Sunday

14th Apr 2024

Opinion

Would an independent Catalonia remain in the EU?

  • The EU treaties are silent on internal secession (Photo: SBA73)

On 11 September 2013, 2 million Catalan citizens reached out forming a human chain over 400 kilometres long.

This impressive demonstration, known as “Catalan Way to Independence,” showed, once again, that a huge majority of the Catalan people (around 80 percent according to the polls) wants to exercise the right to decide on their own future as a nation, and that a majority would choose independence (around 55 percent, excluding those still undecided).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But so far Spain is not allowing this democratic choice to take place.

Meanwhile, on EU membership, many contradictory statements are being made on how Europe can or should respond to emerging new states within its very borders.

Some days after the National Day and huge civic demonstration, the Spanish member of the European Commission, Joaquin Almunia, declared – other commissioners followed suit - that an independent Catalonia would automatically remain outside the EU and would need to go through a complex negotiation and accession process in order to be part of the EU again.

Ironically enough, the same commissioner said exactly the opposite one year ago, before Spanish diplomatic pressure started.

Here are some points to clarify the issue.

1) EU treaties are silent on what happens when a part of a member state becomes independent. The possibility of internal enlargement, that is, an enlargement of the EU with new states resulting from self-determination processes within current EU member states, is neither explicitly rejected nor explicitly foreseen by the treaties. So all statements by the EU institutions and their representatives are political in nature and not juridical.

2) In previous unforeseen situations the EU has adopted common sense solutions based on negotiation and agreement. It was pragmatic when East Germany merged with West Germany or when Greenland chose to leave the EU despite being part of a member state (Denmark). There is no reason why the EU will not be pragmatic with Catalonia.

3) Catalonia meets all requirements and criteria to remain in the EU and has been applying EU legislation for a long time, so Catalonia would not have to go through a full accession process. For sure, concrete matters must be renegotiated, such as quotas for representation in the EU institutions or Catalonia's contribution to the budget, but this negotiation should be short and unproblematic and does not have to be conducted from a status of non-membership. Moreover, all Catalan citizens acquired certain rights and freedoms through their European citizenship. Rights cannot be taken away so easily, particularly when citizens democratically decide to leave a member state but not the EU.

4) Democracy is a fundamental principle enshrined in the European Treaties. The EU is committed to the promotion of democracy within the Union and around the globe. The EU cannot and should not punish Catalans just for exercising this basic principle.

5) It is within the economic interests of the EU and of its member states – including Spain - to have an independent Catalonia within the EU. Member states, in defence of their citizens and companies' interests, will be keen to see Catalonia remaining within the EU. Will the EU really let go of a south European country that has great commercial potential, a strategic location, and is a net contributor to EU coffers? In times of economic hardship, are we really going to exclude parts of Europe and risk de-solidarising the European integration project?

The Spanish government believes it can cast fear and doubt among Catalan people by arguing that an independent state would see it outside the EU and isolated from the international community. But its argument is not based on solid ground.

The writer is secretary general of the European Free Alliance party

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Madrid vows to block Catalonia referendum

The Spanish government has vowed to block Catalonia from holding an independence referendum, with EU Council chief Van Rompuy renewing the warning that the region would no longer be part of the EU if it split off.

Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation

As Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos just reclaimed the title of the richest person on Earth, its workers cannot even take a bathroom break under the pressure of meeting inhumane performance targets.

The Bolsonaro-Orbán far-right nexus

Defeated far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has given various reasons for sheltering at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia — none of them make sense.

The problem of corruption in Ukraine — and a solution

Sunlight is the best disinfectant— so in a way, it is encouraging to see corruption scandals coming to the fore, as this may deter potential future graft, a key prerequisite for Kyiv's eventual EU accession.

This 'deregulation' lobbying now threatens EU economy

Next week's EU summit (17-18 April) will discuss the strategic agenda for the next five years. The current "competitiveness agenda" is to a large extent driven by a big lobbying campaign — so far, not well covered by the media.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us