Yesterday, we put some of your questions (from this post about Catalonian independence) to Artur Mas, the President of the Government of Catalonia, during a Friends of Europe event in Brussels. The room was packed with journalists (quite a feat, considering German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also in town yesterday), and the president was only speaking for an hour, so we had time only for one or two questions, which we have posted below.
Watch the full high-definition version of the video embedded below:
The first comment came from Kasia, who argued: “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.”
Here is the response from Artur Mas:
I think that the right answer would be the following one: imagine that the European Union turns into the United States of Europe. In this case, with a federal structure, Catalonia would like to be one of the states of that federation. If you look at the United States of America, you will realise that, with a population of about 300 million people, they have 50 states. The European union, with more than 500 million people, could have more than 60 or 70, or maybe 75 states. And why couldn’t Catalonia be one of these states, in a federal structure and with the powers of a state which belongs to a federal structure? So, with less powers than an independent country but more powers than we have today. In that case, Spain would have less powers, and France and Germany and Holland, but Catalonia would have more powers…
If the EU is not capable of turning into a real political federation, then our aspiration is to have the same tools and the same powers that other nations of our size have in Europe. For instance, the same tools as Denmark, or the same tools as Austria, or the same tools as Finland.
The second comment came from Iturriaga, who said: “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).”
Here was the response:
This process started in Catalonia [only] a few weeks ago. The demonstration took place on 11th September this year, so two months ago. Just after the demonstration on the streets of Barcelona, and the negative answer of President Rajoy to the fiscal pact, I decided to call elections. This has been a very rapid process, and as you can imagine, we don’t have all the answers now.
But, we have a very important answer. We will see if, in the next Catalonian elections, there is a broad majority of the Catalan people who want to decide their future in the following four years. This is something that can be decided now, in a fortnight…
Is this compatible with belonging to the EU? Well, nobody can say ‘yes’ and nobody can say ‘no’. Because, if one of the principles of the EU is democratic values, and the permanent purpose of the EU is to enlarge its capacity and its union, it would not be evident [why, with] a country like Catalonia, that belongs to the EU, fulfills the commitments, fulfills the rules and is a net contributor, why the EU would take the decision to leave us out. It would not be very logical. It could happen. But it would not be very logical.
What do YOU think? Is Catalonia’s future in a federal United States of Europe? Or would a looser federal structure within Spain be a better solution? And how difficult will the process of negotiating EU membership be for regions such as Catalonia and Scotland? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.