Catalonia and the Law of Statehood

Jure Vidmar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In 2017, a group of Catalonia’s politicians issued a declaration of independence. This article considers the international legal framework applicable to Catalonia’s secession claim and assesses the legal consequences of the declaration of independence. This article demonstrates that the declaration of independence does not have any legal effects and has remained a political declaration under domestic and international law. For Catalonia, this means that precisely nothing has changed in law. Catalonia continues to be an integral part of Spain. While Spain is under no legal obligation to accept Catalonia’s independence, its counter-secession policy does not operate in a legal vacuum. In this regard, it is also highly significant that the declaration of independence was merely a political act. It is questionable whether certain limitations imposed by Spain on the freedom of expression are justified in these factual circumstances. While Catalonia does not have a right to independence, Spain will not be able to ignore the independence claim. It is inevitable that the two sides will need to negotiate to resolve the political crisis. But the outcome of such negotiations would not necessarily be an independent Catalonia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-305
Number of pages28
JournalGerman Yearbook of International Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Catalonia
  • Declaration of Independence
  • referendum
  • statehood
  • counter-secession policy
  • EU Membership

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