Catalan president defies Madrid, decrees independence referendum


If this was EUIV this wouldn’t end well for the Catalans. Or the rest of the European continent for that matter.

Wait, what forum is this? Sorry, thought this was RPS.


The Catalans may have a longstanding national pride to match the Irish, but like the Scots, they’re economically dependant on the larger union of their peoples with those of their historical conquerors, and on inclusion in the European Union.

Spain is shooting themselves in the foot politically and morally by making a referendum illegal, but I’m not seeing how an independent Catalonia can survive without the implicit support of their bordering neighbors of France and Spain, and the rest of the EU at large.

And since the chief complaint of the Catalans (beyond sheer Nationalistic fervor) is with the EU’s handling of the economic situation in general, and the resultant punishing austerity they face in particular, I don’t see the EU being terribly willing to trade favorably with an independent Catalonia.

Which leaves them entirely reliant on Mediterranean trade with North Africa, the Levant, and Eastern Europe - none of which sound like appealing trade partners at the moment.

I just don’t see how Catalonia’s situation can improve if they go it alone. But I guess Catalans would rather fail of their own accord than at the hands of the hated Spaniards and their allies?


It occurs to me that the choice of language here is odd.

“The central government in Madrid has declared any referendum on independence illegal, but that has only fueled the indignation of Catalans”

Isn’t unsanctioned voting illegal to begin with? If people hold an unofficial election for president, it doesn’t hold any weight and is technically “illegal”, in that it has no legal authority or value.

Why would the Spanish government have to “declare” a referendum illegal? Wouldn’t any referendum have to make it through the proper government channels in the first place to be considered legal?

I don’t see why the EU and/or other trade partners wouldn’t continue to trade with Catalonia, any more than they wouldn’t trade with Scotland or an independent Quebec.

On the other hand, to the extent that pro-independence sentiment is fueled by austerity concerns, it seems like Catalonia wants to take its comparatively strong economy and go home. This seems similar to those who want Alberta or Western Canada to be independent (largely because of economic strength and political marginalization, with only very mild “cultural” differences). Having a big economy that subsidizes poorer regions doesn’t seem like a particularly compelling reason for independence, at least not in any society that believes in graduated tax rates. The proper solution to austerity measures isn’t region-specific independence but country-wide protest against those austerity measures which affect everyone.

So when a random city in the USA votes for a new mayor, or a city has a referendum on a local issue, they need the explicit permission of the national government in order to legally do so?


But… but… the Catelonians were already absorbed during the magical transition to modern international law nullifying all claims when standing arbitrary borders were blessed by the League of Nations and then readjusted and super-blessed by the UN. How can long standing occupation or ethnic cleansing claims stand up in a word where schools have expensive maps and globes which can’t be easily replaced.


Inasmuch as they are incorporated as a city, and granted the powers therein, yes.

A city government is empowered (by the State, which is in turn empowered by the Federal Government) to hold official elections. The citizens themselves cannot organize an election for mayor outside of the official legal framework and expect it to have any authority.

Likewise with the case of secession. The Bronx can’t simply vote to leave New York City - they would have to call an official vote specifically for that purpose. This was demonstrated a short while ago on a national scale: Scotland couldn’t just vote on their independence without working within the existing legal framework of the UK legislature.

The same is true of Catalonia. So long as their aim is legal secession, they have to operate within the frameworks of the laws of Spain. That doesn’t necessarily mean that legal framework as it exists is perfect - or even all that fair - but for secession to be legal, it has to be carried out in full accordance with the law.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t illegally secede. Plenty of groups have done exactly that throughout history. But illegal secession has certain unsavory potential consequences.

When the South illegally seceded from the Union to form the Confederated States of America, it had vast and complicated ramifications. The Union of course did not recognize their authority - but certain foreign powers did, treating them as a sovereign state, opening trade and official relations. The could happen with Catalonia, with certain nations recognizing their authority, but others not.

Of course, the other big threat is war. When the South seceded, fighting broke out, and after a long and bloody struggle the Confederacy was dissolved. The secession was ultimately a failure, paid for in suffering and human lives. Right or wrong, the same could happen in Catalonia if things end up going badly.

Of course, some illegal secessions succeed - like America’s own illegal secession from England. Some even are pulled off bloodlessly - although that typically requires the central power from which a party is seceding to be otherwise occupied and unable to respond, or for the cost of response to be too great to merit action.

The Catalans will have to decide for themselves how they want to proceed, and what risks they are willing to take in the name of national pride and resolving of grievances. They can work within the system, or they can fly in the face of it. Each has pros and cons, and each has certain potential consequences which may shape the future for generations to come.

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The Catalans took part in their share of “occupation and ethnic cleansing”, back when they were the Kingdom of Aragon.

They played the exact same game as the Spanish - nationalism, conquest, mercantilism, politics, intrigue, the whole gamut. They simply ended up losing the contest - as did countless small nations within Europe, now part of larger modern states. Does anyone bemoan the plight of the Venetians; the Athenians; the Bretons; the Savoyards; the Burgundians; or countless others?

Does this fact mitigate the abuses Spain has carried out against the Catalan people since 1716, the year of the crown’s abolition? No, most assuredly not. But to frame them as innocent victims of modern international law, the League of Nations, and the UN is patently absurd. Catalonia’s lack of statehood is a matter of the Rennaisance and the Colonial Age - not one of the present, or even of the 20th century.

As for the abuses the Catalan people have suffered in the centuries since they came under Spanish rule? Those are a separate matter - one for which, of course, redress may be expected to be pursued. But that has absolutely nothing to do with modern international law.

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Show me the part of the Constitution where the federal government has any control over local elections.

Or show me the part of the Constitution where the federal government has any control over State elections (or their subject matter). Heck, show me anything in the Constitution which suggests that States are “empowered by the Federal Government.” In reality the Constitution empowers the federal government with specifically enumerated powers, and reserves all other powers for the States.

How about the Quebec referendum? Quebec held the vote, even though the federal government didn’t agree that the vote would be binding or have legal effect on. Whether a polity can legally secede is a different question than whether they can vote on it.


Constitutions do not, and are not expected to, enumerate every single right or power.

This does not change the fact that a state or province derives its authority from the sovereignty of the country it is part of, nor the fact that a city derives its authority from the sovereignty of the state it is part of.

Your request is therefor meaningless, and belies the fact that you do not understand the fundamentals of how legal authority is transferred between political bodies.

They can hold the vote, but it isn’t a legal vote. At that point it’s essentially an opinion poll.


The problem is that fifteen years ago their economy was not only blooming, but driving the entire Spain. Now they feel that Catalonia is being dragged by Madrid.

And not only that, there is a deep rooted hate for all things Catalonian in the current government that dates back to the dictatorship times, that mixed with an involution of social rights and the imposition of national catolicism is the cherry on top of the independence cake.

Madrid is taking literally the worst steps to fix the catalonian referendum crisis.


The referendum is legal under Catalonian law, they approved a “law of consults and referendums” past week.

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The catalonian independence problem can be summed in a simple conversation:

-We want to ask our people if they want to be independent.
-Why not?
-Because the Spanish Constitution says so.
-Ok, then lets we change it.
-¡NO! You cant! No one cant! The constitution is SACRED! It was given to us as a symbol of UNITY and PEACE. Changing one coma would spell DOOM and CIVIL WAR and we all would die!!!
-But… you changed it in 2011 to please Angela Merker economic dictations. In fact you changed it in record time! Two weeks!
-Nah nah nah! Can’t hear you! Nah nah nah! The Transition! Nah nah nah! Civil war!
-Then fuck you, we will do it ourselves!
-No, fuck you!
-No, fuck U!
-No, fuck you and your mother!
-No, fuck you and everybody!!
-You are all Nazis!!!
-No, you Nazi!


From my admittedly partial understanding of the situation, I believe it’s Madrid which is economically dependent on Catalunya, and it’s in Catalunya’s interests to dump Spain in favour of an independent role within a more meaningful larger union, the EU.

Emotionally, I’m all for the complete dissolution of the UK (within the EU), but acknowledge that’s not economically practical. In the case of Catalunya, though…


The US Constitution was completely expected to, and designed to, delineate the extent of the federal government’s powers. If you doubt this, I suggest you read the Federalist Papers (and the Tenth Amendment). If the framers intended to allow state and local elections only with the consent of the federal government, I expect they might have made this somewhat explicit.

Virtually every federal law ever passed can point to a specific part of the constitution that gives them authority to make law in that sphere. States are not so constrained to making laws in one of the areas enumerated in the Constitution (though may obviously may not violate any of the specific personal rights granted in the Constitution and applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment).

Is this a legal argument? Or just a mostly meaningless string of words? Couldn’t I also say that the federal government derives its authority from the states, cities, and people it represents?

I can assure you that the conversation in 1995 was slightly more nuanced than this, and nobody was dismissing the referendum as an opinion poll.

I admit I know essentially nothing about Catalonian law, but I do know they’re an “autonomous region”, yes?

If, as you say, the referendum is legal under Catalonian law, the question arises - is the Catalonian law in question itself unlawful at a national or “federal” level, in much the way that an American state’s laws might be deemed “unconstitutional”?

Just as our states are more or less “autonomous” but still have to abide by federal law, presumably the various “comunidads” of Spain are much the same, and Catalonia can no more enact their own regional laws in defiance of national law than, say, Galicia or Cantabria or any other “comunidad” can?

Among the players in Europe I actually have very little sympathy, even the insane Pichot-Sykes borders in the ex-Ottoman areas were historical Christendom swinging the pendulum which once saw much of southern Europe under a caliphate. More problematic is the white colonies where native populations of N America, Australia, and NZ were cleansed, genocided, and disenfranchised. In the US particularly even peace treaties with the force on par with constitutional law in the US are as a rule violated and ignored leaving the nations who were treated with the legitimate legal sovereigns of the land making the US republic the illegal stateless occupying force with no legitimate right to recourse to the ICC much less a permanent seat at the UNSC. All it took was a UN member vote to de-recognize the ROC(Taiwan) as the UNSC seat to China and certify that permanent seat to the PRC representatives, why not do the same and seat say the Lakota nation or a confederation of united tribes within the current US borders.
But the might makes right, especially when you have nukes, a lesson we learned from the Ukraine who was apparently foolish to give up its former Soviet nuclear arms and within 20 years is now surrendering sovereignty within its UN recognized borders.
Rule of law, Fuck You, too big to fail means too big to be ruled both in business and in the games of nations.


Wikipedia suggests this is not the case, at least in terms of GDP and debt. Grain of salt and all that, though - haven’t dug into the citations and whatnot.

As for the whole notion of Catalonia independently joining the EU, how does that make sense? The entire economic complaint of the Catalans is that they’re being made to face austerity measures which were directly necessitated by the actions and policies of the EU. Why would they expect any better treatment as an independent country?

Better question, why would the EU accept them? Assuming they gain independence, their political and economic situation is certain to be highly unstable for the forseeable future. What does the EU gain by allowing them to join?

Why wouldn’t they simply adopt a “Wait and See” attitude, holding back on commiting themselves to anything until it seems apparent that Catalonia won’t just collapse at the first major crisis or obstacle to hit the fledgling nation? With the mess that is European economics and politics currently, who is going to want to invest in such a risky venture as an independent Catalonia? The EU can easily afford to wait five or ten years to see if the prospects for Catalonian membership are good - but can the Catalans hold on that long?

In fact each comunidad has it’s own sets of special laws and attributions recognised in its Autonomy Statute, it means they can promulgate any law as long as they follow the usual course: through the courts (Catalonia, Valencia and Baleares) or regional parliament. It, of course, doesn’t means that the state cannot try to void it via constitutional court.

Yes they can, there are special powers given to historical regions like Vasque Country, Navarra, and Catalonia. Again, it doesn’t means that Madrid cannot try to void those laws.

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The problem with your analogy is that the Catalans, as much as they might want to change the Constitution, couldn’t possibly do so with their numbers alone.

Since the Constitution affects everyone in Spain, any vote to alter the constitution would naturally have to include the full nation - so without support from voters from other parts of the country, they could never win the vote to allow the changes to take place.

They could conceivably gain the needed support from their fellow countrymen - but if this news piece is any indication, they don’t seem terribly interested in trying to win a majority by drumming up popular support from their neighbors. Which is a shame - refusing to work within the system will only breed resentment from the very people they ought to be seeking out as allies in getting the Constitution changed.

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