The Constitutional Court (TC) nullified the designation ‘Foreign Affairs’ for Raül Romeva’s ministry on Wednesday , but endorsed the Catalan government’s activities abroad, as long as they “do not infringe State powers”. By nullifying the designation, which in fact is no longer used, the court upheld only part of the the Spanish government’s appeal against the denomination as well as certain powers of the Catalan foreign affairs ministry. The magistrates ruled that the Catalan government “can carry out activities of external projection, whenever derived from its powers and for the promotion of its interests, and always respecting the powers that the Constitution reserves exclusively for the State in the area of external relations.” In other words, as long as the Catalan government’s activities abroad do not clash with state foreign policy.
The ruling is in line with the same doctrine the court used when deliberating on the State’s appeal against the Law 16/2014 of exterior action and relations with the Europe Union. Back then, the Constitutional Court ratified the capacity of the government to take action abroad as long as it respected the exclusive powers of the State over foreign policy. Wednesday’s ruling –which passed unanimously- justified the nullification of the term ‘Foreign Affairs’ because “it is identical to that of the State”, which “can cause confusion and lead to interference in the direction and execution of Spanish foreign policy”. However, the Catalan government had already changed the name of the ministry so as to avoid this conflict with Madrid.
With this ruling the Constitutional Court accepts only part of the Spanish government’s appeal against the decree of the “establishment, designation and area of powers” of the Ministry of Institutional Affairs and Relations and Exterior and Transparency, which was initially called the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Institutional Relations and Transparency.
On February 16, 2016, the court automatically suspended Catalonia’s powers of foreign projection that were the subject of a complaint by the Spanish executive. Then in December of the same year, the court decided that the Catalan government did indeed have the powers to promote itself abroad, although not to exercise diplomacy.
Political reaction to the ruling came immediately. A spokesperson for the People’s Party praised the “firm action of the rule of law” and insisted that the party will employ all means to prevent the use of public money for partisan political interest. Meanwhile, the Catalan socialists said the conflict could have been avoided by using the ministry’s current designation from the beginning, but reproached the People’s Party for “only using judicial responses”.
The vice president of the Spanish executive, Soraya Sáenz Santamaria, expressed satisfaction over the ruling, stating that this was the final defeat for Raül Romeva. She also stressed that the Constitutional Court’s sentence clearly favors the Spanish government drawing a clear line between external political activity and foreign projection by the Autonomous Regions.
Raül Romeva, the head of the ministry, confirmed that his department will continue with its activities, because it has the powers to do so and he reproached the high court for wasting time on such irrelevant issues when lacking a democratic and political response to much more urgent matters.
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