Catalan Professor of Law: It Is Not All About Independence

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Eduard Segarra, Professor of Public International Law at the University of Barcelona, talked with Radio VR about the ongoing tensions between Catalonia and the government of Spain concerning the region’s independence, expressing contrary to what has been said so far, the situation is not a simple matter of conflict of interest.

MOSCOW, October 1 (RIA Novosti) — Eduard Segarra, Professor of Public International Law at the University of Barcelona, talked with Radio VR about the ongoing tensions between Catalonia and the government of Spain concerning the region’s independence, expressing contrary to what has been said so far, the situation is not a simple matter of conflict of interest.

“Spain is a federation, and in Catalonia, like in other parts of Spain, we have the autonomy, we have our parliament, our government, and we have our rights and our laws”, Prof. Segara says. Within this regional system of governance, “the parliament can accept and enforce the law that enables such consultation. The problem, the big problem is we, the Catalonian people say, we are a nation, while the Spanish constitution says there is only one nation of Spain“, the expert suggests. In Prof. Segera’s opinion, what matters is the interpretation of the “sentiment”, not the “legal concept” of what is considered a nation, because “in Catalonia everybody wants to have more freedoms, a different relationship between Spain and Catalonia, more autonomy and more capacity (sic) to manage their laws and their income tax”.
He emphasizes that Catalonia is fully a nation and has stronger foundations as a nation than Spain does now. The main problem now, says Prof.Segara, is the question of Catalonia's legal and constitutional legitimacy.

“The Spanish constitution may not directly forbid, but certain interpretation of the constitution may prohibit the consultation on independence with the people of Catalonia”, the expert says. However, what the participants of the 1 million-strong street demonstration in Barcelona are demanding is not independence, Prof.Segara notes.The Catalan people simply want to be consulted on whether they want to preserve the status quo in relations between Barcelona and Madrid.

The parliament and the government of Catalonia have approved a law permitting popular consultation on independence, says the expert. However, the government of Mr. Rajoy has appealed to the Constitutional Court in order to find out whether the consultation on Catalan independence would be legal or void. As this point, the expert says, such a consultation has not been ruled out as illegal yet, for now it has only been suspended.

“We are attempting at a resolution, but the government of Spain says it’s illegal, and we must have a decision from the court. The (decision-making process) may take one month, two months, three months, four months, the referendum, or, in this case, the consultation is only suspended, not illegal”, Prof. Segara says.

Prof. Segara decisively rules out the possibility of violent conflict in Catalonia. “That’s impossible, that’s impossible, in Spain and in Europe it’s absurd. My answer is it’s not happening”, he says when asked whether the military could get involved. Having calmed down, he adds: “I think at the moment it’s quite impossible. The European Union does not accept such possibility. Nobody thinks it’s possible. Nobody now, I mean. If you think of the period of Tejero’s or Franco dictatorship, may be, but now it is not the option. Absolutely impossible, in my mind”.

There has been some speculation recently that Madrid’s reluctance to allow the referendum in Catalonia is motivated by the government’s fear that Catalan secession might trigger similar actions in other territories and the rest of Europe.

“I think not in case of Galicia or Andalusia”, Prof.Segara ruminates on the regional separatism. “They are really not nations in the same sense and the people don’t feel they are different. There may be another language in Galicia, but in Andalusia not at all. But is it possible – but I’m not sure – in the Basque country”, the expert notes. Despite the Basque country has a different scheme of income taxation than Catalonia, the sentiment is different as well, and it is not as much in favour of independence, Prof.Segara notes. “Basque country is more concerned of the discrimination and unequal treatment than independence”.

The Catalan referendum, also known as the popular consultation on independence, should have been conducted on November, 9. However, the government of Spain has claimed such referendum would contradict the Spanish constitution. After Madrid’s appeal to the Constitutional court, the referendum has been delayed until the court’s final decision. This activity has sparked a wide-scale protest in several towns of Catalonia.

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