Bilbao, Basque Country | Ramón Cotarelo: “International mediation will impose a referendum in Catalonia”
It was also concluded at this academic event organised by DIPLOCAT and the University of the Basque Country that legitimacy weighs more than legality in case of conflict
The Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT) and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Communication of the University of the Basque Country organised last Tuesday February 8 in Bilbao the conference “The right to decide: legality and democratic legitimacy”. Albert Royo, Secretary General of DIPLOCAT, explained that “this is the first of a series of academic conferences, which DIPLOCAT will hold in 2016 in a new intent to explain Catalonia to Spanish public opinion”. Following this conference there will be similar events in Seville and Zaragoza.
Mario Zubiaga, Professor of Political Science and Administration of the University of the Basque Country greeted the audience of more than 150 attendants, amongst which representatives of different political parties, and opened the debate. Zubiaga spoke of civil disobedience and resistance and said that often legality and legitimacy do not coincide and that sometimes one has to rely on legitimacy to change legality, as “the law cannot always be changed by law”. The audience was also welcomed by Jordi Solé, Secretary of Foreign and EU Affairs of the Government of Catalonia (Generalitat), who underlined the strong and transversal nature of the will to self-determination of the Catalan people, a movement for which he claimed “political replies of the 21 century, instead of clinging to the past.” Solé also underlined that “Catalonia will continue to have a foreign policy because it is a necessity, because it is the parliamentary mandate and because it is legal”.
Presentation of the round table and Ramon Cotarelo's contribution
From there followed a round table on the right to decide from a legal and democratic point of view. In this round table took part Ramón Cotarelo, Professor of Political Science and Administration at the Faculty of Political Science and Sociology of the National Distance Education University (UNED); Jule Goikoetxea, Director of the Masters of Governance and Political Studies and Professor at the Department of Political Science and Administration of the University of the Basque Country; Maria da Alba Nogueira, Professor of Administrative Law of the University Santiago de Compostela; and Josep Maria Vilajosana, Professor of Law and Decan of the Faculty of Law of the University Pompeu Fabra Barcelona.
Ramón Cotarelo referred to the binom of legality-legitimacy, explaining that if legality in place and positive law were untouchable, “we would still be in the Neolithic and Afro-Americans would continue to be slaves”. Legitimacy is a more complex concept because it is tied to moral values, but according to Cotarelo it has to be achieved that all laws are legitimate because they correspond to the moral convictions of the majority. Finally, he foresaw that “there will be a shock of legalities”, but if this happens in a transparent and peaceful way from the side of Catalonia, international mediation will come round to imposing a referendum.
Jule Goikoetxea's contribution
He was followed by Jule Goikoetxea, who approached the topic from a political science point of view, basing herself on the concept of demos, related to a territory, a people and financial means, but as well to institutions. Goikoetxea justified the sovereign aspirations of Catalonia, or of any other nation, in the following way: “there is no demos outside a democratisation process, and there is no democratisation without a real state”. According to her, “in the European context we see that the state is still the institutional complex with greater political capacity”.
Alba Nogueira's contribution
Alba Nogueira considered that the Spanish state may have administrative decentralisation, but certainly no political decentralisation. She gave several examples which showed that the legality in place goes counter to the will of the majority in some autonomous communities which exercise competences given by the Spanish Constitution. She also referred to the paradox of the law not being uniform, and that for example the Statutes of Autonomy of Valencia and Andalusia were not taken to court, containing articles identical to those that were amended or omitted by Court in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy. Finally, she referred to the international component of the Catalan process as had done Cotarelo, to the careers and language capacities of Catalan political leaders, contrasting this with “a Rajoy who does not even speak Galician”.
Josep Maria Vilajosana's contribution and debate
The last speaker before the start of the debate was Josep Maria Vilajosana, who reminded that there is no article in the Spanish Constitution that forbids questions on independence. For Vilajosana, the democratic principles and the principle of indissoluble unity of Spain can be weighed, if the formulation of self-determination referendum, and not the one of unilateral declaration, is being used. To achieve this, the Constitutional Court of Spain would only need to copy the sentence of the Supreme Court of Canada on the referendum of Quebec, and substitute Quebec by Catalonia.
Finally, there was an open debate with the audience.
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The University of the Basque Country, with over 41,000 students enrolled in its courses and programmes, is the biggest university in the Basque Country. The University extends over three campuses located in the three main cities of the Basque Country: Bilbao, Donostia-San Sebastian and VitoriaGasteiz. What is more, it is a public, integrating and non-restrictive institution, is strongly committed to research, intellectual leadership and social engagement, and is a custodian of the Basque language (Euskera).
The Faculty of Social and Communication Sciences is located in the University complex of Leioa (just 15 Km from Bilbao) of the Campus of Biscay, the largest campus of the Basque Country, with more than 23,000 students in a total of 14 Faculties and Schools. 2,400 students are already enrolled in the Faculty of Social and Communication Sciences and every year more than 100 international students come from Europe, America and Asia to enjoy their exchange experience.
Last updated: 17 February 2016