Catalonia presses its case (FDI Intelligence)
Interview with Artur Mas, president of Catalonia from 2010 to 2015
Courtney Fingar, London.- On a visit to London he spoke to fDi about the region’s continued push for independence from Spain and what parallels could be drawn with Brexit and Scotland’s status within the UK.
Q: Our greenfield FDI data [from fDi Markets] shows Catalonia is currently performing very well for attracting investment. How do you see its current position as an investment destination? Do you think the government is doing well to keep the economy competitive and attractive to foreign investors?
A: In my view, Catalonia remains a very attractive destination for foreign investment, in general terms. It has been said, in the past few years, that the political process in favour of independence would be an obstacle to attracting FDI in the country. However – as fDi Magazine points out regularly – the reality is the opposite in that, in the past two years, a lot of investment has come to Catalonia. I think in 2015, Catalonia was the leading continental European region in attracting productive foreign investments.
Q: Does that suggest that investors aren’t always scared off by political uncertainty? Good news for Brexit, if so. But what is it about Catalonia that balances things out and allays fears investor fears [about politics]?
A: I think investors see that if Catalonia becomes an independent country, there will be an agreement with the central Spanish institutions and those in Brussels. I don’t think they see the possibility of an independent Catalonia without this kind of agreement. If there were an independent Catalonia without an agreement with Brussels and Madrid, it would be mean that Spain would lose in, one day, 19% of its GDP; but it would keep 100% of its public debt. That would mean the collapse of the Spanish economy. Spain cannot afford a financial burden like this.
So an independent Catalonia is a likely scenario [but] with an agreement with the other political actors that are the owners of Spain’s public debt. The markets are not going to accept Catalonia’s independence without this kind of agreement. Thus, this is something that gives strength to Catalonia, because we know that in the end, negotiations will take place.
Q: Is Brexit good or bad for Catalonia, both in your quest for independence, and economically?
A: Brexit is not good for us, because we are pro-European. When we explain our projections for the future, we have always said we’d like to emulate Austria, Finland and Denmark, countries similar to our country. But at the same time, we would like Catalonia to be fully integrated in a more unified European Union. We don’t want to become an isolated country and economy, with borders, barriers and tariffs and so on. We want an independent country, but fully integrated in the EU.
If we could bet on a different political European project, we would think about a European political federation. I used to say, if Europe is willing to turn itself into a real political federation, then Catalonia could be Massachusetts, so a state within a political federation. But if Europeans don’t accept this federation, then Catalonia aspires to be like Austria, Finland and Denmark.
Q: In that respect, you’re similar to Scotland – do you see them as natural allies? Do you have communication with, or links to, Scotland?
A: Yes, with a difference. Scotland is not a net contributor to the UK, and Catalonia is a great net contributor to Spain and the EU, since the very beginning. Since Spain joined the common market, Catalonia has always been a net contributor to the EU.
Full original interview: http://www.fdiintelligence.com/Locations/Europe/Spain/Catalonia-presses-its-case#.V_evOSpVV08