Displaying their own brand of national pride, pro-separatists in Catalonia in September reconfirmed a desire to establish a new country in Europe.
Now, the president of the autonomously governed region of Spain is ramping up the campaign ahead of a planned referendum later this year on Catalan independence.
The parties in Catalonia’s parliament are mostly in favour of holding such a referendum.
At the head of a coalition, President Artur Mas is prepared to push against the Spanish government in Madrid, to keep an electoral promise he made.
In December, the head of the Generalitat set a date – this November 9 – to consult the Catalan people.
Mas said: “The time will come for the Spanish institutions to negotiate with the Catalan institutions to take this referendum into account within existing legislation. The possibilities are numerous.”
On December 12, it was announced that the proposed referendum questions would be: Do you want Catalonia to become a state? If so, do you want the state to be independent?
Madrid immediately said this referendum would be a historic error. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy left no room for doubt, stomping on the idea as he had before.
Rajoy said: “It is unconstitutional and it will not happen. What the Catalan parties decided is in perfect opposition to the constitution and the law.”
Artur Mas did not stop there. He expanded the campaign. He sent European Union leaders an open letter. It was also sent to the European Commission.
Mas said: “I am confident that I can rely on you to encourage the peaceful, democratic, transparent and European process to which I and a vast majority of the Catalan people are fully committed.”
The response of the President of the European executive body, Jose Manuel Barroso, was: “It’s not my role or the role of the Commission to express an opinion or encouragements on such a question of internal organisation related to the constitutional arrangements in the [EU] Member States.”
That roughly translates into: ‘it’s an internal matter, for Barcelona and Madrid to handle in their own way.’
Mas reiterated to Catalonia’s 7.6 million people a few days ago that they will have their referendum.
Rajoy said he was convinced that everything would work out.
Francisco Fuentes asked Barcelona-based political analyst Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí about the Catalan parliament’s petition to the Spanish parliament seeking authorisation to hold a referendum on Catalonia’s political future.
Francisco Fuentes, euronews: “What immediate consequences are we going to see?”
Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubi, political analyst: “The first consequence is that it relaunches the process of sovereignty. The second consequence is that Spain’s two major political forces – the People’s Party and the Socialists – will be obliged to explain why they are against it. So far, it has only been said that the constitution does not allow the referendum, although it does allow the transfer of powers. The third thing, and the most immediate, will be the return to the very centre of debate the question of the future of Spain and Catalonia.”
euronews: “One month has passed since Catalonia’s President Artur Mas announced his referendum call for the coming November. In the past few weeks, he has sent letters to several European leaders, without success so far. What do think of the Catalan president’s strategy.”
Gutiérrez-Rubí: “His idea is to explain to European partners that the Spanish government will not allow the region of Catalonia the possibility to decide about its future and its relations with Spain – as the British government has allowed for Scotland. The context he places this in is the Spanish government’s lack of comprehension not only about Catalan requests but the very idea of a democratic referendum – voting. We’ll see what happens when this request is taken up, soon, in the Spanish parliament, when the time comes, and the government and Spanish political parties have to argue for why something is not possible in Spain which is possible in the United Kingdom.”
euronews: “Why does this sort of dialogue seem impossible in Spain?”
Gutiérrez-Rubí: “I believe that the People’s Party and Rajoy at the head of the government are imprisoned by their very resistant voter base, very Spanish nationalist, that absolutely refuses to reform our institutional architecture, in this specific case the constitution, which seems increasingly necessary. On top of this, the Socialist party, because it has a long history of egalitarianism, because its founding principle is equality, does not appear to hold the political keys and the political flexibility to establish a new bilateral Catalonia-Spain relationship, based on a new pact. Rajoy’s immobility does not, in the end, guarantee a solution, since a very big majority of the people of Catalonia want to decide their future and have a new relationship with Spain.”