It’s time for self-determination: debate in Santiago de Compostela

News / 12.3.14

“It’s about time!” – those were the first words and could be as well the summary of what was debated in the conference “It’s time for self-determination”, organised by the Centre Maurits Coppieters, the European Free alliance and European Free Alliance Youth during their General Assembly in February. Daniel Turp, Centre Maurits Coppieters’ advisor and International and Constitutional Law Professor at the University of Montreal, Roccu Garoby, President of the EFAy and advisor on the Multianual Financial Framework for the Greens-EFA group at the European Parliament, and Lorena López de Lacalle, EFA’s Vice-president and International Relations Secretary at the National Executive of Eusko Alkartasuna discussed the main political challenges of the next few months in Europe.

The debate, moderated by journalist Laura Pous Trull, was organised in four blocks: self-determination, Languages, Economy and European Elections. The three speakers agreed that 2014 is going to be “the year of self-determination”, especially considering the referendums planned in Scotland and Catalonia, and the fact that parties that advocate for a new Europe of the nations and the regions are fighting to achieve a good result in the next European election.

The speakers said that the European Union will have to find a political and not a legal solution to the hypothetical independence of Catalonia or Scotland, arguing that it would be unrealistic to expel these two historical nations from the EU just because they decide, democratically, to be independent. Lorena López de Lacalle was confident that the 18 months-period of negotiations set up by the Scottish government to discuss the membership of an independent state would be enough, and rejected comments by the Spanish and the British government stating the opposite.

On languages, the Alfonsi report and its benefits for the protection and boost of minority languages in Europe was one of the main highlights of the discussion. The speakers explained that the European Parliament has taken an important step in the right direction, and called for a more determined action in the future to protect those languages appropriately.

The European Election in May 2014 is the next big challenge for the EFA party, and was also one of the topics in discussion. The right of self-determination and the challenges of nations and regions within a very stately-focused European Union could boost support for EFA’s members and help redesign a new Europe for the future.

On the Economy, the speakers highlighted the need to offer more powers to regions and local governments, who are closer to citizens and usually understand better their needs and problems. All the speakers regretted the high unemployment rate in Europe, especially in member states such as Spain, and stated the need to implement effective policies to help young people to get a job. Roccu Garoby defended as well that over-16s should be able to have a stronger voice in Europe, thus enjoying the possibility to vote and participate in the main political decisions in the continent.

The debate offered a good opportunity for the three organizations of the General Assembly to explain their ideas on the issues at stake. The audience was able to participate in the debate as well, putting questions and helping develop a discussion that is going to frame this 2014. A year, in which some of the main points of the EFA manifesto, such as self-determination, the need to build a more democratic and transparent EU or the urge to overcome the Eurozone crisis will undoubtedly shape the politics developed in Brussels and the future of the European Union.