Misc 03/02/2016

Ferran Mascarell: "Spain must re-found itself, because the Catalan process will not go away"

The Catalan government's representative to Madrid says he has been received with desire for dialogue. This interview is his first draft of an evaluation of the process, a five-year period in which he was a minister in Artur Mas’ government

4 min
Ferran Mascarell: “Espanya s’haurà de refundar, perquè el procés no desapareixerà”

Ferran Mascarell says that Madrid has received him with a desire to talk.

In this interview, Mascarell —who holds a degree in History— makes his first evaluation of the process to this point, a period of five years in which he has been a minister in Artur Mas’ government.

You are arriving in Madrid at a time of a dual constituent process, in Catalonia and in Spain.

Yes, it's the result of the institutional and political crisis that Spain has experienced since the Constitutional Court's ruling on the Catalan Statute, which was the last positive project that Spain has been able to generate, and which was nullified in 2010. Today the only positive proposal is the Catalan independence movement.

Is the reappearance of Felipe González and Jose María Aznar a sign of a certain uncertainty regarding the survival of Spain itself?

The discourse of Spanish unity is closely tied to the idea of "Don't mess with what I profit from". And what they want is for everything to stay the same. And that is why Spain is currently in a state of paralysis.

So this reaction from the PSOE and the PP is due more to the wallet than to the flag?

It's impossible to distinguish one thing from the other. The State as we know it would not exist if there was no taxation discourse behind the identity discourse. Spain is also supported by Catalonia's contribution to the creation of wealth. And they have refused to create a mechanism that would allow us to continue contributing to the growth of the State whilst providing a means for the unfurling of the Catalan reality.

So, which Spanish government would suit Catalonia better: one that supports a referendum or one that accelerates the process through the suspension of Catalan self-rule?

We must always continue to push for dialogue. We are pushing for dialogue. Without the capacity for dialogue, there is no democracy. It is the principle that gives us strength.

How much dialogue was there in the Catalan parliament’s declaration of a break from Spain of November 9th last year?

The November 9th declaration was tied to the election results. And in Catalonia we shouldn’t be so explicit about timelines, and it's not necessary to give our main adversary, Spain, as many advantages as we often give them. We have to know how to manage things with a greater sense of State.

If Catalan independence is against the economic interests of Spain, they won't buy the argument that it is good for both parties.

Sooner or later it has to happen. I'm convinced that Spain must necessarily re-found its own project. The [Catalan independence] process will not go away just like that, and it represents half the population. And if its support is broadened, which is the main objective in the coming months, I don't see any solution other than them opening up to dialogue. ARA published the news that 42% of Spaniards are in favor of an independence referendum in Catalonia. And the Spanish culture is not alien to me, nor do I want to break away from it. We are neighbors and this will not change. We have common interests in communications, energy, and security. We are proposing a state that would be smaller and more efficient, open, democratic, and cosmopolitan in the sense of being able to address all of the realities affecting it, and where Catalans will feel comfortable.

And this would not be resolved by a pluri-national state or a Ministry of Plurinationality in Spain?

First, we have to decide if we will exercise the nation's sovereignty ourselves, or if others will do so by delegation. Second, a ministry is not a State. Indeed, the very existence of a Ministry of Pluri-nationality means that the State is not pluri-national. One thing cancels out the other. Many years ago I believed, like [former Catalan president] Pasqual Maragall, that Spain could become a pluri-national state, and we all know how that ended. Now I don't believe it, because I don't see anyone capable of producing it. And it is hard to believe that those who are managing the State now would be capable of doing so. For many Catalans, that is a ship that has already sailed.

Let's do a self-critique of the 2010-2015 period. Was the departure of Mas a show of flexibility or a disregard for 1.6 million voters?

President Mas was the person I voted for, and as such, I always argued that we should keep him. But we all imagined what it would mean to persist with this belief and accept the worst of hypothetical outcomes, which would have been fresh elections. Given the situation of the nation, the president made a generous gesture.

Why did the Junts pel Sí slate fall short of the result they needed? Did the arguments between CDC and ERC after the 9-N consultation have anything to do with it?

In the months between the 9-N consultation and the Junts pel Sí coalition we missed some opportunities to consolidate the outer reaches of the process, of this I'm convinced. Unity is the main weapon we have. Any relaxation of that discipline harms the process.

Will the 48% be the high-floodwater mark that says: "The process came this far?"

If we re-connect ideology with quality of life, the 48% will grow. We must be able to show that having been mismanagement by Spain has harmed us. Catalan culture, for example, lives uneasily. We have been waiting 30 years for something that Europe has, which is a good patronage law. We have a law of intellectual property rights that has made Spain the place with the highest levels of cultural piracy in Europe. When you explain that you want your own State to make laws like this, many people outside the process tell you that, if done well, they will also join in.

José Manuel Lara said that he would relocate his publishing conglomerate, Planeta, if Catalonia became independent.

My dear friend José Manuel Lara found it hard to imagine a great Spanish-language publishing company in an independent Catalonia. I don’t, though, as our publications reach Latin America and their readers don't know if a book has been produced in Barcelona or Madrid. I used to tell Lara that if the rules of the game were favorable, he would agree. I don't believe that Catalan culture has ever, nor will ever be, ruled by criteria of exclusion. It will open up even more.

What will history say of the 2010-2015 period?

That it was when Catalan society mutated from supporting limited self-rule to favoring independence, a new State. It is when the last straw broke the camel's back. It was the hardest period to experience as a Catalan minister: an autonomous government tied so tightly hand and foot that you couldn’t truly call it self-government. The middle and working classes are revolting because they can see that we are going through all the changes that will affect Catalan society in the next 25 years without any protection.