The European Union should step into the debate over Catalan independence

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On 11 September, a human chain was formed by people in Catalonia to demonstrate support for the territory’s independence from Spain. Joan Costa i Font writes that Catalan independence is not simply an internal Spanish issue, but has the potential to spill-over into the European arena. He argues that with the Spanish government reluctant to allow either an independence referendum or a constitutional reform, the European Union should now take an active role in the debate.

The Catalan question has overshadowed modern Spanish politics for more than a century. The latter includes a forty-year dictatorship followed by a ‘peculiar’ transition to democracy and a subsequent Constitutional settlement in 1978 which most Catalans interpreted as a route to a federal Spain. However, as early as 1981, a failed coup, a list of subsequent recentralisation attempts, cast doubts over any serious federal transition.

Two decades later in 2005, a new statute of autonomy attained the majority support of both Catalan and Spanish Parliaments, and the democratic legitimacy of a referendum, but it was finally frustrated in 2010 by the ruling of a heavily politicised Constitutional court (chaired by a militant conservative known by its anti Catalan views). These gave rise to long lasting debate over what can de labelled as the ‘law v democracy’ dilemma, whereby the constitutional references to both an ‘indissoluble unity of Spain’ and the need of a ‘Spanish-wide referendum’ prevail over the people of Catalonia’s preferences. As a result, Catalans are trapped within Spain, after the new interpretation of the Constitution after the 2010 ruling.

Read @ London School of Economics and Political Science

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