During the investiture debate held on Monday afternoon in the Parliament of Catalonia, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, affirmed that a “historic opportunity has come for us to build a new country, better than the one we have” and for this reason “we must not fail when choosing the path” because “we would fail many of those who have come before us and clip the wings of those who will succeed us”. In this respect, the acting president asserted that “as we arrive at the crossroads, we must choose between assuming the cost of subordination and paying the price of freedom”.
Artur Mas began today’s speech by highlighting that "the polls have spoken" and, for the first time in history "there is clear pro-independence majority consisting of 72 parliamentarians". He recalled that "in the long history of Catalanism, people generations and different parties have repeatedly committed themselves, even stubbornly, at times, to intermediate paths –the so-called third ways", but without these "attempts at ‘fitting in’" to have ever been successful. Therefore, the President noted that "the fundamental problem is not the lack of Catalonia’s will to ‘fit in’, but rather the evident inability of the Spanish state to accept a Catalonia with its own personality, its own identity and its own project".
This “intolerance to the Catalan national reality”, which Spain continues to manifest “despite the loyalty Catalonia has shown in all of Spain’s major challenges", is "the root of disaffection that a very significant part of Catalan society has for the State” and which, according to Artur Mas, “is why we are where we are".
According to President Mas, the fact that Prime Minister Rajoy has met with political leaders in reaction to initiatives carried out by Catalan institutions, without including any of their representatives to these meetings, is a sign that the State continues to “burn bridges of dialogue and understanding". Mas criticised that Rajoy "calls on everyone to speak about Catalonia except for the representatives of Catalonia” and for Mas this approach reflects "an attitude bordering the ridiculous and is far from institutional fair play".
Margin for dialogue
In this regard, the President referred to the resolution adopted earlier in the day by Parliament, drafting a constitution for a new Catalan state, as "a logical consequence of the democratic mandate which was recently expressed in the polls". Therefore, "those whom are surprised by such a resolution may not have understood the result of these last elections well enough”, affirmed President Mas as he noted how 50% of the participating electorate voted in favour of Catalonia's independence and how this represents “an amendment to the Constitution of 1978 in its entirety as well as the enactment of Constitutional Court’s referee".
"Catalonia is a country on the move and no one can stop the will of a nation’s majority", asserted Mas, "no indictment, no threat, no fear will stop the intimate aspirations of thousands of people", he added. Despite this, the President felt the need to emphasize that if the State made "a serious and sensible analysis of both the election results and the parliamentary Declaration, it would see that there is room for dialogue and negotiation". In this regard, the head of the Catalan Government acknowledged that “willingness for permanent and honest dialogue with the Spanish state” must be maintained in the upcoming legislature “to ensure maximum legal security for the entire process and avoid unnecessary damages to either of the parties involved".
Challenges and priorities for the new Government
During his speech, the President also listed the priorities of his new potential Government in a plan set out in three key areas:
Firstly, to make Catalonia into a fairer country, more equitable, prepared, and cultured. A safer and healthier country where the Executive will strive to help those whom are most vulnerable by implementing a social emergency plan to reduce the poverty rate and place special emphasis on housing and the child protection services.
In this key area, the President also alluded to the humanitarian crisis affecting Europe and referred explicitly to the reception of Syrian refugees. In this regard, Mas asserted that Catalonia has a "duty and opportunity to remain an example when facing such a great humanitarian challenge". Therefore, Mas explained that the Government will create a stable framework for relations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which would cover health services, offer a coordinated response to the crisis and ensure the schooling of immigrant children, among other humanitarian actions.
The second key area focuses on employment and the economy. The Government of Catalonia will continue to make every effort to create more stable and quality jobs across the territory to build a dynamic economy open to global markets. Among his various points, President Mas emphasized the creation of a Catalan Central Bank as “an opportunity to create a professional, independent and transparent institution" giving "credibility to the financial system by protecting taxpayers, businesses and citizens without interference". The program proposed by Artur Mas also involves the need to create a Catalan Treasury capable of "overcoming the traditional model of control and persecution" with one "based on cooperation and trust between the taxpayer and the administration", as was proposed earlier this year in the form of ‘Smart Tax’.
In order to restore public confidence in the institutions and politics, the third and final area of priority, as explained by Mas, focuses on changing Catalonia into an even more transparent and modern country with greater public and democratic practices. The acting president referred to the need for legal frameworks relating directly to the constitutional process and which would encourage new measures to promote transparency and democratic regeneration.
Finally, with regards to the main challenges of the 11th legislature, President Mas noted that "the great challenge of this mandate is to transform the Catalan autonomy into the State of Catalonia" and there is a "majority in Parliament to achieve this". Furthermore, the President made it clear that "to achieve this, everyone is needed, everyone who believes in it and who will commit to it”.