Artur Mas: We are determined to create a Catalan state
Artur Mas | Photo credit: Press Association
The former President of Catalonia, Artur Mas, discusses what Catalan independence could mean for Spain and the EU and what lies ahead for possible future negotiations.
The EU is the major mitigating factor between [Spain and Catalonia]. We know that the EU might not be necessarily very inclined to support the Catalan cause. How would you convince the EU of supporting the Catalan cause?
Well it’s not easy, because their initial position is reluctant. The message we are going to convey to Brussels is we are determined to create a Catalan state. Because the goal of the Catalan institutions is to try to implement a win-win operation. It can’t just be good for Catalonia - it also has to be good for Spain and the EU. Catalan negotiators have to keep an open mind and they have to understand that when in a negotiation – especially one about the independence of a country - you have to talk about everything.
In terms of economics, you could say that the markets and multinational companies might be more inclined to put pressure on Catalonia rather than on Spain [in solving this issue].
Yes, in the sense that in these situations, the Catalan economy would be damaged, but the Spanish economy would be damaged too, and maybe the European economy. If you can work out a better solution for everybody, why not? In general terms I would say that countries are selfish from an economic point of view, so they protect their own interests, and the interests of the states are also the interests of the big companies of these states and a lot of big European companies are in Catalonia: manufacturing, producing, selling, purchasing, and so on.
Are you not afraid that companies will set up shop somewhere else if they think this is going in the wrong direction?
If we take into account what has happened up to now the answer is no. The discussion on the independence of Catalonia started in 2012, so five years ago. If you analyse what has happened from the direct investment and foreign investment point of view in Catalonia in these past years, we have had great success.
In terms of finances, Catalan independence might mean double taxation for Catalan citizens. Which begs the question: who is going to pay for this?
My personal theory is that the Catalan institutions don’t have to put pressure on the people, the civil servants and the companies. They have to ask people to demonstrate in the streets, to put pressure on the Spanish state, to mobilise themselves for weeks, not just for one day.
Civil disobedience, in fact?
Civil disobedience, but not individual disobedience for instance for paying taxes. I think that this is the right solution, so you can ask a lot of people to fight against the Spanish state in the streets but in a peaceful way.
More or less like in Ukraine in the initial part of the demonstrations?
More or less, yes. Or in Greece. But without obliging people to pay taxes to a tax agency that can, well, accuse you of disobedience for instance. Although my other personal approach would be talking to companies and to people: if you’re not sure where to pay your taxes, pay wherever you want, but pay. Because if you have paid taxes to the Spanish tax agency, and Catalonia becomes a new state, Catalonia is going to claim for this money to Madrid but not to you. And if you pay to the Catalan tax agency, and it doesn’t work and Catalonia doesn’t turn into a new state, then the Spanish tax agency isn’t going to ask to pay again, so they are going to claim costs with the Catalan tax administration.