In a conference led by Andreu Mas-Colell at the House of Commons in London, the Minister of Economy and Knowledge declared that the current conflict between Catalonia and the Madrid government “is more political than economic”. Mas-Colell lamented the fact that, unlike the British government, the Spanish State has not authorized the consultation supported by Catalan legislation.
At the “Economic and Political Events in Catalonia” conference, Mas-Colell highlighted the importance of the Catalan economy within Spain as a whole and made a brief overview of the history of Catalonia after its annexation to Castille in 1714, by “just right of conquest”. “We believe that, above and beyond the right of conquest is the right of self-determination and the right of nations to decide their own history” declared the chief of the Catalonia’s finances.
Minister Mas-Colell also put forward other periods in history as examples of when Catalonia achieved a high degree of self-governance; such has the Commonwealth of Catalonia in 1914 or the republican Generalitat in 1931. In both cases, dictatorship terminated Catalonia’s self-government. However, now “within the democratic framework of the EU, the issue can be resolved by the only admissible method: votes” affirmed the Catalan head of finances.
Andreu Mas-Colell regarded the year 2000 as the beginning stage of an increased politicization within the Constitutional Court, because it began to interpret the Constitution –which was written to establish maximum consensus– in the most “homogenizing” way possible. “Since 2000 the ambiguities in the Constitution have been resolved in the direction of restoring the concept of ‘Spain, a single homogeneous nation’” affirmed the Minister.
In this regard, for the Constitutional Court to thwart the Catalan Statue of Autonomy, which was voted by the Catalan and Spanish parliaments and approved by a Catalan citizenry-backed referendum, according to Mas-Colell, made Catalans feel excluded.
Identity, self-government and a tax regime at the heart of the conflict
Minister Mas-Colell asserted that the moment to enter in this conflict “has not been of Catalonia’s choosing”. “I can assure you that from Catalonia we see ourselves on the defensive, facing aggressive moves on the identity and the self-government fronts” declared the Minister. According to Mas-Colell, since 2011, when the People’s Party (PP) attained the presidency of the Spanish government, there have been a series of recentralising policies carried out across all areas, under the guise of adjusting to the economic crisis and the seeking efficiency. “This is merely a pretext. Some of the world’s most efficient and productive economies are federations” reassured Mas-Colell.
The Minister also highlighted a few of the economic grievances which Catalonia is being subjected to: “Despite being net contributors to Spain's finances the provision of public services for which the Catalan government is responsible for is under extreme tension. We would like to retain a higher proportion of our taxes”. Mas-Colell reassured that “a cost-benefit analysis as an investment project called "self-government" for Catalonia would be highly favourable for Spain”.
Mas-Colell assured that the Government of Catalonia is committed to the rule of law, to the European Union and to democratic processes. In this sense, he assured that “we're not going to do anything reckless”. And in referring to the consultation on November 9th: “There's little doubt that there will be a massive, orderly and peaceful celebration of democracy”.
The chief of Catalonia’s finances reminded those attending the conference that president Mas is open to dialogue with president Rajoy and that the possibility of an “exercise of sovereignty” on behalf of the Catalan parliament cannot be entirely excluded, but not before “elections are held with a clear mandate, and not before giving one more opportunity to the possibility of negotiation”.
The Minister also made reference to the issue that Catalans feel threatened by Europe, as it has been built on the premise of respect for diversity and an “exercise of sovereignty” by the Catalan Parliament would not put into question a continued membership to the European Union or the Eurozone. “Historically Catalan public opinion has been strongly pro-European. […] Our roots are in Europe and, in fact, we root for an EU with stronger federal powers” declared the Minister of Economy and Knowledge.