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Mas returns ball to Rajoy’s court as he reaffirms self-rule agenda

Catalan government spokesman says region will not forego sovereignty referendum plan in exchange for “vague promises”

The Catalan government will not go back on its sovereignty project. The nationalist executive of Artur Mas on Tuesday sought to make it clear that it cannot be tempted by promises of improved financial conditions from Madrid, which wants to put a stop to the independence drive.

“It would almost be a betrayal of the mandate we received from the parliament of Catalonia," said Francesc Homs, spokesman for the Catalan executive. “There are pages we have already turned.”

The Catalan government will not drop its project for a popular referendum on the basis of a “vague promise” about reforms to the financing model, said Homs.

However, the spokesman did not provide any details about the content of the March 21 meeting between Catalan leader Artur Mas and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, of the conservative Popular Party (PP). Instead, he said that Mas would discuss it personally on Wednesday as part of a review of his first 100 days in office during his second term as Catalan premier.

Homs said that at no time did Rajoy offer a new form of financing for Catalonia (which has long complained that it contributes more than its share to help out other regions) or looser deficit targets.

Despite significant cuts to public spending during Mas’ first term in office, Catalonia still has to slash over four billion euros to meet the government’s budget deficit target of 0.7 percent of GDP for the current year. The regional government’s situation is particularly delicate this quarter because it also has to honor four billion euros of maturing debt. “We’re always walking on a tight rope,” said Homs.

In early elections last November, the incumbent Mas failed to secure the “overwhelming majority” he sought for his CiU bloc, forcing him to enter into a ruling partnership with the leftist-nationalists of ERC.

The Catalan Socialists made their own early appraisal of the first 100 days of CiU-ERC rule, calling it “misgovernment” and alleging that the Catalan executive “does not have a clear course.”