Securitizing Catalonia (I): the Copenhagen School in the Spanish context

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The ‘rupture of Spain’ and ‘the Spanish unity’ have been one of the most repeated tropes following the events that took place in Spain from 2017, until today. Catalonia, an autonomous region of Spain, announced and celebrated a referendum contra legem in order to gain independence. The Spanish government at the time responded by using a type of discourse that legitimized it for taking a wide range of measures that went from suspending the autonomy of the region to the incarceration of Catalan political leaders, the latter confirmed on October 14th by the Spanish Supreme Court. Is it possible to understand the handling of the process of independence of Catalonia from the frame of the securitization theory from the Copenhagen School (CS)?

Following the linguistic turn, the theory draws on the premise that securitization occurs when actors label certain events as threats and relevant audiences accept such designation. Approaching from constructivism the CS understands that the most important feature is that the word security doesn’t need to be uttered. What is relevant is the use of particular logics that define security, logics enrooted in the speech act (mostly political discourses) that provoke the rupture of the logic of normal politics to enter the realm of security.

The moment of entering the security realm would be the 6th of September 2017, the day in which the Catalan Parliament passed the laws that would allow Catalonia to become independent after the celebration of a referendum, set for the 1st of October. The day after, the Spanish government led by Mariano Rajoy activated the security logic. On the 7th of September, he gave a speech in which he depicted independency as ‘the end of Spain’, creating the need for survival.

Despite Rajoy’s emergency measures to avoid the vote from taking place by transferring National Police officers from all over Spain into Catalonia with the order of confiscating –even by force—ballots and boxes, the vote did take place on the 1st of October. Two days after, the security logic entered a new post-referendum phase: the King of Spain—Felipe VI—gave, symbolically, his first institutional speech following the independence vote.

To explain securitization logic, the process has to be taken as gradual and incremental, from Rajoy’s speech to the Kings one, in different moments, pre-referendum and post, enabling the adoption of emergency measures  in 2017-2018 such as the application of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution that suspended Catalonia’s autonomy and led to new elections in the region.

Notwithstanding the government effort in securitizing Catalonia, the issue remains unsolved. Emergency measures and particularly the role of the judiciary within the process have not helped in approaching the situation.  Can the judiciary of a country be a securitization actor? How does the realm of security interact with the legal frameworks? One thing is clear: legal frames without political dialogue have proved to be inadequate to solve the situation.

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