Tuesday

19th Feb 2019

Stakeholder

Catalonia has legal grounds and legitimacy to be its own state

  • The Yes to independence side won with around 90 percent, in a vote that was declared illegal by the Spanish constitutional court and which the Spanish government and the EU do not recognise. (Photo: Nonegraphies)

Catalonia has the legal backing and the legitimacy to have its own state.

The events in Catalonia are shaping up a new political reality not only within the Spanish state but also at the European level.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Regardless of the final outcome of last weeks' events, what has happened in Catalonia will be documented by historians and quoted as legal precedent.

The attention devoted by the international press and social media to the issue, has put Catalonia in the spotlight of main opinion makers and legal experts.

But it is clear that mainstream media follows mainstream political discourse and are supportive of the status-quo, which claims that the Catalan government has breached the "rule of law" by holding an independence referendum that was considered illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

Many at the Spanish level, but also at the European level, publicly declared their opposition to the referendum itself. And some went as far as justifying the brutal and violent use of police force, as a necessary instrument to protect and preserve the "rule of law", against peaceful citizens.

Breach of EU Treaty

A clear breach of the EU Treaty and international law, this is unacceptable.

We agree that the "rule of law" must be preserved. But the "rule of law" is not only what is written in constitutions or codified in laws; otherwise, the laws of Nazi Germany or the Apartheid, for instance, could also be legitimised under this same principle.

What the "rule of law" essentially means is that citizens have political rights in relation to the state. In this respect, the Spanish government is in breach for failing to listen to the Catalans; for repeatedly refusing and disregarding dialogue and negotiation; for granting a political role to the army; and threatening to send the army to Catalonia.

Moreover, the Spanish government's use of violence is in violation of the human rights framework, which strictly limits the conditions for "justifiable" use of police violence against civilians. Violence by a government against citizens can only be used when it is absolutely necessary, which was obviously not the case in Catalonia.

So we call on the EU to unconditionally condemn the violence demonstrated by the Spanish government on 1 October against EU citizens. It is a blatant violation of Article 2 of the EU Treaty, which defines the rule of law and human rights.

Self-determination

Much now is being said about the illegal character of Catalonia's independence referendum and its lack of legitimacy, ignoring the fact that 90 percent of Catalans, who have voted, are in favour of independence.

But quoting a report by the Institute for Research on Self-Determination of Peoples and National Independence (IRAI), "Catalonia can rely on self-determination when read in conjunction with the democratic principle, which stipulates that the authority to govern must be based on the will of the people."

Referring to the democratic principle of self-determination in relation with the rule of law, the Supreme Court of Canada, regarding the succession of Quebec, has ruled that: "The consent of the governed is a value that is basic to our understanding of a free and democratic society. Yet democracy in any real sense of the word cannot exist without the rule of law. It is the law that creates the framework within which the "sovereign will" is to be ascertained and implemented. To be accorded legitimacy, democratic institutions must rest, ultimately, on a legal foundation. That is, they must allow for the participation of, and accountability to, the people, through public institutions created under the Constitution. Equally, however, a system of government cannot survive through adherence to the law alone. A political system must also possess legitimacy, and in our political culture, that requires an interaction between the rule of law and the democratic principle. The system must be capable of reflecting the aspirations of the people…"

The right to vote in a referendum is a manifestation of the freedom of expression, assembly and association recognised as fundamental human rights in the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. Therefore, it should not only be guaranteed but its exercise encouraged.

Time to negotiate

We agree with the fact that the international system rely on preserving the territorial integrity of states, but that does not prohibit Catalonia declaring its independence under international law. In fact, the International Court of Justice, in the Kosovo case (2010), clearly stated that no rule of international law prohibits a unilateral secession.

The Catalan people have clearly declared their independence last Sunday (1 October), both legally and democratically.

It is now time to sit down and negotiate on the terms of separation.

Francois Alfonsi is the president of the European Free Alliance (EFA).

Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

Defenders of Spain's unity fight back

Hundreds of thousands demonstrated over the weekend against Catalonia's independence and for a dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona, while pressure is mounting on Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont not to declare independence.

Spain and Catalonia in referendum showdown

Barcelona vowed to hold a vote and Madrid vowed to prevent one on the eve of Sunday's planned independence referendum. The deadlock has prompted criticism of Rajoy.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia kicks out Danske Bank over money laundering scandal
  2. May and Juncker meet over Brexit on Wednesday
  3. EU promises to open up advisory groups
  4. EU agrees to limit CO2 emissions by trucks
  5. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad
  6. EU would not oppose extending Brexit talks, Juncker said
  7. Juncker expects Trump not to impose new car tariffs
  8. Former EU official sentenced for office rape

Stakeholders' Views

This EUobserver section provides a platform for EU stakeholders to communicate positions, views and activities.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  2. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  3. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  4. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  5. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  6. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars
  7. British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule
  8. EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us