Artur Mas is aware that it will be difficult that Junts pel Sí (Together for YES) win a majority on September 27th, but is confident of being the main force in Parliament, in addition to obtaining a majority of pro-sovereignty seats along with CUP. If this doesn't happen, the Catalan independence process will be over. The President of the Generalitat is convinced that he will be able to take office again and explains that he has already spoken with ERC about the distribution of a future government. Mas states that not all bridges with Madrid are broken, although he doesn't expect relations to improve. As the electoral campaign is about to start, he knows that a declaration of independence involves risks, but doesn't seem particularly worried about the collective costs, and even less so about the personal ones.
This interview with Artur Mas by Màrius Carol was originally published in La Vanguardia on Sunday 6th September. Click here for the original Spanish version.
surprised that the PP wants to change the Law of the Constitutional Court in
order to be able to prosecute you?
My capacity to be surprised almost has no limits, but Yes, I'm surprised that they've gone as far as to manipulate the fundamental laws of government and the arbitral function of a court such as this. They are willing to go beyond all imaginable limits. It's not just any old court. It's the referee and they are willing to bribe it in order put a particular team at a disadvantage.
You say that the raid on CDC is part of a state campaign against your party. With what purpose?
I'm in favour of the investigation and the judicial initiative, but I totally condemn the spectacle with a dissolved Parliament and before the most decisive elections since 1980. Somebody was interested in it taking place and I don't think it was the judge.
But the investigation was the result of an accusation by ERC, who are now your partners.
You can't attribute an accusation by a councillor in a village to the party leadership.
Do you fear that the shadow of the 3% damages the image of CDC?
It's been talked about for 10 years and there's not a single damning judicial sentence. They've looked at and investigated everything. The people responsible for party finances have always assured me that it wasn't real and there was nothing to hide.
There's a document from the company Teyco in the secret summary.
It's a company document from only a year ago. Why weren't there any papers from other years in which they also made donations? The company says that they calculated the contribution to CDC to make sure that it never coincided with the famous 3%, and if your compare the paper with the donations to CDC in 2009, there's no 3%.
Do you have complete confidence in the people responsible for the party finances?
I believe the explanations and versions they've given me 100%.
It seems like you don't want to take responsibility.
I haven't had much direct responsibility for CDC's finances of my own choice. I've explained it a hundred times. I'm responsible for having appointed certain people, but not for the work they've done. They are people I trust completely, honest and correct. That's my responsibility.
Are you worried that CDC ends up disappearing in a list like Junts pel Sí, with the President at number 4, the refounding of the party in progress, the campaign against the 3% ... ?
Convergència is still the party of reference in Catalonia. But it is true that for 40 years it has been a product of Jordi Pujol and all projects need renovating. The CDC of the next 20, 30, 40 years can't be the same. And if the project of creating a new State of Catalonia moves forward, the space that CDC occupies will have to adapt to a new reality.
With a year's perspective, has the Pujol case done a lot of damage?
Yes, because of his position as an ethical reference that President Pujol and because a project like CDC, which was very much his, was hurt. But projects are more important and durable than people. Even with a weight like that, CDC is an ongoing project.
Are you still in touch?
We call each other every now and again and see each other. He writes a lot. I'm a witness. He's a man that has had a very bad time. Everything that interested him, that filled his life, has gone bad as a result of his own decisions.
Do you think you'll be President of the Generalitat again?
I think so. I'm not absolutely certain, but that's how I see it.
If you don't win an absolute majority, will you continue in the front line?
Yes. We haven't planned these elections from the point of view of an absolute majority Yes or No. What we've planned is to win the absolute majority of deputies who support the Yes. This way, nobody in Europe will be able to say that we haven't won this plebiscite.
And if you don't achieve it?
With a majority of pro-sovereignty deputies we'll move forward. And if there isn't a majority to continue with the process, it means that the whole of Catalan politics will have to resituate itself to start again. But I don't that will happen.
If you form a government, you have a route map of a maximum of 18 months, but what's the minimum?
The sooner, the better. After constituting Parliament and the Government, there will be a declaration of the start of the constitution of a future Catalan state. This will be communicated to the authorities of the Spanish State, with the addition that we want to negotiate the implementation of this State by mutual agreement.
When you talk of the State do you mean the King and the President of the Spanish Government?
Yes, obviously. To the President of the Government is obvious, but it has also to be communicated to the Head of State. We're talking about creating a Catalan State by mutual agreement with the Spanish State. We'll go with a good attitude, willing to do things well, that it'll be a win-win situation for everybody, that nobody uses. We're willing that if Catalonia has to take on part of the Spanish debt, we'll accept it and if we have to maintain the level of solidarity to the other Spanish regions, it will be.
Will your model of a future state be a Catalan Republic?
For me, the argument isn't very important. The question is whether we have a Catalan State or not, if it's done by agreement with the Spanish State or against, inside the European Union, with the Euro ... These are the basic questions. Other people emphasise other things.
The will to become a State will also be communicated to the European authorities and the international community, the United Nations ... And the process of creating a Catalan Constitution begins. The process starts like this. From this point, depending on how these contacts evolve, it can go down one path or another.
You always situate the majority in deputies, but it's more logical to count votes.
They don't let us count votes. I'd exchange elections for referendum today. I'd sign up right now. What I won't sign up for is not holding elections. We need to count ourselves in order to know which direction to go in.
But you could get an absolute majority with 43-44% of votes in favour. How can you make a Constitution with less than half the country on your side?
It's possible that some of the parties which are counted on the No side will join the discussion. From what I hear, I'm counting on it. The problem will not getting a majority of deputies in favour of Yes. Then the process will be over. For this reason, I insist, even though it annoys many people, that the Catalanist parties in favour of the right to decide will be counted in the No block.
Unió, for example?
Unfortunately. Catalunya, Sí que es pot too. For that reason I warn their voters that on the night of September 27th, they'll be counted the same as PP. If it were a referendum, the positions would be clearer.
In Scotland, they were able to have a debate before the referendum which hasn't been had here. Isn't there a deficit of information that weakens the procedure?
I would have preferred the Scottish model. It's clearer, binding, consequent and didactic. Even if they'd let us hold the 9-N consultation properly, we would at least have had a way of determining majorities.
Alex Salmond accepted that Scotland would leave the EU and would have to join again.
I'm convinced that if Scotland had voted Yes to independence, they would now be in full negotiation of the Scottish Constitution and those most interested in them not leaving would be the Europeans.
Do you think that Europe will buy into the Catalan way?
I don't know. What I do know is that it will be given a political interpretation. They'll know that in Catalonia there's a majority of deputies and votes in favour of a Catalan State. They don't want the Yes to win, but I'm sure they didn't like it when the 20 million poor of East Germany joined, nor that that Scotland should become a State, nor that the Baltic Republics became independent, and now they're in the EU. They were against the independence of Lithuania and even Felipe González put pressure on by supporting the USSR. They've had to eat their words.
It will be decided by events.
If there's a clear majority, everyone will understand that it's a democratic will, not an infatuation. When you represent a State and you have a nation that wants to have the same as you, it's very selfish to say I've can have it but you can't.
What do you think about the interventions of Angela Merkel or David Cameron against separation from Spain?
I think they're rhetorical. Mrs Merkel wishes the problem wasn't there, Like Hollande, Renzi or Cameron with Scotland. Now, once the issue exists, the Chancellor makes a statement as a person who represents a state and forms part of the European PP just like Mr Rajoy. She's helping him out, but not a very big one because she only mentions because only mentions one article of the EU Treaty that talks about the territorial integrity of States. We're not arguing about it but there's no war here. It's about knowing whether Catalonia can become a State and the first step is knowing if we've got the majority to do it.
Don't you worry about capital leaving if there's a declaration of independence?
The economic consequences are not just Catalonia's responsibility. They're also Spain's and Europe's.
But could it happen?
I don't think it will get that far because people will act out of a great sense of pragmatism. Why do we have to harm the economy? Catalonia won't ask the earth anyway.
La Caixa and Sabadell banks, who need the umbrella of the European Central Bank, could move their head offices to Madrid.
They could move their head offices to Madrid, or even have one bank for the Spanish State and another for Catalonia. Do BBVA or Santander have exactly the same bank in Latin America and Europe? Everything is perfectly solvable if everybody wants to do things properly. We're clear that we can't play with the economy and it's everybody's responsibility to protect it, not just Catalonia.
If tomorrow the State offered an additional regulation in the Constitution where Catalonia was recognised as a nation and proposed a fiscal pact, would a referendum be necessary or is that in the past?
If this was suggested, the condition is that it must be voted on by Catalans. But I don't believe it. They haven't brought any initiative to Catalonia other than taking legal action and wanting to convert the Constitutional Court into the public order court of the Franco period.
Have all the bridges to Madrid been destroyed?
Not all of them because we need to talk. But they suffer from a great incapacity to make a move regarding Catalonia. Rajoy says that I go to see him with a closed attitude, and this is false. We negotiated the Estatut. Why didn't the PP join in? They fought against it until they destroyed it, treating us like the devil and put PSOE against the ropes. With the fiscal pact, it was an emphatic No when all that was needed was to start negotiations. The haven't given us a single chance to talk about anything. This is intransigence. We just wanted to talk. If there's no way out, you have to make a choice in life. You get off the train and are stuck in a siding or you carry on moving forward. That's what we do.
Will Junts pel Sí stand in the general elections?
I proposed this in the negotiations in July and they told me it was too soon and we had to wait until September 27th.
If the objective is independence, what are you doing in Madrid?
Taking advantage of the double plebiscite. If September 27th is a plebiscite, we win it and two months later we have the opportunity to give a message to the whole world and if we win a second time with a unitary list, the message is extraordinarily powerful. We don't want to go to Madrid with an aggressive attitude, we going to go with an open hand and talk about things that will also be beneficial to the Spanish State. We've got nothing against Spain, but we don't feel protected or defended by a State that doesn't care about us. If they don't care about you, all that's left is self-interest.
There are marriages of convenience ...
That means being together, but not really out of convenience. In spite of everything, we can carry on doing things together, helping each other and having a relationship of good neighbours.
If you win the elections, you also have to run the government day to day.
They're not traditional elections, they're for counting votes. But Yes, there's a common programme with the essential minimums that will allow us to move forward and take advantage. For example, the wave of economic growth and creation of employment that we've got, improving the success-rate in schools, consolidating professional training, rationalising the minimum wage.
On many of these issues there are different models within Junts pel Sí, and even more so with the CUP.
You can get majorities beyond the sovereignty issue. ERC weren't involved in Barcelona World but PSC were. In the middle of the sovereignty debate, there have been some very large majorities.
But the political situation isn't the same now.
There'll be the typical tensions between coalitions in government but we'll get over them. I am worried that in key moments of the legislature we might depend only on the CUP. It's very good that CUP deputies are added to the process, but if it can be done with a clear majority for Junts pel Sí, it would be fantastic.
Would you like to reduce taxes?
If it were down to me, Yes. The tax pressure in Catalonia has gone too far, it's true, but people were warned that when there are cuts for everyone, it's very difficult to justify a reduction in taxes. It's a question of behaving ethically. In the future, I don't want the country with the highest taxes in Europe, and in that, we'll certainly not be in agreement with ERC.
The Spanish Government and other communities bring down taxes.
The government hasn't even made cuts in defence spending. They've passed the cuts in health, education and services on to us.
Will there be a CDC-ERC government agreed before the elections?
I'm willing to talk. It would be good to make some progress before September 28th. If I'm President, the Government will begin to work on everything on the day we take possession. On everything. We won't waste a second. The main part of the time will be spent on day to day government, but also on this great objective of building a State for Catalonia, which has to serve to resolve everything else. The new country is to live better, not to remember our medieval origins. Let's be like Austria or Denmark. Why not?
How do you feel when you see Unió criticising you?
I asked my people not to say anything about the old Unió. I say old because there's another one that's about as big that has joined Junts pel Sí. They're not our adversary, but I realise that that they only seem to exist in juxtaposition to CDC.
Will you be able to work together again?
I hope so. That depends on them. It's obvious that the separation came about because of a basic disagreement.
Duran says you don't have the capacity to talk to the State.
I put him forward as president of all the bilateral commissions between the State and Catalonia and I wonder whether from that position he's been able to dialogue much with the Spanish government. I say this out of total respect. He's tried everything ... But it's too easy to attribute blame in equal parts. I'd never put Duran on the same level as Rajoy.