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UN’s sentence on Kosovo clears the way for Catalonia’s independence

22 July 2010 19 Comments

Today the UN’s International Court of Justice said Kosovo’s independence didn’t break any rules since there are no international laws that prohibits declarations of independence. This is very important for many stateless nations in the world, including Catalonia. The list of countries against Kosovo’s independence includes China, Serbia, Russia and Spain. Spain’s fear was that this ruling would create a precedent that stateless nations such as Euskal Herria (Basque Country) or Catalonia could use to accelerate their processes of independence.

This is excellent news and with very good timing since only two weeks ago Spain’s Constitutional Court sentenced that Catalonia has no right to organise referendums and therefore the possibility of a referendum of independence was shut leaving only the declaration of independence. Today’s sentence does indeed create a precedent in international law and clarifies that the international community would support Catalonia should we decide to follow the same path.

Catalan independentist association Reagrupament has been defending for years that this is the best choice for Catalonia and precisely this week a call to all Catalan independentists to unite to achieve this target was done by Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència, led by Laporta, López Tena and Bertran. Reagrupament have already showed their support and cooperation.

Congratulations to Kosovo!

Update on July 24th:

To clarify things you can download the full sentence here, in english. The precedent the sentence creates refers, in plural and in general to declarations of independence. Let’s read some of the articles:

80 “Thus, the scope of the principle of territorial integrity is confined to the spehere of relations between states” Meaning the principle of territorial integrity doesn’t apply if a secession comes from within a state.

81 “…no general prohibition against unilateral declarations of independence may be inferred…”

84 “For the reasons already given, the Court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence”

Now people can still argue Kosovo and Catalonia are different cases, which is true. But the above points of this sentence effectively are indeed applicable to any future declaration of independence.

Photo: AMWRanes

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19 Comments »

  • An eventful fortnight for Catalonia « media/anthropology said:

    [...] UN’s International Court of Justice ruling about the legality of Kosovo’s independence as paving the way for the independence of Catalonia. from → Spain, activism, ethnicity and nationalism ← Online discussion on [...]

  • Tweets that mention Catalonia Direct » Blog Archive » UN’s sentence on Kosovo clears the way for Catalonia’s independence -- Topsy.com said:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ignasi Bonet, Albert Martí. Albert Martí said: UN's sentence on #Kosovo clears the way for #Catalonia 's independence http://bit.ly/9fxf6s #somunanacio #adeuespanya [...]

  • Candide said:

    Good luck, guys! Go down the Kosovo road, get some 30,000 Catalans killed, then be happy about independence.

    But seriously: the court’s ruling was a forseeable one, and there is just one conclusion to be made. Secession is a political issue. And so is its international recognition.

    So don’t fool yourselves into thinking that suddenly the door is open. This one always was.

    It just takes some sweat to cross it, and occasionally blood and tears too. It has to be worth that much.

  • Albert (author) said:

    The good news is that this creates a precedent since there was no previous ruling by an international court on declarations of independence.

    The Spanish are embarrassing themselves in the eyes of the international community by joining Serbia, Russia and China in not recognising Kosovo’s indepedence.

  • Alex said:

    Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia; all these nations found their independence without bloodshed with their “Singing Revolution, from a power that has a history of shedding quite a bit of blood. The Ukraine has similar dynamics as Catalunya, with a population that speaks two languages. This nation also found its’ independence without bloodshed.

    What makes you think bloodshed would occur? Even with all the saber rattling, Spain is still part of the EU. I would hope they would think before bringing in the tanks, fighter jets, and armies at their disposal. I don’t think Catalans want war, and one would hope Spain doesn’t either.

    Maybe I’m ignorant of how far the Spanish government is willing to go.

    No-one has made any declarations yet, so I think we are jumping the gun so to speak.

  • Rab said:

    Candide,
    Are you saying the Spanish Army would behave like the Serbian paramilitaries and start killing people based on their cultural background? Who would be responsible for the bloodshed?

    The Czech/Slovakian split was also peaceful, on top of the ones listed by Alex above. If the Spanish state accepts the democratic wishes of an independence vote, I don’t see why any bloodshed should occur.

    I don’t understand why the Spanish state would resort to military violence… if you could expand that would be great.

  • Candide said:

    Alex, if I now come up with examples contrary to your point, what have we proven?

    Fact is there is always a risk, and the question is whether indepedence offers such a significant improvement that it is worth taking the risk. I see no risk in an intervention of the Spanish army, not in the first place. But that of civil unrest within Catalonia, which might move the army to intervene.

  • Candide said:

    Albert, the court just has given its nihil obstat. Both Catalan nationalists who demand a so-called right for self-determination and the Spanish government have been corrected.

    It was and still is a political issue. That means the court has not created any precedent, especially since it insists on the singularity of the Kosovo case.

  • Alex said:

    Candide,

    You are right, if you came up with alternative examples we have proven nothing in one sense. But I did want to post these examples to show that there are other ways that do not have to end in bloodshed.

    We have to remember that we are not in China, we are part of the EU. If people commited themselves to a non-violent struggle, the Spanish government would have to answer to the world if they started bombing and mowing people down with gun fire.

    I realize that may be a naive way to look at it, but what can I say.

  • Albert (author) said:

    Candide, please before making such statements you should be more informed. Please read the update on the post.

    The sentence refers to declarations of independence in general and will be applicable to any future cases.

    Of course, USA diplomacy are not going to want to interfere in Spanish politics but when the time of truth comes what will hold is the precedent this sentence has created.

  • Candide said:

    Let’s read an article form yesterday’s La Vanguardia (“Kosovo anima a los serbios de Bosnia a retomar la bandera de la secesión”, pg. 7):

    As we already see in the title, those who have argued happily that the ICJ has created a precedent for Catalonia find themselves in the company of the authorities of Republika Srpska. Nazdravlje – to your health/que arpofiti.

    Further in the text we read that the ICJ’s ruling “no es aplicable ‘a ninguna otra situación’, recalcó el portavoz del Departamento de Estado [of the USA] preguntado por sus efectos para Euskadi o Catalunya”. Which means three things: firstly, that Kosovo represents a singular case, secondly you can scrap all your hopes (as expressed in this blog entry) that anybody in the international community would come to assist Catalan independentists.

    And, thirdly, in effect it means that we are faced with a political issue that demans political solutions.

    Now let’s see what the ICJ has to say:

    Point 51: “The question is narrow and specific”.

    Point 56: “(…) it is entirely possible for a particular act (…) not to be in violation of international law without necessarily constituting the excercise of a right conferred by it”.

    Point 57: “The declaration of independence of 17 February 2008 must be considered within the factual context which led to its adoption”.

    Point 117: “(…) the Court must establish, on a case by case basis, considering all relevant circumstances, for whom the Security Council intended to create binding legal obligations”.

    All these quotes,and many other parts unquoted, speak for the uniqueness of the Kosovo case.

    Yet there is one consideration that would be applicable to other cases. Point 121: “It follows that the authors of the declaration of independence were not bound by the framework of powers and responsibilities established to govern the conduct of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government”.

    While points 51, 56, 57, 117 at al. make clear that we speak of one single case alone, and that there is neither a violation of international law nor can there be concluded by this any right for secession, point 121, while being on the same line, states the obvious: as long as those who are declaring independence are not bound by any legal contracts that forbid them to do so, they may very well declare efective independence.

    That, precisely, puts the ball into the field of politics. Which is where it belongs, and which is what one would have expected.

    In conclusion, Catalan nationalists can very well get off their onanistic attitude of trying to appeal to rights (for there are none) or precedents (for there are neither) and come down to the hard task of working the political field, which is where the issue belongs, without hoping, or rather against much hope, that they will find allies in the international community to support them in their quest for independence.

    This ruling and the resulting political statements, rather than furthering independentist movements around the world, are putting high obstacles to all those who indeed can declare independence without much legal impediment, but will have to fight for its political recognition, which is all but assured.

  • Candide said:

    Shall I be more blunt? The USA will give a bull about Catalonia. Unless you can recreate the overall political situation, post-cold war and genocide included, with the appropriate players in the State Department such as M. Albright, and a geostrategic playing field that turned the Kosovo case into one of American interests. All conditions which have played into the hands of the Kosovans, but are very hard to replicate in this end of the world.

    That is why from the start I said that you’ll first have to come clear with the idea of getting 30.000 Catalans killed if you want the Kosovo experience to have any meaning for Catalonia.

    And that is what nobody wants. Really.

  • Albert (author) said:

    The Spanish resort to fear as only argument to stop Catalonia’s independence. Fear (threat?) of war, fear (threat?) of isolation, etc. We now know these arguments come from despair for not being able to stop the inevitable and once they’re analysed those fears vanish in thin air. But thanks for showing us your powerlessness.

  • Candide said:

    If this was a reply to my last comments, then I’m glad to see that you’ve surrendered to my arguments.

  • Vicenç Ramoneda i Ullar said:

    Spain has sided with Serbia, China, Russia, Venezuela, Cyprus, the only “big states” that do not recognize the state of Kosovo.

    Someone needs even more reason to leave?

    Hurray Democracy!
    Hurray the catalan Constitution!
    Hurray Liberty!
    Hurray the State of Catalunya!

  • Rab said:

    Candide: where do you get the 30,000 figure from and who killed and who would be killed?

    You keep agitating the ghost of social unrest but you never explain who would be the parties behind such violent action and what their motives would be. And thus the pretence of potential social unrest is used to stop the democratic process following its natural course.

    Hopefully the EU and the UN will send peacekeepers before Spanish paramilitaries engage in slaughtering Catalan civilians.
    Personally I don’t think the alledged sacrosant unity of Spain is worth military intervention but I am prepared to listen to your arguments -if you have any…

    The Tribunal’s ruling may contain as many phoney disclaimers and caveats as you like but the de facto precedent is set and the rules are clear: the right of self-determination of the people is above the principle of territorial integrity of states. The latter only applies when two sovereign states collide in a border dispute. Anything else is a smokescreen and playing on people’s fear.

  • Candide said:

    I extrapolated the number of victims in the Kosovo conflict to adapt it to Catalan demographics.

    You’re right, I have not painted a clear picture of who could attack who in Catalonia. I think there is potential for conflict: emotions are already running very high, information has been substituted by propaganda, professionalism has given way to ideology, and let’s not forget that we’re in Spain and the civil war is still present in politics. I do not think that the army would do any such things you mention. I am afraid of rogue violent groups from either side.

    I also remember that there was domestic terrorism until 20 years ago. And there is the domino effect on Euskadi, where there is ETA.

    Maybe I’ll find time and write down a scenario.

    As to the court, if you call the caveats phoney then don’t forget those from the State Department. Just call phoney all those things you cannot argue against.

    But seriously, it’s a moot point. I have only taken the time to argue about the ICJ’s ruling because it is so embarassing to see how Catalan nationalism jerks off on forced comparisions.

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