The Pursuit of a Catalan State

[Spanish: artículo publicado en el ‘Diari de Tarragona’ el 15 de marzo de 2011]
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Washinton, DC. – It is not the first time in its recent history that Catalonia has voted and approved resolutions about its self-determination right — in 1989, 1996, and in 2010 the Parliament did so. In these three cases, a majority of the Catalan MP voted and approved documents with references to the right of the “Catalan nation” to decide about its future. Since the last one in 2010, the world has seen the birth of new states which have been recognized almost right away by other country-states and even by the U.N., such as Kosovo or South Sudan. In Kosovo’s case, this new European nation got its freedom unilaterally and months later it was legally endorsed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a historical sentence that ruled assuring that the “declaration of independence (…) did not violate general international law, Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) or the Constitutional Framework. Consequently the adoption of that declaration did not violate any applicable rule of international law.”

Since Catalonia lost the war of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), and subsequently its institutions, its people have enjoyed different levels of autonomy, but have always been part of Spain. Over the years and following democratic ways, Catalonia has recovered part of their institutions and competencies, gaining again high levels of autonomy inside the framework of another state. However, as never before today, this European nation has had such an important and serious movement of people pursuing the idea of becoming a new European nation-state different from Spain.

Recently, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled against the new Autonomous Catalan Statute, a law voted in democratic parliaments (both, the Catalan and the Spanish) and approved in referendum. The document defined competencies and the legal relation between Spain and Catalonia, but the High Court decided to cut down the Catalan autonomy levels wanted by its people. Because of that decision, more than one million people demonstrated in Barcelona on July 10th last year as a strong reaction to this sentence which goes against the will of the Catalans. Since then, more than 500 local commissions have been constituted and 50,000 volunteers have self-organized to call for a symbolic independence referendum, aimed at encouraging more Catalan citizens every day to peruse a dream of living in another nation-state inside the EU.

Now, a new resolution comes into the Catalan Parliament. One of its political minority groups, SI, is presenting a new resolution to the Chamber which goes further than the previous resolution already voted on by the Parliament. This one is inspired in the Kosovo’s Parliament decision, and not only highlights the self-determination right of all nations in the world, but also gives the Catalan Government “the faculty (…) to negotiate the international recognition of the independence declaration” (art. 8).

According to this Proposed Declaration of Independence Act of Catalonia, the break from Spain would take effect after the vote and negotiations with the international community, and only if it is approved by an absolute majority of the Catalan Parliament.

Needless to say that this resolution has few chances of passing because there are not enough MP willing to vote in favor due to the parties’ discipline of vote (even though most of the MP, in public appearances, have expressed their desires in favor of the independence of Catalonia). In any case, what it is true is that the only way for Catalonia to become independent is by declaring it unilaterally. Spain would never allow such a possibility — and neither did Serbia with Kosovo—, but the strength of the Catalan wiliness through democratic ways has no borders, and this desire to separate is growing every day. Without a doubt, international recognition of the new Catalan state will come right after the separation occurs. As just another recent example in the Kosovo’s case: yesterday the State Department of the U.S. congratulated “the governments of Serbia and Kosovo for the first meeting of an EU-facilitated dialogue since Kosovo became independent.”

Photo: ‘Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo’. ICJ Advisory Opinion, 2010-07-22. Pag.43.

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4 comentarios en “The Pursuit of a Catalan State

  1. >Només un "simple" detalla: Kosovo estava sota jurisdicció de l'ONU quan es va declarar independent. Era un protectorat de facto i per aquesta raó no va violar cap llei. Només un detall.

  2. >Just a detail: Kosovo was under UN jurisdictio when the proclamation of independence. Hence, the legality of its declaration. It's just a detail but some details matter.

  3. >Not only that one detail that you forgot to mention, there are many more. For example: 1) Catalonia did not loose the Spanish War of Succession. The War of Succession was actually a war between two candidates (one French, the other Austrian) to the Spanish Crown. Actually, Madrid, Alcalá and Toledo, among other cities, supported the same candidate as Catalonia did. Nothing to do with a supposedly independence war, more of a civil war, actually. (…by the way, you also forgot to mention that Catalonia switched sides a couple of times during the war…)2) You also forgot to mention that Catalonia, as the rest of Spain, has been within the same geopolitical territory since Roman times (the "Spanish Marca" or Hispania). You cannot obviously call Spain a country in the modern sense back then, but politically it was the closest structure you can find. 3) You also forgot to mention that Catalonia was one of the bravest and more outspoken regions vindicating Spain's independence in the Spanish Independence War against France, since 1808. 4) Also, you lacked to mention that Catalonia never was a kingdom of itself, historically it had always been a County. Aragon was the kingdom, and only through the mariage of Ramón Berenguer IV and Doña Petronila, the Count of Barcelona became king (of Aragon). Aragon and Castilla (both kingdoms) after expelling the moors from Spain–before that, as explained, the whole Spain was unified already under the Romans and the Visigoths–merged into the Crown of Spain (XV century). 5) The legal comparison between Kosovo or Southern Sudan and Catalonia is so flawed that is not even worth replying to. 6) Catalonia accepted the 1978 Spanish Constitution, and therefore has to play by its rules. The rest would just be anarchy and wishful thinking. 7) Spain's Constitutional Court just said that some parts of a law–in this case the Catalonian Statute–were not in accordance with the Constitution and needed to be changed. Exactly what any Supreme Court would do in a Federal State in regard to a State law. Is that so surprising? 8) I agree on one thing: Catalonia has the right to seek for its independence if a clear majority of its population wants to. I do not think, however, that this is the case today. Trying to manipulate history and the Law is not the right way to achieve any political goal.

  4. >Many trues have been said here. However, looking 500 years back is useless and ridiculous. For good or for bad, things have changed and nobody from those times is more than dust today, so what's the point? Yeah, it's fancy and intellectual, i guess…As a catalan, my only concern is whether I can have a better life being independent from Spain? Who cares about Ramon Berenguer? The answer depends on who are going to manage the "new" country and how are they going to do it. So, independent or not, what will give Catalans a better life is the government and its actions, not the only concept of independence. Let's not simplify the analysis. Give me a socialist government and 50 years down the road Barcelona will want to be independent from Cornella.Anyway, whatever happens it's going to be a mess since humans and monkeys have proven to have similar skills when it comes to coordination, respect, leadership or honesty. We (Catalans) won't be united, they (spanish) won't accept it, we will all lose. That's human kind. Just not up to the challenges.

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