Catalan president seeks powers of state without cutting Spanish ties
As CAMPAIGNING begins for the Catalan elections on 25 November, president Artur Mas’s ruling CiU party has avoided using the word “independence” in its manifesto, opting instead for Catalonia’s aspiration to have “a state of its own within the framework of the European Union”.
Mr Mas has a long-standing allergy to the word independence and recently asserted that there is a significant difference between “independence” and “self-determination”, without clarifying just what that difference might be. He has now started using the term “interdependence” with Spain.
“We are not seeking independence in the classical sense, but we want to acquire the instruments of a nation, the instruments of state, and we are not proposing total independence because we don’t want to have to leave Europe and the euro,” he said.
The prospect of being forced out of the EU would persuade many Catalans to vote No in a referendum on independence.
What CiU appears to be proposing is that Catalonia would be an independent state, except in matters of defence and security, which would remain in Spain’s hands. However, “interdependence with Spain” seems like describing the existing status quo in other words and begs the question of whether Mr Mas is simply looking for more leverage to extract greater autonomy from Madrid, which has always been CiU’s modus operandi.
As its name suggests, Convergència i Uniò is the marriage of two parties and part of the reason for this semantic hair-splitting is to appease Josep Antoni Duran Llleida, the Unio leader, who openly opposes independence.
Speaking at the launch of the manifesto, Mr Duran said Catalonia needs “its own state” to “rescue it from the “disdain of a state in which we are currently included”.
When Mr Mas called the elections shortly after the massive pro-independence demonstration on 11 September, he said: “We have to translate what has happened in the street to the ballot box, so that it’s clear what the country wants.” In so doing, he established a link between independence and giving CiU an absolute majority, although no such logical link exists as independence has never been and still isn’t part of CiU’s platform.
The polls suggest that CiU will fall short of an absolute majority, in which case the election will have been a pointless exercise for all concerned. At that juncture, people might remember that, before he wrapped himself in the senyera – the Catalan flag – they had taken to the streets to protest at the fact that Mr Mas was imposing public spending cuts that went even deeper than those demanded by Madrid.
In its manifesto, CiU says that “Catalonia needs its own state in order to guarantee greater well-being and social cohesion for all Catalans”. However, the reality is that unemployment stands at 22.5 per cent, GDP has fallen by 1.1 per cent and the poverty level has risen to 29 per cent, eight points above the European average. When Mr Mas came to power in 2010 he vowed to create jobs. Halfway through his presidency, 170,000 more Catalans have lost their jobs.
Writing in El País at the weekend, Catalan novelist Javier Cercas said: “I have to admire Mas, who has contrived from one day to the next to shift the blame for all of Catalonia’s troubles from himself to Madrid.” Mr Mas must be hoping the electorate will remain in its current state of amnesia – at least until polling day.
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