Where the Catalans, Spain and the whole of Europe will get a referendum on independence
On Sunday, October 1, residents of Catalonia, Spain's autonomous region, despite the resistance of the official Madrid, will vote in a referendum on self-determination of the status of the region. De jure, this voting will have the status of an ordinary sociological poll. Politically, it can be used to proclaim independence. Such a move has significant risks for Catalonia, Spain and the EU, as it can become a dangerous precedent for reformatting borders. What does the Catalan referendum mean?
Following the residents of Iraqi Kurdistan, who on September 25 answered that they would like to live in an independent state, the inhabitants of Catalonia, one of the 17 autonomous regions (regions) of Spain, will vote for the status of their region. The referendum is scheduled for Sunday, October 1. As before - and just like in the case of Iraq - the central government is categorically against such a vote. However, it is likely that, like in Iraq, it will eventually happen.
Level of voltage
The Spanish authorities consider the referendum in Catalonia to be unconstitutional. This was decided by the Constitutional Court of Spain, suspending the Law on Legal Transition adopted by the regional parliament after the vote. Consequently, every step taken by the Catalan government regarding the referendum violates the law. The referendum really contradicts the basic document of the state: under the Constitution, Spain is a unitary state. To a region out of its composition, a survey is needed throughout the country.
According to studies of public opinion, they want to see Catalonia independent less than half of the region's inhabitants - 41%. 49% for the region to remain part of Spain. On the other hand, four of the five Catalans are in favor of holding a referendum. However - legal, that is with the consent of the Spanish leadership. Accordingly, 60% of the region's residents consider the poll, which may take place on October 1, illegitimate and one that can not have legal consequences.
So far there are no prerequisites for a compromise between the central and regional authorities. And unlike previous years - after all, a similar plebiscite the government of Catalonia organizes not for the first time - Madrid has chosen a strategy of tough (by the standards of the European Union) countermeasures. The Spanish Constitutional Court ruled that officials who support the referendum will pay fines of 6,000 to 12,000 euros a day, until they stop separatist activities. An additional police force was added to the region (thousands, but the exact number is unknown), and the regional police of Catalonia tried to transfer to the command of the Spanish Civil Guard.
In addition, fourteen Catalan officials were detained, searched and seized 10 million ballots for voting, and blocked fifteen hundred websites that reported on the referendum. Attorney General of Spain Jose Manuel Massa ordered to begin an investigation against seven hundred mayors of the region who went to a rally against Madrid's attempts to block a referendum - mass protests involving hundreds of thousands of people occurred in September after the decision of the Constitutional Court. He does not rule out the arrest of the chairman of the Catalan government Carles Puigdemona. The previous head of the Cataluny Generalitat Arthur Mas and nine other local politicians recently ordered to pay to the Spanish budget more than 5 million euros - they were found guilty of embezzling public funds for holding a "questioning of independence" in the region in 2014.
The interior affairs adviser of Catalonia, Joaquin Forn, told reporters that Madrid wants to exacerbate the situation on the eve of the balloting: they say additional police detachments were sent to provoke mass clashes as the plots will be blocked. The actions of the Catalan Prosecutor's Office, which orders local law enforcers to obstruct voting, blocking the polling stations and removing the ballot boxes, Forn called illegal and "a huge mistake." Madrid publicly expresses confidence that an effective referendum in Catalonia will not take place. In Barcelona, they retort that they will inform the residents about the polling places.
On the other hand, Carles Puicmond argues that Catalonia is ready for a dialogue with Madrid. But after the referendum. The leadership of the region continues to assure that Catalonia will become an independent state, and the fundamental issue is the agreement with Spain on how to organize the transition period - it should be concluded already on October 2, because the law "On Legal Transition" provides for independence within two days after the referendum.
In the case of the proclamation of independence, Madrid will most likely apply article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which gives the government the right to obtain from the Senate the power to ensure the operation of national laws in any of the 17 autonomous regions. So far this article has not been applied. The Government of Spain may decide that this article is sufficient to dissolve the Catalan Generalitat or even the regional parliament.
Right to self-determination or violation of law
It is hardly the main argument of the separatist Catalans that the local budget transfers more than it receives in taxes to the coffers of Spain. Catalonia creates almost 19% of the country's GDP, and 16% of the population live there. Another argument is that the Catalans have their own, different from Spanish, history and language. This is true, the Catalan language even has the status of the second official in the region. However, it is difficult to agree with the opinion that any region that meets such criteria can withdraw from the state as soon as it desires.
From the camps of opponents and supporters of the referendum there are conflicting arguments. On the one hand, the Catalans seem to have the right to vote, despite the fact that this contradicts the Constitution - it can also be changed, adds the plebiscite supporters. And this opinion is supported not only by the inhabitants of the region.
An additional popularization of the idea of independence of Catalonia adds at least the fact that it supports the football club "Barcelona", whose fans are around the world. Many club players - among those with a Spanish passport - either actively support the office, or insist that the Catalans have the right to vote. Among the supporters of independence, including the legendary ex-coach of "Barcelona" Jouzep Guardiola (or Josep, if you pronounce in Spanish, and not Catalan manner). During home matches of the club stands are often dotted with the flags of the Catalan nationalists - esteladami. Therefore, the reader not indifferent to football can consider the problem of Catalonia's ownership through the prism of whether "Real Madrid" and "Barcelona" will play in one championship.
Lawyer-internationalist, professor OP Jindal Global University in India Alexander Merezhko believes that in fact, there is no contradiction between the right to self-determination, the principle of inviolability of borders and the provisions of the Constitution of Spain in the case of Catalonia. This problem can be viewed from two points of view: through the prism of the basic principles of international law and from the standpoint of the constitutional law of a particular state.
"No state in the world, including Spain, is interested in suicide, what would be the withdrawal of some part of the territory from the state and the disintegration of the state." From the constitutional and legal point of view, when we talk about the right of peoples to self-determination, most often under the concept of "people" refers to the entire nation of the state, that is, all its citizens, "explains Merezhko. According to him, few countries are ready to allow a referendum, on which the main issue will be the withdrawal of part of the territory from the country. And even less - where only a part of citizens answered this question.
"By and large, from the constitutional legal point of view, no state in the world allows a part of the population of the country or some national minority to withdraw from the existing state, the so-called secession," he continues.-Among the basic principles of international law is the principle of territorial the integrity of states, which in fact is directed against what we call separatism, against the right to secession. "
If we talk about the right of peoples to self-determination, that is, different interpretations. However, most international lawyers agree that all the basic principles of international law should not contradict each other, and they should be considered from the point of view of their interconnection. "The right of peoples to self-determination is not aimed at secession, rather, it means that its subjects are also the people of the state as a whole, and therefore in this case [Catalonia] and from the international legal and constitutional-legal perspectives there are no grounds for holding there is no such referendum, "Merezhko said. If we recall the examples of secession that really existed in the history of international relations, then, according to the lawyer, it can be explained by the consent of the state to withdraw part of the territory from its composition. And the example of Kosovo,
Catalonia is by far not the only modern separatist case: the already mentioned referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan is already heard, again the Scots are considering Scotland's separation from Britain, and the Catalan problem did not arise today. On the territory of Spain and France is located the so-called Basque Country, which has a rich history of the terrorist struggle. Catalonia's aspiration to hold a referendum was supported in yet another separatist region - the Belgian Flanders. Certain separatist sentiments exist in Bavaria, and the list is not exhausted by these regions.
Interlocutors "Apostrophe" give an unambiguous answer: if Catalonia had the right to hold its own referendum, it would be a dangerous precedent. No wonder the EU and the US do not support the desire of the government of Catalonia.
"In the case of Catalonia, in principle, there are certain economic reasons for wanting secession from Spain, because it gives high enough taxes to the Spanish government and has the prospects to survive as a separate country, to become an able state. But, of course, Spain is not interested in withdrawing from its membership from the richest areas that really gives a lot to the economy, it helps to support the less developed regions of Spain.For us, the question in the other is that international law should not be violated. Whenever any nation in any country can try to use such a precedent to separate unilaterally, regardless of the laws of the state, then in the world there will simply begin a general chaos, because there is not a lot of state that has one ethnic group in its composition.
"There are similar problems with national minorities in many countries, according to some estimates, there are about five thousand such minorities in the world.If we create this precedent, that some national minority will get the right to withdraw from the state using the wrong interpretation of the right to self-determination, it threatens the disintegration of a number of multinational states and the chaos in international relations. "Of course, no one is interested in this," Merezhko told the Apostrophe.
But nevertheless there is, it seems, a state that strives for this. Recently, Spanish media reported that Russia has been helping to kindle the crisis. The popular newspaper El Pais with reference to the Civil Guard reported that hackers from the Russian Federation and its friendly countries create numerous copies of blocked websites about the referendum. Thus, the inhabitants of Catalonia receive information about where they can vote. Earlier the newspaper wrote that the referendum is promoted with the help of Russian resources RT and Sputnik, as well as bots.
Moscow at the level of the Foreign Ministry ridiculed reports of Russia's interference in the internal affairs of Spain. In fact, on their part, this is like a fight with windmills, because the motives of Russians in this case are obvious - the Kremlin is trying to use every opportunity to destabilize the EU and the West as a whole. However, it is also important that the Spanish press in the form of Russian intervention received another argument for discrediting the referendum on independence.
Will there be a referendum and what to expect next
It seems that the Catalans will vote. It's hard to say how the voting will look, but it's hard to believe that the Catalan officials will back off. Moreover, you can even try to predict the result. The fact is that the most politically active inhabitants of the autonomy will come to the referendum. But the silent majority, who knows that the referendum is illegal, can stay at home. This has happened before: since the beginning of the global crisis of 2008-2009, which has aggravated the contradictions between the region and the center, several referendum polls have already taken place in Catalonia. The last one was held in 2014. Then 81% of the Catalans voted for independence, but the turnout was still only 37%.
Let us recall another example. Britain allowed Scotland to hold a referendum in 2014. It is well known what was the result - the proponents of the idea of remaining in the United Kingdom turned out to be slightly more than the separatists. We venture to assume that in the case of Catalonia, such a result could have been expected. But for this it is still necessary condition in Spain - the legality of the referendum.
Alexandra Kovaleva notes that this year the tough actions of the Spanish authorities may affect the outcome: "It is currently difficult to say whether a referendum will really be held on Sunday, as the Spanish authorities are doing their best to prevent it." It seems that the Spanish authorities are trying to achieve a certain result, but it was a consensus that the poll should be conducted as it was before, but they, in a certain sense, caused dissatisfaction of a significant part of the Catalonian citizens. the effect that the Catalan community will rally against the Spanish authorities and vote for the exit in a referendum. "
In her opinion, three possible scenarios are possible. If a small number of people vote, in general after the referendum the situation will not change. If enough will be voted on, the regional authorities will have a provisional right to use the law that was adopted at the level of the Catalan parliament and leave Spain within 48 hours. "But then it is unlikely at the world level they will receive proper recognition," adds Kovalev. However, even if the referendum does not take place or takes place as a poll, it still threatens with aggravation of the contradictions in Catalonia and the corresponding consequences: demonstrations, further steps of the local government to gain independence, and the like.
Meanwhile, as is known from the foreign press, unofficially sources in the Catalan government admit to journalists that if less than half of the Catalans vote, the regional leadership will indeed have to abandon radical plans.