Catalonia - California Agreement
On Monday, April 6th, the Governments of Catalonia and California signed a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate greater business and economic cooperation between the two territories in key areas. The agreement was signed by the Catalan Foreign and E.U. Affairs Secretary, Roger Albinyana, and the Director of the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, Kish Rajan. Also present at the signing were the Catalan Government’s Delegate to the United States, Andrew Davis, and Director General for Foreign Affairs, Iban Rabassa.
Speaking with the press after the signing, Secretary Albinyana underlined that this is the first collaborative agreement enacted by the Catalan and Californian executives, despite the two region’s long international sister-state relationship established by legislative agreement between the Catalan Parliament and the California State Senate in 1986. Secretary Albinyana also emphasized that California is “seventh on the list of the world’s largest economies” and that the West Coast state “only signs accords with countries and territories in which it sees strategic appeal.” The successful signing of this agreement, he said, therefore implies that “the Government of California sees in Catalonia a combination of tangible and intangible assets that make us very attractive.”
During the meeting, Secretary Albinyana and Director Rajan also discussed the challenges facing their respective regions, including the severe drought that has recently affected California. Secretary Albinyana noted that the California Government “seemed very interested in knowing how the Government of Catalonia, with a territory that has had similar problems … has been able to deal with the problem of water scarcity,” and extended the Government’s experience in efficient water resource management to its Californian counterpart.
Among other things, the Memorandum of Understanding envisages organizing a series of joint business promotion activities and trade missions between the two territories; incentivizing collaboration between universities, organizations and research centers; working together in the fight against climate change; increasing best practices exchange in efficient water management; and promoting university exchange programs.
The agreement was originally meant to be signed by the President of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, and the Governor of California Jerry Brown. The meeting between the two executives was suspended, however, due to the passing of Governor Brown’s sister. President Mas, who conveyed his personal condolences to the Governor, decided to postpone his official visit to the State of California out of respect for the family’s grieving period.
Responding to questions from the press, Secretary Albinyana referenced a new report the Government plans to distribute to E.U. Member State’s embassies, as well as to the embassies of certain other states from outside the European Union. The Secretary also made special note of the efforts “that Catalan institutions have made over the last two and a half years to try to reach an agreement with Spanish institutions on a way of exercising Catalonia’s right to self-determination, something many citizens of Catalonia have asked us for – and continue to ask us for.” Citing the democratic mandate the Catalan executive has been given by the Parliament of Catalonia, he stated that the Catalan Government “will continue [our efforts] as long as there is majority support from the Catalan people.”
Secretary Albinyana pointed to the new agreement as an example of the driving principle behind the Government’s foreign action: “to protect the interests of Catalans and Catalan businesses.” “We have always said that we will continue to do so, with or without the State’s impediments,” said Albinyana. “In order for Catalonia to be accepted as a sovereign state, if that is what its citizens desire, then we as its Government must make an effort to be present and make ourselves known around the world.”
The Foreign Affairs Secretary also held a gathering with the Catalan community in California.