Are you independent, Catalonia?
On October 1 Catalonia, an Autonomous Region of Spain, held an independence referendum in which more than 90 % of voters were in favour of seceding from Spain. The referendum was considered illegal by the Constitutional Court and accompanied by police brutality and violence, muting the response of some European nations, otherwise supportive of Spanish unity.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) October 18, 2017
The Spanish government has right to take direct control in the regions in case of a serious violation of law under Article 155 of Spanish Constitution. Madrid is now weighing its options: It can take control of some of the Catalan executive bodies (most likely the Ministry of Finance and Interior) or dissolve the Catalan government and call for an early regional election, but those are likely to be very unpredictable. Catalonia is willing to negotiate with Madrid, but only if it allows for a legal independence referendum, which is highly unlikely.
The Catalan government failed to clarify whether it has indeed declared independence by the latest deadline on October 16 and now it had the last chance to abandon independence claims until today (October 19). After yet another call for negotiations by Catalan leader Puigdemont, the PM Rajoy’s office declared that it will hold a special Cabinet meeting on Saturday to trigger Article 155 and take control of Catalonia.
UNESCO in crisis
The Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation of the UN embodied most of what is going on in the world in its director-general election on October 13. The Organisation elected Audrey Azoulay, former French Minister of Culture, for a five-year term beating Qatari candidate Al-Kawari. The Qatari candidate loss was most likely a result of the Qatar-Gulf crisis that has left the peninsula diplomatically isolated from its Arab neighbours.
Azoulay is replacing Bulgarian Irina Bokova in the post. Bokova made the headlines in the beginning of September when it became clear that, in the uncovered corruption and money laundering scheme nicknamed the Azerbaijani laundromat, her husband Kalin Mitrev received at least €425 000 in Azerbaijani bribes.
But most importantly, right in the middle of the election, the US followed by Israel announced that they are leaving the Organisation citing bias and politicization. The crisis began in 2011 when UNESCO granted full membership to Palestine, a move that has resulted in a freeze of US, Canadian, and Israeli contributions to the Organisation, a considerable part of its income. It was escalated by a number of ‘political’ decisions, especially the case of Hebron on the West Bank.
This is not the first time the US left the Organisation. President Reagan withdrew US from UNESCO back in 1984, it has re-joined under Bush Jr. in 2002. Aside from the controversies, UNESCO has done a lot to protect the world cultural heritage and promote education in the past.
Trump (alone) undermining the Iran deal
The EU urges the US Congress to preserve the Iran Deal that President Trump refused to certify on October 13. According to the US law, the president must certify the Deal every three months (unlike other signatories). Not only other parties to the deal but also Trumps own national security team were against the move. Key US foreign policy executives including Secretary of State Tillerson and Defence Secretary Mattis agree that Iran is in compliance with the deal.
Today, I announced our strategy to confront the Iranian regime’s hostile actions and to ensure that they never acquire a nuclear weapon. pic.twitter.com/N4ISdjuEdC
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2017
As Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mentioned, such behaviour seriously damages US reliability in future international negotiations and commitments. All the other signatories, along with Iran, the EU, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China remain committed to the deal as it is.
— EU External Action (@eu_eeas) October 13, 2017
The US Congress now has until December 10 to decide. They have a range of options from doing nothing, trying to renegotiate the deal to even introduce new US sanctions on Iran.
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into broader context.
Responsible editor Ondřej Zacha.
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