Can the Spanish Council of Ministers recognize the State of Palestine?

Pedro Sánchez announced his intention to recognize Palestine as a State before July and indicated that it will be taken over by the Council of Ministers and does not require the approval of Parliamentalthough he assures that he will inform the legislative branch.

This new announcement comes after years of empty promises. The first to talk about it was José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who in 2009, after a meeting with the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, He assured that Spain “is going to get wet” during the presidency of the European Union – which he would assume a year later – to ensure that Palestine is a state. Fifteen years have passed and the promise remains on the table. Also, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, Foreign Minister during the Zapatero governments, spoke out in favor of this recognition during the time he was in office. “The time has come for the EU to recognize Palestine”, he said in 2018 during a visit to the city of Ramallah, in the West Bank. Furthermore, in 2014 the Congress of Deputies approved urging the Government, then led by Mariano Rajoy, to “promote in a coordinated manner within the European Union the recognition of the Palestinian State as a sovereign State.” He did it with the support of the PP and almost unanimously in a motion that was promoted by the PSOE.

If the recognition of the Palestinian State in the European Union is approved, it would not at all be something new among the Twenty-Seven. In fact, and despite the fact that the Government strives to underline its leadership to promote the recognition of Palestine within Europe, countries such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Slovakia, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania or Sweden They have done it long before.

The announcement by the Chief Executive drew attention that after having said that he would do so in Congress, he backed down and announced his intention to do so in the Council of Ministers.

The Professor of Public International Law, Ana Gema López Martín, explains to LA RAZÓN that in international law there are two ways of recognizing States. On the one hand, there is the express recognition, “this is what the Government is now proposing. “It is about stating clearly and publicly that whatever entity is recognized as a State.” He points out that this declaration must come from people with the competence to represent the State at the international level: Head of State, head of Government or Minister of Foreign Affairs. Therefore, the initiative through the Council of Ministers is included in article 97, which establishes that the Government directs foreign policy. “Obviously, the decision to recognize states falls within foreign policy”. As for the second option, there is tacit recognition. He points out that “in international law there are conclusive acts from which it follows that if they are carried out with a new entity that proclaims itself a State, they mean implicit or tacit recognition of that state.” He gives as an example Spain's vote in favor of Palestine as a member state of UNESO in 2011 or as a non-member state of the United Nations in 2012.

For his part, Rafael Murillo, professor of Constitutional Law at the CEU San Pablo University, assures LA RAZÓN that within international law, first, it has to meet a series of requirements: stability, organization as a State, respect for rights fundamentals, division of powers, principle of legality, among other issues. The expert is emphatic: “The Government directs foreign policy and can make the decision.” Murillo compares this failure to that of recognizing Kosovo. Since declaring independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008, the European Union has left it up to member countries how to position themselves. Of them, 22 have recognized Kosovo as an independent State, while another five have not, including Spain. “Just as with Palestine, it is a political decision,” he insists.

Sánchez's announcement reached the Senate session yesterday. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, expressly asked the Popular Party to clarify whether it has the “political will” to support the Government's plans to recognize the Palestinian State and thus comply with the provisions of its electoral program. . The Popular Party mentioned the conflict in the Middle East in their electoral program ahead of the elections on July 23, although they did so without going into many details.

The voices in favor of this recognition are increasing. Among them, the Head of State, Felipe VI, who claimed it again in the closing speech of the VIII Conference of Ambassadors last January.