Today at 13h00 Brussels time (GMT +1), Debating Europe will be liveblogging Friends of Europe’s Policy Spotlight discussion with Artur Mas, President of the Government of Catalonia. Mas, who assumed office in 2010, is the leader of Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) and chairman of the Convergència i Unió (CIU) coalition. Having made the headlines in Europe and beyond, President Mas will speak on Catalunia’s future in the European Union, and you will able to view the livestream of the interview in this post.
Last month, we put up a post inviting you to submit questions on the topic of Catalonia’s future, which generated over 100 responses. Hopefully, we will be able to take some of those comments and put them to Artur Mas for his reaction.
If you’re on Twitter, then you can also use the hashtag below. We’ll be looking out for your tweets and comments.
And that’s all, folks!
Apologies if you experienced any technical issues – we will have the full video uploaded onto the site as soon as it’s ready.
Here’s the response:
“Why don’t I become Prime Minister of Spain? Because nobody would vote for me. [*Cue laughter from the audience*] The real answer is because I don’t want to be Prime Minister of Spain… for me it is more important to be President of Catalonia than President of the Central Government of Spain.”
Artur Mas is now taking questions from the audience, including one from a questioner from Brittany asking “Why don’t you try to become President of Spain, instead of starting your own [independent state]?”
A Polish MEP now speaking, saying that Artur Mas’ response to Iturriaga “brushes over” just how difficult it might be for Catalonia to negotiate entry into the EU.
He adds: “If Catalonia is a net contributor [to the EU budget], why would the EU take the decision to leave us out? It would not be very logical.”
Is it wise, though, to assume that the EU will always behave logically?
Mas is now responding to the question from Iturriaga about whether Catalonia will automatically become a member of the EU or whether it will have to sign up again to the EU (with Spain having a veto over this process).
He reminds his audience that “this has been a very rapid process, and we don’t have all the answers now” but that what’s important is that “there’s a firm commitment to ask Catalans about their future, and this will happen in the next four years.”
So, essentially, his answer is: “Let’s take things one step at a time.”
Artur Mas is now answering the question from Kasia. His argument is that, if we see a United States of Europe, then Catalonia could be one of these states in a federal structure without problems. If the EU does not move towards greater federalism, then he believes Catalonia should have the same powers as other countries of similar size: e.g. Austria or Finland.
This seems to be a long-term vision, though, and Kasia’s question was about the problems that might be thrown up now, in the short-term, with the eurozone in a crisis.
Ok, so Artur Mas is now answering some of the questions we’ve picked from Debating Europe. Here are the four we’ve put to him:
Kasia: “I can understand the Catalans’ wish for independence… however I think this will cause yet more problems for Spain, Europe and the Eurozone. [Instead of full independence, Catalonia should] encourage a looser federal structure.”
Iturriaga: “The European Commission has already pointed out that any state seceding from an EU member will NOT remain within the EU and would be forced to go through the entire membership process (which requires the approval of all member states, including Spain).”
Raquel: “Obviously, a nicer solution than Catalan independence would be a United Europe NOT based on nation-states.”
Anton: “If the response from Madrid had been along the lines [of dialogue and compromise], Catalonia would have probably have been satisfied with some sort of federation… Now it’s too late: people have made their minds, the middle classes have already decided, and most people just want independence.”
Artur Mas is spelling out his future vision for a federal EU. He says that “Europe is too big and too diverse not to be federal” and that “We can talk of the need to build a United States of Europe… [and] this new, much more federal European reality must be built on the basis of those nations which [have] a clearly defined history, language and culture.”
He’s very clear about his vision for Catalonia within this Europe: “We want our own state within an interdependent and federal European Union.”
We’re having a couple of technical problems with the page taking too long to load. If you have any issues, then the livestream is also embedded on the front page of Friends of Europe‘s website here.
Artur Mas is just giving his opening remarks now. He begins by arguing that:
“I am the President of an old nation of Europe, a nation that, within the 9th century, lay within the boundaries of Charlemagne’s Europe… The roots of the Catalan people have always been European, since then – more than 1000 years ago. [So we are] an old nation that would like to be one more player taking part in the construction of this shared project.”
Ok, looks like we’re about to begin. Artur Mas is sat down and Giles Merritt, the President of Friends of Europe, is just introducing him.
The debate is about to start, so let’s quickly take a quick look back at this post on Catalonia’s future from last month. We had over 100 comments sent in, and a quick (completely unscientific) review suggests that roughly half of the commenters support some form of independent future for Catalonia, whilst around one quarter were against and another quarter were undecided.
Interestingly, nobody (in our debate, at least) was against a referendum on independence in principle, but several people believed it would be constitutionally impossible.
The interview will be starting at 13h00 Brussels time (GMT +1). In the meantime, keep sending in your questions on Twitter, Facebook and here on the website!