Thursday, January 24, 2013

Catalonia votes for sovereignty

Thanks to a reader of the blog, the real news of yesterday has not been lost. Catalonia has voted for sovereignty. The article is in Spanish but one can ask the site to do a somewhat inadequate translation that will give the gist of it.
The division into the two main parties in Catalonia, Convergence and Union and Partit dels Socialistes , yesterday marked what was to be a historic day in Parliament. Catalan The House overwhelmingly approved with 85 votes in favor (CiU, ERC, Initiative and a deputy of the CUP), 41 against (PSC, Partido Popular, Ciutadans) and two abstentions (CUP), the text proclaims the "legal and political sovereignty of the Catalan people" . The resolution marks the path to self-determination consultation, scheduled for 2014. The specific date is not in the text, it does not solve the legal reserve of the vote. He argues that "use all existing legal frameworks to enforce the right to choose." The proclamation states that will seek dialogue with the "Spanish State, the European institutions and the international community as a whole" to legitimize the process.
Presumably the self-determination consultation will be a referendum or, as I mostly prefer to call it, a plebiscite. All sorts of interesting issues will then arise to do with EU membership, the Spanish debt and a few others.


  1. The implications are interesting, not least of which the EU stating they would have to apply for EU membership.

  2. You should be labelling this with Scotland, SNP and Wales, Plaid Cymru

  3. ....and Spain would have the right to veto such an application. On the other hand the Catalan part of the Spanish debt belongs to Spain unless Catalonia agrees to take it on. So, there are all kinds of possibilities for v.e.r.y interesting political games.

    (A Spanish imbroglio is just what we need to make this crisis even more like the 1930s. Sigh!)


  4. "We strongly believe in the European Union, because there we have an alliance that potentially gives the same voice to small 'nations', like Catalonia, as to bigger countries such as Spain and France," said Pol Pages, 25, a leading member of the youth arm of ERC, the separatist party which forms an important part of the Catalan regional coalition government.

    "And the European Union offers protection," he added. "If tomorrow Catalonia voted to break away from Spain, Madrid couldn't send in the army as it has threatened in the past because we are a part of Europe and protected by its laws.

    "Europe to us represents democracy, human rights and a respect for freedom and we hope one day to be recognised as our own state within it."

    That's from June 2009. Like Salmond in Scotland, they're leaping from the frying pan into the hellfire of the EU. I wonder if thinking in Catalonia has changed.

  5. I have just spoken to a Spanish guy in my office, and he tells me this is perhaps not quite as significant as we might think. It is akin to the Scottish Parliament saying it wants there to be a referendum. They might want one, but they need the Spanish Government to agree to let them have one, and there is no realistic prospect of that as far as I understand. Indeed they would need to change the constitution/law to do so.

    It does however reflect a simmering underlying resentment.

    1. Indeed, Ian. As I recall, there was much talk back at the opening of the Edinburgh Gasworks about “the sovereignty of the Scottish people” - as opposed to the UK's “sovereignty of Parliament” - too.

      In fact, this was, as is to be expected from the Scottish political class, a load of ill-educated hogwash. “Sovereignty of the people” in pre-1707 Scotland actually referred to a sort of proto-democratic arrangement in which every Subject had the right to petition Parliament for a change in any law they felt hard-done by. This was transposed, rather unsatisfactorally, into the 1707 settlement as the right of appeal to the House of Lords (now the Supreme Court) - yeah, betcha didn't know that it was a Scottish thing - and has sod-all to do with constitutional status. Holyrood can say we're sovereign all it likes, but it doesn't make it so. Especially while it's busy centralizing as much power as it can get its mitts on.

      Catalonia should be interesting, though. My feeling is that if you vote to leave a member state, you vote to leave the Union. But it probably depends on how much they want to keep Catalonia, and how much they want to discourage anybody else from pulling a similar stunt.

  6. An article in english re the vote in the Catalan parliament:

    Catalonia declares intent to hold independence referendum

    @Ian Reid
    The link above explains the constitutional state and shows your friend to be correct in that a referendum can only be held according to the constitution if it has been approved by the federal government. The problem here is that the majority of the regional parliament has declared themselves willing to call a referendum whether it is approved by Madrid or not.

    With a national unemployment rate above 26%, a youth unemployment rate of more than 55%, severe austerity measurements (eg in the Catalan region expenditure on pharmaceuticals fell by almost 24% during the first 11 months of 2012 yoy basis) and a large youth emigration that threaten the pension system the danger of adding regional nationalism to this already toxic mix should not be underestimated.

    The pension system is actually threatened in two ways by the present crisis. The demographic threat was mentioned above, and then a financial due to the wonderful actions of the ECB and the Spanish politicians. According to WSJ the buyer of the more and more risky Spanish government bonds is the Social Security Reserve Fund that has invested at least 90% of its €65 bn in those papers. At the moment the Spanish 10y debt has a relatively healthy interest rate, but if anything a threat of secession of a wealthy region...can we spell Ponzi scheme?

    Definitely worth keeping an eye on.

    @Sam Duncan: re a Catalan membership of the EU see first link in this post or my comment above.


    PS: The markets are not fast but today for some reason the interest rate of the 10y Spanish bonds increased by more than 3% (0,16 percentage points) whereas the Italian rate fell by 0,75%. Is it Catalonia or were there no Spanish banks among those paying back the LTRO to ECB today? Whatever the reason, this better not repeat on Monday, because then all the good words about the euro crisis being over may be for nought.

  7. Sometimes the fingers are faster than the brain....