Written by: George Vidal.
This week, the Catalan Foreign and EU Affairs Secretary, Roger Albinyana, and Kish Rajan, the Director of the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further economic cooperation between California and Catalonia. Albinyana noted that, even though informal relations between the two have existed since the 1980s, the agreement is the first to be signed by the two governments.
The agreement contains three major points: it aims to promote Californian-Catalan business and trade missions, to encourage information sharing on water scarcity and management, and to facilitate university and research collaboration.
Albinyana noted that over 24,000 Californians work in Catalan-operated businesses, and hoped that trade missions arising from the agreement would spur economic activity in Catalonia as well as California, the world’s 7th largest economy by nominal GDP.
Rajan and Albinyana also commented on the severe drought that has been affecting California. Albinyana hoped that the Catalan government could share its expertise on how “a territory that has had similar problems… has been able to deal with the problem of water scarcity.” The agreement promotes exchange of good practices in efficient water management, but also touches on cooperation in renewable energy sources and climate change.
A section of the agreement promotes university exchange programs and encourages collaboration between research centers, universities, and other research-based organizations. The agreement thus extends previous agreements signed by UC Davis and UC Irvine and the Catalan finance minister Andreu Mas-Colell last year.
PART OF A BROADER INTERNATIONAL STRATEGY
The economic agreement between California and Catalonia is part of a larger mission by the government of Catalonia to the United States. Catalan President Artur Mas gave a talk this week at Columbia University on the next steps that Catalonia will take after its 2014 vote on independence. Over 2.3 million Catalans voted on November 9, 2014, and over 80% of the votes were in favor of independence. The talk was less than six months away from the Catalan parliamentary elections scheduled for September 27, which will serve as a definitive plebiscite on independence from Spain. Artur Mas’s trip is the third to the United States since he assumed the Catalan presidency.
In a press conference, Albinyana remarked on how the Catalan-Californian agreement related to the Catalan self-determination movement. He noted that the agreement “serves to protect the interests of Catalans and Catalan companies”, and will continue to work to protect those interestes even if the Spanish government tries to hamper their efforts. “As long as there is support from the majority of the Catalan people, we will continue”, Albinyana said. “For Catalonia to be accepted as a sovereign state, if that is the wish of its citizens, as Government, we must strive to make our presence known to the world.”
The General Secretary of Foreign Affairs in Catalonia, Mr. Roger Albinyana, and the Director of the Governor Office of economic and business development in California, Mr. Kish Rajan, after signing the agreement.
George Vidal is in a Neurosciences PhD program at Stanford University. Graduated with honors from Harvard
College in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology.