Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Tuesday, 7 april 2015 | VILAWEB


Mas is back in the US after the sabotage of his last visit

The trip has unnerved the Spanish government given the success of previous diplomatic visits by Catalan authorities

The president of the Catalan government, Artur Mas, is traveling to the US for the third time since being elected, to explain Catalonia’s secession push and to promote cooperation between Catalonia and the US. Given the success of his previous diplomatic travels to the US, the announcement of this trip has stirred unease among those responsible for Spain’s foreign policy.

Mas will visit New York, where he will give a lecture at Columbia University titled ‘Catalonia at the Crossroads’, discussing both the steps toward independence that have been taken following the 9-N unofficial vote on secession, and the significance of the 27 September parliamentary elections in Catalonia. The lecture will be introduced by Xavier Sala-i-Martín, who is a professor of economics at the university. Mas is also scheduled to visit the office of the Catalan government’s delegation there and meet with the Catalan community in New York.

Mas had to visit San Francisco and meet with the governor of California, Jerry Brown, as well. However, governor Brown’s sister passed away recently, and Mas has put off his agenda in respect for the grief. The official agenda in San Francisco keeps on track partially and will include the signature of a collaboration agreement between Catalonia and the state of California to promote economic and business cooperation in different areas. The Catalan Secretary of Foreign and EU Affairs, Roger Albinyana, will be responsible for the agenda, accompanied by the Catalan government’s representative in the US, Andrew Davis.

This is President Mas’s third official visit to the US. His first, in June 2012, took him to Boston and New York. On his second visit, in June of 2014, Mas travelled to North Carolina and would have continued to California, but had to shorten his trip to attend the proclamation of Philip VI as the new king of Spain.

A precedent of state sabotage
Mas’s last trip to the US began with an incident that VilaWeb’s publisher, Vicent Partal, revealed in his book on the secret history of the 9-N vote. Partal recounts that the plane in which President Mas was to travel to the US was held up for five hours at Barcelona’s El Prat airport. A meeting with a group of congressmen, senators and influential lobbyists in Washington to brief them about Catalonia’s desire for independence had been scheduled for shortly after Mas’s arrival in the US. In the end, Mas was able to attend, but what would have been a long dinner turned into a one-hour meeting. Aena, the state-owned airport operator, has never acknowledged whether it detained the airplane for political motives or whether it acted on orders from the Spanish government. However, the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry was deeply unnerved by the prospect of the meeting.

The consequences of Trias’s meeting with Bloomberg
Another US visit that had important consequences for the secession process was Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias’s 29 September meeting with businessman, politician and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg in New York City. On that occasion, Bloomberg, who owns one of the largest, most influential media empires, immediately took an interest in the rise of separatism in Catalonia.

New York’s former mayor had been impressed by the pro-independence demonstrations that had taken place in Catalonia on 11 September, just a few weeks before. Trias, for his part, spoke about the Catalan people’s desire to hold a referendum on secession on 9 November and the roadblocking of that effort by the Spanish government. Bloomberg expressed his shock at Spanish President Mariano Rajoy’s lack of democratic sense, and a few days later Bloomberg News published a strongly-worded editorial urging Rajoy to travel to Catalonia to apologize for his mistakes.

With these precedents, it is only logical that the Spanish government is unsettled by the prospect of Mas’s trip to California and New York, and particularly by the discretely-arranged meetings on the Catalan president’s agenda. Meanwhile, every trip abroad made by Catalan authorities seems to further invalidate the theory that the Catalan case is an internal issue of Spain and of no interest to foreign countries.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia