Spanish authorities temporarily ban Catalonia's External Action Law
As was expected, the Constitutional Court has accepted the Spanish Government's appeal against the Catalan Law on External Action and Relations with the EU, which was approved last November and was already foreseen in the 2006 Catalan Statute of Autonomy. The Court's acceptance of a Spanish Government appeal automatically represents a temporary suspension of the legal measure for an initial 5-month period. The temporary suspension does not mean that the law will ultimately be suspended, but that there are enough reasons to study whether the Catalan law fits within the Constitution or not. According to the Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, the law goes beyond the Catalan Government's attributions and invades the Spanish Executive's exclusive powers regarding international relations and the direction of Spain's external policy.
Barcelona (ACN).- As was expected, the Constitutional Court has accepted to analyse the Spanish Government's appeal against the Catalan Law on External Action and Relations with the EU, which was approved last November and was already foreseen in the 2006 Catalan Statute of Autonomy (Catalonia's main law, approved by the Spanish Parliament and the Catalan people through a binding referendum). The Court's acceptance of an appeal filed by the Spanish Government automatically represents a temporary suspension of the legal measure appealed against for an initial 5-month period, which can be indefinitely extended until the Court reaches a definitive verdict (following Article 161.1 of the Spanish Constitution). The temporary suspension does not mean that the law will ultimately be suspended; it simply means there are enough legal reasons to study the Spanish Government's appeal and analyse whether the Catalan law fits within the Constitution or not . According to the People's Party (PP), led by the Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy, the law goes beyond the Catalan Government's attributions and invades the Spanish Executive's exclusive powers regarding international relations and the direction of Spain's external policy.
This temporary suspension is just another one in a long series of Spanish Government appeals against legal measures approved in Catalonia in the last few years. The tactics to use the Constitutional Court's temporary bans to slow down the implementation of the legal measures approved by the Catalan institutions has to be framed within the Spanish Government's overall recentralisation strategy and its total opposition to Catalonia's self-determination. In this vein, the Catalan Government's external action, which is totally recognised and backed by the current legal framework, is a particularly sensitive area, traditionally dominated by independent states.
However, not only independent state governments hold external action and international cooperation activities, as proved by the myriad of regional governments and local authorities with representation offices in Brussels, the existence of the Committee of the Regions and the significant international development initiatives managed and funded by these actors. It is precisely to better regulate those activities and to better adapt to the current context that the Catalan Parliament approved, with 74% in favour, the Law on External Action and Relations with the EU.
Indeed, the Catalan Government has been carrying out external actions for decades, managing a network of political, commercial and cultural offices abroad. This network mostly has two purposes: helping Catalan companies to access international markets or foreign firms to invest in Catalonia, and promoting Catalan culture and language abroad. In fact, the Catalan network of commercial offices was filling a need, since Spanish embassies and consulates were not a great help to private companies in the last few decades. On top of this, Spanish Government's institutions do not enthusiastically promote Catalan language and culture and tend to under-represent or directly forget about Spain's multi-lingual and pluri-national reality.
However, considering the current political tensions between the Spanish and Catalan Governments on the independence debate, the Catalan Executive has also increased its international activities in the last two years. This year, it has opened two new political delegations: in Rome and Vienna. It has also upgraded the delegation in Brussels, whose head is now the Catalan Government's Permanent Delegate to the European Union.
The Spanish nationalist People's Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, has strongly criticised these decisions. They argue that "Catalonia is not a state" and therefore it cannot run its own diplomatic actions and cannot relate to international organisations on its own. According to the PP, it can neither hold international relations with other independent state governments, nor define its own external policy.
Paradoxically, all those arguments back Catalonia's need to become an independent state in order to be able to directly defend its own political, commercial and cultural interests, which are not really protected by the Spanish Government. However, there is a strong consensus in Catalonia, reflected in the 2006 Statute and the current parliamentary support, as well as by many pieces of legislation from the last decades, that the Catalan institutions must be able to hold external actions and to relate to EU institutions, whose decisions have a direct impact on Catalan citizens' lives.