“My dream would be to carry out the consult in 2014″, Artur Mas, President of Generalitat of Catalonia

13.11.2012

First Published: 01.11.2012

Author: Mònica Terribas

Source: Ara (newspaper)

Note: Abridged translated version.

Your contribution to politics has been to leave ambiguities and tell the truth, that’s what  Ferran Mascarell  (Catalonia´s Minister of Culture) says about you. Let’s see if we succeed. To me it is unclear whether the CiU program speaks of a state of our own inside Spain or in Europe.

A state is a state, and above all what we want is sovereignty, decision power. I am not talking of independence. People blame me for not talking about independence …

Let’s pronounce: in-de-pen-den-ce …

In-de-pen-den-ce. I can say it perfectly. I understand that people in the street talk in those terms, but if I don’t say it, is not to upset , but to make people understand that we do not aim to conventional independence. We stand for European Union to become like the United States, and, because of that, it is impossible to say that we will be independent. Now, my approach is this: can we have the same powers as Denmark? Is independent Denmark? Finland? Are they independent? Relatively …  but, they have their own state and that’s what we want.

You said that when we have our own state on an equal footing, we shall be able to reach agreements with Spain …

It is not essential to reach such agreements, but we must be equal. Because the relationship now is a subordination relationship. And the relationship has to be face to face with full sovereignty. Just look what they say: the “sovereignty of the Spanish People” is sacred, do not talk about independence, instead they say “sovereignty belongs to the whole Spanish people” and, our civilized, peaceful, and democratic, struggle is for sovereignty which can lead us to  have state structures.

To be clear: You do not suggest in any way that there can be a Catalonia as a federal state within Spain?

Federated within Spain not, because for this  Spain should become a federation, and that will not happen.

After the 25-N, what shall you do? ¿Sit with the Catalan parties who support the referendum?

My absolute commitment is, that the strategy will be combined with all political parties that are in favour of the referendum. As I did concerning the fiscal agreement attempt.

Thus, the Parliament will approve the consultation and then you asked for a meeting with Mariano Rajoy (Spanish Prime Minister)…

Not just Rajoy, because this is a state matter, so we also need to talk with state institutions in general and the main opposition party, the PSOE. I would like to happen the same as in the UK and Canada, where when a territory votes mostly in favour of a consultation attempting to change the legal framework, that can be done.

Recently you advised against postponing the consultation due to the uncertainty  generated … How long will it get? A year?
I have not set a date, but it will be within the next legislature, we shall choose the best one within the next four years. We have to follow all steps to get respect and legitimacy in front of the EU and the international community. We can not cut corners skipping negotiations with Spain, because if we did so, the EU we will say, listen, did you try to reach an agreement with Spain to make this consultation? If we cannot answer affirmatively, we lose momentum.

Let’s go step by step. Let’s assume that you sit with Spanish institutions and do not accept your request, but instead open the door to a fiscal agreement and some of the desired structures. What shall you do?
If they offer a fiscal agreement, I shall say that it is not enough. I think this was a missed opportunity. If they would have said yes in September, even after the demonstration of September 11th , note that I say this on the brink of an election, I would have gone the way of the fiscal agreement. But there was a final negative, radical, whatever they say now. They brutally slammed the door. As a result, we went to hold elections. They did not expect me to call for elections so quickly, of that I’m sure. It is no nonsense.

Then they say no to the referendum and you defend the “internationalization of the conflict.” What do you mean by that?

Before that there is another step.

Which step?

First, we try to reach an agreement with the state to hold a referendum. In parallel, we must pass a law for consultations within the Parliament of Catalonia. First because we the need it for regular consultations, and also because, and I do not hides it, at some point we need to make this consultation on the future of Catalonia, on sovereignty and our own state.

To ask “Would you like to have our own state within the EU“?

If we can not do by way of a referendum, we will try to make by the path of an inquiry. For that we need a specific law of Parliament. Maybe this law passed in the Parliament and they impeach it and send it to court. They may say: “It’s over, this law.”

Let go to the international arena. The International Agreements on Civil and Political Rights establishes that the states within the UN must reform their legal frameworks for autonomous territories within those states to be able to exercise their right to self-determination. Is this legal framework in which you expect to rely for the consultation?

This is one of the legal frameworks. But I also rely that if the process we follow Catalonia is radically democratic, neatly peaceful, and very positive and with a very clear majority, then I’ll try to get some pressure from the EU to Spain in order to reach an agreement to that effect. Another thing is what will the Catalan people say when consultation takes place. Now, this 25-November we do not directly vote for statehood. We are voting the way to get to this point.

Let me put you in a very difficult scenario, Mr. Mas. Someday, the pressure on the EU to Spain, which is possible, it gets manifested in the line to say that an independent Catalonia would be outside the European Union. What changes for you?

OK, this can happen. But we should not place ourselves in this scenario, because this is a battle that has not yet been fought and where the EU has no clear precedent. And what is more normal, in a space in which the willingness is to integrate territories and add countries, is that when there is a democratic conflict such as this, it is not to exclude countries that already are part of it. But if we, eventually, do not manage to sort out this, I honestly believe that Catalonia should rethink the issue and open a reflection period to decide how to continue the process.

You say that these elections are a first round and there will be a second one. Do you expect to convert the next legislative elections with a point in the program where it is clear that whoever wins the election will proclaim the independence of Catalonia from the Parliament?

Please notice: I have said that, a consultation, within four years, one way or another within the legal framework, that’s what we will end up doing. I do not want to go further. But there are many opportunities for this consultation …

A Catalan legislative election?
Look, since I do not want to mean that this is the only way, I shall not tell. This is one of possible solutions we have. Provided the outcome of 25-November is a crystal clear result in favour of the Catalan people being consulted about this.

So: there must be two thirds of the parliament in favour of this scenario?

Well, two-thirds sets the bar very high for a country … I never said, two thirds.

Everyone talks about absolute majority and two thirds.
It is not written anywhere that must be two-thirds. If we get two-thirds will be absolutely overwhelming. There will be no discussion whatsoever. We’re talking about big differences within the parliamentary majority. Because of this there are 25-November elections with such a historical meaning. These are not regular elections: never before had Catalonia an election like this.

On November 25th you’ll presumably, according to all the polls, win. You shall also triple the number of MP of other parties. What shall you think if you lose MPs?

If we lose MP’s I’ll have to interpret it as corresponds in democracy. We want check if the voice of the street matches up to the voice of the polls, and if it does not, which does not depend on us but on the people who go to vote, do not deny that I will not feel enough backed.

Mr Artur Mas, you already told me that you do not want to advance a date for the consultation, yet before the end of this interview with ARA I request for a date. Would you cherish that the consult coincided with 2014?

It is an important date. Makes a desirable date. But one thing is what you wish and another thing is what we agree in terms of country’s interest. Look, we are recording this interview in Hall of the Virgin of Montserrat in the Palace of Generalitat, which has 600 years of history. Many more than the last 300, when all our government institutions eliminated. My dream would be to make it match. What we do not want is to be a prisoner of that date, maybe in time, in terms of the country, we should be a little earlier or a little later. And, if necessary at the time, why not?

(Translation: EM)