Self-determination under International law

June 13, 2018
There are many aspects under international law that can be said about self-determination, i just pick the right to unilateraly declare independence (UDI). Is it accepted under International law?

According to experts, any nation has the right to self-determination, even the right to secede. Looking at the case of Catalonia you hear very often unionists say that Catalans do not have the right to self-determination, do not have the right to hold a referendum on independence and do not have the right to secede. Well that is incorrect, nor following Spanish law, the Spanish constitution nor according to international law holding a referendum is illegal. So it is legal. The fact that Madrid kept on opposing it is a political argument not a legal. They refused to sit down to discuss terms and so no framwork, no criteria, no rules,... and thus a political reason to be enabled to keep on saying that it is illegal. Under International law without holding a referendum even, a unilateral declaration of independence can be done and it would be considered in line with international law but without giveing any guarantees that the newly declared state would be internationally recognised.Who has experience in these matters?

Comment temporary disabled


Günther is Flemish, father of two children, Director of EFA.

Comments (3)


According to international law, self-determination means the right to decide for those people submitted to foreign domination (colonisation or occupation with weapons). This principle cannot be applied for people occupied before the end of WWII. According the international law, the right of self-determination belongs to people, but there's no legal definition for "people". In this way, States have the law on their side when there is part of its territory claiming for self-determination. By the way, new Countries also need official recognition from the other indipendent Countries.

Regarding Catalunya and Spanish laws, Article 2 of the Spanish constitution claims the "indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation". So any kind of referendum for indipendence is totally against Spanish law

So these are the reason why so many Countries don't allow the right of self-determination, and for me all this is totally against human rights

Wir Brandenburger

First of all, English is not my native language, but I will do my best:

Well, I think the main problem is not discussing whether a declaration of independence is legal or not in accordance with applicable laws. Of course it would help if it's legal, but that's not the point. We need a new perspective on some rights. I am not a lawyer, but I try to explain my opinion

I would discuss the current intention of current international law in relation to the right to territorial integrity and / or the right to self-determination. For some opinion leaders, these rights today seem to be in incompatible hostility. To solve this problem, we should consider the question of who is entitled by what right.

The owner of the right to territorial integrity and the owner of the right to self-determination is, in my view, the sovereign. But who is it and how many?

In times of absolutism it was pretty clear and easy. The sovereign was the monarch. Any attack on the right of territorial integrity was therefore an attack on the sovereign. Today, the sovereign is the electorate. What seems to be ignored is that the sovereign in the sub-sovereigns would have to be split according to the "challenged" law. But today we are still looking at territorial integrity with the eyes of an absolute monarch

If an attack on territorial integrity comes from outside, it is an attack on all electorate of the current state / authority. Another characteristic is when the attack on territorial integrity comes from within. Then we have to divide the sovereign into two parts. When a party declares independence because it has a right to self-determination, it no longer attacks the territorial integrity of the previous ruler, claims new territorial integrity and begins to defend it. Therefore, it is not the duty of a foreign sovereign to decide on the right of territorial integrity of another sovereign.

In the end, the aim of the EFA should be to discuss the importance of the interplay of the right to territorial integrity and the right to self-determination and the importance of sovereignty and sovereignty on the road to an integrated Europe. The internal enlargement of the EU as an opportunity for the EU.

Constancy eternals are undemocratic and prevent appropriate responses to changing societal views. It cements the spirit of a (past) time and thereby blocks its further development.

Associazione Made in Trieste

In order to represent the Free Territyory of Trieste, I wanted to raise awareness of our problem.
At the end of World War II, 1945, the Italian State signed, executed and ratified in its legal order the Treaty of Peace signed in Paris in 1947.
Inside the T. Paris P. 1947, the Art.21 determines the end of the sovereignty on the new and constituting the Free Territory of Trieste, born from the XVI resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations.
To date, nothing has been implemented.
The Association Made in Trieste, together with the Assembly Popular Project, organized a Conevntion on Self-determination in May 2018, which was attended by EFA Vice President Andrea Cocco.
This year in September we would like to organize a meeting again to discuss the Self-determination of peoples.
It would be nice to have your support for the event, as well as to disseminate and bring people to discuss this issue.
Association Made in Trieste