Catalonian Secession Movement Heats Up

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Catalonian Secession Movement Heats Up

September 25, 2015

In what Agence France-Presse calls a “fierce independence row,” Spain prepares for Catalonia's secession vote on Sunday. Rhetoric in recent months has increased since last November's “symbolic” vote in Catalonia in which Catalinian officials claimed a lopsided victory. The Spanish government declared that election to be a “sterile and useless sham.” Madrid has not gotten any nicer about it since then.

While outright secession look unlikely in the short term, Catalonians hope to apply more pressure to the centralist regime in Madrid which has long benefited from Catalonia's relatively more-productive economy to subsidize project and political largesse in the rest of Spain. 

As there is a lot of money at stake, The Madrid government has essentially sworn to stop secession by any means necessary, although it seems that they are refraining from making threats of military action. For now.

According to Reuters, Madrid would attempt to block any secession:

The first two phases of the process are political and could be carried out within the limits of the Spanish and Catalan laws.

A referendum to approve the new constitution would however be blocked in court because it goes against the Spanish constitution, as would the structures of the new state and a declaration of independence.

The Spanish government has tabled an urgent reform of the constitutional court to give it enough clout to stop any unilateral move from the Catalan authorities.

The court already blocked this month a Catalan law that would have paved the way for the creation of a Catalan treasury.

This all sounds plausible, but what Reuters ignores is that secession is ultimately not primarily a legal process, but a political one. That is, since states hate secession for a variety of reasons, the process of secession can usually only be obtained through extra-legal means. There are no provisions in Spanish law, apparently, for breaking off and founding an independent state. To do so would require ignoring Spanish law and proceeding accordingly. Similarly, the solution from the Spanish point of view would have to be political as well. It would require either making concessions to the Catalonian state, rewriting laws and constitutions, and buying its compliance, or it could turn to the darker side of political jockeying: outright military threats.


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