Barcelona (ACN).- Artur Mas, leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), has sworn the oath as President of the Catalan Government again, two years after he did it for the first time. After swearing office, Mas delivered a long speech in which he asked Spain to not put the will of Catalans to freely decide on their own future “behind bars”. He also compared Spain and Catalonia’s relations with “two boats” following a “collision course”. Mas stated he is ready “to change direction” because otherwise “Catalonia will be adrift, and when you are adrift, you are the most likely to crash against the rocks”. Mas defended “the legitimacy” of the CiU-ERC agreement, offering “stability”. He emphasised that the agreement has been reached by the two largest parties in Catalonia, who were running in the last elections with “two very clear programmes”, and it represents the “main part of the voters”. The Catalan President also emphasised the four “essential ideas” for the next term in office: firstly, believing in “respect for democracy” by following “the people’s will”; secondly, guaranteeing “social cohesion”; thirdly, helping “the economy to recover”; and lastly, allowing “Catalonia to freely decide on its own future”. The solemn swearing-in ceremony at the Generalitat Palace was attended by a large representation of Catalonia’s political class, as well as by representatives from economic, social and cultural arenas. The leaders of all the political parties in the Catalan Parliament were present, with two exceptions: the anti-Catalan nationalist party Ciutadans (C’s) and the radical left-wing and independence party (CUP). C’s refused to attend as they say the CiU and the ERC have not formed a government but “an operations committee towards secession” and the CUP was not present “as they are not used to attending institutional or protocol events”. Additionally, the Spanish Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, was present at the ceremony as the highest representative of the Spanish Government. Montoro, who is imposing strict deficit targets on the Autonomous Communities and is pushing for centralist reforms, stated that the Spanish Government “neither wants nor desires” a clash with Catalonia.
In a solemn swearing-in ceremony in the Sant Jordi room of the Generalitat Palace, in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, Artur Mas swore the oath as Catalan President for the second time in his life. As in 2010, when he became the 129th President of the Catalan Government, an office created in 1359, the oath was administered by the President of the Catalan Parliament, Núria de Gispert. Mas answered “Yes” to the promise “to fulfil the obligations of the position […] with honour, and with loyalty to the King, the Constitution, the Statute of Autonomy and Catalonia’s national institutions” and, as two years ago, he added “and with full loyalty towards the people of Catalonia”.
“To change course” as otherwise “Catalonia will be adrift”
Mas’ speech mainly focused on the relations between Spain and Catalonia. He warned that “the course” both governments are following will lead to a “collision”, which should be “avoided”, as “it would not be positive for anyone”. He added that he wants “to change the course of Catalan politics” and move towards a “national transition”, because otherwise “Catalonia will be adrift, and when you are adrift, you are the most likely to crash against the rocks”.
Not putting Catalonia’s will to decide on its own future “behind bars”
To avoid “conflict and confrontation”, the Catalan President asked the Spanish Government to respect the will of the Catalan people, expressed through the ballots of the last Catalan elections, held on the 25th of November. He asked Madrid “not to build walls on [Catalonia’s] open field or put the will of a people to decide on their own future behind bars”. Mas made such statements looking at the Spanish Finance Minister, who is also in charge of the relationship with the Autonomous Communities. The Catalan President emphasised that “democracy will be the universal value” on which Catalonia will build its future; a value he “hoped will also guide the actions of the Spanish Government”.
The reactions from the opposition
The Secretary General of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), Pere Navarro, stated that “Catalans want to recover from the crisis” as “neither collisions nor rocks are a good solution for the people who are really suffering”. These people “do not want a collision but instead agreements and policies that will take them out of their current situation”, he added. Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, the President of the Catalan branch of the People’s Party (PP) asked Mas for a Catalan Government which would make “talk with the Spanish executive” a priority. However, she said that Mas, who has not announced the new government yet, is about to form an executive “with a hard nucleus of Talibans, the most radical ones, who will only work towards confrontation, division and a permanent fight”. The leader of the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), Joan Herrera, stated that it is “impossible” for his group to join the agreement between the CiU and the ERC, as Mas is offering, because the agreement is based “on a €4 billion budget cut” to be implemented next year. However, as on previous occasions, Herrera emphasised that they will talk with the new Catalan Government about the self-determination process as the ICV-EUiA is in support of it. In an unprecedented move, two parliamentary leaders did not attend the swearing-in ceremony. The radical left-wing and pro-independence CUP, whose MPs wear T-shirts in the Parliament, justified their absence as they “do not attend institutional or protocol events”. The anti-Catalan nationalism and Spanish nationalist Ciutadans (C’s) stated they were not attending because Mas “does not want to be President of an Autonomous Community” and “he will not chair a government” but “an operations committee towards secession”.