Artur Mas i Gavarró

Biography and Political Career

Artur Mas i Gavarró (Barcelona, January 31st 1956) is a Catalan liberal politician, who was President of the Generalitat of Catalonia from 2010 to 2015 and is currently leader of the Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) party, now PDECat.

He was also president of Convergència i Unió (CiU) until the federation's split and prior to becoming President of the Generalitat, he was Minister of Territorial Policy and Public Works (1995-97), Minister of Economy and Finances (1997-2001), Conseller en Cap (First Minister - 2001-03) and Leader of the Opposition (2003-10).





Background

Artur Mas was born in Barcelona on January 31st 1956, the eldest of four children, into a middle-class family with interests in textiles in Sabadell and metallurgy in Poblenou, Barcelona. He did his primary and secondary education at the Lycée Français de Barcelone and the Aula Escola Europea, and for this reason is fluent in Catalan, Spanish, French and English.

He graduated in Economics and Business Studies from the University of Barcelona, and also did the first two years of a law degree at the same university. Since 1982, he has been married to Helena Rakosnik with whom he has three children, Patricia, Albert and Artur.

Artur Mas began his professional career in 1979 in a group of companies involved in the production of logistics material, and later in an investment company owned by an industrial group in the tanning sector.

His first connection with the public sector came in 1982 when he joined the Department of Commerce, Expenditure and Tourism of the Generalitat of Catalonia with responsibilities in promoting Catalonia abroad and attracting foreign investment, first as head of the Trade Fair Service and later as Director General of Commercial Promotion. It was during this period that Mas became a member of Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC).

Early Political Career (1987-2001)

Despite having worked in the Department of Commerce, Expenditure and Tourism, it wasn't until 1987 that Mas, aged 31, first stood for public office as part of the CiU candidacy led by Josep Maria Culell for the Ajuntament de Barcelona in the municipal elections of that year. He was elected onto the city council and re-elected in 1991 and 1995.

Within the CiU Municipal Group, Artur Mas occupied the positions of Spokesman for Economic Affairs (1988-91), Spokesman for the Municipal Group (1991-93 and President of the CiU Municipal Group (1993-95). He was also a deputy on the Diputació de Barcelona (1991-95).

In 1995, Mas was part of the CiU candidacy in the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia and was elected deputy. Jordi Pujol named Mas as Minister for Territorial Policy and Public Works (1995-97) and Minister of Economy and Finances (1997-2001). In 1999 he was re-elected as deputy.

In 1996, Mas was elected President of the Barcelona Federation of Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya and from 1998, he was a member of the Permanent Secretariat of CDC. At the 11th Congress of CDC held in Cornellà de Llobregat in November 1996, he relieved Pere Esteve as Secretary General of the party and was re-elected in 2004 and 2008.

Mas was named Conseller en Cap, effectively First Minister, by Jordi Pujol in 2001 and the nomination also meant that he had been chosen as successor to Pujol, who would not be standing for the 2003 elections to the Presidency of the Generalitat, a position he had occupied since 1980.

In 2002, Mas was officially designated as candidate to the Presidency of the Generalitat in the following year's elections. Even though a CiU victory was not expected for the first time since 1980, with 46 deputies the nationalist federation won the most seats, although PSC with 31.16% just beat their 30.94% of the votes.

However, CiU were unable to form a government and in the Tripartit coalition with ERC and ICV-EUiA, PSC were able to invest Pasqual Maragall as President of the Generalitat.

Leader of the opposition (2001-10)

During the VIIth Legislature as leader of CiU, Artur Mas effectively led the opposition but it wasn't until 2004, when Pasqual Maragall created the position of Leader of the Opposition, that he became the first person to officially occupy the role.

The most important project during that legislature was the reform of Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy, known as the Estatut. On September 30th 2005, with 120 votes in favour and 15 against, the Parliament of Catalonia passed a text that described Catalonia as a nation, proposed a new finance model and would give Catalonia a higher level of self-government.

On November 2nd 2005, Artur Mas, along with Manuela de Madre and Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira, the presidents of the three largest parliamentary groups, presented the proposal for the new Estatut before the Congress of Deputies in Madrid.

After months of negotiation between the Catalan parliamentarians and the Spanish Parliament and Government, Artur Mas reached an agreement with the Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The final text of the Estatut, which PSC and ICV-EUiA also later agreed to, severely modified the Catalan Parliament's original proposal and affected more than half the articles, including recognition of Catalonia's nationhood and the proposed changes to the financial model. However, this was the text that was passed by referendum by the Catalan people on June 18th 2006.

After the referendum, Pasqual Maragall dissolved Parliament. Stable government had become impossible due to ERC having left the Tripartit over their refusal to ratify the new text of the Estatut.

The election of November 1st 2006 was the second time that Artur Mas had stood as presidential candidate, and CiU were both the most voted party with 31.5% and two seats more, with 48. Even so, PSC, ERC and ICV-EUiA managed to form a second Tripartit government and socialist José Montilla was invested as President of the Generalitat. Artur Mas was Leader of the Opposition after winning the election for a second time.

Mas's main project throughout this legislature was the Casa Gran del Catalanisme, which was begun in 2007 an attempt to bring the diverse political tendencies of Catalan together under a single umbrella organisation.

In January 2010, Artur Mas was designated CiU presidential candidate for a third time. In the elections, held on November 28th, CiU won by a clear majority of 38% of the votes and 62 out of 135 seats, and Artur Mas finally became President of the Generalitat for the first time.

President of the Generalitat (2010-2016)

The new Parliament of Catalonia was constituted on December 16th 2010 and Núria de Gispert, the President of Parliament, proposed Artur Mas as President of the Generalitat. In his investiture speech, Mas vindicated a new financial model for Catalonia inspired in the economic concert of the Basque Country and Navarre as the main objective for the coming years and also spoke of national transition based on the right to decide.

Artur Mas was invested 129th President of the Generalitat of Catalonia on December 23rd 2010, thanks to the support of the CiU Parliamentary Group and the abstention of the PSC Parliamentary Group in the second round. He occupied the position on December 27th swearing "loyalty to the people of Catalonia".

First Term of Office (2010-2012)

President Mas nominated the government on December 28th and the members took office the following and included Joana Ortega (Vice-President) of UDC and people close to Mas, such as Felip Puig (Interior), Irene Rigau (Education) and Lluís Miquel Recoder (Territory and Sustainability). It also included independents such as Boi Ruiz (Health), Francesc Xavier Mena (Business and Work) and also the socialist and ex-minister Ferran Mascarell (Culture).

In his first end of year message. Mas made a call to react with "serenity and firmness" in the face of "threats" against Catalonia's national reality. For this reason, he called for unity and to look for minimum common elements rather than differences.

At his first meeting as President of the Generalitat with Spanish President Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in February 2011, Zapatero demanded that he made cuts higher than 10% in the Generalitat's budget. Mas left Moncloa with only two of his demands agreed to. Firstly, that the pending debt to Catalonia from 2008 of €759 million would be recognised and secondly, that the Spanish government would be prepared to authorise a new debt to Catalonia of €2.5 billion within a few weeks.

The main work of the Generalitat government was marked by the adoption of measures to reduce the level of the Generalitat's deficit by making cuts to the budget and increasing taxes in areas such the universities and the justice system. His government also introduced a charge of a euro on prescriptions and a tourist tax on hotel stays whilst at the same time reducing inheritance tax.

On March 24th 2012, Mas stopped being General Secretary as party rules didn't allow another term of office and took the position of President vacated by Jordi Pujol.

Following the historic Diada demonstration of September 11th 2012, organised by the Catalan National Assembly in favour of independence for Catalonia, and the subsequent refusal of Spanish President Mariano Rajoy to negotiate a new fiscal pact for Catalonia, Mas came out in favour of independence and called early elections for November 25th with self-government and the right to decide as the central issues of the campaign.

Second Term of Office (2012-2015)

The elections for the XIth legislature of the Parliament of Catalonia had a turn out of 70% but resulted in the loss of 90,489 votes and 12 seats for Convergència i Unió, who ended up with only 50 deputies. Once the chamber was constituted, Núria de Gispert, the re-elected President of Parliament, proposed Artur Mas as President of the Generalitat on December 18th.

Mas was invested as President of the Generalitat of Catalonia on December 21st 2012 after a second vote with 71 votes in favour (CiU and ERC) and 65 against (PSC, PP, ICV-EUiA, Ciutadans and CUP) and he took possession of the position on December 24th.

The cuts and the public deficit limit imposed by the Spanish government caused the extension of the 2012 budget to be necessary. President Mas called the consultation on the independence of Catalonia for November 9th 2014 and in a speech on November 25th, he proposed the creation of a combined list made up of representatives from political parties and civil organisations as well as independent professionals and experts to stand on a pro-independence platform in plebiscitary elections.

The proposal was initially rejected by ERC but an agreement on standing separately was initially reached on January 14th 2015 that they would share a common programme for elections that would be held on September 27th. After his Welcome to the Future speech on June 20th, the Junts pel Sí coalition, which was similar to his original proposal, came together a month later.

In the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia of September 27th 2015, Artur Mas stood as fourth on the list and presidential  candidate for Junts pel Sí, who were the most voted party with 62 out of 135 seats. However, this was short of the absolute majority of 68 so they had to rely on the votes of the far left CUP, who refused to vote in favour of Mas's investiture as President of the Generalitat.

This led to Mas standing down on January 9th 2016 and Carles Puigdemont becoming President of the Generalitat.

After the Presidency

After losing the Presidency, Mas also resigned as Member of the Catalan Parliament and took control of the rebranding of CDC to PDECat.

In early February, he will be tried for his role in organising the Independence Consultation on November 9th 2014.



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