Posted: 02 Mar 2013 06:33 PM PST
Spanish PM Rajoy Mobilizes the Spanish Constitutional Court against Catalan Sovereignty
El Punt Avui, March 2nd 2013
"Spain versus Catalonia" is the simple but revealing headline over the review of today's front pages produced by the Catalan television channel TV3. It draws attention primarily to the Spanish government's decision to refer the Catalan Parliament's recent Declaration of Catalan Sovereignty to the Spanish Constitutional Court. In consequence of this referral all Catalan Government activities stemming from or based on it are required to be suspended pending a ruling.
These activities consist in preparations for a Catalan independence referendum in 2014, in connection with which the Spanish parliament has just decreed that there are to be no negotiations between Madrid and Barcelona with a view to arriving at an arrangement comparable to the Edinburgh Agreement, in accordance with which a binding referendum on Scottish independence is to be held by the Scottish Government, also in 2014, leading to independence negotiations between the Scottish and UK governments if independence is approved by a majority of voters in Scotland. In other words, the Castilian Establishment rejects both unilateral and bilateral preparations for a secessionist referendum. It does so on the basis of its twin assertions that (i) such a referendum cannot be lawfully authorized within the boundaries of the territory of the Spanish state and that (ii) it is the duty of the Spanish government to uphold the law irrespective of the result of the Catalan general election which was held on November 25th and notwithstanding resolutions passed by the devolved Catalan Parliament.
The response from Barcelona? The Catalan Government maintains that (i) the purpose of state institutions is to allow the democratic will of the people to be both expressed and acted upon and that (ii) the democratically elected Parliament of Catalonia having duly passed a resolution declaring that the Catalan people are sovereign, their wishes in respect of their constitutional future are paramount and should (and indeed will), therefore, be acted upon.
The Castilians have replied that, on the contrary, the constitution of the Spanish state is paramount.
Then, lo and behold, up pops a sensational media report concerning a serving Spanish general, Juan Antonio Chicharro Ortega, who has publicly dissented from both views, averring in a debate organized by the Fundación para la Magistratura that in fact the country is paramount and that, if the constitution, which is "only a law", fails to defend the territorial integrity of the state by keeping secessionists in check, it falls to the armed forces to take matters in hand.
At this point, improbable though it may seem, the First Minister of Wales burst upon the scene:
It is little wonder that Jones the politician seemed somewhat bemused and, with respect, out of his depth in the company of Spain's public enemy number 1. Innocently voicing the apparently pedestrian but in fact highly controversial and indeed explosively timed suggestion that the constitutional future of Catalonia is a matter for negotiation between the Spanish and Catalan governments, he appeared to be a little taken aback by the Cheshire-cat grin on the face of the President of the Generalitat, who naturally seized this delectably convenient opportunity to state publicly at a crucial moment in the history of Catalonia, in the presence of the UK ambassador, no less, that, unfortunately, that view, to which he himself subscribes, is emphatically not accepted by the Spanish government, as its rejection of the Catalan people's right to decide and its referral of the Declaration of Catalan Sovereignty to the Spanish Constitutional Court amply demonstrate:
"We are told by the Spanish government and other institutions of the Spanish state that they want to sit down with us at the table and talk, that they desire consensus, but this is not true, as the referral of the Declaration of Catalan Sovereignty to the Spanish Constitutional Court shows that they are in fact obstructing dialogue." (Artur Mas)
Be that as it may, by linking the Catalan people's right to decide their constitutional future to a parliamentary assertion of Catalan sovereignty, Mr Mas has manoeuvred the Spanish government into taking the massively provocative step which it has just taken in crystallizing its consistent and persistent inflexibility in such a way as to bring the Spanish state into direct conflict with both Catalan democracy and indeed democracy itself. The road to a constitutional settlement having been well and truly shown to be well and truly blocked, the tribune of the people is now able to point in good conscience to a route which appears to be open to the Catalan people, i.e. the road leading to an independence referendum organized unilaterally by the Catalan Government.
If that route were to become impassable as a result of actions taken by the Spanish state, the remaining option would be a unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan Parliament, based on the Declaration of Catalan Sovereignty, whatever ruling the Spanish Constitutional Court might come up with on that subject. UDI would be followed by a referendum to approve a constitution adopted by the Catalan Parliament. Approval of the constitution by a majority of Catalan voters would complete validation of the declaration of independence and lead eventually to universal recognition of the new Catalan state, according to advocates of this procedure.
The reasons which one can imagine the Catalans presenting to the international community in justification of a UDI would in essence be not altogether unreminiscent of the reasons offered for rejecting Castilian rule back in 1641, when, not unlike the Scots in respect of England, they sought the protection of the Kingdom of France:
"The main reason why the Catalans have released themselves from any obligation to acknowledge the authority of the King of Spain is, they say, that he has suffered their privileges to be violated by allowing extraordinary disorder at the hands of military forces and that he has himself violated those privileges in other ways on his own authority. This extinguishes their duties in respect of that authority, as these were dependent on faithful maintenance of their privileges (...)" (Mémoires et instructions pour servir dans les négociations et affaires concernant la France, Denys Godefroy le jeune, 1689)
What goes around comes around.