The Right to External Self-Determination and the Catalan Case

Sovereign States have always been reluctant to recognize wide interpretations of the right to the self-determination: they see in them a dangerous thread against their own political unity. The present paper argues that the recognition of the right to external self-determination encompasses other cases beyond the decolonization processes. It explores the path taken by some prominent international law scholars such as Antonio Cassese according to whom the right to external self-determination might emerge once the accommodation of a particular national people within a larger sovereign state is frustrated. The paper explores to what extent such doctrine might be applicable to the Catalans' present situation considering both that the holding of a referendum on secession is severely repressed by the Spanish constitutional system and that, nonetheless, the celebration of a referendum on Catalan’s independence is supported by a large majority of the Catalan citizenry.