During today’s official visit to Brussels, the President of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, reaffirmed Catalonia’s willingness to “strengthen alliances with other European governments” in order to reinforce its role as an international actor. In this regard, the Head of Catalan Government highlighted the newly fortified relationship between two territories “with important political responsibilities in European Union Affairs” as a demonstration of this willingness. “Flanders and Catalonia have important political responsibilities in policy areas that are relevant at the EU level”, asserted Artur Mas. For this reason “the more we work together, the stronger our voice will be heard in Brussels, also the capital of the European Union”, added the President.
The Head of the Catalan Government made these declarations during the 3rd Catalonia – Flanders Joint Deliberations held in Brussels and presided by Artur Mas and Minister-President Geert Bourgeois. During the meeting both heads of government signed a Joint Declaration and renewed the Catalonia – Flanders Work Programme 2015-2017 in which the Generalitat’s departments and their Flemish counterparts collaborated to improve public policies through the exchange of experiences while promoting the internationalization of Catalonia.
During his speech, the Catalan president made reference to the “close relationship” that have tied Catalonia and Flanders together since 1992, both being similar in terms of their population, economic impact and openness. Mas also highlighted that the two territories stood out due to their “strong industrial sector, their entrepreneurship […] and their strong cultural identities”. In this regard, the Catalan president emphasised that the “intense and historical relationship with Flanders proves that Catalonia is a reliable and safe partner”, adding his and Catalonia’s firm belief “in agreements as a tool to reinforce institutional relations, promote exchanges as well as the country’s national and economic openness in an increasingly globalized world”.
“With Flanders we share a vision of what building a Europe of proximity should truly be: respectful of cultural and linguistic diversity and also with the will of its different nations”, explained Artur Mas who continued to highlight the willingness of both governments to “strengthen partnerships within Europe and also with potential allies who share our same objectives”.
During his visit to the Belgian capital, the Head of the Catalan Executive met with various representatives of the Belgian and Flemish governments including Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters, who also serves as Minister for Employment, Economy and Consumer Affairs. Additionally, President Mas also spoke with Didier Reynders, Minister of Foreign Affairs during a working breakfast held this morning and met with Jan Peumans, president of the Flemish parliament (Vlaams Parlement). With the inclusion of the previously mentioned meeting with Flemish Minister-President Geert Bourgeois, throughout his official visit, the Catalan president inadvertently met with representatives of the three main political parties in Belgium: the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten - Open VLD), the Christian Democrats (Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams - CDV) and the New Flemish Alliance (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie - NVA).
Additionally, President Mas also held a meeting with EU’s Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, to highlight the need for the Mediterranean Corridor as a “strategic” and necessary project for the economic recovery in Europe. In declarations to the press, Mas explained that “despite all the obstacles endured, we have been able to ensure the Mediterranean rail corridor is present among the EU’s key projects for the upcoming years”.
Furthermore, on his official visit the President was joined by the Government of Catalonia’s Secretary for Foreign and EU Affairs, Roger Albinyana, and the Permanent Representative of the Catalan Government to the EU, Amadeu Altafaj.