Some questions about Catalan independence

, by Aroa Fandiño Serrano, Translated by Věra Dvořáková

Some questions about Catalan independence
Supporters of Catalan independence photographed in 2012. © Ivan McClellan // Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

I would like to make a small reflection on the referendum convened in Catalonia and its implications not only in Europe but also in the framework of international law.

Now, based on the fact that despite the fact that the Constitution does not provide for a referendum such as the one proposed, like the rest of the European and American constitutions, I believe that the call for a consensual consultation between the autonomous and state institutions, together with an honest and fluid dialogue between both levels of power, is desirable. This could help to reach a political solution that will lead us to live with clearer and more stable structures which the State of the Autonomies does not seem to have given us, and which a solution perfected in a federal state, I believe, would.

That said, different questions are asked at the European level that are, let’s say, “poorly answered” by some:

“Is it possible for an independent Catalonia to remain within the EU?” The answer is No. The Committee of the Regions of the European Union, in which Catalonia is present, already indicated in 2013 that, on the one hand, “according to Article 4.2 of the EU Treaty (indicating that the EU will respect the functions essential for the State, especially those aimed at ensuring its territorial integrity), progress in the direction of the independence of a region should be seen as an internal matter of the Member State concerned”(paragraph 62).

On the other hand, the Committee “recalls that if a region, after having achieved independence, wanted to join the EU, it would be required to make a formal request to the Council and to follow the accession procedure under Article 49 of the Treaty of the EU [which requires the unanimity of the 27 member states] in the same way as any other country that wishes to become a Member State of the EU "(point 63).

Therefore, in the hypothetical case in which Catalonia is automatically independent, simply by ceasing to be part of an EU Member State, it ceases to be part of the European Union, and to become a full-fledged member it must pass the process that all the States that request the adhesion pass. In addition, it must be accepted as a member of the European club with the approval of all members of the Union, i.e. to be accepted as a member of the EU by Spain.

Some may think that the Catalan case is, for the Union, like the German reunification but they would be mistaken in their analysis because, honestly, this comparison appears to me to be mere science fiction.

As for the notion of European citizenship, “how can one say that one will cease to be a European citizen if one stops being Spanish!”, some cry. Let us look at the theory of how and why one is a “European citizen”: "In accordance with Article 9 TEU and Article 20 TFEU, a person of the nationality of a member state will be a citizen of the Union, which is derived from the application of the national provisions of that State. The citizenship of the Union complements national citizenship without replacing it, and is constituted by a set of rights and duties that add to the rights and duties linked to the citizenship of a member state.

Therefore, Catalan citizens would cease to be European citizens, should they cease to be Spanish citizens.

In the words of Josep Borrell: “perhaps the independistas have not realised that they are denying Europeanism. Their actions represent the opposite of what it means to be European. Their speeches are situated outside the European ideal. If you cannot have more than your own identity and you do not feel able to coexist with those you have lived throughout history .... Europe is precisely the ability to coexist with the other in an increasingly integrated way.”

Recently, a group of professors of International Law and International Relations signed a manifesto in which they highlighted some “mistakes” that have been alleged to appeal to the legality of this referendum, not with Spanish but with the international law that, in short, does not protect them either.

This group of professionals of international law, in the manifesto that you can find in the references, noted, in the fifth point, among other questions that “the European Union respects and protects the national identity and the constitutional and self-government structure of its States. In addition, the Union law requires them to respect and enforce the rule of law, so that all public authorities are subject to the Constitution, laws and their application by the courts.”

It is enough to add that according to international law, the recognition of sovereign states is not produced by the very intention of the territory that is declared sovereign, but that recognition should be given by other sovereign states. To understand this situation well, we can look at the cases of the states of Israel or Palestine or, more recently, the case of Kosovo, which, by the way, Spain does not recognise as a sovereign state.

In short, the notion of democracy allows almost anything but the lack of respect for the procedures that allow the political decisions taken to be democratic. The decision-making procedure is as important as the decision that is made. That is democracy: to play with the agreed rules of the game. In our case they are in the Spanish Constitution of 1978. Who does not like to legitimately propose a change and look for the majorities that allow it. Meanwhile, politics.

My vision as a Galician, Spaniard and European is to live in a Spanish federal state in a federal Europe, and that is a reality that will be achieved through POLITICS, not bravado. Let us return to politics and decide as fellow citizens that we are from the same political reality, a political system in which all citizens live together in peace. I vote for a Catalonia in a Federal Spain, as well as in a Federal Europe.


“Devolution in the European Union and the place for local and regional self-government in eu policy making and delivery”

“Los ciudadanos de la Unión Europea y sus derechos”

Interview with Josep Borrell: “Josep Borrell: “En Cataluña, al que cuestione la independencia lo linchan”:

“Declaración sobre la falta de fundamentación en el Derecho Internacional del referéndum de independencia que se pretende celebrar en Cataluña”

This article was originally published on the Galicia Ártabra website on 24 September, and it has been translated with permission from the author. The original article can be found at

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