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Self-determination debate in Seville’s University among experts

Experts from academia and Catalan and Andalusian civil society held a debate on the right to self-determination in the University of Seville. This Friday, the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat), in cooperation with Seville’s Law Faculty, organised two round tables on the democratic and legal implications of a self-determination vote in Catalonia and the role played by civil society. Diplocat is the Catalan soft diplomacy network supported by the main public institutions, business associations and chambers of commerce. Diplocat’s Secretary General, Albert Royo, pointed out that 80% of Catalans would like to hold a self-determination vote and for this reason the soft diplomacy network organises events such as the one in Seville, in order to involve the Spanish society in the debate. Antonio Merchán, Dean of the Law Faculty, highlighted the importance “to talk” about it.

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22 November 2013 09:32 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- Experts from academia and Catalan and Andalusian civil society held a debate on the right to self-determination in the University of Seville. This Friday, the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat), in cooperation with Seville’s Law Faculty, organised two round tables on the democratic and legal implications of a self-determination vote in Catalonia and the role played by civil society. Diplocat is the Catalan soft diplomacy network supported by the main public institutions, business associations and chambers of commerce. Diplocat’s Secretary General, Albert Royo, pointed out that 80% of the Catalans would like to hold a self-determination vote. For this reason the soft diplomacy network organises events such as the one in Seville, in order to involve the Spanish society in the debate. Antonio Merchán, Dean of Seville’s University Faculty of Law, highlighted the importance “to talk”, since the Spanish Constitution “is a pact among citizens”, a “pact on power in order to seek freedom”. Merchán emphasised that there are “geographical realities with a millenary culture that are not satisfied” with their current situation in Spain. This can be seen in many examples, starting with statements made by the Catalan Parliament itself, added the Law Dean. He also explained that apparently the Catalan Government wants “greater power”, “being part of a federal state or being an independent one”. According to him, “this is a problem that deserves attention”. Finally, Merchán praised dialogue as the best tool to find common ground and therefore a solution to the current situation. The University of Seville’s debate, called ‘El futuro político de Cataluña: consulta ciudadana y marco legal’ (Catalonia’s political future: citizen vote and legal framework), goes in this direction. Royo answered Merchán that self-determination claims are not perceived as a “problem” in Catalonia, but as a “challenge” that “has to be faced among all”.


The debate day was divided into two parts. The first was a round table about the legality and democratic legitimacy of Catalonia’s right to decide about its future. It was moderated by Bartolomé Clavero, Chair of Law and Institutions History in Seville’s University. Javier Pérez-Royo, Chair of Constitutional Law in the same Andalusian centre, started by highlighting that “democracy and the right to decide have to go together; nobody in Spain can be denied such a right”. However, he stated that when people refer to the “right to decide” they are referring to “the legal framework in which this right is exercised”. According to him, the Spanish Constitution includes mechanisms to be modified, but this modification is currently “science-fiction, and even more if it is done in a unilateral way from Catalonia”. The Constitutional Chair concluded that “Catalans have the right to decide on whatever they want […] and this should fit into the Constitution”.

“The problem is political, and not a legal one”

Enoch Albertí, Dean of the Law Faculty of Barcelona’s University and Chair of Constitutional Law, affirmed that “with Spain’s current legal framework”, a self-determination vote in Catalonia “could be held”. Albertí explained the 5 legal ways that Catalan experts have identified as possible in order to organise such a vote. One of them is using Article 150.2 of the Spanish Constitution to transfer the power to call a referendum to the Catalan Government, which is a similar formula than the one used in Scotland’s case. However, Albertí highlighted that “the essential issue is to know exactly what will be asked” in such a vote, because “directly asking about independence is not constitutional”. Therefore, according to him, “the way to have a constitutional question” is to shape it “as a mandate from the Catalan people to the Catalan institutions to make them start a negotiation process with Spanish authorities in order to reach a specific scenario”. At the end of his intervention, Albertí underlined that all 5 ways need the authorisation of the Spanish authorities. Therefore, according to him, “the problem is political, and not a legal one”.

In addition, Jean-Baptiste Harguindéguy, PhD in Political and Social Sciences and Professor at the Pablo de Olavide University, tackled the issue from a political theory point of view. He referred to the Constitution as the framework that generates powers among regions to manage resources. Harguindéguy added that, “if there is a territorial unit that wants to modify the framework, it has the right to do so” on its own. He explained that a possible way out to the current situation, “between the current status quo and separation”, is finding a consensus, for example, by “promoting the entrance of Catalan society elites within the Spanish institutions”. Finally, he stated that “imagination and courage” are needed to find a way out to the current situation, “beyond legal mechanisms”.

“Catalonia has the right, within the legal framework, to hold its [self-determination] vote”

The second part of the day was a debate between Catalan and Andalusian civil society about their role in the democratic process of the self-determination right. It was moderated by journalist Jorge Bezares. Carmen Calvo, Executive Vice President of the Alfonso Perales Foundation, opened the debate by stating that “Catalonia has the right, within the legal framework, to hold its [self-determination] vote”. She said that Spain’s future might be to become “a federal” country, “which should bring more diversity at Autonomous Community level”. She insisted in the need to reform the current Constitution in this direction and she asked for clarity from all the actors involved, specifically regarding their intentions towards Catalonia’s future.

Self-determination has a “massive” support from the Catalan civil society

Afterwards, Lluís Cabrera, President of the Association Altres Andalusos (Other Andalusians, in English) emphasised that in Catalonia “·everybody is politically considered as Catalan”, no matter where they are born. Cabrera explained that the association he chairs has been actively engaged in the self-determination debate. He also explained that Catalonia’s National Assembly – which organised the two massive demonstrations in 2012 and 2013 – is a grass-root movement, born within civil society and, in part, it inherits the tradition of anti-Franco civil society movements in Catalonia. Alfons Labrador, from Catalonia’s Workers Commissions union (CCOO), stated that the right to self-determination has a “massive” support from the Catalan civil society. “It is a project that is not being driven by political parties, and even less by economic leaders”, he pointed out. He finally added that “holding stalemate stances is the main obstacle against finding possible future alternatives to the status quo and the independence” from Spain.

Manuel Medina, Chair of Constitutional Law from the University of Seville, was in charge of summarising the day’s conclusions. Medina stressed the need to talk in order to know the objectives and to identity the most adequate way to achieve them. He insisted that during the two debates it was made clear on several occasions that it was a political problem, but not a legal one.

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  • The round table about Catalonia's self-determination in Seville's University (by Diplocat / ACN)

  • The round table about Catalonia's self-determination in Seville's University (by Diplocat / ACN)