Friday, October 31, 2014

How did Catalonia get to the present point

The following timeline explains in a nutshell how we got here. It allows us to understand the evolution of this movement, in which Catalan civil society is the one pushing political leaders to organise a referendum.

30 September 2005

The Parliament of Catalonia passes a proposal for a new Statute of Autonomy.

The Catalan Parliament approves (with the support of 120 MPs out of 135) a proposal to reform the 1979 Statute of Autonomy with the aim of finally accommodating Catalonia within the Spanish state. Socialist president Pasqual Maragall states that Catalonia is a nation.

18 June 2006

After being approved by the Parliament of Catalonia and the two chambers of the Spanish Parliament, the Statute is ratified by the people of Catalonia via a referendum.

In the referendum 73.9% of Catalans ratify the text. Afterwards, Spanish King Juan Carlos I signs it and it is published as an organic law in the Spanish government’s Official Bulletin.

13 September 2009

The town of Arenys de Munt (Barcelona) holds a non-binding referendum on self-determination. During the following year 554 towns follow suit.

Between 2009 and 2011 many towns and villages, including Barcelona, hold the same referendum. It is a bottom-up movement: organized by citizens without any institutional help.

28 June 2010

Almost four years after it became law, the Spanish Constitutional Court rewrites 14 articles of the Catalan Statute and reinterprets 27 others.

The Statute is legally contested in 2006 by the Spanish People’s Party. After four years of deliberations, the Constitutional Court of Spain, by a 6 to 4 majority of its members, rewrites and changes the interpretation of 41 articles – mainly those relating to language, justice and fiscal policy – thus watering down the main tool for Catalonia’s self-rule.

10 July 2010

As a response to the Court’s sentence, a huge protest under the slogan ‘We are a nation. We decide!’ is organized.

Civil society group Òmnium Cultural calls for a mass demonstration in Barcelona against the Court’s decision.

28 November 2010

Elections for the Parliament of Catalonia result in a change in the balance of power. Victory is for current president Artur Mas.

After two terms of a centre-left coalition government, Convergència i Unió win the elections and the current Catalan president is elected.

11 September 2012

On Catalan National Day, 1.5 million people attend a demonstration in Barcelona with ‘Catalonia: Next State in Europe’ as its slogan.

This rally, organized by the Catalan National Assembly, is the biggest ever held in Catalonia.

20 September 2012

Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy rejects the Catalan President’s offer for a new fiscal agreement.

Rajoy argues that it would be contrary to the Constitution, although the Basque Country and Navarra already have this system. The Catalan president explains that a majority of Catalans want a fairer fiscal agreement.

25 November 2012

Early elections are held. As a result, 80% of the Parliament of Catalonia support the right to self-determination.

After the huge September protest and the Spanish government’s negative response to a new fiscal agreement, President Mas calls for early elections. The new Catalan Parliament has 107 out of 135 MPs supporting a self-determination referendum.

23 February 2013

The Catalan Sovereignty Declaration is adopted by the Catalan Parliament.

It asserts that Catalonia is a sovereign entity and its citizens will be able to choose their own political future. The Spanish Constitutional Court nullifies this declaration on 25 March 2014.

13 March 2013

A vast majority (77%) of the Catalan Parliament request the Catalan President to start negotiations with the Spanish Government so as to hold a self-determination referendum in Catalonia.

The request is supported by 104/135 MPs, including those belonging to the ruling coalition and four opposition parties. Only two parties reject it (PP & C’s).

11 September 2013

About 2 million Catalans hold hands to form The Catalan Way Towards Independence – a human chain covering 400 km from the north to the south of Catalonia.

The Catalan National Assembly organizes the protest inspired by 1989′s Baltic Way. Smaller human chains are also organized in more than 100 cities worldwide.

12 December 2013

The Catalan Government and six parties agree on the date and the question for the self-determination referendum.

Parties reach a historic agreement: the referendum will take place on 9 November 2014 and it will ask a two-part question: “Do you want Catalonia to be a State? If so, do you want Catalonia to be an independent State?”

16 January 2014

The Parliament of Catalonia makes a formal petition asking the Spanish Government to transfer the necessary powers to hold the referendum (like Westminster has done with Scotland).

As in the UK, the Parliament of Catalonia asks the Spanish Government to transfer the legal powers to hold a referendum

8 April 2014

The Spanish Parliament votes against transferring referendum powers to Catalonia. The two largest Spanish parties (PP and PSOE) coincide and vote NO.

11 September 2014

1.8 M people take the streets of Barcelona to celebrate Catalonia’s National Day and ask to vote on 9 November. They form an 11km-long flag mosaic in the form of a giant V that stands for Vote.

19 September 2014

The Catalan Parliament approves the Law on Non-Binding Popular Consultations with 79% in favour MPs. The law will serve as the legal basis for calling the 9 November independence vote, and was already foreseen in the 2006 Autonomy Statute for Catalonia.

27 September 2014

The President of Catalonia, Artur Mas, signs the decree calling an independence vote on 9 November in a solemn act at the Palau de la Generalitat, the main Government building in Barcelona.

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Message from Catalan President Artur Mas upon his visit to Yad Vashem

In the last few months, there has been an increasing trivialization of totalitarianism and nazism, consisting principally in comparing the process and political debate that is happening peacefully and democratically in Catalonia with totalitarian movements like Nazism. 

This frivolous treatment of Nazism and its consequences is a travesty of justice and an attack on democracy and the good name of all those who support democracy. 

Most of Nazism's victims on the Iberian Peninsula were Catalans. Catalonia itself can be considered a victim of Nazism: for Nazism's support of the extremist anti-Catalan uprising of General Franco in 1936; for the barbarian bombardments of Barcelona, Lleida, Granollers and many other Catalan towns and cities, made to serve as test subjects for aerial attacks on a defenseless civilian population; for handing over President of Catalonia, Lluís Companys to the Francoist regime so that they could execute him after the most summary of judgments; for the imprisonment, humiliation, torture, and forced labor until death of many thousands of Catalans in Nazi extermination camps. 

In addition, there were many Catalans who fought against Nazism and in favor of democracy, like Pau Casals, or Dr. Trueta in the United Kingdom, who cared for and developed new methods for curing injuries of war, who used his experience in Barcelona to teach Londoners how to protect civilians from aerial attacks, who was commended by Winston Churchill himself; or Catalans who disembarked to fight at Normandy with the allied forces; fought in the French Resistance, from the airwaves of the BBC, the battlefronts, the hospitals, and through civic activism. The famous photo of an espadrille-clad foot squashing the swastika is much more than an image: it's a symbol. 

Converting a victim into an executioner and insinuating that the democratic majority is totalitarianist are the definition of foul play. 

This trivialization of totalitarianism has not been met with hostility by the State administration, as would have been desired, nor by many media outlets which have let themselves be used as the conduit for such accusations. 

The Spanish government has not confronted the media, nor those party members or leaders, who currently govern Spain, who have directly compared the President of Catalonia with Adolf Hitler and the pro-sovereighnty movement with Nazism. The demands of some for violent resolution of the Catalan question have also been inexplicably left unanswered by the State.

Catalan President Artur Mas at Yad Vashem  memorial against the banalization of nazism

Indeed, the response from State powers has not been definitive enough even in actual explicitly totalitarian cases, like the assault on the Delegation of the Catalan Government in Madrid, on last September 11th, that was quickly resolved with disproportionately low fines. 

The repetition of false accusations of totalitarianism has only one objective: that of delegitimizing Catalan institutions, which the people of Catalonia has freely decided that the majority should be comprised of those in favor of having a referendum on Catalonia's future. 

Neither Catalonia nor its government have ever been allies of the Nazis; Catalanism has never been a manifestation of totalitarianism nor of defense of a dictatorship. On the contrary, Catalonia, the Catalans, and Catalanism have been victims of the same, together with so many other millions of europeans, with whom the spilt blood of Catalans was mixed. That's how Joaquim Amat-Piniella, whose centennial we celebrated this year, explained it, in what is considered one of the 10 best literary works on the Holocaust: “K.L. Reich”. 

From this special place that is Yad Vashem, where we bear witness to the ignominy of Nazism and totalitarianism and remember the victims so that they will never be forgotten, as President of Catalonia, I solemnly reiterate the commitment of my country to respect, liberty, and democracy. Never again.

Read also this extensive article on the topic:

Comparing Catalonia's self-determination democratic process with the Nazi regime has become one of the arguments the Spanish nationalists have been using over the last two years, repeated in extreme-right television stations and even at the Spanish Parliament. Such an offensive and dishonest comparison outrages most of the Catalan society because of its total unfairness in describing the current democratic and peaceful self-determination process and for trivializing Nazism and the suffering of its victims – including read more...

Help Catalonia is an association that receives no subsidies whatsoever from the Spanish state, the Catalan government or indeed any other organisation. We, the people who work in this project, do so on a voluntary basis and for no financial gain whatsoever.
If you like the task we are performing and would like to help us carry on our undertaking you may make a donation through bank account No. IBAN ES69 0049 4751 4421 9506 0811 .
Or you may also make a donation via PayPal clicking the button "Donate" .

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Where to vote on November 9th if you are abroad

CatalunyaGeneralitat de CatalunyaPasseig de Gràcia, 107 (Palau Robert)08008 Barcelona
GermanyDelegació GeneralitatCharlottenstr. 18 D-10117 BerlinD-10117   Berlin
FranceDelegació Generalitat50 Rue Saint Ferdinand, 75017 Paris75017Paris
UKDelegació Generalitat17 Fleet Street 2nd floor, EC4Y 1AA LondonEC4Y 1AALondon
USADelegació Generalitat360 Lexington Avenue, Suite 1801 New York10017New York
ArgentinaACCIÓEcheverría 1515. Piso 13B C1428DQS Buenos AiresC1428DQSBuenos Aires
JapanACCIÓCR Kamiyacho 11. 1-11-9 Azabudai Minato Ku 106-004
Minato Ku 106-0041Tokyo
BelgiumDelegació GeneralitatRue de la Loi/ Wetstraat, 227 1040 Bruxelles1040Bruxelles
AustraliaACCIÓSuite 603, 46 Market Street NWS 2000 SydneyNWS 2000 Sydney
CanadaACCIÓ380 Saint Antoine Ouest, Suite 2030 (World Trade Centre)
H2Y 3X7 Montréal
H2Y 3X7 Montréal
MexicoACCIÓAvda. Insurgentes Sur nº 600 – 301Col. del Valle 3100
México DF (México)
3100México DF (México)
USAACCIÓ4N Second St. Suite 210 CA 95113 San Jose, CaliforniaCA 95113San José California
ItalyACCIÓMontebello, 27 20121 Milano20121Milano
ColombiaACCIÓCarrera 10 Núm. 97 A-13 Torre B. Oficina 706.
Edificio Bogotá Trade Center

Bogotá D.C.
308-320 Des Voeux Road Central,
Sheung Wan Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Brasil ACCIÓEdificio Spazio JK Av Juscelino kubitschek,
1726 11º andar 04543-000 Vila Olímpia, Sao Paulo
04543-000Vila Olímpia, Sao Paulo 
DenmarkACCIÓJernbanegade, 4 sidehuset st. Tv 1680 Copenhaguen1680Copenhaguen
ChileACCIÓSanta Beatriz 100 , Oficina 1302 7500515 Providencia ,
Santiago de Chile
7500515Providencia, Santiago de Chile 
FranceCasa de PerpinyàCarrer de la Fusteria, 1 (antic Palau Siré) F-66000 PerpinyàF-66000 Perpinyà
AndorraAvinguda Príncep Benlloch, 25, baixosAndorra la Vella 
Download pdf
Download ballot vote

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Spanish government aims to challenge the new independence vote

Spanish Nationalist government activates the mechanism to appeal to the Constitutional Court, again 

The Spanish government has activated the mechanism to challenge the new independence vote scheduled on November 9 in the Spanish Constitutional Court. The vote is replacing the original non-binding referendum vote that has already been banned by the Spanish authorities.

Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy yesterday asked the Council of State’s opinion, the prior step to contest the Government of Catalonia set of actions to carry out the vote. Rajoy has called for an urgent opinion so that the council of ministers can finally decide to challenge it by the end of this week.

On Friday, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, already announced that it had asked its legal services to analyse all the aspects of Catalonia’s independence vote. Sáenz also stated that Mas is pretending to replace ‘an illegal process for one that is even more antidemocratic’. On top of this, the Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, stated that if Catalonia carries on with the alternative non-binding referendum / survey vote, scheduled on the 9th of November, it will mean that ‘it is not a healthy democracy’, since ‘it does not respect the rule of law’.

The suspension of the originary vote

The Constitutional Court accepted on October 10 to file the two Spanish Government’s appeals against the originary self-determination vote decree and the Catalan Parliament’s law upon which it was based. This decision automatically represented the temporary suspension of the law and the decree.

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Spain’s government is so afraid of Catalonia that they will even forbid mock-up vote

It is clear that the Permanent Commission of the State Council (a high-level legislative office in Spain) is set to rule this coming Thursday, as requested by Partido Popular’s (PP) cabinet, concerning the legality of the new citizen-promoted vote aimed at letting Catalans vote in a mock-up election, in lieu of the real one which was banned by the same Spanish government—moved largely by PP’s fear of the results and their complete lack of any democratic principle.

But the Spanish government is especially afraid of an unofficial, non-binding vote, put together by volunteers, and which people in both Spain and Catalonia know that it has no legal validity, and which is, in essence, a kind of symbolic vote in order to send the Spanish government a message, namely, that Catalans want to vote, and that they shall do so whether they want it or not, and that, the longest it takes the Spanish government to recognize this fact, the more serious the situation will become. However, Spain doesn’t care. They are so arrogant that they even believe that they are the new European wonder boys. 

So, yesterday, the chief of the executive branch, Mariano Rajoy, requested urgently a ruling by this counseling body for before October 31st, according to what sources from the Council told Europa Press. Therefore, the Council is supposed to be approving it during their regular Thursday meeting, and of course there’s no need to worry what this ruling will be. PP’s executive is planning on using the Spanish Constitutional Court to ban any actions taken by the Catalan government in order to hold this vote, which they call a “citizen participatory process.” If this document is approved on Thursday and sent back to the executive office, the Council of Ministers (a kind of president’s cabinet) could decide on this appeal during this coming Friday meeting.

The Secretary of Justice, Rafael Catalá, explained yesterday that the state attorneys are looking into the Catalan government’s actions, such as “the instructions sent to schools and state workers,” to determine whether they are “punishable enough” to be added to the case. Along the same lines, the secretary highlighted that “it might amount to unequivocal legal fraud,” in the sense that “they are trying to obtain a forbidden result through alternative means,” and he added that the November 9 non-offical vote in Catalonia “would not be possible for any public government because there is no legal framework.” If anyone understands all these preconditions, please explain them to me.

Given the new proposed vote, mock-up or not, and the new actions against it taken by the Spanish government, many Catalans, like myself, wonder whether we’ll be able to vote. Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya’s (president Mas’ party) spokeswoman, and mayor of Sant Cugat del Vallès, Mercè Conesa, concerning the Spanish government’s threats to prohibit the new vote, said that people in her party are feeling “calm and confident” because they think that “the participatory process will allow citizens to vote.”

But it is clear that Ms. Conesa is not taking PP’s government fear into consideration, to such an extent that they might not even allow Catalans to hold legally-devoid referendums. In essence, they do not want us to vote—especially about whether we want to be an independent nation or not. Deep down, they have two problems. One of them affects us Catalans negatively, because we might go through tough times. The other, because, whether Rajoy wants it or not, this will have a negative effect on other people in Spain, because, I insist, in the end Catalans shall vote.

Blas Gutierrez
Retired industrial engineer

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Aljazeera: Spain moves to block Catalonia vote

After succeeding in stopping official independence referendum, government now tries to stop symbolic vote. 

Polls indicate most Catalans want a referendum but are roughly equally divided over independence [AFP]

Spain's central government has said it will ask the country's Constitutional Court to block a symbolic vote by Catalonia on whether the wealthy northeastern region should seek independence.

Catalonia's president, Artur Mas, who had planned an official referendum vote on November 9 on the region's breakaway, was forced to downgrade the event after the Spanish government launched a legal challenge at the Constitutional Court.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government on Monday asked the Council of State, an advisory body, for its opinion on this new consultation, a first step towards challenging the new vote in the Constitutional Court, the government said in a statement.

The Council of State was asked to issue its ruling quickly so a decision on how to respond to the Catalan vote can be made during the next weekly cabinet meeting, which is expected on Friday, the statement added.

If the court agrees to study a new challenge by the government, the vote will be tentatively suspended.

Proud of their distinct language and culture, Catalonia's 7.5 million inhabitants have increasingly been demanding greater autonomy over recent years. The region accounts for nearly a fifth of Spain's economic output.

Symbolic vote

Polls indicate that most Catalans want a referendum, but are roughly equally divided over independence. The issue has embittered the region's relations with the government.

The Catalan government has said 5.4 million Catalans aged 16 and over will be eligible to vote, along with certain foreign residents in the region and Catalans living abroad. The vote will be largely organised by volunteers.

About 1,255 voting stations will be set up across nearly all of Catalonia's more than 900 municipalities and in 17 foreign cities, it said. Provisional results will be available from November 10.

After the Constitutional Court suspended Catalan legislation aimed at legitimising a referendum, the regional government said the new-format vote would not have a formal electoral roll, but participants would sign up on an unofficial register.

There will be no formal electoral supervisory authority and no international observers will monitor the vote officially.

Mas' concessions was not positively met by Catalan's pro-independence camp. Opposition parties in the region have called for a snap regional election if he failed to deliver on the planned referendum.


Read more »

Spain central government moves to block new Catalan vote

(Reuters) - Spain's central government took the first step on Monday towards blocking a "consultation of citizens" that the Catalonia region intends to hold next month in the place of a full referendum on independence from Spain that was barred by a court.

The wealthy, northeastern region earlier this month dropped plans to hold the referendum planned for Nov. 9, but said it would still stage a non-binding vote that would be open to anyone who wanted to cast their ballot.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to block the initiative if it were found to be illegal and on Monday asked the Council of State for its opinion on this new consultation -- the first legal step towards preventing the vote.

In a statement released on its website, the prime minister's office said Rajoy had asked the Council to issue its ruling as a matter of emergency so that a decision could be made on how to respond at Friday's cabinet meeting.

Catalonia has its own language and culture. Its long-standing independence movement has grown over the last decade, fueled by Spain's economic crisis and a refusal by Madrid to meet regional demands for more autonomy.

Spain's Constitutional Court suspended the independence referendum after the government asked it to declare the vote illegal. It could now take years to make a definitive ruling.

(Reporting by Julien Toyer; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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Background information on the November 9 ballot in Catalonia

In 2003 89% of the MPs in the Catalan Parliament decided to propose a new regional constitution ("Statute of Autonomy") for Catalonia, given the gradual decentralization of powers in Madrid since the first Statute was adopted in 1979, and the new needs that had emerged over time. In September 2005 they agreed on a new text which satisfied parties across the whole spectrum except for the Spanish People's Party (which had comefourth in the 2003 election) and which they regarded as falling within the terms of the 1978 Spanish Constitution.

The Spanish Parliament made such cuts to the draft Statute that one of the main parties actually called for a No vote in the binding referendum to ratify it in Catalonia, and the lack of public enthusiasm for the resulting text was reflected in the relatively low turnout, just under 50%.

The Spanish People's Party, which had opposed from the start any increase in the level of devolution, took the Statute to the Constitutional Court (the only Statute to be thus questioned, since the 1978 Constitution had become law). Four years later (June 2010), and after numerous leaks to the press and internal politicking, the Court deemed significant aspects of the Statute to be unconsitutional, thereby obliterating the binding nature of the referendum.

Since then there have been two elections in Catalonia, in 2010 and 2012, to redress the institutional crisis. Since 2012 there has been a clear electoral commitment, and a broad parliamentary mandate, for a vote to be held on the future of Catalonia. In December 2013 a clear majority of the Parliament agreed on the question to be put (those opposing the idea of a vote had refused to take part in the discussions) and the date: November 9 2014. 

The Spanish government refused to apply the provisions in the Constitution to allow this to take place as a referendum, so the parties supporting the vote agreed to enact Catalan legislation on popular ballots other than referendums (as foreseen in the 2006 Statute). The Government issued a decree (calling this ballot) on the very day the law was published. The law had been subjected to stringent legal scrutiny and not a single amendment was proposed to the bill.

In an unprecedentedly short space of time the Spanish Government challenged the law and the decree before the Constitutional Court, which in accordance with corrent legislation temporarily suspended the decree. Much to the Spanish government's relief, the Government decided to respect the temporary suspension, which made it impossible to hold the ballot in the form originally planned.

In response, and in a reaffirmation of its electoral commitment, the Government announced a ballot, to be held on the same day, in accordance with an as yet unannounced legal framework governing processes of citizen participation. Despite strong calls for disobedience from the other parties (to go ahead with the November 9th ballot as planned, despite the Constitutionaol Court's ruling) the Government has reestablished the consensus, at least until the day after the ballot. There will be 1,255 schools (where people will be able to participate), and 6,430 ballot boxes in 941 of the 947 local districts (only six local councils have refused to cooperate, and nearly all amassed in the Catalan Government palace, in Barcelona, on October 4). 

20,000 volunteers were needed to assure the ballot. By October 24 there were 35,348 enrolled. Moreover, thousands of civil servants have offered their support, outside their working hours.

The Spanish government's initial reaction to this new ploy was one of scorn and derision. A few days later, however, it decided to ask its lawyers, and the Council of State, for their opinion as regards the new November 9 ballot. Quite deliberately, there is no written evidence in any official document as regards the organisation of the event, so experts agree that it is absurd for the Spanish government to try and bar it, when no written, public decision yet exists.

Professor Miquel Strubell

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You don't know me. For all you know I may be a psychopath, a pipedreamer or simply round the bend.
I could try and counter that, saying my grandfather was a world-famous doctor, shortlisted for a Nobel prize and an Oxford professor in orthopaedic surgery. Or that my father was a successful businessman who didn't flinch when it came to serving his country as an RAF reconaissance fighter pilot in the War. And you could say that even if what I claim is true, kids of highly distinguished parents have become infamous as thieves, serial murderers and fanatics... Or the converse: looking at his parents, noone would have given a penny read more...

We were driving down a street towards the Avinguda Diagonal which splits Barcelona in two, from the north. As i turned the wheel at the last bend before reaching the avenue the car's electrical system packed up. Completely. I managed to bring it to a stop, stamping on the brake and struggling with the steering wheel. And to our surprise we saw that all the traffic around us had also shuddered to a halt. Read more...

Miquel Strubell MA MSc, of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, presented this paper at the seminar on "Self-determination processes in the EU: The case of Catalonia" held at the University College London on October 25 2013.
In his paper, Strubell looks into the reasons for the recent growth of the pro-independence grassroots movement, which he traces back over ten years. He concentrates on events since the 2010 Constitutional Court ruling, which invalidated substantial parts of the 2006 regional constitution (the "Estatut d'Autonomia") that had been accepted by read more...

With an insistence that I find increasingly aggravating, an EU spokesman has yet again repeated the stale claim that "a new state would become, by dint of its independence, a third country with respect to the EU and the Treaties of the Union would not apply from day one of its independence”. Such a statement disqualifies the Commission's similarly repeated statement that it will only state its position at the request of a member state, in the light of a specific set of circumstances. Read more...

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The EU will be “pragmatic” and not kick out an independent Catalonia say experts in Sciences Po

CATALAN NEWS AGENCY – They also highlight the importance of “international recognition” for the process of acceptance of an independent Catalonia within the EU

The European Union will adopt a “pragmatic approach” and employ “common sense” in the case of an independent Catalonia or Scotland and would not work to expel them, according to experts gathered at a conference on self-determination on Friday at the prestigious Sciences Po University in Paris. At the conference, which was organised with the support of the Catalan public-private soft diplomacy council Diplocat, experts highlighted the importance of “international recognition” for the process of acceptance of an independent Catalonia within the EU. Graham Avery, member of the Brussels-based think tank European Policy Centre (EPC) and Honorary Director General of the European Commission, said that the EU “has no problem in accepting changes in the borders of states”, but that it has never experienced a secession which would create “two new member states”. The conference also featured a panel discussion on the philosophy of the right to decide upon self-determination within the EU, which involved experts on the subject from throughout Europe.

The conference was held in Paris’s Sciences Po university this Friday with the goal of furthering the political debate about the Catalan self-determination consultation vote, which is due to be held on the 9th of November, and the Scottish Referendum, which will take place on the 18th of September. The discussion aimed to explore their implications for the EU. Experts debated the differences between an independence declaration, a proclamation and, above all, the international recognition process. They emphasised that the international acceptance of a hypothetical new state would vary depending on the international organisation and how the independence process had taken place.

Welsh academic Graham Avery, who wrote a report on the issue for the British Parliament, said it would be “absurd” for Scotland to leave the European Union. He stressed that there would be a “pragmatic” solution applied to an independent Scotland which would employ “common sense” to negotiations, so that the new state could be accepted into the EU. For Avery, the agreement between London and Edinburgh would make this process far simpler than in the case of an independent Catalonia.

Catalonia’s entry into the EU dependent on Spanish acceptance

Professor of International Law at the University of Girona, Francina Esteve, explained that the accession process of a hypothetical independent Catalonia would depend largely on the extent to which the Spanish Government would accept the new state. “If Catalonia could reach an agreement with the Spanish Government, like in the case of Scotland and the United Kingdom, it would facilitate Catalonia’s entry into the EU. However if they didn’t, it would complicate things”, she said. According to Esteve, “the EU does not encourage the emergence of new states” but “secession is not prohibited as such”.

Francinia Esteve also commented that, “there is no international standard that explicitly prohibits unilateral [independence] declaration” but that it is important to recognise that each case depends on “how the process has been done”. She also commented that the attitude of the original state could affect the international recognition process, as well as whether the new state has “allies”. “The EU has traditionally adopted a pragmatic attitude” she said. The Professor warned that “if Greece could destabilise the EU, so could Catalonia, which is not what the EU wants”.

“Maintaining the status quo can also mean instability” if the Catalan conflict is not solved

The Head of the Research at the German Institute for International Security Affairs, Kai-Olaf Lang, said that the EU tends to defend “stability”, which is often linked with the status quo. “This is the problem because maintaining the status quo dos not necessarily mean maintaining stability”, he said, warning of the risks of having a “permanent conflict with the member states”. In this respect, the expert admitted “maintaining the status quo can also mean instability”.

Lang also commented that there was a remote possibility that the EU or its member states could attempt to intervene in the Catalan process if there was no option of a consultation vote. However, the academic was sceptical about this possibility, noting that in cases like this the member states were hardly ever “active”, in order to prevent being caught up in another state’s internal affairs.

If Spain does not recognise an independent Catalonia, it would automatically continue within the EU

He also explained that the type of recognition a hypothetically independent Catalonia would receive would affect how easily it would be able to enter into the EU. In fact, Lang has warned of a potential scenario which would see Catalonia “in limbo”. In this situation Catalonia would “look like a state in all aspects”, and would have all the benefits of being a member of the EU, but it would not have been officially recognised as such.

“If an independent Catalonia is not recognised by Spain, it would mean that the country has not left the EU from the point of view of Spain and the EU”, he stated. In this case “it is not only the citizens, but all of the territory that is part of the common market, the Schengen agreement and the Eurozone”, Lang remarked. He went on to say that this implies that, firstly, Catalonia could not be expelled from the EU, but would instead be recognised as an independent state and, secondly, that Spain might want to “prolong” the situation and it would not be “catastrophic”, rather it would be an action of “pragmatism” for Brussels. According to the German professor, this model would “specifically guarantee economic interaction” but, at the same time, “prevent new states from being full members of the EU for a long period of time”.

A panel discussion with a range of experts

The conference also featured a panel discussion on the philosophy of the right to decide upon self-determination within the European Union, which included the participation of: the Professor of Political Science at the University of Quebec, Alain-G Gagnon, the Director and Professor of the Paris-Sorbonne University, Gérard-François Dumont, the Professor of International Public Law at the University of Barcelona and the Director of the Chari of MADP (mobile application development platforms) at Sciences Po, Jean-Bernard Auby.

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How to obtain independence legitimately

The difference between separatists in Crimea and the east of Ukraine and the independence movements in Western Europe

Once again there is an air of crisis across Europe. Firstly, the euro-crisis is returning, as growth falters in the major economies of the EU – Germany, France and Italy; and recovery in the hard-hit southern tier of the EU is thus proving even more difficult. Secondly, events in Ukraine have shattered any remaining illusions that the post-Cold War world was one in which democracy and economic liberalism reigned supreme, and in which all major countries played by the same rules, within the familiar structures of world order, established progressively since the Second World War.

Mr Putin has made it abundantly clear that he does not subscribe to these ideals, or to these ways of behaving. The countries and peoples of Eastern Europe are rightly worried about their security. Those of Western Europe have been shaken from their complacency, but are proving slow to adapt to the new, more threatening – and more expensive – reality.

A number of Governments and commentators draw the conclusion that this is not the time to, as they see it, add to Europe’s worries by taking seriously the movements for self-determination in Western Europe, be this in Scotland or Catalonia. They maintain that such movements are propelled by the economic crisis, and point to the Ukraine as an example of the evils of secessionism. This is to analyse wrongly what is going on in Europe, and hence to draw sloppy and wrong conclusions.

The self-determination movements in Western Europe are not fundamentally about money – although unfair fiscal arrangements are often an irritant. These movements are fundamentally about a better representation of their citizens’ distinct interests and a better accommodation of these ancient nations within the European Union. In other words, about a higher-quality democracy. The re-emergence of these strong movements has more to do with the emergence of Western Europe from the political constraints of the Cold War, and, above all, the establishment of the framework of European integration. In the case of Catalonia, it is also stimulated by the fact that the movement from dictatorship to democracy in Spain was not accompanied by the promised greater freedom and democracy at the regional level, as well as the due respect and protection of its cultural and linguistic singularities.

Moreover, the contrast between what is happening in Western Europe and events in Ukraine could not be clearer. By supporting Ukraine, the countries of Europe are seeking to uphold the principles of democracy, the rule of law, peaceful resolution of conflict, and the illegitimacy of changing borders by force. The separatists in Crimea and the east of Ukraine, and their Russian backers, subscribe to none of this. They have sought to secede by force of arms and subversion of the state. It is an ideological as well as a security conflict. The Pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists can never achieve the international legitimacy they want because of the means they have chosen to assert it, and the unacceptable values which these means lay bare.

Meanwhile in Western Europe, pro-independence movements are seeking to advance their causes using the democratic principles and processes so absent in Ukraine. The people of Scotland have just ended a two-year referendum campaign, and voted in record numbers on their political future. The Government of the UK, in accordance with the same democratic principles, committed themselves in advance to implement the results of the referendum. The Governments of Europe should be using this forcibly as an example to the Russians of how things ought to be done – of the legitimate way to resolve deep-seated secessionist issues.

Such processes are not a diversion from the ideological battle with Russia. They can help fight that battle. Unfortunately, however, the Government of Spain is undermining this, by refusing to address the political issue of self-determination with the political tools furnished by democracy. Instead, they are using purely legal arguments and processes to frustrate the expression of a people’s will. In the long run, this is not sustainable. And it is barely credible that an important West European state should act in this way at this time.

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