Following the regional elections in Catalonia on 27 September 2015 which saw victory for pro-independence parties, Maria Mut Bosque, Lecturer in International Law and EU Law at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, examines the legal possibilities open to Catalonia as it considers its future with the European Union. The issue of secession in EU member states was discussed in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum a year ago, but many questions still remain unanswered.
From the perspective of international law, a territory must fulfil the following requirements in order to be considered a state: defined territory, a permanent population, government institutions and sovereignty. There is no mention of how sovereignty is acquired and this often varies in practice on a case-by-case basis: some states attain sovereignty through armed conflicts, whereas others have done so through peaceful negotiations. International recognition is a declarative, rather than a constitutive aspect; in other words, international recognition is not a legal requirement for the constitution of a state. The fact that it is not a legal requirement, however, makes it no less important, as international recognition is crucial to establish relations with other subjects of international law, such as states or international organisations. For a new state, failure to attain international recognition from the entire international community would imply maintaining only relations with those states and organisations that recognise it. Failure to obtain recognition from any other states or international organisations would result in isolation and marginalisation. Continue reading