divendres, 17 de maig del 2013

Europe’s Red Lines - Llibert Ferri

The temporary suspension of the Catalan Declaration of Sovereignty by the Spanish Constitutional Court is forcing Catalonia into a direct confrontation with Spain. It is the second time in less than three years that Madrid’s government utilizes their judicial system to put a stopper on Catalonia’s national aspirations. The May 8th ruling is trying to negate the right to self-determination of Catalans, and it resembles the ways in which the same court severely curtailed cultural and economic aspects of Catalonia’s autonomy charter on June 30th 2010, even after it had been approved by the Spanish parliament itself and sanctioned by a referendum in Catalonia on 2006. This new charter tried to make up for some inadequacies evident in the earlier one, which had been approved in 1979 under the implicit threats by the military during the Spanish transition from Franco’s dictatorship into a democracy built around the Bourbon’s monarchy.

During the last three decades, Catalonia has had to put up with all kinds of dishonesties and with Spain’s unwillingness to honor any agreements. For example, conomic agreements have never been honored, with a resulting 8% of the Catalan GDP being drained away yearly to subsidize other regions in Spain. Cultural and language related agreements have also not been honored, as Spain keeps threatening the Catalan school system. Also, with regards to foreign affairs, Spain has continually thwarted any efforts to project Catalonia internationally as a unique culture. So, the promise of a multi-national, diverse, federal state has not only not been fulfilled, but in the last two years the Spanish government has implemented invasive policies against the Catalan government’s areas of self-government with the goal of re-centralizing Spain.

With the suspension of the Declaration of Sovereignty, Madrid’s government is sending a signal that they won’t negotiate about what they consider the indivisibility of the Spanish nation. The state’s prosecutors who presented the accusation warned that if the final ruling by the Spanish Constitutional Court — which will be known in October 2013 — annuls this declaration, the Spanish government will be able to stop both a referendum by the Catalan government and any plebiscitary elections thereafter. This warning by the state’s prosecutors would represent a serious impediment to the official proposal by the Catalan government to hold a referendum within the Spanish constitution’s framework, which requires — as in Scotland and the UK — the approval of the central government.

This increase in prohibitions which go against basic democratic principles could end up in the suspension of Catalonia’s autonomy, as reflected in article 155 of the Spanish Constitution—that, or article 8, which gives the army full powers to safeguard territorial unity. These two scenarios would mean going against several European Union treaties, such as the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or against the spirit behind organizations like the European Council, the High Commission for National Minorities —with headquarters in La Hague — or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The international community will need to be watchful so that certain red lines do not get crossed in Europe — the line of democracy and the line of peace.

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