Article published at Catalan News Agency, 15th March 2017
Photo: Spanish Constitutional Court’s President, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, left office this Wednesday (by ACN)
Madrid (CNA).- Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) President, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, left office this Wednesday after nearly four years in this position. As he stepped down, Pérez de los Cobos called for “political dialogue” in Spain and described it as an “urgent and unavoidable necessity”. Pérez de los Cobos stated that the Spanish Constitution “can’t tackle all the problems derived from the constitutional order, especially those which emerge from the desire of one part of the state to alter its legal status”. During his tenure as president, the Court suspended numerous actions aimed at executing Catalonia’s pro-independence roadmap, including the pro-independence proposal approved by the Parliament in 2016, the conclusions of the Committee to Study the Constituent Process and most recently the referendum proposal launched by Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont.
Pérez de los Cobos clarified that dialogue must “respect the Spanish Constitution and the Rule of Law” and emphasized the State’s duty to “guarantee” that legality is respected.
Pérez de los Cobos made this speech before the Spanish Minister for Justice, Rafael Català, Spanish Supreme’s Court President, Carlos Lesmes, the four new magistrates who took office this Wednesday and several members of the Spanish Parliament and Senate. His temporary substitute will be Encarna Roca.
A hurdle for Catalonia’s pro-independence roadmap
The Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) is one of the legal bodies which has suspended the most initiatives aimed at fulfilling Catalonia’s pro-independence roadmap in the last few years.
Last February, the TC finalized the suspension of the joint proposal to call a referendum in 2017 by the governing party ‘Junts Pel Sí’ and radical left pro-independence CUP. The resolution had already been the object of a cautionary injunction by the magistrates, at the request of the Spanish Government.. The TC also accepted the State Attorney and the Public Prosecutor’s petition to proceed with the criminal charges against the Catalan Parliament’s President, Carme Forcadell and the other members of the Parliament Bureau, for allowing a pro-independence debate in the Catalan Chamber.
In 2016, and only 22 days after the objection presented by the Spanish executive was accepted, the TC suspended the pro-independence forces’ joint declaration on independence. Indeed, this was the fastest resolution in the TC’s history.
Catalonia’s pro-independence roadmap, ratified by the Parliament, was also suspended by the TC. The magistrates met as a matter of urgency and decided to accept the Spanish government’sobjection, which claimed that the conclusions of the Committee to Study the Constituent Process, the group responsible for designing Catalonia’s strategy towards independence, violated the Spanish Constitution.
A controversial reform
In November 2016,the TC backed the Spanish Government’s decision to reform the law in order to “suspend from office those public servants, politicians and authorities who don’t comply with the TC’s rulings”. Eight magistrates voted in favor of the reform, promoted and approved in October 2015 by the governing People’s Party (PP), while 3 of them voted against it. The fines for not adhering to the TC’s rulings range from 3,000 to 30,000 euros and could ultimately lead to “suspension from office during the period of time required by the TC”. The reform proposal was first announced by the PP leader in Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol, and was approved as a matter of urgency. Albiol stated that this amendment to the Constitutional Law would work as a barrier to dissuade “anybody from declaring Catalonia’s independence”.