The broad discussion about the Catalan independence aspirations is on the one hand certainly due to the complexity of the question. Freedom and self-determination additionally affect existential questions of human coexistence, and as a participatory contemporary one is increasingly concerned about whether the parties involved are capable and willing to develop a solution acceptable to the population of all parties by peaceful means. As always in such disputes, one also asks about the real political interests behind the respective statements – for example the EU, which after initial restraint now openly supports the central government. About three years ago, the visitor speaking with the representatives of an independent Catalonia in the streets of Barcelona was told, that the EU and USA (and George Soros) would appreciate and financially support such a state – and then heard from representatives of the other side that they too were sponsored by the United States. And why one asks with a view to history, which should never be ignored, has former, after long disputes granted rights of self-determination been cancelled? Such a procedure can only stoke dissatisfaction facing greater rights of autonomy of the Basques for instance. What for?
Beyond all power-political ambitions, the question of the law arises. There is primarily the level of human rights, whose Article 1 (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) maintains the fundamental equivalence and the attachment to reason and humanity in the regulation of our coexistence as an unalterable as anthropological basis.
As the alongside contributions show, questions also arise at the internal level of the constitutional state, as well as various questions from the perspective of international law. And quite apart from this: Beyond natural and anthropological considerations, all positive law – be it national or international law – is formulated by human beings and as such must be able to adapt in principle to new developments.
Interesting in this context would be a look at Swiss federalism: this was and is not a construct of a state-theoretical nature, but has historically emerged from numerous and prolonged disputes of greatly diverse points of view. Today, it grants the individual cantons a degree of self-determination, which no autonomous region in the rest of the world knows. Starting out from the community autonomy over the sovereignty of the cantons from the bottom upwards, the Swiss federalism allows for a subsidiary task division, which delegates to the Confederation only those tasks that the lower levels are not able to cope with on their own. For example, the direct state taxes are the responsibility of the cantons and municipalities, the direct federal tax covers a very small part of the tax burden. Cantonal regulations include, for example, education, social welfare, construction, judicial organisation, police, penitentiary, and others. A large part of the state organisation and administration thus remains with the national communities, which are not simply subject to centralised decisions, but have a great scope of design and influence, and thus have a high degree of self-determination of their immediate living conditions. Of course, these possibilities of a more independent and much more direct organisation of state institutions are additionally strengthened by the direct democracy. It allows not only authorities of the federal entities, but also each individual to participate in the shaping of their own environment. Without these principles, Switzerland would not have been able to settle the decades-long conflict around the canton of Jura democratically. Not by chance the Catalan Prime Minister, Carlos Puigdemont, has asked Switzerland for mediation.
Switzerland cannot be exported – but its experiences can. Without the willingness to cope with the differences of the interests not simply with power politics, but through genuine settlement of interests and in the sense of the greatest possible freedom for the individual parts, Switzerland would not exist today. Additionally, another important experience was that the population in these processes has always shown a fine sense of the importance of such a balance – beyond political ambitions, the awareness of reciprocity and the need for more or less equitable solutions is clearer to all. However, this presupposes a willingness to open and honest dialogue.

Erika Vögeli

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