A nation that expects Europe not to let it down


On November 7th, Artur Mas explained Catalan vision for independence in Friends of Europe, a Brussels not-for-profit think tank for European Union policy analysis and debate: “I do not expect the EU to do the work for us, but I do expect it to support and promote the value of democracy”. He asked the EU, in case the Spanish state “fully rejects the possibility of the Catalan people to be consulted on its future, to give support to the democratic will of the Catalan people”. This is a selection of his lecture:

Before I come to what will be the core of my speech, may I just put Catalonia into context for you. [...] The roots of the Catalan people have always been European; their European vocation has never ceased to exist at any time in history and is as alive and present now as it has ever been.

I am the president of a country with a deep democratic tradition, which by the eleventh century had already developed the “assemblies of peace and truce”, embryo of what is regarded as the first parliamentarianism. I am the president of an institution, the Generalitat de Catalunya, whose origins lie in the fourteenth century, and in spite of the fact that it was prohibited for three hundred years, I have the honour to be its 129th president. [...]

The Paris and Rome treaties, as well as that of Maastricht, and even that of Lisbon, have been surpassed by the current crisis and there is a need to think of a new Europe that will recover its cohesion and its executive capacity so as to present itself to the world as a politically strong, coherent group, and to its citizens as a guarantee of their security and well-being and as a defender of the individual who must feel he or she is properly represented in its institutions. [...]

Let us think of the early days. Let us recover the spirit of the founders. The project of Schuman and of the founding fathers mixed pragmatism in the method with the broadest ambition in its aims. If you closely re-read the declaration of 9 May 1950, whose topicality is still surprising, you will see that it contains the basis of a project whose ultimate aim is the creation of a federal structure that will group the States of Europe together. I have named this old ambition the United States of Europe. [...]

Today’s European citizen has the impression that decisions in Europe are taken in just a few chancelleries and capitals of the most powerful member states and not in the European institutions themselves. And that the only subjects of debate are currency, market and economy. [...]

We can talk of the need to build a United States of Europe, a United States that cannot be a copy of the USA on account of the significant importance of people’s own languages and culture, as well as their own histories. But this new, much more federal, European reality must be built on the basis of those nations which, having a clearly defined territory, history, language and culture, as is the case with Catalonia, have the will, as expressed democratically at the ballot box, to be their own player in the construction of this new Europe.

Our proposition is a clear one: to cede all the powers necessary to give real strength to the European Union while implementing policies that are closer to the people in fields such as health, education and social policy in those places where this can be done more efficiently and consistently. Just as the States can not act as a brake on the construction of the European project, neither can they act as a brake on the will of those nations without statehood that democratically and peacefully express their will to be one more player in this process of European construction.

To want one’s own state within the framework of the European Union is to be willing to cede sovereignty to the European institutions. Consequently, our process is much more than the recognition of our national identity within the framework of a united Europe, it is much more than a process to what some people call sovereignty, given that we are totally in favour of a Europe with federal structures where decisions do not require interminable negotiations and lengthy ratification procedures before coming into force. When I am asked in Catalonia if I want an independent State I reply that what I want for Catalonia is its own State that must, necessarily share interdependencies within a more united and stronger Europe. [...]


We will be holding elections in Catalonia on 25 November. They are early elections that I have called after 1.5 million people demonstrated peacefully through the streets of Barcelona on 11 September last, and after the Spanish prime minister, Mr.Rajoy, slammed the door on the possibility of negotiating a Fiscal Pact which had been approved by an ample majority in the Catalan Parliament.

Our proposition is based on the essence of democracy, on the expression of democracy based on the right to decide. Catalonia must be able to decide democratically and peacefully what it wants its future to be within the framework of the European Union. During the course of the next four years this process will lead us, if so approved at the election, to consult the people of Catalonia about what they want their future to be.

Once the consultation process is endorsed by ballot it must be framed in the following terms:

  • Scrupulously democratic. The entire process must be endorsed in its most significant aspects by the direct decision of the people of Catalonia.
  • Absolutely peaceful. This process must show Europe and the world the way Catalans do things: with a positive spirit, the absence of violence and the willingness to reach agreements.
  • Demonstrably transparent. The process must be clear and have a defined road map. Everyone must be sure about the situation facing them.
  • With an ample majority. There must be an ample majority in Parliament on which to base the right to decide in order to start the consultation process. Having started the process this too must be endorsed by a sufficient majority, one that does not divide the country in two halves. I have always said that I would not want a majority of 50.5% against 49.5%.
  • And finally, as I have already said, the Catalan process has a vocation to remain within the framework of the European Union and the euro. It would be senseless for a nation that forms part of the European Union and the euro, and that wants to continue forming part, should not be able to do so.

Catalonia has never in its history let Europe down, now we trust Europe will not let us down.

There are those who have wanted to question the viability of a future Catalan state on account of its size, despite the fact that Europe clearly demonstrates that on most occasions it is the small states that have greater ability to respond to the new challenges that arise.

I will provide you with some data that demonstrate the viability of a future Catalan state and that demonstrate also that in the south of Europe too there are realities that work and that can work.

  • A future Catalan state would be in seventh position amongst European countries in terms of per capita GDP and, as it has been up to now, it would continue to be a net contributor to the Union. In terms of aggregate GDP we would be in thirteenth position.
  • In terms of population and territory we are a small country. With 7.5 million inhabitants and 32,000 square kilometres we would be the sixteenth and twenty-third countries in the EU-27 respectively.
  • With regard to openness to foreign trade Catalonia would occupy the thirteenth position, the European average.
  • More significant data about Catalonia: 20% of the research funds assigned to the State of Spain come to Catalonia; 28% of total exports from the State of Spain leave from Catalonia; Catalonia receives 15 million foreign tourists, representing 25.5% of the tourists who visit Spain.
  • With regard to foreign investment, Ernst & Young’s European Attractiveness Survey situates Barcelona, and by extension Catalonia, as the third most attractive area after London and Paris.

These are only some of the most basic data to demonstrate the viability of Catalonia having its own state. Please allow me to finish as I started. I am the 129th President of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the president of an ancient European nation with more than 1,000 years of history, a cradle of democracy and, as our renowned cellist Pau Casals said, with one of the oldest parliaments in the world. A nation that feels, and wants to continue to feel, European on account of its history, its traditions and its vocation. A nation that expects Europe not to let it down.

Thank you.


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