Catalonia ‘headed for independence’, says president Mas (ANSAmed)
Region not afraid of being expelled from EU, Mas tells ANSAmed
The president of the Catalan regional government, Artur Mas, told ANSAmed that he works for a referendum on the region’s independence to be held.
”As a citizen I will vote for Catalonia’s independence from Spain in the November 9 referendum. As the political leader of the community, I will do everything I can to ensure that the referendum is held and that the population can express its opinion, despite Madrid’s boycott,” he said. Mas told ANSAmed that he considered himself to be the ”leader of the referendum”, rather than the ”leader of Catalan independence”. If the region succeeds in becoming independent, the Catalan leader is not worried that it will be expelled from the EU.
”Pragmatism and common sense will prevail,” he said. ”It is in the interests of neither Spain nor the European Union.” Mas will attend the enthronement of the new king of Spain, Felipe VI, on June 19. ”We feel it is important to strengthen relations between Barcelona and Madrid,” he said. However, inside the local government buildings of the Generalitat – a building brimming with history and art – there is an atmosphere of ”no return” as concerns the process that might lead to the creation of a new state in Europe. After Spain’s Constitutional Court annulled in 2010 the agreement signed in 2005 between the prime minister at that time, Zapatero, and Barcelona – an agreement that had given greater decision-making and fiscal powers to Catalonia – ”a sort of mental severing from Spain” has been effected, and some 80% of Catalans want a referendum, he said. The road, however, is still long – decades after the process began. Mas spoke about the most recent developments, from the Catalan decision to hold the referendum to the veto in April from the Spanish parliament. ”We can’t hold a binding referendum, but we want to move forward. We are drawing up a law amendment to the Catalan Constitution allowing for a non-binding referendum to be held.
It is expected to be ready in September and at that point I will call for the referendum to be held on November 9.” Madrid could nonetheless lodge an appeal with the Constitutional Court against it, resulting in a shelving of the referendum for months. ”If this happens, as a last resort,” Mas said, ”I could call early elections in which the issue of independence could be included. For the time being, however, I do not want to commit to anything,” and ”I want the referendum to be held legally.” If the population opts for independence ”this will be our mandate. No other way is possible.” On the issue of a possible expulsion of the State of Catalonia from the EU, a threat brought up by both Madrid and EU Commission chief Barroso, Mas said he wasn’t worried. ”It is obvious that at the moment the EU officially supports Madrid’s position, in part in order to prevent future problems.” However, is Catalonia votes for independence, Mas believes that the European Council ”will find, pragmatically and using common sense, a way to accept the new reality.” Europe aims for enlargement, not exclusion, he noted, and Catalonia ”has always been part of Europe”. The region contributes to the European budget, it includes about 5,200 citizens with more than one nationality, currently comprises 15% of Spain’s population and 2% of the EU’s population, its GDP accounts for 20% of Spain’s and its foreign trade for 28%. Like in every ‘game of chess’, there is a king on the field as well. Spain’s royalty do not hold political power but can play a persuasive, impartial role. ”I will be at the swearing in ceremony of Felipe VI to remind him that Catalonia will be the largest issue of his reign. I have called off part of an important trip to the US in order to be present,” he said. Will it be under Felipe VI that Catalonia regains an independence lost in 1714, when Barcelona surrendered after a siege of a year and a half under the troops of Felipe V? Mas shook his head, smiling. ”Give him time. He isn’t even king yet.” Meanwhile, the Catalan leader said he would not be rooting for the Spanish national football team in the World Cup, as ”I don’t have time for these things”. (ANSAmed).