Nation State in EU - Liberal Vision
Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya
Iberian Liberal Forum
10-11 June 2011
The nation state is a form of government born, and
basically succeeded, in Europe during an historical period
which began about three hundred years ago and that can
be defined by three main characteristics:
Fixed territory and formal borders
. The establishment
and recognition of clear borders are conceived as a
protection from foreign attacks, invasions, immigrants and
. The state has supreme authority over a
territory and population. It recognizes no other source of
jurisdiction but itself.
Monopoly and homogenization
. The state has exclusive
jurisdiction within its territory and establishes a uniform
administration over it with an internal hierarchy of powers. It
social and cultural characteristics of its citizens.
Although the classical nation state remains the main actor
on the international stage and in the provision of public
goods and services, it is no less true that it's experiencing a
gradual loss of its centrality.
The states are being eroded from three different sides.
From above, the emergence of transnational regimes - such
Organization - undermine sovereignty in matters as
important as monetary policy, environmental policy and
military security, just to name a few; sideways, by the loss
of monopolies as a consequence of privatization and
liberalization of economic sectors traditionally under their
supervision and control; and, from below, by the increasing
demanding more autonomy and decision-making capacity
in matters they consider of their own interest.
The globalisation of the economy, the global economic
crisis, changes in the global labour market, massive
problems that no actor, not even the national state with all
its administrative machinery and financial resources, can
face and solve alone.
States have been overwhelmed and have been forced to
look for forms of economic, monetary, commercial, political
and military cooperation ever more large and deep but
where the states can no longer take decision unilaterally.
By definition, a sovereign state does not accept any
external authority and establishes itself as the supreme
source of authority within a defined territory.
But with the development of new military and security
alliances, free trade agreements, single currency and
transnational communications networks, the states have
transferred to new supranational institutions powers that
had been always under its sovereign jurisdiction. And,
accordingly, for many states sovereignty, respect to real
decisions, has ceased to exist.
Recently, the economic rescue packages granted to some
states of the Eurozone to keep their governments solvent
and the financial measures forced by the troika (European
Commission, European Central Bank and International
Monetary Fund) represent an unquestionable example of
the reduced sovereignty of the states.
At the same time, under the pressure of increasing
demands of nationalist and autonomist parties larger
European states have tended to decentralize authority over
policies in favour of sub-national governments.
Regions and communities have based their devolutionary
claims on a sub-national legitimacy. In most cases, this
legitimacy has ethnic, historic, linguistic, religious, and/or
cultural roots. That has been the case for Catalonia and the
Basque Country in Spain and for Scotland in the United
Kingdom. More recently economic arguments became
Common supporting arguments for devolutionary policies
are: the benefits of greater economic efficiency that lower
level governance can engender, the closer match between
who obtains benefits and who bears the cost and the
rebalance of uneven regional economic development.
As a consequence, in the eighties and nineties, many
European countries have opted, in application of the
subsidiary principle, to decentralize territorially its power
and transfer political and financial responsibilities to non-
In France, a general plan of regional assemblies was
introduced in 1982 with a special status for Corsica. In
Belgium, a series of successive constitutional reforms
between 1970 and 1993, delegated powers to the regions
and to the linguistic communities. In the United Kingdom
took place a process of devolution of powers to the
traditional kingdoms. In 1999, the new assembly and the
parliament and the Welsh assembly and government were
The Italian state has delegated, between 1997 and 2001,
different powers to the regions and every region (special
and ordinary) could draw up its own statute. In 2005 a
project of constitutional reform was introduced providing,
among other things, a devolution of exclusive powers to the
regions, the fiscal federalism and the creation of a Senate
with strong legislative powers.
In Spain, the
of 1981 reformed the
centralized territorial model giving way to the decentralized
Estado de las Autonomías
.Among the eighties
and nineties, as a result of the demands of territorial
governments, successive agreements have been reached
increasing fiscal resources of the autonomous communities.
The original request in 1993 to manage 15% of the income
tax became in 1996 the assignment of 30%. In 1992 the
competences to the communities, including education.
Catalonia has been one of the first and most active
communities to claim higher levels of self-government.
Through different agreements, the Government of Catalonia,
has obtained jurisdiction in various matters of culture,
education, health, justice, environment, communications,
transports, commerce, public safety, local governments and
more fiscal resources.
In 2004, following the initiative of Catalonia, most of the
elaboration of new Statutes of Autonomy (the autonomous
basic law) with the aim of expanding their self-government
and get ever-broader competencies.
Summing up, the great national states have not only lost its
capacity to guarantee the defence of the territory and to
provide a protected currency and markets on behalf of the
European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and
other supranational organizations and networks, but have
also been losing large part of their capacity to collect taxes,
maintain order and public safety, organize basic services
such as education and health, as well as the monopoly of
television and the management of cultural and linguistic
diversity, on behalf of local autonomous governments.
In other words: the traditional national states lose power of
decision on issues that were the basis of its external
sovereignty and its domestic monopoly.
However, it would be a great mistake to believe that these
processes are unstoppable and that the national states
accept passively the gradual loss of their sovereignty.
The failure of the European Constitutional Treaty, following
the rejection in the French and Dutch referendums in spring
2005; the complicated entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty
in December 2009, whose ratification was only possible
through the grant of opt-out clauses to Ireland, the Czech
Republic and Poland; and the recent decision by some
states to suspend the Schengen Treaty and reintroduce
border controls, are clear examples of how national states
are trying to restore and maintain their own centrality and
In the same way, nation states try to counter the increasing
autonomist demands and intent to reaffirm their sovereignty
and their exclusive jurisdiction within their territory. In Italy a
constitutional referendum in 2006 rejected the federalist
reform and has stopped the devolution process.
In June 2010, the Constitutional Court of Spain, called to
(approved by the Spanish Parliament and ratified in
referendum by the Catalan citizens in June 2006), rewrote
14 articles and dictated the interpretation for 27 more,
mainly relating to language, justice and fiscal policy. The
judgment also ruled that the term “nation” used in the
preamble has no legal standing.
Moreover, the recent economic crisis is coinciding in Spain
with the recovery of old centralist theses that challenge the
autonomic state, blamed to be the cause of an excessive
public spending .
From Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya we reject
this neo-centralist drift and we reclaim the inalienable right
of every people to define itself as a nation and decide freely
its own form of government.
We consider the right to free-determination as the highest
expression of freedom and we believe that in democracy
there can be no people deprived of the right to decide freely
what is best for its community.
The current situation does not meet our aspirations: the
Constitutional Court has frustrated our expectations for
greater self-government while the high fiscal deficit slows
our economic growth and reduces our welfare state.
We assert the right to decide our future, to decide our own
level of self-government, to pursue our cultural and social
development and the right to manage our own economic
resources. And we will use all the available legal tools and
all our democratic political force to reach these targets.
One of our top priorities is the full management of our
economic resources through a own funding model, such as
the fiscal pact. We aim for financial sovereignty to achieve
greater well-being for the Catalan people, a better
economic progress, more political sovereignty, greater
capacity for self-government and to move towards a truly
bilateral relationship between Catalonia and Spain.
In conclusion, new and more complex challenges await for
the traditional nation state, blurring existing jurisdictional
traditionally reserved to the states.
Everything indicates that tomorrow's world will be more
multipolar and polycentric. In this scenario, the nation state
must share its power and different levels of government
recognize each other and cooperate.
Our aim and our obligation will be to design new forms of
multilevel governance to facilitate the interaction between
stakeholders and to improve the quality and the results of
policies and rules.