26 July 2018


'Legal Unity as Political Unity? Carl Schmitt and Hugo Krabbe on the Catalonian Constitutional Crisis' by Jeroen Kiewiet in (2018) 34(1) Utrecht Journal of International and European Law 56–72 comments 
This article offers an analysis of how theories on constitutional revision can help understand crises that threaten legal unity. The Catalonian crisis represents the case study, and is discussed from the perspective of constitutional theory. The article starts out from a conceptualisation of ‘legal unity’ as the organisational as well as political claim of constitutions to provide unity within a certain legal order, which in the end comes close to the idea of a unified national state. The article refers to the constitutional theories of Carl Schmitt and, the lesser-known Hugo Krabbe, to help increase the understanding of constitutional change and, to connect these insights to the Catalonian case. Schmitt’s claim is that constitutional law is indeterminate and thus in need of the sovereign’s decision. In this analysis, it is made clear that Schmitt’s argumentative scheme in which a distinction is made between friends and enemies in political conflict is unhelpful in addressing the Spanish crisis. Indeed, Schmitt moves beyond descriptive and explanatory goals to defend a normative rejection of liberal political decision-making. By contrast, Krabbe argues for the determinacy of constitutional law. According to Krabbe, constitutional law is finally embedded in ‘legal consciousness’, inherent to all human beings, and which can be determined by majority rule. Even if this answer may not be entirely convincing, it is maintained that this theoretical perspective could nevertheless benefit cases such as the Catalonian constitutional crisis, if as a consequence claims of both the Catalan as well as the Spanish sides based on the idea of ultimate sovereignty over a demarcated territory were dropped.