Catalan leader Mas urges separatism in New Year speech

President of Catalonia, Artur Mas - file pic Artur Mas has formed a coalition despite losing ground in elections

The President of Spain's Catalonia region, Artur Mas, has signalled his determination to hold a referendum on independence, in a New Year message.

Mr Mas has formed a pro-independence coalition since winning an early election last month. But Madrid says a referendum would have no legal force.

In his televised message Mr Mas said a majority of Catalans "want to build a new country".

"We are now facing transcendental pages in our history," he said.

Catalonia - one of Spain's most developed regions - already has a wide degree of autonomy, but the economic crisis has fuelled Catalan nationalism. Pro-independence feelings go back centuries, and the Spanish Civil War strengthened animosity between Madrid and Barcelona.

Mr Mas said he wanted "all the citizens to decide freely and peacefully our future as a nation".

"Our duty and responsibility is to leave for future generations a country that they can feel proud of."

He added that social welfare must go hand-in-hand with Catalonia's "national project".

Blame

His centre-right Convergence and Union (CiU) alliance is now in power in Barcelona with a left-wing party, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC). The ERC also supports independence but opposes Mr Mas's spending cuts.

Mr Mas won re-election in November, even though his CiU won fewer seats than it had expected.

The ERC leader, Oriol Junqueras, voiced support for Mr Mas's speech, blaming Madrid for Catalonia's economic difficulties.

"These difficulties are our main arguments for being a free state," he said, quoted by the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

At a news conference last week Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy urged national unity, "to avoid all that distracts us from exiting the [economic] crisis".

He said he was ready for dialogue with the Catalan government on its sovereignty aspirations, in the framework of the Spanish constitution.

More on This Story

Catalonia's Future

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Europe stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • HouseboatLife on the water

    Could a floating house be the home of the future? The BBC's Adam Shaw takes a look

Programmes

  • The Audi RS7Click Watch

    Tech news review of the week including a speed record for a self-driving car

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.