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Vidmar, J. Catalonia and the Law of Statehood. German Yearbook of International Law, 63(1), 277-304.
Vidmar, Jure "Catalonia and the Law of Statehood" German Yearbook of International Law 63.1, 2022, 277-304.
Vidmar, Jure (2022): Catalonia and the Law of Statehood, in: German Yearbook of International Law, vol. 63, iss. 1, 277-304, [online]


Catalonia and the Law of Statehood

Vidmar, Jure

German Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 63 (2020), Iss. 1 : pp. 277–304

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Article Details


Author Details

Jure Vidmar, Professor of Public International Law, Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague.


In 2017, a group of Catalonia’s politicians issued a declaration of independence. This article considers the international legal framework applicable to Catalonia’s secession claim and assesses the legal consequences of the declaration of independence. This article demonstrates that the declaration of independence does not have any legal effects and has remained a political declaration under domestic and international law. For Catalonia, this means that precisely nothing has changed in law. Catalonia continues to be an integral part of Spain. While Spain is under no legal obligation to accept Catalonia’s independence, its counter-secession policy does not operate in a legal vacuum. In this regard, it is also highly significant that the declaration of independence was merely a political act. It is questionable whether certain limitations imposed by Spain on the freedom of expression are justified in these factual circumstances. While Catalonia does not have a right to independence, Spain will not be able to ignore the independence claim. It is inevitable that the two sides will need to negotiate to resolve the political crisis. But the outcome of such negotiations would not necessarily be an independent Catalonia.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Jure Vidmar\nCatalonia and the Law of Statehood 277
I. Introduction 277
II. The Legal Context: International Law on Independence Claims 279
A. Territorial Legal Status 280
B. Self-Determination Versus Claims to Territorial Integrity 281
C. Territorial Integrity of States 284
D. The Modes of Overcoming a Counter-Claim to Territorial Integrity 277
E. When Are Declarations of Independence Illegal Under International Law? 277
F. The Independence Referendums 277
G. Summary on the Law of Statehood 277
III. The Legal Consequences of Catalonia’s Declaration of Independence 278
A. The Political Nature of Declarations of Independence 278
B. The Declaration of Independence and Spain’s Counter-Secession Policy 278
IV. Catalonia and EU Membership 278
V. Conclusion 278