Catalonia’s case debated at the United States Congress
DIPLOCAT – Experts in US House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing recommend change in government strategy to deal with a wave of self-determination movements in Europe and Eurasia
At a Subcommittee Hearing on “U.S. Policy Toward National Self-Determination Movements”, three experts on international law and government, Paul R. Williams, Ph.D. (President and Co-Founder Public International Law and Policy Group); Jason Sorens, Ph.D.(Department of Government, Dartmouth College); and Mr. Ivan Vejvoda (Senior Vice President for Programs German Marshall Fund of the United States) agreed that we are experiencing a new global wave of national self-determination movements. In the past, when left unaddressed, self-determination conflicts had serious destabilizing effects of international proportions. Many had tragic outcomes and led to serious human rights violations and war crimes. Today -even in Europe- there is still no cohesive approach on how these conflicts should be resolved.
The experts’ advice to the Subcommittee was to favor long term stability and peaceful resolution by a radical change in US strategy. This would entail abandoning the US traditional approach, namely defending the status quo of existing borders, and adopting a coherent policy in favor of self-determination. This policy should pursue a legal and democratic path flexible enough to resolve different sovereignty conflicts and to provide a framework for those seeking independence. Paul R. Williams explained in detail the different stages of the earned sovereignty approach and the role that international supervision should play.
The debate referred to the case of Catalonia in multiple occasions. According to Williams: “If Catalonians eventually choose independence, they will seek international recognition as an independent state based on the will of the people, not on provisions of the Spanish constitution.” Ivan Vejvoda also commented “the last elections results in Catalonia show that there is a rising tide by parts of Catalan political elites and society to seek independence. Questions arise whether the demands for greater self-government will be granted by the central government in Madrid or not. And even if these demands were met would that assuage those seeking independence. It is the young who have swollen the ranks of those who wish to see an independent Catalonia.” Catalonia is considered an example of a democratic and peaceful movement towards self-determination, which has encountered Spain’s fierce opposition and Europe’s inability to apply a cohesive approach to self-determination conflicts. Williams concluded, “by failing to establish a strategic framework for managing calls for independence, the EU is ignoring a continually relevant issue that has the potential to breed further uncertainty and instability in the region.”