The Government of Catalonia declared independence. The international response has been overwhelmingly negative.
I empathise deeply with all those frustrated & outraged by this state 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 reserve the right to change their State, as enshrined in the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This was reiterated by the current UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order following the Spanish Government’s reaction:
The right of self-determination is a right of peoples and not a prerogative of States to grant or deny. In case of a conflict between the principle of territorial integrity and the human right to self-determination, it is the latter that prevails.
– Alfred de Zayos, professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy
It’s easy to be shocked at the sheer hypocrisy of the representatives of nations like Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Ukraine, and the United States to withhold recognition of a new state given they owe their entire existence to then-illegal measures – even more so for Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, and Portugal, who you’d think would retain some memory of why they’re not currently part of the Spanish Empire. For these nations to deny Catalonia the recognition their forebears fought, bled, and died for, is the height of cruel, merciless, horrible irony, even as they implore a government which has already sent tanks and truncheons and bullets to see the “force of argument.”
But we must not allow ourselves to lose sight of the bigger picture here.
When Belgium became independent, it came only a few years after the Congress of Vienna – a pact aimed to reinforce traditional national boundaries in the name of “peace” and “stability” which simply led to oppression of republican and revolutionary movements: dozens of provinces, states, and entire nations were swapped between major powers like baubles. Russia was “allowed to keep” Finland; Lombardy & Venice were “given” to Austria; various German states were “granted” to Denmark, Prussia, Austria. Were the people of Finland & Poland consulted on whether they wanted to stay Russian, or whether Lombardy & Venice wanted to become Austrian? No – because the People didn’t matter: the States did. As it was in 1815, so it was in subsequent meetings, and the future.
Consider the language used in the responses from several national representatives:
“Argentines renew their confidence in the capacity of the Government and of the entire Spanish Nation to, through dialogue, restore legality and constitutional order, guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of all its citizens and the unity and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Spain“.
– Argentine Foreign Ministry
Bulgaria observes the constitutional order of the Kingdom of Spain and the rule of law as fundamental values of the European Union and all its member states. Bulgaria supports keeping the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Spain. The country is Bulgaria’s strategic partner and ally.
– Bulgarian Foreign Ministry
Chile reitera su apoyo a unidad e integridad territorial de España. Confiamos en solución Cataluña en marco constitucional y democrático.
(Chile reiterates its support for the unity and territorial integrity of Spain. We are confident of a solution for Catalonia in a constitutional and democratic framework.)
– Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muño
Estonia supports the territorial integrity and unity of Spain. Internal affairs must be solved according to their constitution and laws.
– Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas
Georgia fully supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Spain and stands in solidarity W/ the Spanish Government.
– Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Margvelashvili
We are all concerned about the crisis in Catalonia. Ireland respects the constitutional and territorial integrity of Spain and we do not accept or recognise the Catalan Unilateral Declaration of Independence.
– Irish Department of Foreign Affairs
#Lithuania supports Spain’s territorial integrity, calls for dialogue, foreign minister @LinkeviciusL tells public radio #Catalonia
– Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius
Serbia supports the territorial integrity of Spain and this act contradicts the Spanish constitutional system. Unlike how other countries have reacted to the Kosovo unilateral declaration of independence – Serbia firmly rejects any similar acts anywhere in the world, including Catalonia.
– Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić
Ukraine supports the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Spain within its internationally recognized borders.
– Ukrainian Minister for Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin
State Sovereignty. Territorial Integrity. These are States looking out for a fellow State’s interests – because they have their own interests to consider. Argentina & Chile do not want to lose the Mapuche; Georgia does not want to lose Abkhazia or South Ossetia; Lithuania does not want to lose Samogitia; Serbia already refuses to recognise Kosovo, & doesn’t want to lose Preševo or Vojvodina either; Ukraine does not want to lose Luhansk, Donetsk, Crimea, Sevastopol, or Carpathian Ruthenia. Bulgaria & Estonia have already lost their territorial integrity in living memory, with their former conquerors still occassionally glowering at them jealously: Ireland certainly has plenty of issues of its own.
For the elite, the establishment, it is about keeping what is theirs – and they get to decide what that is. A fine idea for a People – a poisonous pretext for a State. The formation of a new state, or even al of an old one, is revolutionary, radical, change – the dogged perpetuation of an existing state is reactionary, conservative, status quo.
Thus, their solidarity is with the State. They express their concern at the Spanish Constitutional Crisis, not the Catalan Declaration of Independence; they express their support of Spanish Law, Institutions, Government, not the expressed will of the People. Most obscenely, they assert that this is not the will of the Catalonian People, yet make no provisions to ask the Catalonian People themselves. They have become that which their ancestors fought against – the State, the Establishment, Empire and Dominion. They are not the People.
Ordinary People from Berlin, Bilbao, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Naples, even Madrid itself, marching and rallying in support of their fellow People in Catalonia – not even for their nation’s independence, but for the mere right to choose for themselves. This is because, unlike the keybearers of the various establishments of various nations, they recognise the value in that freedom, regardless of whether that means some lines on a map have to be altered. At least representatives in some nations seem to understand this:
Today i will present a bill for Argentina to recognize the new Independent Republic of Catalonia & reject Rajoy’s and the King intervention
– Argentine MP Juan Carlos Giordano
“In #Denmark we seek legitimacy; while in #Spain they seek legality without thinking about the legitimacy.”
– Danish MP Sjúrður Skaale
Congratulations to the independent Republic of #Catalonia. Next week I will submit a motion to the Finnish Parliament for your recognition.
– Finnish MP Mikko Kärnä
At the heart of Europe, the refusal of dialogue and the lack of respect between a region and a state for too many years have led to an unprecedented showdown between politicians that can degenerate today.
Our Region, by its geography and history, has a special history with Spain, and we have for decades close relations with our neighbor Catalonia, within the framework of the Euroregion.
Faced with this situation of blockage, I want to insist on the need to find the path of dialogue as soon as possible in order to guarantee civil peace.
This is the historical responsibility of MM. Rajoy and Puigdemont
– Occitanian President Carole Delga
Catalonia 194th country in the United Nations, Quebec and Canada must recognize the new country of catalonia. The process has been totally democratic and peaceful in respect of international law.
– Quebecoi MP Martine Ouellet
If you support self-determination. Given Catalonia has self-determined. Then you recognise Catalan independence.
– Scottish MP Angus MacNeil
No need to be afraid. People of Slovenia stand with Catalonia. And I strongly believe that we will be among the first to recognize the new Republic.
– Slovenian MP Jan Škoberne
The authorities of South Ossetia will consider the issue on recognition of Catalonia’s independence if the relevant appeal is received from Catalonia.
– South Ossetian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmitry Medoev
Wales should now recognise Catalunya as an independent country. I will be pushing our National Assembly on this.
– Welsh AM Leanne Wood
The law, the establishment, and the champions of the status quo have utterly failed the people of Catalonia on both sides of the argument, be they independence supporters or not. They are fools to listen to the Spanish Government, and greater fools to ignore their own national histories. But while they are necessary in righting this wrong, we would be foolish to think they would accept such change so easily: every change in history was bought with strife, turmoil, and perseverance through mass movements.
When women finally saw their right to vote enshrined in law, it was because of male politicians – the very same ilk who were suppressing that right for centuries. When black people were granted the same rights as white people, it was because of white politicians – many of whom were personally rich from the spoils of slavery. Any major social, cultural, or national change can only happen when the obstructors of that change are either overwhelmed, or convinced otherwise. And that happens when the People make their voices heard.
For now, I hear the people of Catalonia. The People are sovereign. The jealous States of the world will seek to cast you down: out of the EU, out of favour, out of sight & mind. Each and every one of the establishments condemning you forget: they did little different from what you have done. They’re still sovereign. So will you be.
Wear your independence like a crown.