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Entre los expedientes que negocia la Presidencia española de la Unión europea, en el área de Justicia, cabe destacar por su importancia para la ciudadanía europea, la propuesta de Reglamento del Parlamento europeo y del Consejo relativo a la competencia, la ley...

Catalonia in E-Estonia?
Nov 10, 2018

Estonia holds the rotating presidency of the European Union for the first time this six months, as the United Kingdom relinquishes it in view of its interim period towards disengagement. Its institutional role in Europe has succeeded in popularising its virtual administration - really without paper. The reality of this small Baltic Republic, with a population of approximately 1.1 million and a complicated history that is particularly affected by Russian domination, underwent a Copernican turn when it joined the European Union in the great enlargement of 2004, along with nine other states, including the neighbouring republics of Lithuania and Latvia.

In recent years Estonia has been known for its development of an ambitious digital project, pioneering and certainly strategic in that it constitutes a protective shield against neighbouring Russia. Paradoxically, its Presidency will not manage to finalise the European dossier on digital content contracts, a glaring shortcoming in the Union, which is certainly not managing its digital agenda at the scheduled pace. As a result, Estonia is moving forward on its own, in waters that are not entirely clear, in areas outside the European Union. One example is the parallel creation of an e-government for itself and technical assistance to other administrations, such as that of Catalonia, in areas not regulated by international public law. As a consequence, illegal Catalan separatism has found in the digitisation provided by Estonia an unexpected tool together with the - in reality parallel - idea of e-residency for those who want to obtain it. For two years now, for 100 euros, Estonia has been providing a European electronic signature, i.e. a digital identity, only partially included in the scope of the European e-IDAS regulation. This programme clashes, however, with the Estonian reality of permanent effective annual population loss since the beginning of the millennium, its large Russian minority, which is absolutely rejected by Estonian policies. In the meantime, virtual residence is growing in various areas, such as the creation of offshore companies. Relocation reaches both the country of origin of the entrepreneur and Estonia itself, where more than sixty percent of its GDP is based on services, with practically no productive industry. This corporate programme is radically opposed by European trade unions and the economic authorities of the member states. Along the same lines - focusing on company law - it advocates, as the Presidency, European coordination in standardised commercial registry information, with a clear encroachment on state competences and without any support in European regulations. Not only in this area, which is so closely linked to competitiveness and growth, Estonia provides a digital identity. It is a leader in digitised administrative internationalisation. This is the case of digital residency, which is discussed in neighbouring states such as Finland and especially Sweden, with whom Estonia has the best trade relations and with whom it is politically seeking rapprochement. From another perspective, Estonia, as a pioneer in the complete digital relationship with its citizens - including, as indicated for its digital residents, in a list of economic services of interest to them - is also a pioneer in related sociological phenomena, such as the digital exclusion that affects social groups that find it difficult to access this virtual reality due to their age, health or education. The sociological data reflected in the age curve that once again leads to progressive depopulation is relevant. In this context, without international regulation, the aid provided to Catalonia is particularly significant. In its separatist process, Catalonia is following the Kosovo roadmap. With the major difference that it does not have the support of the US, which is positioned - it is hoped - as a partner without fissures due to economic and strategic interests with Spain, which limits its international potential. The US, despite the evident loss of international influence in some areas, decides in its orbit as an international arbiter on the creation of states, even without paying for services, such as Iraqi Kurdistan, which it does not recognise. Turning to Europe, it is really striking that Spain, which this week found strong support from France; with some nuance from Germany and the UK and very lukewarm support from Belgium, did not obtain any statement from Estonia, not so much for its own sake, given its very limited weight in the group of member states, but because of its current temporary institutional role as Presidency of the Union. It is true, however, that the internal problems of the Member States, even among themselves, as is often the case with the Gibraltar dispute, do not fall within the competence of the European Union.

Today the Council of Ministers will take a decisive step in the very open-ended articulation of the slow-burning limitation of Catalan autonomy. It seems logical that it will include, at least, the guarantee of basic services; security and therefore the economy and executive power. More complicated, on this road ahead, will be the control of the Catalan Parliament.

Despite this, the roadmap of independence, which will not stop, has long been marked by the new digital reality. An illegal and illegitimate declaration by the Catalan authorities in favour of independence can therefore find virtual support, unregulated by anyone and with no international competition from anyone.