Friday, 23 December 2016

Spanish Court allows Catalonia to carry out foreign action but not establish bilateral relations


Barcelona (CNA).- The Catalan Government will be able to continue carrying out foreign action, according to this Friday’s Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) decision. However, the magistrates have warned that establishing bilateral relations is out of Catalonia’s competences and belongs to the Spanish state alone. Thus, the TC has partially admitted the appeal presented by the Spanish Government which claimed that Catalonia’s law on foreign action and the relationship with the EU was against the Spanish Constitution. According to the magistrates, the Autonomous Communities “can carry out activities related to foreign action” as far as they “respect the state’s exclusive competence regarding international relations”. The sentence also emphasises that the Autonomous Communities are not allowed to trigger treaties, represent the State nor have international responsibilities.

The decision backs some of the precepts which were appealed by the Spanish executive but nuances that they can’t invade the state’s exclusive competence in matters of international relations. On the other hand, the magistrates annulled other points of the law, mainly those which attribute to Catalonia competences which are reserved for the Spanish state, such as those oriented toward promoting bilateral relations with other countries or those which aim to compose the Catalan Government’s public diplomacy.

Articles which invade Spain’s competences

The TC nuanced that not all foreign action can be identified as international relations and that the ability to trigger treaties, represent the state, or establish international obligations and international responsibilities are beyond the Autonomous Communities’ competences.

Amongst the precepts which have been considered unconstitutional, is the right of self-determination, since the magistrates believe that the Catalan Government “doesn’t have any competences to recognise the right of self-determination nor other regions’ sovereignty whatsoever, because these kinds of recognitions correspond to the Spanish State as a subject of international public law”.

Regarding the institutional relationships with consular bodies of foreign countries with a presence in Catalonia and the promotion of consulates in other countries, the TC considered that by doing so the Catalan Government is assuming a representative function at an international level which is not the case. Moreover, the magistrates warned that these activities “could condition and even diminish Spain’s foreign action”.

The decision also establishes that public diplomacy is being promoted by the Catalan Government “without respecting” the exclusive competence of the Spanish state in this matter.

The TC added that the foreign action foreseen in Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy “doesn’t include public diplomacy”. “Since Catalonia is not subject to international rights, it is not right for this community to try to have diplomatic relations”.  

The TC suspends the so-called laws of disconnection

Another TC decision also came out this Friday which affects Catalonia’s pro-independence roadmap and its Parliamentary process. The magistrates annulled the processing of the three laws to start the disconnection process from Spain. In March, the Parliament’s Bureau accepted the application to start creating the necessary framework for the disconnection process to take place and will do so through joint presentation. The two main pro-independence forces in the Parliament, cross-party list ‘Junts Pel Sí’ and radical left CUP, requested the creation of three laws: one on social measures, a second on the Catalan tax office and a third on the legal transition.

The TC has highlighted that the other groups in the Catalan Chamber, the Conservative People’s Party (PP), the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), Spanish Unionist ‘Ciutadans’ and alternative left alliance ‘Catalunya Sí que es Pot’ don’t back the laws and therefore they can’t be considered joint proposals. 

  • TC

  • Plate of the Spanish Constitutional Court's building, in Madrid (by ACN)