The Spanish Government is considering taking the Catalan declaration of sovereignty to the Constitutional Court
Following a report by its own legal services, the Spanish Government is considering appealing against the ‘Declaration of sovereignty and the right to self-determination by the people of Catalonia’, approved by the Catalan Parliament two weeks ago. This declaration states that, following the historical rights and the free self-determination of the people, the people of Catalonia are sovereign and therefore able decide on their own future and organise a self-determination vote to decide on Catalonia’s hypothetical independence from Spain. The Catalan President stated that, before the self-determination right of the people, “there are no rules, laws, constitutions or possible interpretations”.
Madrid (ACN).- Following a report by its own legal services, the Spanish Government is considering appealing against the ‘Declaration of sovereignty and the right to self-determination by the people of Catalonia’, approved by the Catalan Parliament two weeks ago, the Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, stated on Friday. By doing so, the Spanish Government would change its initial approach, which was to ignore the initiative by not attributing any legal value to it. The declaration, supported by almost two thirds of the Catalan Parliament, states that, following Catalonia’s historical rights, the free self-determination of the people and the results of the last elections, the Parliament declares that the people of Catalonia are sovereign and therefor able to decide on their own collective future to organise a self-determination vote to decide on Catalonia’s hypothetical independence from Spain. Now the Spanish Government is waiting for a report by its top advisory body, the State Council, which is made up of some 35 senior members mostly from Madrid and whose only Catalan member was already part of this body in Franco’s time. After the non-binding advice of the State Council, the Spanish Government will finally decide whether it will take the declaration to the Constitutional Court, hoping it will be cancelled. Political reactions in Catalonia have been almost immediate. The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, stated that, before the self-determination right of the people, “there are no rules, laws, constitutions or possible interpretations”. Furthermore, the Catalan Government’s Spokesperson, Francesc Homs, sees “an unjustifiable political will to impede the democratic expression of the Catalan people” in the actions of the Spanish Government. Pro self-determination parties have asked the Spanish Government not to use “the strategy of fear” and to focus its efforts on “solving the economic crisis and the fight against corruption”. Pro- Spanish unity parties have stated that it was “to be expected” that the Spanish Government would react in some way since the declaration “was outside the legal framework”.
On Friday, after the weekly Cabinet meeting, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria, explained that according to the Corps of State Lawyers – the Spanish Government’s civil servants acting as its legal service – the Catalan Parliament’s Declaration of Sovereignty is unconstitutional. Therefore, the report by the Corps of State Lawyers recommends that the Spanish Government takes it to the Constitutional Court and asks for it to be cancelled.
The report has two parts, the first states that the declaration goes against four articles of the Constitution. It goes against Article 1.2 stating that sovereignty is rooted “in the Spanish people as a whole”, Article 2 emphasising the “indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”, Article 9 underlining that citizens and public powers must follow the current legislation and Article 168 dealing with the Constitution’s own reform. The second part of the report recommends taking the declaration to the Constitutional Court as “it produces extra legal effects” as “it aims to drive the action of Catalonia’s public powers towards a clearly unconstitutional goal”. In addition, it also backs up a hypothetical appeal with the Constitutional Court jurisprudence, for instance regarding the plan known as Plan Ibarretxe (an initiative from 9 years ago led by the Basque President Juan José Ibarretxe and approved by the Basque Parliament, proposing a confederation between the Basque Country and Spain).
Loud protests from the Catalan Government
The Catalan President and leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), Artur Mas, reacted minutes after the announcement while he was unveiling a new social centre. “Catalonia has the right to decide on its autonomy, reaching the maximum self-government levels and its collective future”, he stated. Furthermore, he stated that there are “no rules, laws, constitutions or possible interpretations” before the self-determination right of the people, “a right that should be protected by all”, he added.
Besides, the Catalan Governments Spokesperson and Minister for the Presidency, Francesc Homs, stated that the declaration “is the political and democratic expression made in an institutional framework, such as the Catalan Parliament, and it has been made following its laws and rules”, he explained. “If in this house [the Catalan Parliament] we cannot express ourselves democratically and politically according to a mandate from the citizenry, this is not democracy”, he affirmed. From this point of view, the Spanish Government’s appeal, if it was finally confirmed, would be “very serious”. According to Homs, the Spanish Government’s actions would be “an unjustifiable political will to impede the democratic expression of the Catalan people, respecting the legal framework and the institutions such as the Catalan Parliament”.
The Spanish Government answers back
The Spanish Deputy Prime Minister answered back and stated that “the most democratic [behaviour] is to follow the Constitution and the laws”, since “the constitutive democratic will in Spain was the Constitution”.
Further reactions in Catalonia
The leader of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) – the second largest party in the Catalan Parliament –, Oriol Junqueras, asked the Spanish Government to be “more respectful” with “the democratic will of the citizens of Catalonia”. In addition, he asked the Spanish Government to focus its efforts on “facing the dramatic economic crisis and generalised corruption” in Spain, rather than putting resources into blocking Catalonia’s democratic claims. “It should be a bit more concerned by the 6 million unemployed people and a bit less focused on trying to impede Catalans democratically deciding what they want for their country”, he added.
The Spokesperson for the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), Dolors Camats, rejected the recommendation from the Corps of State Lawyers and she reaffirmed their commitment to “the sovereignty of the Catalan people” to freely and democratically decide on their own collective future. Camats asked the Spanish Government not “to feed fear and conflict” in relation to Catalonia’s self-determination. ICV-EUiA asked the Spanish Government “to join the path of negotiation […] as Canada or the United Kingdom did”.
However, Maurici Lucema, the Spokesperson for the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), which is against Catalonia’s independence but defends its right to self-determination within the Spanish Constitution, stated that the Spanish Government’s reaction “was to be expected” as the Declaration approved by the Catalan Parliament is “unilateral” and “outside the legal framework”. Furthermore, Lucema added that, if instead of only approving the declaration presented by the CiU, ERC and ICV-EUiA it has been the PSC’s declaration in the first place, “now we would already be talking about when the citizen vote within the legal framework should be held”.