At the opening ceremony of the Catalonia-Russia Business Forum held this morning in Moscow, President Artur Mas stressed that in these moments “the economy takes priority over everything else” and reaffirmed Catalonia’s “commitment to focus internationally”. “We, as Catalans, are very interested in following our path to global openness”, Mas announced to the more than two-hundred Catalan and Russian businessmen and women attending the event.
During his speech, the Chief Executive provided the audience with figures on Catalan external trade, highlighting the internationalisation of the Catalan economy. In this regard, he explained that between 25 and 30% of all Spanish foreign trade goes through Catalonia, stressing that "last year, for the first time, Catalonia sold more to the rest of the world than it did to Spain," describing this as a "a very important achievement which also denotes Catalonia’s determination for openness in trade, investment, technology, universities, etc. as a society and as a country".
Artur Mas also provided other significant figures on Catalna trade such as the percentage of Spanish exports to Russia with origins in Catalonia (37-38%). “Never have we reached such high percentages” affirmed the President, adding “if we add both exports and imports from 2012 we can see that almost a third of all trade between Spain and Russia goes through Catalonia”. “We are a small country but we have a great presence in external trade and want to have a greater one, a country like ours must be present in the world”, Mas insisted.
The president also made reference to the increased Russian investment in Catalonia, as well as the rise in Russian tourists visiting Catalonia, representing “impressive figures”, almost 65% of the total number of Russians visiting Spain. In this regard, Mas expressed his appreciation for the work carried out by consulates and by the Spanish Embassy in their efforts handling visas.
Finally, the Chief Executive thanked the Forum organisers for their work, assuring that “this meeting is a good opportunity to get to know one another and bring the relations between the two countries closer together”. The Catalonia-Russia Business Forum is an institutional business mission organised by Barcelona Meeting Point in co-operation with the Government of Catalonia and with the support of Foment del Treball and the Catalan Chambers of Commerce Confederation.
“Puzzled and surprised” by the decision made by the Electoral Commission
Prior to the Forum’s inauguration, during an informative breakfast with Catalan and Spanish press, President Mas referred to the decision taken by the Electoral Commission to suspend the institutional campaign initiated by the Government of Catalonia urging a vote to take place. "I am puzzled and surprised by the foundations that don’t allow campaigning to take place, they are saying that the Government of Catalonia can not campaign to ask for a vote", Mas declared. "For there to be a vote in a country without its government being allowed to establish the importance of voter participation is not coherent with democratic quality”, adding “individual votestook place within the Commission, with almost no precedent, meaning that there were experts on the Commission who felt extremely uncomfortable with this decision, even to the extent that they expressed dissenting opinions" in reference to the decision taken by the Electoral Commission.
"We will appeal this decision – continued the President – because, leaving content aside, whether in favour or not, the Government of Catalonia should be able run a campaign to encourage voting before an election, this is what all other governments do".
Replying to the questions posed by the press, Artur Mas also spoke about the calendar surrounding the new political process in Catalonia. In this regard, the President said that "extending the process beyond a period of four years would cast uncertainty which is not recommendable", in which case, he continued "if the conditions are met, the consultation in Catalonia must take place within the next four years, even though Parliamentary resolution allows for a two-term margin".
Regarding the European Union position on the Catalan political process, the president assured that the belief throughout the Government of Catalonia is "that currently the European Commission has not positioned itself on the matter". "Let us suppose they the political process matures; elections are held on the 25th of November and, from here on in, a constructive dialogue takes place with the Spanish Government and solutions can be found under the Spanish political framework […] if this were the scenario, everything would be on the right tracks; if not, however, I can only imagine that the EC would voice its opinion in a more official manner".