Friday, July 21, 2017

Two Japanese universities debate self-determination in Catalonia

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Catalonia’s political situation reached Japan this week, with the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat) organizing events with the Tokyo universities of Kobe and Waseda, on July 19 and 20. Under the title, “Self-Determination Processes in Europe: The Catalan Case”, it is the second time Diplocat has organized events in Japan.

The first event took place in the Research Centre for the Promotion of Intercultural Studies at Kobe University, on July 19, with an international symposium in the university’s Superior School of Intercultural Studies. To an audience of some 50 people, vice dean of the Postgraduate School of Intercultural Studies, professor Takuya Nishikawa, pointed that Kobe and Barcelona are twinned cities that in recent years have intensified their academic and research relationship, as can be seen by the agreements made with the UB and UAB universities.

Secretary General of Diplocat, Albert Royo, then gave a talk on Catalonia’s current political situation in which he pointed out that "the 2015 elections provided a mandate for independence,” with 72 out of 135 parliamentary seats and 48% of votes in favour against 39% against, adding “Catalan institutions now want to confirm this majority through a specific vote on independence.”

A roundtable moderated by Kobe university professor Kazunari Sakai then took place, with Catalan and Japanese academics debating the processes of self-determination in Europe. Professor Masayuki Rikihisa, from Doshisha University in Kyoto, spoke about Scotland’s self-determination process in which former British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed on a referendum as a way of halting a rise in the independence movement in Scotland. For his part, professor Yoko Aoshima, from Kobe University, tackled the construction of the Ukrainian state, making it clear that the situation in this country cannot be compared to that of Scotland or Catalonia, which did not produce violent moments.

Gen Kikkawa, from Hiroshima City university, talked about the international protection of minorities, arguing that any people’s desire for self-determination should be respected, as happened in East Timor. Finally, describing the Catalan case as a European movement born out of civil society, professor Elisenda Paluzie, from Barcelona University, argued that for Catalonia to be expelled from the EU for exercising its right to self-determination would be a backward step in the development of European democratic principles.

The next day’s event was in conjunction with the Organization of Regional and Interregional Studies from Tokyo’s Waseda University, which some 70 people attended. After a welcome from the dean of the Humanities and Social Sciences School and director of the Historical Institute for European Civilization at Waseda, Takashi Morihara, professor Yoshitomo Okuno, of the School of Exterior Studies at the Prefectural University of Aichi, gave a brief introduction on Catalonia to the Japanese audience.

Waseda University professor Hiromi Komori then went on to moderate a roundtable of Catalan and Japanese experts who debated the EU self-determination processes and, specifically, the Catalan case. Royo and Elisenda Paluzie took part on the Catalan side, with Royo suggesting that Spain would do well to follow the example of established democracies,such as Canada, Denmark or the UK, and allow the Catalans to decide their political future at the ballot box. For her part, Paluzie pointed out that it was public pressure that led the Catalan government to take measures in favour of self-determination.

On the Japanese side were professor of International Law, Mariko Kawano, and professor of European Law, Takao Suami, both from Waseda University’s Faculty of Law. Kawano pointed out that the right to self-determination had been recognised by the United Nations during the process of decolonization and argued it should be updated to fit today’s circumstances. The professor also suggested that if Catalonia were to achieve independence peacefully, and in agreement with the Spanish State, Japan would have little problem in recognizing it.

Conference at Waseda University (by Diplocat)

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