Artur Mas made his "After 9N: Time to Decide, Time to Work Together" speech on November 25th 2014, a little over two weeks after Catalonia had held its symbolic proxy referendum on the the future of its relationship with Spain, known as 9N.
The speech, given at the Auditori del Fòrum in Barcelona to over 3,000 people, was President Mas's first major appearance since 9N and as the title of the speech suggest the aim was to give an overview of what had been achieved so far as well as to offer some ideas and suggestions on the best way forward.
La Vanguardia the following morning led with the headline "Mas proposes a plan for independence in 2016" and summarised the content in three points.
1. The President makes his decision to bring forward elections dependent on agreement on a single list
2. If there is a single list, there will be plebiscitary elections before summer
3. After the elections, there will be a Catalan Constitution in 18 months
Below you will find a brief chronological summary of the speech and if you scroll down to the bottom of the page you'll find the video of the speech in Catalan and you can download my translation of the speech into English.
The title of the speech in Catalan was "Després del 9N: temps de decidir, temps de sumar", which translates literally as "After 9N: Time to Decide, Time to Add".
Obviously, the word "add" doesn't make much sense in English in this context so, after almost deciding to use "join forces", I finally went for "work together" but both options have their pros and cons.
You will find many of the events mentioned by President Mas more fully explained on my page Key Moments in the Catalan Independence Process.
Mas began his speech by defining three premises.
1. Mas emphasised that he was speaking on his own behalf as President of the Generalitat and nobody else's and that the suggestions he was making were an attempt to move the process forward and were not definitive.
2. The process begun after the pro-independence demonstration in Barcelona on September 11th 2012 must be completed and that it was in everybody's interest that the issue be resolved by voting.
3. The reason why he was in favour of Catalonia having its own state was in order to have the tools with which to govern itself effectively and consequently create a better society for Catalan citizens to live in.
He went on to answer two major questions.
1. Where are we?
Mas pointed out that the Catalan desire for self-government has been a constant since Catalonia lost its laws and institutions in 1714. However, this desire has been balanced by a commitment to also trying to build a better Spain, particularly throughout the last century. This was the case right up until the demonstration of September 11th 2012.
The main reason for this change has been the unresponsive attitude of the Spanish State, but has also been made possible by developments in democracy and globalisation. The fact that Spain now a democratic state means that it is less likely to react violently, and globalisation means that the old borders and nation states are more flexible.
Mas put the immediate cause for the change in Catalonia's attitude down to the cuts imposed on the 2006 Catalan Statute of Autonomy by the Spanish Constitutional Court following an unpleasant anti-Catalan campaign, and the subsequent refusal by the Spanish State to negotiate a better financial deal for Catalonia.
The disconnection from Spain increased when the the State refused to take Catalonia's discontent seriously, firstly after the September 11th demonstration, and then following the elections of November 2012, which gave a clear majority to the parties in favour of the right to decide in the Parliament of Catalonia.
He also pointed out that relations worsened as the Spanish government rejected all of Catalonia's attempts to hold a legally agreed referendum over the following eighteen months
Having defined where Catalonia is, Mas went on to say that the ideal solution would be a legal referendum, like in Britain or Canada, but is sceptical about whether the Spanish would be prepared to negotiate this.
He also suggested that, after the round of elections in 2015, a new government might make an offer to Catalonia but in the unlikely event that this happened it would still have to be voted on by the Catalan people because they had earned that right on November 9th.
He saw November 9th as a coming of age moment for Catalonia, which combined a mobilised civil society, committed institutions and shared objectives, and emphasised that the country was at a key moment in its history.
2. Where are we going?
Mas reiterated that he was speaking only on his own behalf and then went on to quote what he'd said in a General Policy debate in 2013 about wanting an agreed referendum with the Spanish State and if this wasn't possible calling elections as a last resort.
He went to say that he believed that Catalonia had reached this point and made it clear that he would only call elections if they were used as a substitute for the consultation.
He also made it clear that the objective was to win the elections and that they have to set up in such a way that the result is clear and cannot be interpreted.
Although other countries aren't really able to support the creation of a new Catalan State because it would mean going against the Spain, but having said that many foreign leaders find the Spanish government's intransigence difficult to understand.
Mas emphasised that the central issue in the election must be the independence for at least some of the parties and that, whether there's a single pro-independence list or not, there has to be a clear winner.
The problem of a single list is that political parties very often have conflicting interests so a formula that protected those interests, particularly with regard to the future, was necessary.
The central message of the speech was a seven-point programme:
1. The list would have the support of all pro-independence parties
2. The list would be made up of civil society, professionals and specialists, and people suggested by the political parties
3. The majority of the candidates would stand for Parliament only this once as an act of service to the country
4. The parliamentary mandate would be a maximimum of 18 months following the election of the President
5. The parties would stand separately in the subsequent elections
6. The campaign would be financed separately from the parties through a foundation
7. The public funds granted to the list as a result of the election results would be distrubuted to the political parties in order to ensure their financial viability
Mas then went on to cover how he thought the 18-month government should work.
1. It would inform Spain, Europe and the international community
2. The start of formal negotiations would be proposed with external mediation if necessary
3. The remaining structures of state would be created based on recommendations from the Assessory Council for National Transition
4. A participative process, including citizenry, associations and municipalities, would draft a future Catalan constitution
5. A stable majority would be needed in Parliament to ensure the normal government of the country
6. After 18 months, constituent elections would be called with political parties standing normally and at the same time Catalans would vote on the new constitution
The next section dealt with when the plebiscitary elections should take place and Mas's position was basically that once the previously outlined conditions had been fulfilled then elections would be called so that the whole process could be completed by the end of 2016.
For that reason, he wasn't prepared to specify a date, but the implication was that the elections should take place some time in 2015, ideally before the summer if agreement on a single unitary list was reached quickly.
In order to justify the need to call elections once again, Mas went on talk about the difficulties of the moment and the actions that the Spanish government had taken
to reduce Catalonia's autonomy, block an attempts at having a legal consultation and he listed a series of examples of how the Spanish government generally makes life difficult for Catalan society.
He went on to emphasise that the Catalan independence process was at a crucial point at which any mistakes would be very costly but that Catalonia had plenty of reasons to want its own state.
He considered three more questions:
1. Are we capable of creating a really good country?
2. Have we got ideas?
3. Have we got the instruments, apparatus and tools?
His answer was 'Yes' to the first two and this led him to explain that the reason why Catalonia needed its own state was in order to have the tools to create a fairer and more prosperous society, along the lines of Denmark or Austria.
He closed the speech countering accusations that the only reason he was leading independence was to save his political career and his final offer was not to be number one on the list he was proposing if that was deemed necessary.
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