Catalonia The force of Law


José María Rotellar, PhD in Economics. Professor of Economics at Cardenal Cisneros University College and of the Master in Political Action at Francisco de Victoria University. 

For a long time, we attend to the secessionist challenge of a few who, by using grossly the name of Catalonia, want to break away with Spain and thus the Catalonian community itself, since it is not uniform and not even majority the pro-independence sentiment of the Catalans, who most of them feel at the same time Catalans and, as such, Spanish. 

These days a lot has been said about the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution and the advisability of applying it or not. The aforementioned article, in its first point, reads as follows: “If a Self-governing Community does not fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the Constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain, the Government, after having lodged a complaint with the President of the self-governing Community and failed to receive satisfaction therefore, may, following approval granted by the overall majority of the Senate, take all measures necessary to compel the Community to meet said obligations, or to protect the abovementioned general interest”.

The Catalan independence challenge goes against both the compliance with the legal obligations that Autonomous Communities are subject to and the general interest of Spain, since it does not recognize neither the Spanish legislation nor the obligations it imposes. In addition, with the secession, it would violate the Constitution itself and the general interest because of the impoverishment it would lead to in the whole territory of Spain, mainly in Catalonia. Hence, if the requirements to apply the Law are fulfilled, this must be applied.

Having said that, if article 155 wants to be applied “gradually” for, in an umpteenth gesture of goodwill, give the secessionists the opportunity to back out in their plans, it can be done as well, since the Spanish legal system counts on the Organic Law 2/2012, of April 27, of Budgetary Stability and Financial Sustainability. This Law establishes a series of preventive, corrective and coercive mechanisms which will allow to outlaw the secessionist challenge as they ultimately lead to article 155 of the Constitution.

Thus, the Organic Law establishes some initially preventive measures for when there is a diversion in the budget objectives by adjustment or economic-financial plans. If these are not approved or if there is a diversion in what has been agreed upon— for instance, that could happen if budget allocations go to the secessionist movement or simply if the persistent diversion in the budget is maintained in the Catalan accounts— it can impose some coercive measures to correct the aforementioned situation. The coercive measures range from noncredit availability to send a commission of experts under the direction of the Ministry of Finance, to assess the situation and pose binding compliance corrective measures, and also include the possibility to constitute a deposit of the 0.2 % of its nominal GDP until it obeys the measures imposed.

If the aforementioned measures are not obeyed, it would proceed the application of article 26 of the Law of Budgetary Stability and Financial Sustainability which incorporates legally binding compliance measures through the application of article 155 of the Constitution. According to the aforementioned article of the Stability Law: “In the event that an Autonomous Community does not assume the agreement of noncredit availability provided in article 25.1.a) (…) the Government, in accordance with article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, will request the President of the Autonomous Community to carry out, during the period indicated for that purpose, the adoption of an agreement of non-availability (…). In case of noncompliance with the requirement, the Government, following approval granted by the overall majority of the Senate, will adopt the necessary measures to oblige the Self-governing Community to its compulsory enforcement. For the execution of these measures the Government will be able to give instructions to all the authorities of the Self-governing Community”.

Hereto, the Law is clear and offers a double track for applying it to its fullest extent, as the situation requires it: either by giving the secessionists the chance to put an end to their challenge by means of applying the Organic Law of Budgetary Stability—which ultimately lead to article 155 of the Constitution— or by directly applying article 155 of the Constitution.

The Catalan separatist challenge is not only an attack against the economy but also, and mainly, against the legal order, the coexistence and the unity of Spain. Nevertheless, the economic related legislation offers a second way for applying the full force of the Law and avoid this derangement.

Traducido por María Maseda Varela

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