During the inauguration of the 3rd European Diversity Forum held today in Barcelona, the President of the Generalitat defended Catalonia’s “capacity to welcome individuals and join together so that everyone has the same opportunities”. The Catalan president attributed this “widely assorted, diverse, cohesive and remarkably integrated” society to its education system. For the Artur Mas, this “is the true Catalonia”, a country that “in spite of having little political power, thanks to its social cohesion and mobilization it has been able to advance in a balanced way with over 70% of its population originating from non-Catalan backgrounds”. “There are not many examples of this in the world”, admitted the President.
The Head of the Catalan Executive made these declarations during Le Club XXIè Siècle’s European Diversity Forum entitled "La diversitat: una porta de sortida de la crisi?” (Diversity: an exit gate from the crisis?). The event, held in Barcelona’s Palau Macaya, included the participation of Catalan and European politicians, corporate directors, bankers, sociologists, entrepreneurs and representatives of civil society. From the 24th until the 25th of April, the forum’s participants will debate on how to best manage diversity as a key element for economic growth and society’s general enrichment. Ultimately, the aim of the Forum is to bring together European private and public actors in order to better understand how these different areas can improve business and how diversity can become a strategic component of growth as a positive element that can strengthen society.
The Catalan president illustrated Catalonia’s prodigiously merged society with the fact that many families with Spanish surnames name their children with Catalan forenames. “In Catalonia, the most common surnames are Garcia, Sánchez and Fernández, and in terms of the most common forenames, Martina and Laia are the most frequently used names for girls while Marc and Pol are the most common for boys” explained Artur Mas. “This combination implies that we have quite an assorted country”, added President Mas.
In this regard, the President highlighted the education system as a “key factor” in making “this cohesive and varied society with opportunities for everyone” a reality. Similarly, Artur Mas noted that the language immersion ensures “that newcomers arriving in Catalonia can have the same opportunities as everyone else, because to have these equal opportunities in Catalonia it is necessary to understand Catalan”.
The Head of the Catalan Government also made reference to the fact that while the Spanish government had removed universal healthcare coverage for immigrants in irregular situations, “the Catalan healthcare system, which was, and still is, in a critical period in terms of finance, continued to ensure coverage for these people”, because “it was our way of making it clear that in this country everyone’s basic needs are met” asserted the President.
During his intervention the President explained that Catalonia represents 16% of Spain’s total population but that it also has 21% of Spanish state’s foreign population and, if the data is examined further, this figure reaches 30% in terms of the non-community population. For this reason President Mas affirmed that “without this welcoming tradition, we would not have been able to become the largest economy in Spain, or for that matter, the biggest exporter, the most open or the most innovative economy in the Spanish state”. “Catalonia and its economy is stronger now, due to this same diversity”, added the President.
“It is true that in these last years of the economic crisis we have suffered, and in some aspects we have even gone backwards, but the foundation is there”, affirmed the President in the final stages of his speech. “Catalonia can be sufficiently confident in its own capacity to be a country of opportunities for everyone, regardless of their beliefs or where they come from”, concluded President Mas.
President of Club Segle XXI Catalunya Iolanda Piedra, Jaume Giró (CEO of "la Caixa" Banking Foundation), French Secretary of State for Urban Affairs Myriam El Khomri and the Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias also addressed the forum prior the President’s intervention. Additionally, the event also included the attendance of several representatives of the consular corps.
Club XXIè Siècle
The Club XXIe Siècle of Catalonia is a non-profit organization that was established by the Government of Catalonia’s Delegation in France in collaboration with PIMEC and the Federación Española d'Empresarios del Mar (IVEAEMPA). The original association was created in 2004 in Paris by important public figures with immigrant backgrounds who all had the common objective to promote diversity policies through the promotion of equal opportunities. Among Le Club XXIè Siècle’s original founding members we find Béchir Mana, Secretary of Defence and adviser to Jacques Chirac; Rasida Dati, member of the European Parliament and adviser to Nicolas Sarkozy; and Hakim El Karoui, technical adviser to the French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.