the levels where this can be done more efficiently and consistently”.
“When I am asked in Catalonia if I want an independent State I reply that what I want for Catalonia is its own State that must necessarily share interdependencies within a more united and stronger Europe”, the President concluded.