At today's summit for liberal democrats and reformers in London, the Presidentof the Government of Catalonia, Artur Mas, spoke about Catalonia's economic situation, as well as about the government's austerity, slimming-down, and economic stimulus measures. The head of the executive stated that, "we're doing our homework” and asserted the need for Catalonia to speak for itself abroad, stating that “we need to be understood because otherwise the images of Catalonia that reach the foreign public appear distorted”. He noted that when representatives of the Spanish government or foreign correspondents from different media outlets in Spain’s capital deliver news, “the information that comes out of the Madrid bubble is always unidirectional".
The head of the Catalan executive, who was the only participant in the summit not representing an independent country, met with Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Nick Clegg; Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rütte; and Vice-Presidents of the European Comission Olli Rehn and Sim Kallas, who serve as European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, and European Commissioner for Transport, respectively.
In several statements to the media, the President of Catalonia stood by the government's austerity measures and denied that Spain's deficit problems could be blamed on the Spanish autonomous communities. He also noted that Catalonia “started implementing austerity measures before Spain's central government did” and noted that these adjustment policies are taking place during a “very delicate time in terms of finance and resources,” especially since the Catalan Government has a “very atypical” relationship with Spanish State government. Artur Mas highlighted the need for a new fiscal pact and affirmed that while Catalonia “accounts for a large part of Spain's economy, the fiscal drainage of its resources limits the region's possibilities for growth and creation of wealth".
During his intervention during the summit, Mas stated that even though Spain's economic situation was much worse than he expected it to be when he became Catalonia's president, “his administration was clear and transparent from the beginning”. Mas stated that the citizenry’s maturity was admirable, as “they understood the situation". Mas also added that “if you speak clearly, people understand, but you need a direction and a strategy that are consistent and persistent. Above all, you need to provide solutions".
In this sense, President Mas assured that “we are providing solutions, but what we really need are solutions from Europe”. Mas noted that unfortunately, “Europe is not acting in a sufficiently coordinated or decided way,” and that the austerity measures being put forward by Europe “are not strong enough to resolve the crisis". Artur Mas stated that “it is good that we are being compelled to reduce our budgets and control our spending and debt," but added that “we need to help each other create policies that ensure a certain degree of economic growth—which we do not currently have."
President Mas supported the idea that the European Central Bank should “play a primary role in buying sovereign debt and injecting credit into the economy,” just like the US Federal Reserve, which is “printing seven times more money than the ECB”.
Responding to journalists' questions, Artur Mas voiced his criticism for the increases in Personal Income Tax announced by the Spanish Government, and declared that “the Spanish People’s Party (PP) did the opposite of what they said they would do."Mas did, however, also state that, “we understand that they must be in a difficult situation; after our experience in Catalonia, we understand that when one governs, one has to make decisions that aren't always comfortable or easy".
Artur Mas also commented on his government's new tourism tax and explained that it would be “very moderate." He stood by this measure, “as it helped ward off even more difficult decisions that could damage Catalonia's tourism appeal".
The President of Catalonia also announced that this year he would take action to promote Catalonia worldwide, because "our ability to overcome from the crisis depends greatly on our international appeal".