MJIL Online

MJIL Online brings you timely short-form articles that represent a wide range of views on contemporary issues in international law. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors only.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors only.
Eran Levy*
A summary and opinion on the session “Article 7 and Prevention of Treaty Abuse” by Mr. Richard Reinhold[1] and Prof. Reuven Avi-Yonah[2] as commentator (the “Session”), which took place at the “Perspective on the Multilateral Instrument” conference at the University of Michigan Law School on October 13, 2017.


There is considerable debate on which type of anti-abuse rules should be used in the OECD Multilateral Instrument (the “MLI”).[3] The two types of anti-abuse rules which were discussed in the Session were (1) the “Limitation of Benefits” (“LOB”) provisions, which are used by the United States in its bilateral tax treaties,[4] and the Simplified LOB, currently offered in the MLI, and (2) the “Principal Purpose Test” (“PPT”), which is the default anti-abuse rule offered in the MLI.

Generally, LOB tests limit the availability of treaty benefits to entities that meet certain conditions based on legal nature, general activities, and ownership. These conditions seek to ensure that there is a sufficient link between the entity and its state of residence.[5] For example, according to the Simplified LOB provisions offered in the MLI, generally speaking, if at least fifty percent of

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors only.
Chul Hun Lee*
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
Article 7 of the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS (“MLI”) requires the signatories to adopt measures to meet the minimum standard to prevent treaty abuse. The baseline approach of Article 7 is the Principal Purpose Test (“PPT”), which denies tax treaty benefits if one of the principal purposes of a transaction was to obtain such benefit under the tax treaty.[1] Furthermore, Article 7 is not an elective provision; all signatories must implement the measures provided for in the Article.[2] However, this is not as onerous as it may sound. Although the PPT is the only test that can satisfy the minimum standard on its own, it is not the only approach permissible under the MLI. Instead, the signatories are permitted to either supplement the PPT with a simplified Limitations on Benefits rule (“LOB”), or to adopt a detailed LOB in lieu of the PPT.[3] Given these options, is the PPT a better option than the LOB, or is it an IED as Mr. Richard Reinhold[4] suggested?

Perhaps the most significant characteristic of the PPT – and also

On October 13, 2017, tax specialists and international law experts from universities, private practice, and global institutions explored the implications of the recently signed Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (MLI). The day-long conference was organized at the University of Michigan Law School by Professor Reuven S. Avi-Yonah, Irwin I. Cohn Professor of Law and Director of the International Tax LLM Program at Michigan Law. The conference was co-sponsored by the Michigan Journal of International Law.

In this special digital issue, four emerging tax scholars share their perspectives on the issues and debates raised through the conference:

The Multilateral Instrument: A New Array of Questions by Lukas Kutilek
The Dispute Settlement Mechanisms Under the MLI: A Work in Progress by Gianluca Darena
Is the Principal Purpose Test an “Atomic Bomb” and should it be used against Treaty Abuse? by Eran Levy
Principal Purpose Test Needs Time by Chul Hun Lee

Lukas Kutilek is a JD candidate at the University of Michigan Law School and holds a JD equivalent, summa cum laude, from the Charles University in Prague. In the past, he has practiced tax law in Prague at Dentons, Ernst & Young, and PDF CZ.

William Yau
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
As an innovative development in the area of international tax treaties, the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (MLI) will provide a method to strengthen existing tax treaties to protect against tax avoidance strategies without the burden of bilaterally renegotiating each individual treaty.[1] With the treaty poised to enter into force in the coming months, it could also help address other international treaty issues by serving as a basic framework model.

Tax treaties have been in existence since the late nineteenth century, having been found essential to avoid or mitigate double taxation.[2] These treaties can cover a wide range of taxes and typically reduce taxes of one treaty country for residents of the other treaty country.[3] Unfortunately, these treaties now clearly show their age, with international tax standards no longer reflective of changes in global business practices, particularly with regard to development of intellectual property and the digital economy.[4] These gaps have created opportunities for multinational corporations to be increasingly aggressive in using strategies designed to reduce their tax liability.[5] For example, multinational corporations based in high-tax regimes can create numerous off-shore subsidiaries to take advantage of tax

Sarah Syed
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been under close watch for its human rights abuses.[1] In 2012, the Myanmar military rounded up thousands of Rohingya into ghetto-like camps with deplorable conditions in the Rakhine state.[2] The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority group of Bangladeshi descent.[3] On top of being excluded from citizenship and all forms of legal existence, many Rohingya are detained and forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries.[4] Major international organizations hold a firm stance that there is evidence that ethnic cleansing of Rohingya and that genocidal acts are being perpetrated under the government, which recently transitioned from a military dictatorship to democracy.[5] The socio-political history of Rohingyas in Myanmar, as well as U.S. influence on Myanmar’s democratization, explain why the violence against Rohingyas occurs without significant international intervention.[6] As the international community stands by, the Rohingya in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps face harsh conditions and ongoing threats of violence, resulting in a refugee crisis.[7]

Socio-Political History of Rohingyas

The long-persecuted Rohingya are excluded from Myanmar’s political process.[8] In 1982, the military government of Myanmar, known as Burma at the time, enacted a Citizenship Law that revoked Rohingya citizenship.[9]

The Rohingya were forced into

Sara Stappert
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
June 27, 2017 was a dark day for tech giant Google as European Union (EU) antitrust officials fined the company “a record $2.7 billion for unfairly favoring some of its own services over those of rivals.”[1] The antitrust decision was specifically targeted at Google’s online shopping service. It is alleged that Google promoted Google Shopping in organic search results[2] while simultaneously demoting rival services in 13 of the 31 countries in the European Economic Area.[3] The Commission specifically objected to the fact that Google leveraged its marked dominance in general Internet search into a separate market: comparison-shopping.[4]

The penalty showcases just how aggressive European officials are in regulating technology companies. The fine has allowed the EU to lay claim to “being the Western world’s most active regulator of digital services, an industry dominated by Silicon Valley.”[5] While the fine announced in June is minuscule as compared with Google’s $90 billion in annual revenue, it has had drastic effects as Google’s stock declined 2.5 percent on the day the fine was announced, and Google will have to modify its search engine and algorithms in order to comply with the fine.[6]

A company like Google, with global reach, plays a

Gianluca Scaglione
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
Now more than ever, privacy and its cybersecurity dimension demand increased attention. As digital technology and its uses expand rapidly, the amount of data generated about every individual is staggering: from our real-time movement location to texts and emails, almost everything we do is encapsulated on a daily basis in the devices we use. In the face of rapid technological development—situated as we are at the dawn of the Internet era—current legal protections have proven lackluster and adequate norms have yet to be conceived.

Part of the problem lies in the current cultural perception of cybersecurity and privacy. Notwithstanding the pervasiveness of technology and the accelerating amount of data collected about each individual, privacy is often overlooked or disregarded on the spectrum of today’s social goals. “Why do you care? What do you have to hide?” is often the response to requests for increased data protection.

Privacy, however, means the ability to control information disclosed about oneself.[1] As such, privacy should be seen as an essential component of the freedom of speech. It should be understood as a rightful expression of one’s own persona—and not as a suspect assertion of secrecy.[2]

Moreover, protecting privacy is the only way to

Peter Liu
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
China revealed in the 19th Party Congress the new members of the Politburo Standing Committee. This Congress heralds the beginning of President Xi Jinping’s second five-year term. During a president's first term, the members of this Committee are holdovers from the previous administration, appointed by the outgoing leader. It is during the second term that a president is fully empowered to pursue his own agenda, as he fills the Politburo Standing Committee with his own allies.

While former leaders typically identify a successor from among these new appointments, Xi Jinping has not made any such indication.[1] Experts have speculated that Xi may seek to change the party constitution and pursue a third term. Regardless, Xi has fully consolidated his power and cemented his position as China's strongest leader since Deng Xiaoping.[2] President Xi now has the political capital to double down on his vision of China as a global power. As he made clear during his three-hour address to the Party Congress, he sees this moment as “a new historic juncture in China’s development”—and himself as the man to seize it.[3]

Xi’s desire to achieve the “China Dream,” defined as the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” is

David Smellie & Zachary Simon
Vol. 39 Associate Editors
History and Overview of the TPP
Signed in February 2016, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was meant to be a watershed moment for trade in the Pacific. The twelve signatories to the agreement, all of whom border the Pacific Ocean, collectively account for 40 percent of global GDP and one-third of global trade.[1] The goal of the agreement was straightforward: to strengthen economic ties between Pacific nations by slashing tariffs and boosting trade. In fact, it was crafted with the eventual goal of creating a single market between the signatory countries.[2] The TPP was also widely seen as a measure to counter the rising influence of China in the region.

The TPP was notable for its labor and environmental protections. Specifically, it required consistency plans for Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, which all have spotty labor records.[3] For the most part, the plans make it easier for workers to form unions, strengthen protections against discrimination in the workplace, and improve rights for migrant and temporary workers. In addition to its labor protections, the agreement also restricts trade in illegal wildlife, includes provisions to combat deforestation and overfishing, and redoubles each country’s commitment to conservation efforts.[4]

That the agreement

Sara Shea
Volume 39 Associate Editor
The Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh was home to five garment factories that manufactured goods for European and North American retail companies.[1] In 2013, this eight-story building collapsed, killing more than one-thousand people and injuring thousands more.[2] The building was unfit for the garment industry: the construction’s poor quality and the swampy land it stood on could not withstand the massive, heavy equipment weighing on each of the floors.[3] The disaster is one of many that highlights the human rights abuses that go unnoticed throughout global supply chains, including apparel and footwear brands. And these abuses are not limited to poor and hazardous working conditions; they range from the more direct forced overtime and anti-union abuses to indirect violations, such as corporate land deals that resettle local communities into areas where water and food are scarce.[4] Until the UN adopts binding due diligence obligations for companies, human rights abuses will continue to flourish throughout global supply chains.

Global supply chains are almost inherent in modern business. As our world becomes increasingly globalized, companies readily seek to outsource certain parts of their business, such as manufacturing. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has documented this expansion: the ILO reports

Han Zhu
Vol. 39 Executive Editor
On June 30, 2017, the spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in a retort to foreign statements regarding the political conditions of Hong Kong, said the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which laid the groundwork for Hong Kong’s handover, is a “historical document that no longer has any realistic meaning.”[i] Not only did this statement immediately raise concerns about China’s 50-year promise of the so-called “one country, two systems” framework implemented in Hong Kong, it also cast doubt on China’s future commitment to international law at large.

In 1842, Hong Kong was officially ceded to the then British Empire in accordance with the terms in the Treaty of Nanjing following a humiliating defeat of the Qing Dynasty, then ruler of imperial China, in the First Opium War.[ii] The territory of British Hong Kong further expanded to include the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860, and the “New Territories” in 1898.[iii] In 1984, after rounds of negotiation between Beijing and London, the Sino-British Joint Declaration (“the Declaration”) was signed and went into force in 1985.[iv] The Declaration was registered by both the People’s Republic of China and United Kingdom governments at the United Nations on June 12, 1985.[v] Therefore, the Declaration is

Layne Smith
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
The Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (MLI) is a tax convention drafted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that sets out several substantive provisions aimed at reducing the loss of tax revenues caused by multinational companies artificially shifting profits to lower-tax jurisdictions.[1] The impact of successful implementation of the measures contained in the MLI would likely be especially pronounced in Europe, which is home to several holding company jurisdictions – that is, jurisdictions with generally favorable treatment of corporate income tax where multinational corporations choose to incorporate in order to artificially reduce their tax liability. Should the various provisions of the MLI be implemented by European countries, it could strongly deter jurisdiction-shopping by multinationals, and serve to more successfully pursue the goals laid out in the MLI, namely the prevention of base erosion and profit-shifting by multinational companies taking advantage of gaps and loopholes in various tax treaties to artificially lower their tax liabilities.

But how much impact will the MLI actually have? More specifically, what impact will the anti-profit-shifting provisions of the MLI have in Europe? A potential obstacle to the MLI’s goals,

Jens Thomsen
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
The Rohingya, a stateless, predominantly Muslim ethnic group, are victims of persecution being carried out in the western border state of Rakhine by Myanmar’s military forces.[1] It is the fastest-growing ongoing refugee crisis—since late August of this year, 615,500 refugees have fled to Bangladesh to escape execution, rape, and arson.[2] Although Myanmar’s government has made it difficult for human rights investigators to assess the situation, the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated that it seems to be a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing.”[3] Satellite images have shown entire villages wiped out by fires set by Myanmar’s military forces.[4] The Buddhist majority in Myanmar has deeply negative views of the Rohingya.[5] Most do not see them as part of the Burmese nation, but as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.[6] This has put Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in a difficult position as Myanmar’s de facto leader.

Aung San Suu Kyi, placed under house arrest for 15 years by the reigning military junta until 2010, has been the subject of increasing criticism from the international community for her reticence to condemn the military’s actions.[7]  The criticisms are made all the more earnest by

Cite: Reuven S. Avi-Yonah, Altera, the Arm’s Length Standard, and Customary International Tax Law, 38 MJILOpinioJuris 1 (2017), http://www.mjilonline.org/altera.


Reuven S. Avi-Yonah*
Irwin I. Cohn Professor of Law, the University of Michigan 
The recent Altera case in the US Tax Court (on appeal to the Ninth Circuit) raises interesting issues in regard to the much-debated topic of whether customary international tax law (CITL) exists. Altera involved the question whether the cost of employee stock options should be included in the pool of costs that must be shared under a cost sharing agreement. In Xilinx, the Ninth Circuit held under a previous version of the regulations that these costs should not be included because unrelated parties operating at arm’s length would not have agreed to include them. Treasury then amended the regulation to state specifically that “all” costs includes the cost of stock options but did not carve out an exception from the arm’s length standard. In Altera, the Tax Court sitting en banc invalidated the new regulation on the ground that it was inconsistent with the arm’s length standard (ALS). This article-in-abstract discusses the implications of Altera for the long-running debate about whether CITL

Jessica Riley
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
They have been called “the world’s most persecuted people.”[1] They have been denied citizenship and basic human rights in the only country many have ever known.[2] They have been beaten, raped, and murdered.[3]  For many of the Rohingya people, this laundry list of abuses has recently reached an alarming crescendo of extreme violence causing more than 600,000 people to flee their homes in the Rakine state in an attempt to find safety outside of Myanmar.[4] However, this crisis that is currently being splashed across the news screens of the world is not an overnight disaster; rather, tragically, it has historical roots and has been “decades in the making.”[5]   

While considered “undocumented immigrants” by Myanmar’s government, the Rohingya are a primarily Muslim minority who, despite deep historical roots in Myanmar, are effectively stateless.[6] While their presence in the country goes back centuries, tensions with the Buddhist majority in Rakine likewise have significant longevity.[7] These tensions have escalated particularly since World War II, when the allegiances of the Buddhist majority and the Rohingya were split with the former supporting Japan and the latter supporting the British.[8] Following the war, when Myanmar (Burma at the time) gained its independence in

Layan Charara
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
On October 27, 2017, Burundi became the first country to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).[1] Its withdrawal is presumed to be an attempt to elude scrutiny of the carnage ensuing since President Pierre Nkurunziza made a third bid for the presidency in 2015.[2] The Nkurunziza administration is accused of committing crimes against humanity, including killing, torture, sexual violence, and forced disappearance.[3] Burundi, however, cites the Court’s fixation on the African continent as the reason for its exit. The ICC began a preliminary examination of the crimes in April of 2016.[4] Burundi’s withdrawal does not affect the investigation of alleged crimes committed during the period it was still a member of the Court, but its withdrawal has serious implications for the legitimacy of the Court.[5]

Established by the Rome Statute in 1998, the ICC is the world’s only permanent international criminal tribunal.[6] The principal goal of this court is to bring perpetrators of the most atrocious international crimes to justice, namely the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.[7] At present, 124 countries are states parties to the Rome Statute.[8] The United States is noticeably absent among the assembly of

Olivia Hankinson
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
With ever-changing and developing technology, a growing concern in the field of international law stems from cyberspace security.[1] In an effort to combat and alleviate this growing concern, a group of international law experts joined together to produce the Tallinn Manuals.[2] The Tallinn Manual 2.0 is the most updated and current manual, and it focuses on the more common, daily cyber incidents, those that do not meet use of force or armed conflict thresholds.[3] The mission statement of the Tallinn Manual 2.0 is to “enhance the capability, cooperation and information sharing among NATO, NATO nations and partners in cyber defence by virtue of education, research and development, lessons learned and consultation.”[4]  

Though the Tallinn Manuals have proven to be useful in lessening some of the confusion inherent in international cyberspace law, the lack of consensus among the experts has created substantial gray zones.[5] The concerns about these zones have become even more publicized as a result of the recent Russian cyber interference in the 2016 presidential election, in which a gray zone of international cyberspace law was successfully exploited.[6] Though there are multiple “critical grey zones of international law that are susceptible to exploitation when conducting cyber

Julie Gulledge
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
Today, human trafficking remains the fastest-growing criminal activity in the world, generating billions of dollars annually and enslaving an estimated 46 million people.[1] States have been working together to combat slavery and human servitude for over two centuries: Sovereign states began to pass legislation banning the slave trade from the early 1800s. And in 1926, the Slavery Convention was ratified by the League of Nations.[2]

Has International Law been effective in combatting slavery?

The Slavery Convention was a major condemnation of slavery on a global scale. Although the treaty contributed towards the creation of an illegal market for slave labor, it provided a definition of slavery at the level of international law [3] and helped to coordinate efforts to prevent and suppress the slavery industry. In its day, the Slavery Convention reflected an expanding global consensus and the legal codification of a hard-won international norm.

In 1945 the United Nations was formed, and three years later the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted.[4] The UDHR strengthened the normative attacks on slavery at the international level[5] by clearly identifying slavery as a violation of Human Rights. In 1976, two more instruments joined the global fight against slavery: the International

Kaley Hanenkrat
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
In 1994, Ukraine’s then-President Kuchma[1] surrendered the remaining portion of the Soviet nuclear arsenal on Ukraine’s territory for security assurances from the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Russian Federation.[2] The language of the agreement reflects a delicate power balance at the end of the Cold War[3] and, at the time, was a solution to a potential crisis of nuclear weaponry falling into nefarious hands. The Budapest Memorandum on security assurances to Ukraine turns twenty-three this year, but the last three years of Russian-Ukrainian relations[4] have rendered the security assurances of the agreement moot.

Although ninety-three states have signed and 191 states are party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT),[5] the number of states that have had nuclear weapons and surrendered them to become non-nuclear states is quite low. In fact, the three former Soviet states which signed the Budapest Memorandums – Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan – and South Africa[6] are the only ones which possessed nuclear weapons and voluntarily became non-nuclear states. Additionally, these four cases of nuclear disarmament occurred at major turning points in each state’s security, with South African disarmament occurring after a ceasefire agreement in a regional conflict

Christopher Linnan
Vol. 39 Associate Editors
The 1957 Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community—the forerunner of the European Union (EU).[1] The treaty’s first proclamation was that it was “determined to lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe.”[2] The “ever-closer union” language has become a mainstay of European Union treaties and declarations.[3] Broadly speaking, Europe has become closer.[4] In 1993, the EU became a single market—which allowed the free movement of goods, services, and people within the EU.[5] In 1999, eleven (today it is nineteen) EU states adopted a uniform currency, the Euro.[6] But today the idea of an ever-closer union is threatened. In fact, it appears it is breaking apart.

Across Europe, each election cycle brings a similar message. Traditional, pro-EU parties get fewer votes and nationalist, anti-EU parties gain more. In May, a candidate who promised to “release France from the tyranny” of the EU placed second in the French presidential elections.[7] On September 26, in Germany, the anti-European Union Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD) finished in third-place in parliamentary elections—despite Germany previously being one of the few European countries without influential Eurosceptic parties.[8] Of course, the most famous recent manifestation of displeasure with the EU

Maya Jacob & Hunter Davis
Vol. 39 Associate Editors
In June 2017, Bangladesh’s Deputy Consul General in New York, Mohammed Shaheldul Islam, was charged in a 33–count indictment for crimes related to labor trafficking and assault.[1] Islam brought another Bangladeshi man, Mohammed Amin, to the United States in 2012 or 2013 to serve as a domestic worker. Upon arriving in the U.S., Amin was stripped of his passport and forced to work 18 hour days. Amin was never paid. On several occasions, Islam beat Amin with his hands or a wooden shoe.[2] When Amin tried to leave, Islam threatened to harm Amin's family in Bangladesh.[3]

While such a case of labor trafficking may seem like an aberration, such crimes are said to occur regularly in the diplomatic community. It is estimated that upwards of one-third of all cases related to forced domestic labor involve diplomats.[4] In its most recent report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified 42 alleged cases of foreign diplomats abusing their domestic workers between 2000 and 2008.[5] However, the report noted that the actual number was “likely higher,” as few victims come forward.[6]

While foreign service officers are afforded significant protections, they are not free to disregard both domestic and international

Lucas Minich
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced with great fanfare that he would unilaterally, as is arguably his right, withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.[1] This landmark agreement calls upon its signatory nations to aggressively strive to fight climate change through cooperative efforts. More specifically, it provides a “robust transparency framework,” incentivizes innovation and sharing of effective practices, and implements a work program on a wide slate of issues, all aimed at the ultimate goal of capping global temperature rise this century to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.[2] Any realistic efforts to achieve this lofty goal would inevitably require that greenhouse gas emissions be sharply reduced.[3] This achievement would likely entail the phasing out of extensive coal, oil, and gas usage to meet energy demand, the transforming of food production systems (and perhaps even dietary habits!) to slash methane emissions from cattle, and a serious commitment to reforestation efforts.[4]

When the Agreement attained sufficient ratification among members to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and entered into effect on November 4, 2016, it was generally received in the international community as a necessary and meaningful step in the fight against

Hyun Lee
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
A few months after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the United States’ future withdrawal from the Paris Agreement,[1] small Pacific island nations called for the implementation of the Paris Agreement in the United Nations General Assembly that took place on September 23, 2017.[2]

The Paris Agreement, which entered into force on November 4, 2016, was ratified to globally address various threats posed by climate change by 1) “keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” 2) pursuing “efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” and 3) helping various countries better adapt to and combat effects of climate change.[3] Efficiently combating threats and effects of climate change requires constant development of technology, provision of adequate financial flows, and all Parties’ continuous efforts to address climate change by “report[ing] regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts.”[4] Industrialized nations’ cooperation is tremendously important, considering that industrialized nations tend to be the biggest polluters[5] with greater wealth compared to small island nations that have emitted “less than 1 percent of human-produced greenhouse gases.”[6] Yet small island nations are most threatened by climate change—many are extremely vulnerable to

Jack Heise
Vol. 39 Associate Editor
If Carles Puigdemont, President of the Generalitat de Catalunya, gets his way, Barcelona will no longer be part of Spain.[1] While the kingdom created by the union of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in the 15th century included Catalunya,[2] there has existed a lingering sense of separateness, visible both through the retention of autonomous political institutions and the use of the Catalan language. Catalan nationalists, in fact, point to a different historical moment as the genesis of the country: the conquest by the army of Philip V of Barcelona during the War of the Spanish Succession was, in their eyes, the moment Catalunya lost its independence.[3]

The rule of Francisco Franco from the end of the Spanish Civil War to the late 1970s stifled both the autonomy and language of the region, but following his death and the reemergence of Spanish democracy, Catalunya secured political autonomy in the form of its own parliament and executive, the Generalitat.[4] The most recent flashpoint in this conflict is the economic crisis, with some Catalans contending their taxes keep the rest of Spain “afloat.”[5] Madrid maintains that unilateral secession would be counter to both the Spanish Constitution and international law,[6] and has