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Statement by Minister Dr Miro Cerar on Catalonia

On the sidelines of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting, I spoke with Spanish Foreign Minister and future High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. I was interested in his assessment of the situation in Catalonia – and Spain! Not his assessment of the convictions, but of the next steps, both for proponents of Catalonia’s independence and the Spanish state authorities.

Let me reiterate that, as the foreign minister of an EU Member State, representing the positions of the Republic of Slovenia, I must not interfere in the court proceedings and decisions of democratic countries, and Spain is such a country. This is not the same as urging countries not to adopt legislative proposals that would encroach on judicial independence (as within our group of like-minded countries that are justly appealing to two Member States, Poland and Hungary). In my capacity as foreign minister, I am much less free in my actions than deputies or civil society representatives, who may express their personal political views on Catalonia.

Slovenia’s foreign policy consistently and systematically advocates the rule of law and its principles. Consequently, we call for respect for court decisions, both at home and abroad. We must call for respect for human rights, the rule of law and judicial independence. We cannot do otherwise because this would entail losing our credibility.

Also because of our own experience, Slovenians champion the right of peoples to self-determination and can understand Catalonian ambitions. However, this right must be expressed and implemented constitutionally – that is lawfully and in accordance with democratic standards. Slovenian independence efforts were also directly based on a provision of the erstwhile Yugoslav constitution, explicitly providing that the constitution was founded “on the right of each nation to self-determination, including the right to secession”.

Because my words from yesterday have already been twisted and misinterpreted, let me once again emphasise that the situation of Slovenia in 1991 and Catalonia today cannot be equated: Slovenia pursued independence to establish democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Today’s Spain has all of these.

We must respect Spain’s unity enshrined in its constitution. What is more, the Treaty of Lisbon requires the European Union to respect Member States’ essential state functions, “including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State”.

For Slovenia, it is crucial that dialogue to regulate relations between the Government in Madrid and the Catalonian Government be continued. This is why we insist on the need for dialogue and finding solutions peacefully, because repression serves no purpose.

The EU and its Member States share the same values, respect for human rights and a functioning legal system. Each functioning legal system allows for appeal proceedings, which the convicted will probably have recourse to in order to justify their position. By ensuring the independence of the judiciary Spain will be able to demonstrate its democracy and commitment to the rule of law