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23rd Mar 2019

Juncker: Catalonia's independence vote must be legal

  • "We have always said that we would follow and respect the rulings of the Spanish constitutional court and the decisions of the Spanish parliament," said Juncker (r), with Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy (l) (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission will accept Catalonia's independence, but only after a legal vote is accepted by Spanish authorities, and with no direct EU accession, commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday (14 September).

"It is obvious that if there is a Yes to Catalonia's independence - that remains to be seen - we will respect that choice," Juncker said in an interview.

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"But Catalonia will not be able to become an EU member the morning after," he added. "Catalonia will be submitted to an accession process."

Juncker was answering a question posed to him by an internet user, in an interview - called #AskJuncker - which was broadcast on YouTube and Euronews.

It is the first time the EU executive's chief has made a declaration on the issue ahead of the independence referendum planned for 1 October in Catalonia.

In a message posted on Twitter, the vice-president of the Catalan government, Oriol Junqueras, welcomed a "very important declaration respecting the result of the referendum".

Juncker, however, set an important condition for the EU's recognition of a referendum result.

"We have always said that we would follow and respect the rulings of the Spanish constitutional court and the decisions of the Spanish parliament," he said, insisting that this was already the position of his predecessors, Romano Prodi and Jose Manuel Barroso.

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Question on Catalonia at 53'

Yet, the Spanish Constitutional Tribunal has ruled that the 1 October referendum is illegal.

It has suspended the Catalan law organising the vote, as well as the so-called 'transition law', which would set out the region's governance in the time between a potential declaration of independence and a separate new Catalan constitution.

Juncker's remark that Catalonia's independence would be recognised only after a legal vote comes as support for the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

Rajoy has vowed to prevent the referendum, which he said was an "intolerable act of disobedience".

Another EU institution leader also recently rejected the current planned referendum.

"To go against the constitution would be going against the EU framework," European Parliament president Antonio Tajani said in a letter to a Spanish MEP, which was leaked by El Confidencial, a Spanish news website.

In Thursday's interview, Juncker said that his position was not specific to Catalonia.

"If the North of Luxembourg left the South, the rule would be the same," he said, warning against "separatist adventures".

"Europe is rich because regional traditions are strong," he noted.

"I would not want that the regional traditions set themselves as elements of separatism and fragmentation of Europe," he added.

Catalan authorities call independence vote

After a tense session, the regional parliament adopted a bill organising a referendum on 1 October. The Spanish government has promised a "serene but firm" response to prevent the vote.

Feature

Catalonia ponders independence 'leap of faith'

Ahead of a referendum on 1 October, Catalans are almost united on the need to go to the ballot box. But they are divided on the question, and uncertain about the result and the consequences.

Spain arrests Catalan officials

Armed Spanish police have arrested Catalan officials and seized ballots for an independence referendum, prompting appeals for EU help.

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