When Territorial Integrity Meets Self Determination

On September 29, 1977, a decree was issued establishing a provisional Catalan autonomous government through an adaptation of the 1932 Statute. On October 23, 1977, the seventy-seven-year-old Josep Tarradellas returned to Barcelona after an absence of thirty-eight years; and on the following day, Suarez presided over an event in which Taradellas was installed as president of the Generalitat. Tarradellas was certainly not trusted by everyone, but nevertheless he was overwhelmingly perceived as the legitimate Catalan leader. Tarradellas was the son-in-law of the legendary Colonel Macia, the first president of the Catalan government, and he had proudly borne the standard of the Generalitat during a lonely and austere exile. Taradellas did not participate in the anti-Francoist opposition; he considered himself to be above parties, and to be the “spiritual leader” of Catalonia. In return for the re-establishment of the Generalitat, Tarradellas pledged Catalan loyalty to the monarchy, acceptance of the unity of Spain, and respect for the armed forces.
– Laura Desfor Edles, Symbol and Ritual in the New Spain: The Transition to Democracy After Franco

The past few days have been quite an eye-opener for me. For one, it’s a bit shocking to put a name to the people who would follow the Milgram Experiment. I absolutely understand the need for the Rule of Law, and conceptually, I can understand folk who might sympathise for the rights of democracy who nonetheless feel that this wasn’t the right way to go about it. But I feel that once violence enters the equation, all the authority of legality and law are forfeited. All of it. As I’m firmly of the belief that it is the duty of all independence supporters to support the right of self-determination of all peoples who seek it, I was already deeply sympathetic to the people of Catalonia long before we saw those horrible pictures and videos: this only seals the deal for me.

But just like in Scotland, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye, and a little corner of Iberia could shape the course of a continent – even the world.

I campaigned for a Remain vote in the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union, for many reasons stated many times. I worked with the Scottish branch of the official Remain campaign, which meant I was effectively working for Will Straw, of all people – the SNP already had plenty of people working for them. Considering this took place just after the Scottish Parliament elections, it’s a wonder any of us in Scotland had the energy to campaign, but it was a pleasant surprise to be working with people we were competing with not a few months ago. I was an official polling agent, and counting agent. I read all Alyn Smith’s emails, went to various informative events, and leafletted, canvassed, the whole gamut. I took great validation in the fact Inverclyde was the 25th highest Remain vote in the entire UK (& 8th in Scotland): it’s nice to know you backed a winner. And, indeed, we won the referendum in Scotland. A shame that doesn’t seem to matter to the UK Government, but that’s by the by.

I worked so hard to ensure the UK, and Scotland, remained in the European Union, because I believed in the European Union: I believed that they had the interests of their citizens at heart, and would do their damnedest to help. So to be absolutely blunt, reading this response from the EU Commission in the aftermath of the Catalonian referendum felt like a complete kick in the guts:

Under the Spanish Constitution, yesterday’s vote in Catalonia was not legal.

For the European Commission, as President Juncker has reiterated repeatedly, this is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain.

We also reiterate the legal position held by this Commission as well as by its predecessors. If a referendum were to be organised in line with the Spanish Constitution it would mean that the territory leaving would find itself outside of the European Union.

Beyond the purely legal aspects of this matter, the Commission believes that these are times for unity and stability, not divisiveness and fragmentation.

We call on all relevant players to now move very swiftly from confrontation to dialogue. Violence can never be an instrument in politics.

We trust the leadership of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process in full respect of the Spanish Constitution and of the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined therein.

I’m still het up about it. After all the leaflets I delivered, all the articles and treaties I read, all the conversations I had, and this is how the EU presents itself to the world? How it presents itself to the people of Catalonia, with hundreds reported injured through police brutality? How it presents itself to a member state which has just committed mass violence against those who they insist are their people? How on earth am I supposed to justify the EU to Remain voters, let alone Leave voters, when this is their response?

But. But… there’s more going on here, and I worry if even the EU recognise the full implications. Certainly I don’t know if we Scots do.

From Right to Far-Right: Gerry Gunster, Arron Banks, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Andy Wigmore, Raheem Kassam.

It’s beyond doubt now that there has been a mass infiltration in the echelons of society – business, civic, government – insofar as they are different from the “usual” predatory elites. What seemed to be grandiose conspiratorial fantasy is fiendishly difficult to discount when the trail is so clear: the connections certain figures have in elections, referendums, companies, and seismic events, mean that it is rapidly becoming unreasonable to conclude otherwise. James Patrick’s Alternative War (reviewed here by Dr Craig Dalziell) uncovers the stunning depth of the complicity & correlation between the EU Referendum, the US Elections, and other – past and future – happenings. While I take George Wyllie’s mantra “be suspicious” to heart over everything, even whistleblowers, this is something which I’ve felt stirring for years now, and I take no pleasure in seeing things pan out as I feared.

Conspiracy theory is largely promoted as laughable hyperbole because governments don’t like promoting conspiracy fact. Proxy wars, trust monopolies, Dreyfus, Murdoch’s phone-hacking, Tuskegee, the Big Tobacco Cover-Up, MK Ultra, Bohemian Grove, Gleiwitz, Teapot Dome, Tangentopoli – these conspiracies, cover-ups, and crimes are matters of record, yet the mere word “conspiracy” is usually followed by “theory,” and then incredulity. Why else do you think ridiculous nonsense like the Flat Earth Movement and the Reptilian Hypothesis are becoming more and more commonly seen, in an age already assailed by efforts to confuse fiction and reality? When people don’t know what to believe, or instinctively feel suspicious of everyone, then we are very easily manipulated.

Because even if you aren’t an active paid-up member of the infiltrators, you can do their job for them with your ham-fisted idiocy. The EU Commission is comprised of member states’ governments, and so is automatically reflective of those member states’ interests, not the EU as a whole. So we have to take that into account when we read things like this:


Ramón Luis Valcárcel is the Vice-President of the European Parliament. Ramón Luis Valcárcel is also a member of the Partido Popular – the same party which is currently governing Spain; a member of the the Spanish Parliament’s Committee of the Regions, and later the EU Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development, which places him directly in the constitutional question of Spanish autonomous regions. You would have to be extremely naive to presume he would take a remotely neutral or nuanced stance on the situation.

The current Spanish representative on the EU Commission is Miguel Arias Cañete, a man not without controversy for his business dealings or gender sensitivity. Guess what party he’s a member of? What’s more, the previous President of the European Commission was this man. Scottish Independence supporters might remember him: Catalonian Independence supporters certainly do. So we see here why the EU is in such a bind: how can they take a stance against a member state which has such powerful individuals taking top roles within its institutions – not to mention that state itself being one of the largest of 27 in the group?

Spain – or, rather, Spain’s minority government – is hardly alone in being so solidly, steadfastly opposed to independence movements within their nations:

The perennial myth that the EU would oppose or significantly delay Scottish membership is partially fuelled by the supposition that it would exacerbate Belgium’s problems with the Walloons, Italy’s problems with Sardinia, and Spain’s problems with half their autonomous communities. But why? Why is every single nation in the EU so profoundly opposed to allowing peoples within their regions the chance to express a democratic determination? While independence movements run the gamut of political idealogies, and there has been plenty of tragic bloodshed in the past, the vast majority are well within the political conversation: few are overtly anarchist, authoritarian, or violent in any way. What, exactly, is being threatened here?

The same thing that’s threatened by any ruler: their rule.

There is a certain tension between the right of self-determination and the territorial integrity of States. In the Friendly Relations Declaration, the seventh paragraph under the heading ‘The principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples’ (the so-called ‘safeguard clause’) provides that – “Nothing in the foregoing paragraphs shall be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States conducting themselves in accordance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples as described above and thus possessed of a government representing the whole people belonging to the territory without distinction as to race, creed, or colour”. The following paragraph states categorically that “[e]very State shall refrain from any action aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity or territorial integrity of any other State or country[MGK/KDM2].” This tension was much discussed in the Kosovo case, but the International Court did not find it necessary to resolve the matter.[1]

A parallel principle of territorial integrity exists in the context of self-determination. In its resolution 1514 (XV), the UN General Assembly declared that “[a]ny attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.” And, as noted above, this is reflected in the Friendly Relations Declaration’s reference to the “territorial integrity of any State or country”.

As with a lot of things, the principle of territorial integrity is a well-meaning idea which has been hijacked to preserve the established order. In a conflict between self-determination and territorial integrity, I will always fall on the side of self-determination: in Scotland, it is the people who are sovereign – not the state, and not the territory, even if Scotland’s modern borders have existed unchanged for centuries. Hence why so many British Nationalists I encounter are flabberghasted when I say I would wholeheartedly endorse, say, Orkney and/or Shetland seeking independence from Scotland, even if I personally didn’t agree with it – because for me, it’s the principle of the people’s choice that matters.

This is the conflict the EU, and we, must navigate: the states, who guard their territorial integrity; and the people of those states, who demand their right to self-determination. There are 11 countries in the EU where the territorial integrity of their nation is effectively written into their constitution – thereby rendering any independence movements within those countries to be unconstitutional:

(1) The Republic of Bulgaria shall be an unitary State with local self-government. No autonomous territorial formations shall be allowed to exist therein.
(2) The territorial integrity of the Republic of Bulgaria shall be inviolable.
Article 2, Constitution of Bulgaria

1. The territory of the Republic is one and indivisible.
2. The integral or partial union of Cyprus with any other State or the separatist independence is excluded.
Article 185, Constitution of Cyprus

La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale. Elle assure l’égalité devant la loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d’origine, de race ou de religion. Elle respecte toutes les croyances. Son organisation est décentralisée. La loi favorise l’égal accès des femmes et des hommes aux mandats électoraux et fonctions électives, ainsi qu’aux responsabilités professionnelles et sociales.
(France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It ensures equality before the law of all citizens without distinction of origin, race or religion. She respects all beliefs. Its organization is decentralized. The law promotes the equal access of women and men to electoral mandates and elective functions, as well as to professional and social responsibilities.)
Article 1, Constitution of the Fifth Republic

(1) The land area, territorial waters and airspace of Estonia are an inseparable and indivisible whole.
(2) Estonia is politically a unitary state wherein the division of its territory into administrative units shall be determined by law.
Article 2, Constutition of Estonia

The territory of Finland is indivisible. The national borders can not be altered without the consent of the Parliament.
Article 4, Constitution of Finland

La Repubblica, una e indivisibile, riconosce e promuove le autonomie locali; attua nei servizi che dipendono dallo Stato il più ampio decentramento amministrativo; adegua i principi ed i metodi della sua legislazione alle esigenze dell’autonomia e del decentramento
(The Republic, one indivisible, recognizes and promotes local autonomy; implementing services that depend on the state as the largest administrative decentralization; adapts the principles and methods of its legislation to the needs of autonomy and decentralization.)
Article 5, Constitution of Italy

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a democratic, free, independent and indivisible State.
Article 1, Constitution of Luxemburg

No party may be formed with a name or manifesto objectives that show it has a regional nature or
Article 51(5), Constitution of Portugal

(1) Romania is a sovereign, independent, unitary and indivisible National State.
Article 1, Constitution of Romania

(1) The territory of the Slovak Republic is united and indivisible.
(2) The borders of the Slovak Republic can be changed only by a constitutional law.
Article 3, Constitution of Slovakia

Slovenia is a territorially unified and indivisible state.
Article 4, Constitution of Slovenia

Many EU nations state that separatists are against the “ideal” of the EU. This is self-evidently preposterous: what difference would a supranational union of 27 states be to one of 30, 40, 50, or any other number? The ideal of the EU, as far as I can see, is that of co-operation between sovereign, independent states – not for a few big states jealously hoarding their territory and populations which might want to co-operate with the rest of the world on their own terms. It shouldn’t even need pointing out that the vast majority of independent countries had to fight for it precisely because their masters didn’t want to lose possession of them. Many of the nations of the European Union themselves had to fight for their independence, which makes their snub of Catalonia all the more reprehensible.

What sort of people are most against the idea of the people’s choice, even as they use populism and The Will of the People as justification for their actions? What sort of people most focus on unity and indivisibility in their mold and their terms, to the detriment of minorities’ rights? The same people who “won” the EU referendum, who won a third of votes in the French Presidential Election, and more than doubled their vote in the German Federal Election. They are the forces who seek to subvert and undo decades of social progress, sow discord and discontent, and line their pockets while humanity’s soul burns – divide and conquer. People who seek to destroy the EU are now elected members of the European Parliament, where they can use the EU’s own resources to undermine them, work their fell magic to alter the political agenda with a fraction of the MEPs and none of the responsibilities – just like what happened in the UK, where all too suddenly the two largest parties in the UK started to toe the UKIP line on immigration. When they say “take back control,” they’re not talking about the people, or even the states – they’re talking about themselves. Just like Mephistopheles, they only have power if we invite them in. And we did.

The call is coming from inside the EU.

It’s easy to present Catalonia, Scotland, and all the other independence movements as examples of the division the EU doesn’t want. But with the UK hauling Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar out against their will, the hope is that the EU are starting to understand that we want to stand as equals, not subordinates; to be able to speak for ourselves in committees and parliament without the permission of our masters; to be the model of democracy that the European Ideal always said it wanted to be. And part of that will require some serious soul-searching from EU member states: is your ownership of territories & people who want to be free truly worth the prospect of the EU’s collapse? Would you prefer to lose Corsica to the Corsicans, or lose Spain, France, Germany to the Fascists, in the way the British Government chose to lose the UK? It is dangerous to mistake the desire of self-determination for division – or to confuse unity with domination. A wilderness with peace.

I’ve seen a lot of my friends’ faith in the EU shattered. I don’t blame them: but we must recognise the problems with the EU can, and must, be solved, in a way that is simply far too late for the UK. Forget the self-serving interests of politicians: what matters is the people. The peoples of the EU must make their representatives listen. We cannot be on the wrong side of history.

The EU has to wake up, and wake up soon, to the devil that came through the door.

6 thoughts on “When Territorial Integrity Meets Self Determination

  1. Marconatrix says:

    Interesting indeed, and while I generally supported the EU ideal, if it’s going to be dominated by the ‘big boys’ then we might all be better out. The irony to me is that the overarching structures and agreements that constitute the EU make smaller and more local states within the whole so much more viable.

    Maybe it’s time for all the smaller states (extant and potential) of Europe to unite against the increasingly Fascist conglomerations of Spain, France, Germany and the UK. Could that be a way forward?

    But if so, why aren’t all the smaller countries, many recently ‘liberated’, speaking out for Catalonia at this most critical time? The Irish response is beyond disappointing. Could they for once have gone against their own nature and actually forgotten their own history?

    In some respects the tacit support for Spain is even more shocking than the images of blood-drenched grannies etc.

  2. Ian Clark says:

    “Hence why so many British Nationalists I encounter are flabberghasted when I say I would wholeheartedly endorse, say, Orkney and/or Shetland seeking independence from Scotland, even if I personally didn’t agree with it – because for me, it’s the principle of the people’s choice that matters.”

    I agree with your position, but I also think lots of supporters of Scottish independence would likewise be flabbergasted. Some ideas are radical and take time for people to accept. The implications of self determination in relation to territory is one of these challenging ideas. Especially for people whose life long ambition has been to see an independent Scotland

  3. […] of affairs. But if there’s one thing to take away from all this, it’s one simple fact: the State Is Not The People. The State is a construct to serve the People: when it does not suit its purpose, then the People […]

  4. […] dangerous to the stability of nations.” It’s more of the same story, of states protecting their power and privilege in fear of the people making decisions that might jeopardise those […]

  5. […] to punch down on all those other nations-in-limbo still unrecognised by the wider world thanks to old mindsets about what it is to be a […]

  6. […] The United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland will cease to exist, as the UK Government will make the long habit of referring to the UK as a nation & country official. They’re only doing what countless politicians, journalists, and influential individuals have been doing for decades. The United Kingdom will call itself a country, while Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland will be called what Jim Shannon, David Milliband, Mariano Rajoy, Ruth Davidson’s favourite blogger, the BBC, Adzuna, ThoughtCo, Nations Encyclopedia, the International Police Association, Glenigan, UK National Accounts, and the UK Parliament already calls them – regions. Where once the UK was a union pretending to be a nation, it will abandon that 300-year-old facade, necessarily stripping its constituents of their status as nations for the sake of its territorial integrity. […]

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