By a Newsnet reporter
Speaking at the conference of his CiU party, the Prime Minister of Catalonia, Artur Mas has committed his party to holding a referendum on Catalan independence within the next legislature of the Catalan Parliament.
Elections to the Catalan Parliament are due to be held on November 25 and legislatures have a normal duration of 4 years. This means that Catalonia will hold its independence referendum sometime before November 2016.
Mr Mas hailed the referendum as offering the Catalans their first opportunity in 300 years to “decide their future as a nation freely and peacefully”. The CiU leader promised that the referendum would comply with the law, and said that Catalonia would seek the protection of the EU or the world in order to ensure that the referendum could go ahead. He added: “If we defeat the fear and the doubts, we will win the future for all the people of Catalonia.”
The Madrid government is vehemently opposed to the referendum, saying that it violates Article 2 of the Spanish constitution, which defines Spain as a single “indivisible” nation. Senior figures within the ruling Partido Popular have even threatened to send in the Guardia Civil to take over Catalan institutions, and have called for holding the referendum to be declared a criminal act.
Meanwhile the Spanish Minister of Justice Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon has warned that the independence of Catalonia “would finish off the Spanish nation”
“Spain was born when the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon united, and so what was the conception of one country would return to prior to 1492 where one of the parts, the Mediterranean, took a different route. We would not be able to keep calling the result Spain,” said Mr Ruiz-Gallardon.
“Regarding the hypothesis that some public administration were to carry out an act outside its legal competence, the Government of Spain would challenge the holding of that referendum and the Constitutional Court [the highest legal authority in Spain] logically, would annul it as a consequence of its not having legal competence.”
The Catalan government insists that it will press ahead with the referendum despite the objections of Madrid. Mr Mas’s ruling party and other pro-independence parties require a clear majority in the next legislature in order to call the referendum. According to opinion polls, the pro-independence parties are set to make large gains in November’s elections, and most observers believe that the required parliamentary majority will be comfortably reached.
Mr Mas requested dialogue with the Madrid government to ensure that the referendum goes ahead legally, however if rebuffed the Catalan government will seek other means of doing so. Mr Mas said: “We will do it under the protection of the legality which exists in the State, and if not, we will try to change it, and if not, we will create a new one, or we will request protection from Europe or the world. We will do whatever is necessary.”