The right to decide


Francesc Homs, as spokesman of Catalan Government, explained today, for the first time, the path to independence after elections on November 25th. Catalan Parliament will take this path if independentism obtains a large majority. This is a selection of his lecture:

We have heard some voices --mainly in Madrid, but also some in Catalonia-- saying that the commitment undertaken by president Artur Mas and his party, Convergence and Union [Convergència i Unió or CiU in Catalan; a coalition between liberals and Christian democrats], is casual, tactical, like a kind of momentary itch that will soon disappear. [...On the contrary,] we are facing a very serious commitment. There will be no withdrawal. [...] Our proposal on the right to decide comes from many years ago, it is a reasoned proposal, it is based on our conscience. Nowadays its has a strong support from Catalan society (all surveys say the right to decide is accepted by 70-80% of the population).

Which are the foundations of the right to decide? There are three:
  1. Catalonia is a nation. [...] The people of Catalonia see themselves as a nation, they want to be a nation. [...] Catalonia is a political subject, a subject of law. It is unquestionably a demos.
  2. Democracy. [...] The right to decide can only take place in a democracy. How do you defend democracy while rejecting the right to decide? [...] Our legal framework [Spanish Constitution] should be in the service of democracy, not contrariwise. [...] Will the Spanish prime minister accept the will of the people of Catalonia? Yes or no?
  3. The third element that underlies the right to decide is our own future. Why do we want to become independent? Why do we defend democracy? Well, to serve the people, to serve the social, economic and cultural demands of Catalan society. [...] We have a project, but we have no tools to build it.

How can we exercise our right to decide? [...] The Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, in The Hague, of 22 July 2010, can be considered the first document that provides the basis for the definition of an internationally recognized right to decide. In this regard, the International Court of Justice states that the legitimacy of a process based on the exercise of the right to decide is based on the following principles:
  1. Absence of violence, it is a peaceful process.
  2. It must follow a democratic process.
  3. Both parts have to try to reach an agreement.

We identify four rules that should guide this process (these four rules are inspired by the International Court of Justice in The Hague):
  1. First rule: Democracy. On September 27th, the Catalan Parliament passed a Resolution by a large majority: "We state our need to decide freely and democratically our future and urge the government to hold a referendum, mainly within the next term of Parliament.". [...] We must find technical and legal formulae that make it possible and choose the best one. There are several. You could use Article 150.2 of the Spanish Constitution in order to transfer or delegate to the Catalan Government the ability to authorize a referendum. You could use a future Catalan law about referenda. [...] It is worth bearing in mind the doctrine of the Council of Europe (Spain is a member of CE): Recommendation 1704 (2005) Referendums: towards good practices in Europe includes several statements of special relevance. [...] The doctrine of Council of Europe states the intimate relationship between democracy, the right of political participation and referenda. [...] This relationship can also be connected with rights of an international nature, such as, in particular, article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 3 of the First Protocol of the European Convention of Human Rights. These two provisions were considered by the European Council in the referendum of Montenegro, as basic international principles on electoral right that had to be respected in that case.
  2. Second rule: the right to decide should require large majorities. 51% of the votes cast is probably not enough in a process like this. [...] By the way, we want to change and we demand ourselves a large majority. Those who want to keep us inside Spain do no even appeal to democracy.
  3. Third rule: the process has to develop peacefully and with full respect for coexistence. If these conditions fail, we should reconsider the process. However, I am absolutely convinced that this will not happen. The Catalan path to self determination is quiet and respectful. We do not want any confrontation nor breakage. This is the will of Catalans. In any case, despite the provocations that will emerge, we will not change this path, characterized by enthusiasm, hope and positive self-reliance.
  4. Fourth rule: Europe. Catalonia is Europe. It has been Europe for many centuries. [...] We now want to start a new path to freedom and future. Refusing a successful project as the European Union would be nonsense.

These are four rules that define the way we stand for our right to decide. We are certain they are the best way to hold a free referendum. Naturally, there are some pending issues: the exact date of the consultation or its legal formula, [...] or the specific wording of the question (it must be debated by all supporters to hold the referendum).

If the people of Catalonia decides so on November 25th, the exercise of the right to decide and the path to our own state will have no way back. [...] This is a serious path, really, that comes from the enthusiastic willingness to be and to do, and to conquer the future, and at the same time it is the result of reason and deep reflection from many years ago.


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