Saturday, September 20, 2014

Catalonia's self-determination is "strengthened" by UK's "democracy lesson", states Catalan President

Artur Mas, President of Catalonia
A few hours after the Scottish people decided to remain within the United Kingdom through a binding referendum, the Catalan President and the Spanish Prime Minister congratulated the Scots, although they sent completely different messages in two totally different ways. Through a recorded video message distributed to the press, Spain's PM, Mariano Rajoy, welcomed Scotland's "no" to independence and took advantage of the occasion to emphasise the threats and uncertainties of independence. Rajoy said that Scots have rejected the "severe consequences" of "splitting up from the UK and the European Union". His message was officially addressed to Scotland and the rest of the UK, but it was mostly a warning to Catalonia.

The Spanish PM said that Scots have chosen "between segregation and integration; between isolation and openness; between stability and uncertainty; between security and true risks". Rajoy congratulated the Scots on their vote, stressing that it "has strictly respected legality", while at the same time he is not allowing Catalans to hold a similar vote by using a restrictive interpretation of the legal framework. Furthermore, on Friday, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, rejected the possibility of offering Catalan citizens a third way between independence and the current status quo, as the UK's main parties did for the Scots. Meanwhile in Barcelona, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, addressed the media and stated that the UK has given the world "a lesson in democracy". Mas was also benefitting from the occasions to send a message to Madrid and the world: a democratic vote is the answer to address territorial conflicts. In this vein, he stressed that Scotland's referendum has "strengthened" Catalonia's self-determination process, instead of being "a shadow". Mas insisted that his main commitment and objective is not to get independence but to make sure that the Catalan people can freely and democratically decide on their future through a consultation vote. With this in mind, considering Scotland's high turnout and the peaceful and civic-minded attitude, the Catalan President rejected the idea that voting divides society. Finally, Mas made the ironic point that when central governments allow such a vote to take place, "they can also win it", as it just happened in the UK.


The Spanish Government will not offer greater self-government powers to Catalonia

Besides Mas and Rajoy, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saénz de Santamaría, also spoke the day after Scotland's referendum. Sáenz de Santamaría rejected the possibility of offering Catalonia the so-called Devo Max way that the UK's Government and the three main political parties – Tories, Labour and Lib-Dem – offered to Scotland. The Spanish Government will not make any concession to Catalan demands and therefore will not address in any way the demands for greater self-government, recognition of Catalonia's nationhood, full respect for the Catalan language and a fairer fiscal deal.

The Spanish Government's only plan is to continue with their no-to-everything attitude to oppose Catalonia's self-determination demands and use all the legal tools in their hands for this purpose. The People's Party will use its absolute majority in the Spanish Parliament and its control of the Spanish Government and Spain's main institutions, such as the Constitutional Court and the Public Prosecution Office to fight Catalonia's self-determination demands and pretend that ultimately Catalans will totally abandon their demands.

Spain's PM uses Scotland's "no" to send threats to Catalonia

Spanish Prime Minister attends to press with video-messages
The Spanish Prime Minister, who totally opposes Catalonia's right to hold a self-determination vote, has used his speech congratulating the Scottish people on their decision to send veiled messages to Catalan citizens. Indirectly, he was also recognising the Scottish people's right to decide on their own future, to decide on whether they want to continue being part of the UK or not.

"I want to congratulate the Scots, who yesterday decided, in a clear and unequivocal way, to continue being part of the United Kingdom and, therefore, of the European Union", started Rajoy in his recorded video message, to avoid facing journalists and having to answer any questions about the issue. The Spanish PM was therefore insistent that the Scots faced the threat of automatic exclusion from the EU had they voted for independence.

"They have done so in a massive and peaceful way as well as with strict respect of their country's legal framework", he continued. This was a direct message to the two-third majority of the Catalan Parliament, who approved this week to carry on with the electoral promise to call a self-determination consultation vote and to do so on the 9th of November, following an agreement made in December 2013.

Rajoy has been unilaterally blocking the organisation of such a vote, arguing that it is illegal according to a restrictive interpretation of the Constitution. In addition, he has refused to sit down and talk about the issue with Catalan representatives, in accordance to the results of the Catalan Parliament's elections of November 2012. Back then, 80% of the elected MPs supported the organisation of a legal self-determination vote in Catalonia. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated this Friday morning that he "could have banned" the Scottish referendum but, because he is "a democrat" and the Scottish National Party won by an absolute majority the 2011 elections with the promise to organise such a vote, he approved the referendum.

The Spanish PM stated that he "celebrates Scotland continuing to be part of the United Kingdom" and welcomes the fact that "it continues contributing, as it has been doing until now, to the greatness, cohesion and development of the UK". "As European citizens, we celebrate their continuing to be with us, cooperating and participating with relevant facts to the European Union's political project", he added.

"With their decision, the Scots have avoided the severe economic, social, institutional and political consequences that their separation from the United Kingdom and Europe would have represented", Rajoy stressed, insisting that independence would bring automatic exclusion from the EU. "Yesterday they chose between segregation and integration; between isolation and openness; between stability and uncertainty; between security and true risks", the Spanish PM enumerated. "And they have chose the most favourable option for all, for them, for the rest of British citizens and for Europe", he underlined.

"I deeply believe in Europe's integration. I think this is the path that has brought us to overcome the tragedies of our history and that enables us to successfully face future challenges", Rajoy continued. "In order to succeed in this effort we need everybody. And for this we are very happy for Scotland’s continual presence among us", he concluded.

The Catalan President emphasizes the "lesson in democracy" given by the UK

The President of the Catalan Government guaranteed that the self-determination process in Catalonia will carry on after Scotland's "no" to independence and that it is even "strengthened" because of the "lesson in democracy" that the United Kingdom has given. This was a message to the rest of the world but mainly to the Spanish Government, which unilaterally blocks any agreement on the issue to allow Catalans to have a similar vote. The Catalan President gave a short speech in Catalan, English and Spanish and later on he answered direct questions from journalists, with many international media present.

Mas insisted that the Scottish process was a good model for Catalonia and was therefore positive whatever the result since it stresses the importance of voting, of allowing citizens to directly decide on their future as a nation through a free and democratic vote.

"If somebody had the hope that a "no" in Scotland could be a shadow on the Catalan process, they should not fool themselves", said Mas. The Catalan President directly addressed the Spanish Government and ironically said: " don't you see that when you allow [people] voting, you can also win?" stressing once again Cameron's green light to the vote.

In fact, he asked the Spanish Government to embrace the "no" option and campaign in the consultation vote. "If the Spanish State argues for the "no" [to independence], this vote can win […] but people have to play democratically, people have to win democratically" and this means voting. "No stance holds the victory beforehand" and all the sides have to legitimately argue for their cause in order to later accept the result, which just happened in Scotland, stressed Mas. He added that he would "totally respect" the Spanish Government for having a "no" campaign to independence in Catalonia.

Mas underlined that if the Spanish Government has an offer to make to Catalan citizens to remain in Spain, this offer should be clearly presented as soon as possible and it should also be put to vote, together with independence. According to Mas, whether Catalonia continues to be part of Spain or not, Catalans will have to decide which way through a democratic vote.

The Catalan President admitted that, although he stressed that the decision was only in the Scot's hands and that he fully respects the result, he would have personally liked a "yes" because an independent Scotland would have started the negotiations with the EU to continue being part of it. This would have cleared the way for a hypothetical independent Catalonia and its EU membership.

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