Catalonia's self-government might be suspended in the coming weeks if the Catalan authorities organise the self-determination consultation vote on the 9th of November, which was approved by two thirds of the Catalan Parliament following the mandate from the Catalan election of November 2012. This strong statement was suggested this Tuesday in Madrid by the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Manuel García-Margallo, in the week after 1.8 million Catalans (according to local police) peacefully formed an 11km-long mosaic to support November's non-binding vote, which would be supported by the Catalan Law on Consultation Votes. García-Margallo stated that the Spanish Executive will use "all the means at its disposal" to stop such a vote from happening; all the means "within the law, but using all the law", he added. He was then asked if this would include the suspension of Catalonia's Autonomy, which he undeniably confirmed, mentioning Article 155 of the Constitution.
This Article allows the Spanish Government to suspend some powers of an Autonomous Community in the event they are misused. The Minister said he was "a patriot" and stated that the Spanish Government "will not tolerate in any case", Catalonia's "secession" because it breaks "red lines" such as "the unity of Spain and the legality principle". The Spanish Government, through its restrictive interpretation of the Constitution, has been arguing over the past two years that such a vote is "illegal", despite many constitutional experts arguing that there are several legal ways to organise it with the sufficient political will.
García-Margallo also dared to mention military intervention, but ruled out this possibility
A few hours after his first statements, García-Margallo was asked at the Spanish Parliament about his previous words, which he reconfirmed and he even ventured to talk about an armed intervention, although he ruled this possibility out immediately after. However, the mere fact of mentioning a military intervention against Spanish citizens is a total taboo in a country that suffered a military coup in 1981 and came out from 4 decades of Fascist and military dictatorship, which started after a coup d'état that provoked a civil war.
García-Margallo ruled out the possibility of stopping the Catalan consultation vote by using the army by saying that the Spanish Government will not "put out the tanks", because "that does not seem to be within the Constitution", he added ironically. Therefore, the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister admitted that the Spanish Constitution would not allow such a measure to be taken.
Catalonia's Autonomy, a pillar of Spain's Constitutional system
Suspending Catalonia's Autonomy would definitively blow up Spain's current political regime and stability. I t would totally bury the remains of the 1978 Constitutional Pact, deepening the current political crisis and creating a great conflict within the European Union.
Catalonia's Autonomy was restored in September 1977 and it was one of the most essential pillars of Spain's democratic transition after Franco's Fascist and military dictatorship. It was restored more than a year before the approval of the Constitution. In fact, Catalonia's autonomy is also one of the most important pillars of the Constitution approved in December 1978, as the Constitutional Pact would not have been reached without it.
However, this Constitutional Pact began to be weakened in the early 1980s by the Spanish nationalists, when they diluted Catalonia's self-government with the creation of a model with 17 Autonomous Communities. Furthermore, in the three-and-a-half decades of democracy they never recognised Catalonia's nationhood, which was already included in the 1978 Constitution, where Article 2 states that Spain is formed "of nationalities and regions". The word "nationality" was a concession made to the old Franco regime and the military, which threatened to derail the democratisation process if Catalonia was defined as a "nation". At that time, this fact, which was shared by the other political forces including the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), was denied by the political heirs of Franco's regime.
Back then, the PSOE also recognised Catalonia's nationhood and right to self-determination, which it now completely rejects. Catalans massively supported the 1978 Constitution with the implicit promise that once democracy had been consolidated in Spain, Catalonia's nationhood would be recognised. However, the contrary has happened with the rise of Spanish nationalism, which excludes the existence of other nations within Spain and aims to impose a homogenisation and recentralisation agenda.
The Constitutional Pact has been broken since 2010
Since 2010, when a delegitimised and politicised Constitutional Court trimmed the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, many intellectuals and politicians in Catalonia have been arguing that the Constitutional Pact from 1978 is dead. In June 2010, the Constitutional Court issued a verdict against the Catalan Statute of autonomy, which had been approved by the Spanish Parliament and then by the Catalan people through a binding referendum. In fact, the Constitution clearly states that the relationship between Catalonia and Spain has always to be approved by the Catalan citizenry through a referendum, unlike in other Autonomous Communities.
By trimming the Statute of Autonomy in 2010, in a process manipulated by the People's Party (PP), the Constitutional Court explicitly ruled that Catalonia was not a nation. This totally broke the Constitutional spirit and confirmed that Spanish nationalists were controlling Spain's institutions. On top of this, a suspension of Catalonia's Autonomy would be a direct contradiction of the Constitution's Article stating that Catalonia's relationship with Spain has to be approved by the Catalan citizens through a referendum.