As far as I understand (source: discussions with Spaniards) there is no provision in Spain's law (including the constitution) for the declaration of independence of a province.

Why therefore is there a problem in that country? Everybody is free (in Western Europe at least) to declare the independence of his village / city / suburb / whatever - which does not mean that there are any legal consequences of such a declaration.

Why isn't Madrid just letting his citizens express an idea ("independence of Catalonia") in the name of freedom - but without the need to react, since this concept ("independence of a provice") does not exist in their law?

Are there any legal consequences of such a declaration of independence - which I belive must be the case, looking at the reaction of Madrid (before, during and after the referendum)


1 Answer 1


In short, it's about two things:

  • Most cynically, money. Catalonia sends more money to Madrid than it gets back. If they are officially independent and sovereign, they get to keep that money, and Madrid loses that money (and any legal way of getting their hands on it).

  • More generally, overall concept of sovereignty.

    This includes things like control of one's destiny, control over one's territory, foreign policy, and, lest we forget, control over one's money/budget.

Additionally, the question seems to be based on an invalid premise that sovereignty has anything to do with laws of original country. It does not, in any meaningful way.

Sovereignty is ONLY about the actual, practical ability to exercise sovereign control.

That can be independent (you are able and willing to repel any forces another country sends to take the control from you) or international (there exists a sufficient amount of other countries that not simply recognize your sovereignty, but are willing to back up that recognition in a meaningful way, either peacefully - e.g. through UN resolutions - but ultimately, through the use of force.

Ultimately, like any politics involving the use of force internationally, it boils down to creating actual conditions such that the original country is no longer either able or willing to wrestle back control - either by being defeated by force or by its populace losing will/interest in such things (the latter happened with most colonial powers in 20th century).

As an example, look at some other independence cases:

  • Kosovo.

    There was no provision in Serbian constitution for Kosovo to separate. But Kosovo was able to first wage successful armed struggle to push Serbians out; then win enough international support (Western Europe, then US) to prevent Serbia (and Russia which supported them) from wrestling the control back.

  • Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdnestria (and seems to roll similar way in near future for Donetsk etc...) - Same exact story with Russia replacing USA as external force guarantor. None of them happened in accordance to the laws or the will of original country.

  • United States of America - waged the war of Independence against UK, and also got some international support, most notably from France. Clearly not according to the laws of UK at the time.

  • I don't think that any part of this addresses the actual question, which is why Madrid gives a damn about what's going on in Catalonia. Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 19:37
  • @PeterTaylor: yes - I was about to write that why Catalonia would want to be independent is understandable (not different from other places in Europe, Corsica for instance). Your answer in the question I marked as duplicate is very good. The other independence cases mentionned in the answer here all revolve around a military/violent confrontation - which is not something Catalonia or Madrid would certainly want (a coup d'état for instance)
    – WoJ
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 20:16
  • 2
    @PeterTaylor - because they want that money. If Catalonia declares independence they lose that money - no in theory, but in practice.
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 23:37
  • It wasn't Napoelonic France. It was still the French Monarchy with Louis XvI
    – xrorox
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 14:37
  • @xrorox - headdesk. You're absolutely correct. shame on me.
    – user4012
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 15:13

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