The EU’s Ambiguous Stance on Separatism Lessons from Catalonia, Kosovo, and Nagorno-Karabakh

In October 2017, the Catalonian government held a referendum on Catalan independence which was subsequently declared illegal by Spain on the grounds that it violated the Spanish Constitution. The vote triggered the invocation of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which allowed the central government in Madridto suspend Catalonia’s self-rule. The situation has forced Catalonia into the international spotlight as a potential precursor of other breakaway regions in the EU. Since these separatist movements pose a threat to global and regional stability, their potential spread throughout Europe brings to the fore a pressing challenge that the EU urgently needs to address. The events in Catalonia are the result not only of the complexity of internal Spanish politics, but also reflect a more fundamental issue of how European institutions decide to handle matters of territorial integrity and self-determination in general while continuing to test the adequacy of the EU’s response to these issues in the changing context of international politics. Therefore, this new political context represents a good opportunity to assess whether the EU’s stance on these issues has been consistent so far and whether the EU has, perhaps unintentionally, enabled separatist movements.

Authors: Ayaz Rzayev