Artur Mas: Catalan referendum must be held next year

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  By a Newsnet reporter

Artur Mas, the President of the Catalan government, has reaffirmed that the Catalan people must be consulted on their political future in 2014.

The announcement comes after recent speculation in the Catalan and Spanish media that Mr Mas was seeking to delay a consultation in an effort to reach an agreement with Madrid on a legal ballot.

Addressing the Catalan Parliament in Barcelona on Tuesday evening, Mr Mas said that on the eve of La Diada, the Catalan national day, he wanted to reaffirm the promise made to the Catalan people by holding the ballot next year. 

Referring to the Catalan Human Chain, the pro-independence demonstration due to be held on Wednesday, Mr Mas said:

“As last year, my institutional role rules against my taking part physically, but nonetheless, your promise tomorrow is not only as solid as it was last year, but rather it is clearly explicit:  the people of Catalonia must be consulted next year on their political future.”

Mr Mas referred in his speech to Catalonia’s loss of freedoms in the aftermath of the Spanish War of Succession in 1716, an event which still resonates with Catalans today, saying:

“What did the Catalans do in the last 300 years, beaten, defeated, and their liberties annihilated?  They did not renounce who they were, and now we can be where we are.   [They had ] only the belief, which we have today, that with their own skills, with their own efforts, and their own laws, they could live better and have a more prosperous and more just future. “

In order to ensure that the consultation should be carried out next year, the president said he was willing “to use all democratic and legal instruments in my power to help the citizens of Catalonia to decide their future as a country”.

But he also highlighted another major objective of independence, the necessity to “redress the country” financially.  “Catalonia is working to stop the cuts and stabilise public finances,” he said.

Mr Mas’s announcement on Tuesday makes it certain that Catalans will got to the ballot to decide on their country’s future either shortly before or shortly after the Scottish independence referendum on Sept 18 2014. 

The ERC, which is the junior partner in the pro-sovereignty coalition headed by Mr Mas’s CiU, has already stated that it is in favour of holding  the ballot on a Sunday close to La Diada 2014.   Sundays are the traditional voting day in Catalonia.  If the ERC proposal is accepted, the vote would be held on Sept 7 or Sept 14.

Irrespective of the date of any vote, the legal status of any ballot in Catalonia will be hotly disputed by Madrid, which insists that Catalonia does not have the right to seek independence.

On Wednesday a demonstration calling for independence is due to take place in Catalonia, taking the form of a human chain stretching from the French border in the north, to the southernmost point of Catalonia in the Ebro delta.  It is expected that over 1 million will participate.  The organisers hope that the demonstration will give a physical presence to the solidarity of the Catalan people in their call for self-determination.