Applicability of Self-determination Principle in Catalonia

Published: 2022-02-23
Applicability of Self-determination Principle in Catalonia
Type of paper:  Argumentative essay
Categories:  Political science Independence
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1374 words
12 min read

Catalonia's attempts to self-independence illuminates the collision of sovereignty and self-determination principles. Spain argues that conceding Catalonia's self-determination and independence movement violates the constitution and the Spanish state sovereignty. Convenient assessment of the situation shows two competing nationalism reveals right on either side. However, citing the indivisibility of Spanish state to oppose Catalonia people democratic right to decide appears an ill-judged political tactic was violating the national right to self-determination (Levrat, Antunes, Tusseau, & Williams, 2016). Equating Catalan independence to illegal acts that violate the Spanish constitution to disqualify the self-determination quest is both flawed and contradictory to the International law.

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The refusal by the Spanish government to allow Catalonia assume independence violates the UN Charter enshrining self-determination principle in Article 1.2. Citing sovereignty of Spanish state by emphasizing the indivisibility principle enshrined in the constitution violates the UN Charter rights whose provisions transcends domestic laws of any member. Again, the founding principle of international law holds that the position assumed by the state's constitution should not be reasoned inherently legal. Such requires the provisions to equate with the international law's provisions (Cetra & Harvey, 2017). It implies that the international laws supersede provisions in domestic laws sanctioning vices such as genocide and forceful displacement. Similarly, supporting the refusal of consent to Catalonia independence using the Spanish state's constitution rejects the international law idea.

The interpretation of the UN charter above shows that self-determination principle challenges the willingness of host state consent. As such, the acceptance of self-determination right, then claims sovereignty right to conditional consent by Spain being the host state to strike out Catalonia violate simple logical sense. The refusal to accept Catalan independence is akin to acknowledge that a woman can only exercise divorce rights if their husband consents. The position assumed by Spain and its allies to deny Catalonia's claim for independence cedes its people's power to the host state (Levrat, Antunes, Tusseau, & Williams, 2016). Replicating such a position globally would sanction immutability of borders, hence humiliating millions of citizens trapped within jurisdictions they hardly recognize. The international law perspective lacks no legal prohibition that bars sub-states from their political destiny (Walker, 2016). The case law supports the will exercised by its people using their legitimized democratic principle to vote.

It would be hypocritical for the Spanish state and EU allies to neglect the Catalonia people's will to pursue independence illuminated by the 2017 referendum. In fact, European Union (EU) members recognize many sub-state entities that pursued independence following assessment of political will help their people. It suggests that championing led by Western liberal democracies to trump Catalonians' self-determination right is hypocritical (Serrano, 2014). Supporting the constitutionality of Spanish indivisibility provision is allowing the state-centric position to violate liberalism principle of freedom that EU failed to apply in Kosovo case (Ragone, 2017). The recognition of unilateral secession of Kosovo from Serbia by eighty-two percent of EU states and a further eighty-six percent of NATO members and deny Catalan would be the selective approach to self-determination principle under the international law. The European law lacks specific treaty provision on self-determination right, and neither does it illegalize those exercising right to decide within the territory (Levrat, Antunes, Tusseau, & Williams, 2016). Instead, numerous EU treaty provisions enshrine positive reaction to new state candidacy seeking its membership.

References made to invariably provoke counterargument that Kosovo deserved self-determination from Belgrade government citing great suffering is the unconvincing argument. Such references would acknowledge deserved independence to halt oppression from Belgrade governance (Birungi, 2017). Nevertheless, legitimizing self-determination right through passing a conditional test for oppressive behavior by host states is illogical. It acknowledges repressing independence claims to trap the Catalan people within Spanish jurisdiction until large numbers of lives are lost. Holding such a position would amount to the selective implementation of the principle. The right to self-determination should reflect the citizens' support within the region seeking secession (Concilio, 2017). Its viability should illuminate regional peace rather than term it impermissible by arguing its illegality under the Spanish constitution.

The divergence approach by the Spanish government to deny Catalan independence reveals selective ground centered on political and not legal position. The decision to forbid Catalonia self-determination contradicts the decision taken by the British government to guarantee Scotland demands for independence. The divergence traces to the codified position in the Spanish constitution that affirms indivisibility (Hehir, 2017). However, rejecting the Scottish precedent to refuse Catalonia demands is equating law enforcement to democracy. It creates dark contrast with the UK founded on the flexible constitution. The Spanish liberal constitution embraces moral and political principles that align the indivisibility provision to protecting pre-political identities (Serrano, 2014). References made to demonstrate the centuries that Catalan has lived together within the Spanish state evokes connections build around pre-political identities. The shared political identity expressed by Spanish fails to explain why loyalty should bind individuals to jurisdiction they hardly recognize (Blanke, Abdelrehim, Nagel, & Rixen, 2015). The position only reveals that claims presented by minority nationalists have the less explicit assertion that would guarantee the right to self-determination. Guaranteeing the indivisibility claim by Spain leaves the self-determination principle sitting uneasily against sovereignty.

The Spanish-Catalonia conflict evokes attacks on basic rights, freedoms and human values that activate the self-determination enshrined under the UN charter. Without such attacks, Catalonia secessionists equating self-determination rights to secure their right to secede would fail in the context of non-self-governing territories. Without the attacks from the Spanish government, Catalonia secessionists fail the decolonization test cited by the International Court of Justice critical to trigger the self-determination right (Grutters, 2017). References Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence reveals no breach of international law. The case demonstrated that declarations are sovereignty claims deniable or recognizable by sovereign states. The recognition of Kosovo independence arose through fait accompli following the acceptance of its independence claims (Grutters, 2017). Unlike Kosovo case, the refusal of Catalonia declaration of independence would appear illegal less the continued denial of opportunity for Catalan people to exercise their self-determination right within the territory they form a part.

The current experiences of Catalonia satisfy the argument by the Supreme Court of Canada to determine Quebec secession. The court argues that right to secession sought under self-determination right within the international law would arise if the people are regarded being a part of the colonial empire. Besides, subjecting people to alien domination, exploitation and subjugation defeat counterarguments founded on sovereignty principle. Thirdly, people denied opportunity to meaningful exercise their right to decide, within the state they are a part have self-determination rights (Grutters, 2017). The court ruling shows that absence of such situations prove under international law relegates the self-determination right to the internal framework within the existing state. Assessing the Catalonia situation reveals that international law would support self-determination right and their secession quests. However, adopting the argument held by the Supreme Court of Canada mandates Spain to recognize the self-determination right held by Catalan people. Ironically, suspension and restriction of Catalonia activate Article 155, hence giving credence to Catalans claim of deprived meaningful exercise self-determination right.


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Walker, N. (2016). Postnational constitutionalism and the challenge of contested multilateralism. Global Constitutionalism, 5, 308-319.

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