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The Europa-Universität Flensburg (EUF) organized a three days event, which were divided into interdisciplinary round table discussions and workshops on different European Studies related topics, the award ceremony of the Europe Prize of the university, as well as interactive student initiatives all over the campus.

Robert GOEBBELS, FMA Member, participated in this event.


During my visit to the European University of Flensburg, I took part in a colloquium on the right of peoples to self-determination.

The organisers had invited representatives from Catalonia to defend that rich Spanish province’s independence aspirations.

One of the underlying issues in the debate was a complaint regarding the European Union: why had the EU institutions failed to support Catalonian separatists?

My response went down like a lead balloon. How can the European Union support independence movements when the preamble to the Treaty on European Union sets out that the Member States are ‘resolved to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’?

Article 50 of the Treaty provides that ‘any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with own constitutional requirements’. The United Kingdom is currently going through that bitter experience.

But the Treaty does not in any way suggest that part of a Member State has the right to withdraw or dissociate from the Union by means of ‘self-determination’. If a Member State needs to ‘reorganise’, it can only do so by following the country’s constitutional requirements.

The Scottish independence referendum was authorised by the UK Parliament. The dissolution of Czechoslovakia into two countries

– the Czech Republic and Slovakia

– took place in a context of political upheaval in Europe.

The European Union must defend the integrity of all its Member States. It cannot push for their disintegration.

All the more so in the Catalonian case, as the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled that the Catalonian Government could not unilaterally declare Catalonian independence. Catalonians have their own culture and their own language, but neither is under threat. Under the Spanish Constitution, the Catalonians have more than enough means to defend their identity. The Catalonians are not oppressed or being subjected to a dictatorship. Their dream of independence can only come true if they negotiate with Spain’s central powers. What is more, the electorate’s opinion has been shown on a number of occasions to be completely divided regarding independence: almost half of Catalonians want to remain Spanish. The famous right to self-determination is a dangerous fantasy which could aggravate regional self-interest. More often than not, independence movements are mostly driven by the desire not to share their region’s ‘riches’ with their fellow citizens from other regions, whom they label as lazy. Italy’s Lega Nord, Flemish parties in Belgium and many others have taken that stance.

The fact that the UN Charter makes no reference to the right of peoples to self-determination is a perfect illustration of the fact that it is a fantasy. The United Nations calls for the ‘sovereign equality’ of all states. The Charter stipulates that no provisions in it ‘authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state’.

It was not until after decolonisation began that a resolution, from 1952, referred to the ‘right of peoples to self-determination’. But once a new state has been formed, the United Nations has always refused to allow unilateral secessions, as we saw in the attempts by Katanga and Biafra to declare their independence.


May 15, 2018
May 17, 2018
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