Policy Paper

Catalonia
U.N Membership aplication

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For: Rt Hon Winston Peters Minister of Foreign
Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand

 

 

Issue

 

1.    
Catalonia
has applied to the United Nations (U.N) Security Council to become a member of
the UN citing article 4 of the UN charter.

New
Zealand in its current role as a member of the Security Council will make a
recommendation to the General Assembly with regards to the aforementioned
application.  This policy document will
highlight the key considerations surrounding this issue and make
recommendations to the Minister for their deliberation.

 

Context

 Historical

1.    
Catalonia
is an autonomous community in the North Eastern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. This
region which claims a language and cultural heritage distinct from the rest of Castilian
Spain is seeking independence. Under the terms of the 1978 Spanish Constitution
the local legislature (Generalitat) holds exclusive jurisdiction in matters
pertaining to culture, local government, commerce and public safety while it shares
jurisdiction with the Spanish government in education health and justice. While
this is not considered sufficient by supporters of independence it is notable
that this level of self-government is considered greater than most other
comparable regions in Europe.

 

2.    
A key
grievance raised by the pro-independence side include the higher contribution
in taxes the region makes relative to remittances received from the Central government.
The figures quoted are disputed by the National Government and it is also
advised that the region benefits from development funds from the EU.

 

3.    
57% of
the Catalan population support independence while the Spanish government argue both
sides have more commonalities than differences and that if shared language and
culture were sufficient to determine statehood then Europe would have
significantly more states.

 

 

Political context.

 

This matter is sitting with the Security Council due
to the procedure for the recognition of members as outlined below.1 It
is important for New Zealand to be viewed as a good global citizen. This
extends to respecting human rights while also balancing the political, economic,
and cultural interests of New Zealand. While images of Catalan voters being
forcibly removed from illegal polling booths is confronting, it is important to
consider the wider implications of an independent Catalonia.

Legal context:

1.    
With the advent of the United
Nations, it has been determined that the charter of the UN supersedes all other
international treaties. The UN by its own admission does not have the right to
grant statehood, this right can only be conferred by member states. Therefore Catalonia
can only become a State with the recognition of other States. This ‘constitutive
theory of recognition’ norm becomes significant as it could provide the legal
basis for Catalonia to become an independent State.

2.     The civil Jurisdiction of
the Kingdom of Spain falls outside the remit of International Law.2
This matter can be demonstrably shown to be an internal matter covered by
provisions of the 1978 Spanish constitution. Notably that same constitution
asserts that the territorial integrity of Spain cannot be divided.

3.     New Zealand being a
sovereign state does have a legal right to recognise another state as meeting
the definitions and responsibilities of statehood. However, the legal analysis
suggests that current norms in both international relations and law show this
attempt for recognition is an illegal act by the Catalonian regional
government.

 

Objectives

 

1.    
New Zealand seeks to adhere to extant norms in international law.
By adhering to these norms, New Zealand seeks to further its own credibility in
the international system.

2.    
New Zealand wishes to develop friendly relations with States
partially to further its own key strategic trade interests. New Zealand is an
export led economy and therefore a peaceful international regime where states
can engage in bilateral and multilateral trade agreements is crucial to its
economic survival. New Zealand is seeking to sign Free Trade agreements with
both The European Union Economic Zone and the United Kingdom. These would bring
significant benefits to the NZ economy.

3.    
New Zealand wishes to have its own sovereignty and
territorial integrity respected within the international system.

 

Options

 

Option 1:

 Vote against Catalan application for membership
to U.N and make that recommendation to the General Assembly

 

Given
the inherent risks in undermining another States territorial integrity this
option calls for a rejection of the Catalan attempt to use the UN to vie for
independence. The region already has
a large degree of autonomy and there is very little to benefit New Zealand by
voting in favour of this proposal.

 

In
voting no, NZ will ensure its strategic aims are met, international norms are upheld
and key allies are assured of our support. Furthermore, NZ will ensure its own sovereignty
and won’t set a dangerous precedent whereby iwi or other parties could seek to secede
using similar criteria of a shared language and cultural identity.

 

This
vote will send a strong message to other separatist movements that this method is
not a workable solution to matters that should be handled in the domestic legal
system.

 

A
recognition on the other hand would likely result in a trade sanction from a
key ally (Spain) and condemnation from close allies the UK and the EU. As NZ
looks to negotiate terms for an FTA with the EU and UK this move
could be incredibly harmful to our interests.

 

 

Option 2: Recognise Catalonia’s
independence by voting in favour at the security council

 

Recognising
the Catalan region as an independent State will have far reaching implications.
It will assert New Zealand’s commitment that recognises the democratic right of
a peoples to self-determination.

Economically
a policy of engagement with Catalonia could be beneficial to New Zealand. New
Zealand could extract trade concessions from Catalonia for endorsing their
membership. Concretely this could be exclusive export rights for Zespri and
Fonterra. The trade benefits however, are likely to be offset by the inevitable
severing of economic relations with the Kingdom of Spain.

 

Recognising
a “breakaway” region we could also damage relations with key partners such as
the UK and China. As a P5 member, China will be watching the situation closely
given similar movements in their State3. China’s
long standing policy of non-interference in other states domestic affairs they
will likely veto any attempts from Catalonia to join the UN. In supporting any
such measure we risk signalling to a key trade partner that we may not support
their view of the international system and it could result in a reduction of trade
which would be disastrous for NZ.

 

By
encouraging this secession in another state we could undermine the integrity of
our own.

Tested
against New Zeeland’s core interests and objectives this option poses too many
risks and the opportunities cannot outweigh any potential costs.

 

Option
3 Abstention New Zealand abstains in the vote of the Security Council

 

The
New Zealand government could abstain from voting on the issue. Politically this
could be useful as NZ could state that we do not wish to condone the actions of
either the Spanish government nor the Catalan regional government. This option
would ensure that New Zealand still maintains credibility as a liberal
democracy supporting human rights. It also fails to achieve a key objective to
maintain NZ sovereignty and could expose us to abstentions if a similar vote
was held regarding NZ.

This
option could also open the way for Catalonia approaching the issue in a similar
way as the Palestinian state by applying for Non-Member observer status.  Therefore this option is not aligned with NZ
policy objectives.

 

 

 

It
is recommended that the New Zealand Government:

 

a.    
Vote
against Catalonia being recognised as a member of the United Nations under
article 4 of the UN charter. Recognising Catalonia goes against New Zealand’s
core interests of a rules based international order, economic stability  and would harm relations with key allies.

b.    
Issue
a statement advising that “New Zealand respects the territorial integrity and
sovereignty of the Kingdom of Spain and its internationally recognised borders.
It is with regret we note the recent conflict arising from this matter and urge
all sides to settle this issue in a timely and 
peaceful manner in accordance with the constitution and internal laws of
Spain.”

 

1.      1 UN Charter article 4:
The State submits an application to the Secretary-General and a
letter formally stating that it accepts the obligations under the Charter.

2.      The
Security Council considers the application. Any recommendation for admission
must receive the affirmative votes of 9 of the 15 members of the Council,
provided that none of its five permanent members — China, France, the Russian
Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the
United States of America — have voted against the application.

3.      If the Council recommends admission, the recommendation is
presented to the General Assembly for consideration. A two-thirds majority vote
is necessary in the Assembly for admission of a new State.

4.      Membership
becomes effective the date the resolution for admission is adopted.

 

2 The 1932 Montevideo
Convention set out the definition, rights and duties of states in International
law.
” sovereign units consisting of a permanent population, defined territorial
boundaries, a government, and an ability to enter into agreements with other
states”

Catalonia as
an autonomous community meets some but not all of the criteria for Statehood
outlined in the convention.
 this particular clause points to the
norm of respecting the territorial and domestic affairs of another State. “signatories
would not intervene in the domestic or foreign affairs of another state, that
they would not recognize territorial gains made by force, and that all disputes
should be settled peacefully.” By this definition it does not provide adequate
legal means for New Zealand to recognise the Catalan region as being
independent.  

3 China has several secessionist movements
outside of the dispute around Taiwan namely, Xinjiang’s East Turkmenistan
movement and Tibet. China’s existing foreign policy is to not interfere in the
domestic issues of other states and views any attempts by other states
negatively

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