THE FUTURE OF CATALONIA

Constitutional Court nullifies Catalan sovereignty declaration

Nationalists vow to press ahead on unilateral path toward self-determination vote

Artur Mas speaks after hearing the Constitutional Court's ruling. / Carles Ribas (EL PAÍS)

Catalan premier Artur Mas has responded defiantly to the Constitutional Court’s decision to rule that a declaration of sovereignty issued by the regional parliament is null and void.

Spain’s highest legal body on Wednesday admitted a central government objection to the text issued by the Catalan assembly in January declaring the region “a sovereign political and legal entity.” This was the phrase that incited the Solicitor General’s Office to file a legal complaint to the text on the grounds that it represented “an open challenge to the Constitution.”

The Catalan assembly also approved a second resolution in March, with the tentative backing of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), to forge a legal and judicial path toward holding a referendum on self-determination next year. The government has not yet challenged the second resolution but the Constitutional Court asked the Catalan assembly to clarify which of the two texts it considered to be the valid one. “The two are completely complementary,” replied the spokesman for the ruling CiU coalition, Francesc Homs.

The Constitutional Court has given CiU and its allies 20 days to provide arguments against its ruling.

We will not allow a political court to nullify the will of the Catalan people”

“We will not put anything on hold,” responded Mas in the regional assembly Wednesday. “We will continue on the path despite the obstacles. We will continue because it is a path chosen by the people of Catalonia.”

Both Mas and the speaker of the assembly, Núria de Gispert, described the court’s decision as “unheard of.”

“There are no precedents. We have never seen a decision like this,” said De Gispert. “The nature of the document is essentially political.” Mas also expressed his surprise that the Constitutional Court had ruled on a parliamentary resolution with no judicial weight.

Joan Herrera, leader of the leftist Iniciativa bloc that backs CiU’s plan for a referendum, opined that the Constitutional Court has lost what little credibility it had and called the decision “profoundly undemocratic.” CiU spokesman Jordi Turull also stressed that the decision would not lead to changes in the route map for a referendum: “We will not allow a political court, which is what the Constitutional Court now is, to nullify the will of the Catalan people.”

In 2010 the Constitutional Court struck down several elements from Catalonia’s regional statute, four years after the reformed self-government charter had gone into effect once the regional and Spanish parliaments had approved the text.

Wednesday’s ruling marks the third time that the Constitutional Court has intervened in a declaration of intent by a regional assembly. The first came in 1983, when it ruled on Navarre’s historical autonomous status within the regional structure of Spain. The second was in 1999, when the Basque parliament announced it would cede its assembly in Vitoria to a self-styled PKK Kurdish government-in-exile.

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