- Self-determination is a fundamental democratic right. The European Union must safeguard this right and provide its democratic implementation.
- New states resulting from internal enlargement processes should automatically become member of the European Union, unless they themselves choose not to be.
The right to the self-determination
The main principles of the European Union are peace and democracy. Self-determination is just one dimension of democracy. If we can choose who is going to represent us for the next few years, we must be able to decide our collective future as a nation. This is the main principle of the positive liberty, defined by Isaiah Berlin during the 20th century.
The first precedents of the right to the self-determination are the “Fourteen Points” of President Woodrow Wilson, which appeared in 1919 and were used as a base for the creation of the League of Nations.
In the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the principle of self-determination as a fundamental right is established, both on the individual and the collective level. The right to the self-determination was initially used in order to allow colonies to become independent states, and to allow the independence of many republics from the USSR. However, after the first waves of independence and democratisation, the application of the right to the self-determination became more restrictive because of the interests of the powerful states. That’s why the UN resolutions 1514–XV of 1960 and 2625–XXV of 1970 only allow for self-determination in case of colonial submission, military occupation, or integration in a non-democratic state.
The right to decide
Isaiah Berlin defined positive liberty with the sentence “I am my own master.” As our own masters, we have the right to decide what to do with our own life and this means that as a group, we are able to be our own masters and we are able to decide our collective future.
We can find in Quebec the Clarity Act ruled by the Supreme Court of Canada, with regard to the sovereignty process going on at that time in Quebec. The new political status of the Basque Autonomous Community passed by the Basque Parliament in 2005, and denied afterwards by the Spanish Cortes Generales (Spanish Parliament) without even opening a discussion over, also enclosed the right to decide.
The 23rd January 2013 the Parliament of Catalonia passed the Sovereignty Declaration in which was stated the right to decide of the Catalan people. On November the 9th 2014 Catalonia will hold its referendum, and Scotland will do the same on the 18th September of the very same year.
The right to decide is defined as the right of peoples and persons to be sovereign: just another way to say the right to the self-determination. Even if the right to decide does not have any legal effect, it has a big influence in society. Everyone has to decide many things during his life, that’s why it’s easier for people to understand the meaning of the right to decide, than the right to self-determination.
The European Union, as a guarantor of democracy and the guardian of the treaties, must ensure the right to self-determination. That means that the EU must mediate between a seceding member state and its former member state when this right is not foreseen, because if the right to the self-determination is banned, democracy is also banned. If a member state doesn’t allow a part of it to decide its future through democratic methods, the principle of democracy must prevail in favour of the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of a state. If EU citizenship exists, the EU must safeguard the democratic rights of that citizenship.
The current situation of EU internal enlargement
The European Union has had many enlargements. In 1958, there were only 6 states in the European Community, but there are currently 28 states in the European Union. This means that 22 states have become members through different enlargement processes. Despite the existence of several rules and regulations that allow the mechanisms of enlargement of the EU, there is not any mechanism that explains how to proceed with an internal enlargement. The real problem is that there has not been any case of secession inside the European Union, so until now this has not been a problem.
The European Union must define the procedure of an internal enlargement. This can include creating a new EU program aimed at preparing the integration of a new secessionist member state in the EU. We consider that new states created by a secession process must automatically become member states, if they decide it in a democratic way. In other words, the EU cannot withdraw the European citizenship from its citizens, unless they decide it. We also urge to the European Union institutions to change laws and treaties to protect territories which decide to develop a democratic process of self-determination.