Catalonia at the Crossroads
During his official visit to the United States, President Artur Mas held a conference on Wednesday at Columbia University to explain the political circumstances in which Catalonia currently finds itself. The President, who was introduced by the university’s J. and M. Grossman Professor of Economics, Xavier Sala-i-Martín, explained the Catalan political, social and democratic reality in a symposium entitled “Catalonia at the Crossroads”. The Chief Executive also discussed Catalonia’s next steps in the wake of the 2014 9N vote, as well as the historical events that led to the current political climate.
In this regard, President Mas made reference to the importance and conviction Americans give to ‘the people’, which is reflected in the United States Constitution as it begins with the words “We the people”. In a similar way, Artur Mas also referred to the protest song “We shall overcome”, a key anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, as well as the famous slogan used by Barack Obama during his presidential campaign: “Yes we can”.
The Chief Executive presented Catalonia as a country which has “survived and obtained strength through our creativity and our capacity to work hard” during the difficult times of its long history, such as the siege in Barcelona in 1714 or during the repression of Francoist Spain.
“Catalonia is a centuries old nation whose citizens have every right to create, if the citizens of our country so democratically choose, a different social construct, with different institutions and different priorities than their current state”, affirmed the President as he explained the motives that have brought the country to choose their own path, hence the title of the conference “Catalonia at the Crossroads”.
The President also noted that Spanish Court’s decision to “put an end to any speculation regarding the possibility of Catalonia progressing within Spain”, along with “the stripping of Catalan autonomous powers” were factors that led to the demonstration in July 2010 which involved a million people protesting against the central government with the slogan “We are a nation. We decide.” This unchained a series of “massive peaceful demonstrations organized by Catalan civil society groups […] representing different social classes, ages and ideologies”.
With this present, Artur Mas assured the more than 350 attendees that the movement “started spontaneously at the grassroots level”. “Unlike what some have claimed, it was not the idea of a radical politician or an irresponsible political party. This process has come from the bottom up, and as the movement grew the political parties realized that they had an obligation to fulfil the people’s will to have a vote on their political future” affirmed the 129th President of the Generalitat.
Prior the conference, the Chief Executive highlighted the “economic and political nature” of his official trip to New York. While visiting the Government’s Delegation, in declarations to the press, Artur Mas explained that the objective of the trip was to present Catalonia as a “territory of investment opportunities” and to “explain what is happening” in the country. “We want to inform, dissipate doubts and appear before the people who are asking questions”, expressed the President. “We want to explain ourselves so that the process can be better understood”, he added.
Catalonia - California
Regarding the bilateral agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding, between Catalonia and California, the President highlighted the importance of the accord which, “from the perspective of scientific research, university collaboration and innovation”, strengthens the Government’s action in key areas of priority. With this collaboration, the President affirmed that “we are building bridges with top world economies, such as Israel, Massachusetts, and now California”. “This complements everything we have done at a European regional level for trade, economic and industrial advancement”, asserted the President.
Regarding the counter-terrorist operation led by the Mossos d’Esquadra on Wednesday morning, President Mas highlighted the successful task by Catalonia’s police force and warned of the “monumental error it would be to stigmatize the Muslim and Islamic world”. “We have the Mossos d’Esquadra who do their job and do it very well – and they detain jihadists” asserted Mas.