Diplocat: The Spanish prosecution of Catalan Public Diplomacy
The President of Catalonia, Mr. Quim Torra, in a meeting with DIPLOCAT members / ACN
DIPLOCAT (Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia) is a consortium of 39 members, including the following: the Generalitat, the General Council of Aran, the provincial city councils and Vielha e Mitjaran, the Catalan provincial councils, Catalan universities, financial and business entities , unions, business schools, academic centers and various social and sports entities, like FC Barcelona.
The Council of Ministers approved a Royal Decree 945/2017, of October 27th, suppressing various bodies of the Generalitat and also the Catalonia Món-Consell de Diplomàcia Pública de Catalunya (DIPLOCAT). This was proceeded by the liquidation of DIPLOCAT, through the Joint Instruction of December 5th 2017 by the Minister of Finance and Public Function (by replacement of the head of the Department of Interior, Public Administrations and Housing of the Generalitat ) and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (replacing the head of the Department of Affairs and Institutional Relations, International and Transparency of the Generalitat). And, surprisingly, this settlement was re-adopted through the Agreement of the Council of Ministers of December 15, 2017.
Some of the members of DIPLOCAT (Barcelona City Council, the Catalan Association of Municipalities and some of the social entities such as the trade union UGT) have brought appeals against the suppression and liquidation of the DIPLOCAT in front of the courts.
The supression and subsequent liquidation of DIPLOCAT is adopted under the protection of the application of the art. 155 CE through the agreement of the Council of Ministers of October 21, 2017 and its subsequent approval by the Senate on October 27.
According to art. 2.1 of the Statutes, the main aim of DIPLOCAT is “to promote initiatives that allow direct knowledge of Catalonia in the international arena” while “positioning the image, reputation and international projection of Catalonia through the export of the best image of the country and its unique assets and values, in order to promote its internationalization. The fulfillment of this objective directly affects a greater attraction of investments, knowledge, institutions and people, and contributes to generate positive public opinion abroad and establish trustworthy relationships in the world. ” Within the framework of these broad purposes of external projection of Catalonia, DIPLOCAT also explained the political situation of Catalonia abroad.
Following the Spanish Government orders, DIPLOCAT closed its doors on April 13, 2018. Nevertheless, despite the process carried out by the Court of Inquiry number 13 of Barcelona (and the subsequent police raids to DIPLOCAT’s headquarters) the liquidator organ was unable to complete the supression process of DIPLOCAT since it has a complex consortium-like structure.
When the new President of Catalonia, Mr. Quim Torra, took office, Catalonia recovered its self-rule and tried to revert the supression of the consortium. According to the June 12 agreement, the Catalan Government adopted the following resolutions:
- declare the loss of validity of the suppression and liquidation of DIPLOCAT since the measures adopted by the Spanish Government were no longer valid and applicable at the moment the new Government of the Generalitat took possession;
- stop the liquidation of the DIPLOCAT;
- summon DIPLOCAT’s plenary session to take the relevant decisions, which included the reactivation of the public diplomacy consortium.
Spanish government has not opposed DIPLOCAT being active again, although in July 2018 it was already warned that the consortium “must be limited to the autonomous powers as indicated by the Spanish Constitution”. Up to November 2019 Spanish Congress of Deputies election, DIPLOCAT was still threatened by political figures such as the President of the Spanish People’s Party (“Partido Popular”), Pablo Casado.
The sudden suppression and the subsequent “double” liquidation of the DIPLOCAT is a good example of how the Spanish Government has bypassed the Spanish Constitution (EC), the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia (EAC) and the Spanish and Catalan legislation in its repression of civic and political rights in Catalonia. The government went far beyond what was allowed by the measures adopted under art. 155 CE.
The dissolution of the DIPLOCAT violates the EC and the EAC by the following means:
- The Council of Ministers’ and the Senate’s application of art. 155 CE only permits the dissolution of linked or dependent entities of the Administration of the Generalitat de Catalunya. DIPLOCAT is not a linked or dependent entity of the Generalitat, but a consortium that acts as an associative and voluntary body formed by the Generalitat, municipalities, departments and other public and private entities.
- It compromises the autonomy of the local entities comprised within it (article 137 CE and 2.3, 84.1 and 86.3 EAC), in relation to their power of self-organization.
- Vulnerates Generalitat’s competence of “the projection of Catalonia abroad and the promotion of its interests in this field” (art. 193 EAC) affects the competence of the Generalitat whenever it is linked to its functions (among others, SSTC 31/2010 and 228/2016). The functions of DIPLOCAT are in accordance with these Catalan functions in foreign action.
- It violates the principle of prohibition of arbitrary action of public authorities (art. 9.3 CE), as the Spanish Government was aware that the DIPLOCAT was not an entity linked to – or dependent on – the Administration of the Generalitat, but was a consortium instead.
- Weakens the principle of necessity as the dissolution of the DIPLOCAT is not necessary to comply with the application of art. 155 CE, which consists in restoring the constitutional and statutory legality, ensure institutional neutrality, maintain social welfare and economic growth, and ensure the rights and freedoms of all Catalans. Further, the projection of Catalonia´s image internationally, as a mean of improving the Catalan economy, is contrary to the correct purposes of art. 155 CE.
- It violates the principle of proportionality, as – in spite of any actions of the DIPLOCAT that contradicted the measures set out in art. 155 CE – there were far less damaging responses available to the Spanish government than its abolition.
In addition, the suspension of the DIPLOCAT violates administrative legislation:
- The unilateral dissolution of the DIPLOCAT consortium by one of its members (the Spanish Government) is not compatible with its statutes.
- The dissolution of a consortium may only be sanctioned by its highest governing body (the Plenary), as established by the basic state regulations (article 127.2 State Law 40/2015, of October 1, of the Legal Regime of the Public Sector) and art. 10 of the statutes of the DIPLOCAT.
- It can not be included within the jurisdiction of the Government of the Generalitat de Catalunya as provided in article 26.0 of the Catalan Law 13/2008 of November 5th, passed by the Presidency of the Generalitat and of the Government. This law provides the Government with the capacity to create, modify, divide or extinguish public and private entities that depend on – or are linked to – the Generalitat. The DIPLOCAT consortium does not depend on, and is not linked to, the Generalitat.
The subsequent liquidation of the DIPLOCAT further aggravates these breaches of the EC, the EAC, and the legislation. The Joint Instruction of December 5th 2017 – passed by the Minister of the Treasury and Public Function and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation – clearly recognises the DIPLOCAT as a consortium. However, it does not do anything to remedy its unconstitutional and illegal abolition and instead agrees to proceed with its liquidation. With the intention of making up for the incompetence of the two Ministers, the Council of Ministers agreed to finish the settlement only 10 days later, yet this attempt was completely unsuccessful because DIPLOCAT’s supression can only be decided by its plenary, as stated in its regulations.