Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

Catalan leader asks EU for answers on independence

  • Mas is unable to guarantee to Catalan voters that they will continue to be a part of the EU if they secede from Spain (Photo: Agència Catalana de Notícies)

Catalan leader Artur Mas on Wednesday (7 November) challenged the EU's ambivalence on the rise of regionalism in the Union by saying it would be "illogical" not to accept small, rich, pro-EU Catalonia as an automatic future member if it splits from Spain.

Mas, who is hoping that a 25 November election in Catalonia will give him a mandate to begin moving toward independence, said the northern Spanish region already meets criteria for EU membership.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"The will of the Catalan people is to continue joining the European Union and the euro," he told a meeting organised by the Friends of Europe, a Brussels-based think tank.

"The question will be if the EU is prepared to offer solutions to countries such as Catalonia, that have the will to be in Europe, that have the same rights as European citizens and that ... only to change their political status."

It is a question EU leaders do not much like.

The break-up of a member state into different parts - as could also happen with the UK and Scotland or Belgium and Flanders - would put the Union into new territory in political and legal terms.

The central issue is whether the new entity would have to formally reapply for EU membership or would automatically become a member state.

More broadly, there is uncertainty in Brussels on whether the rise of regions spells a bright new future for the EU or rather its demise.

For Mas, there are two options for Catalonia, depending on how the EU itself develops.

If it becomes a united states of Europe, with a fully federalised government, then Catalonia could eventually be one of as many as 75 mini-states making up the union.

If it remains - which Mas believes it will - as something less than the US model, but more than a loose gathering of national states, then Catalonia's "aspiration is to have the same tools as Denmark, Austria and Finland" with which to determine its future.

Mas indicated that small states - such as Nordic and Baltic countries - have led European economic recovery, as they are more "efficient, homogenous and governable."

He added that Catalonia would be painless for the EU to take in - it is well-off (it would be the 7th richest in terms of GDP per capita among member states) and it would be a net contributor to the EU budget.

Its 7.5 million inhabitants would also rank it 16th in population terms, while its geographical size would make it the 23rd biggest among member states.

"It would be not very evident for a country like Catalonia - that belongs to the European Union, that fulfils the commitments and the roles and is a net contributor - why the European Union would take a decision to take us out. It would not be very logical," Mas said.

The liberal nationalist denied that Catalonia simply wants to keep its riches to itself rather than to show solidarity to poorer parts of Spain. However, he did point out that the 8 percent of GDP it transfers to fellow Spaniards is more than Bavaria - Germany's richest and transfer-fed-up region - sends to Berlin.

If Mas' Convergence and Union Party win in the 25 November elections, the Catalan leader will take it as a green light to pursue independence.

The "final step" in the process would be a referendum.

Asked if he had any allies among other EU leaders - silent on the issue so far - for his separatist pursuits, he replied: "Our friends are all the people who love democracy."

Magazine

Catalan separatist looks to crisis with hope

It is often said that on the long and winding road to European union, it takes a crisis to move ahead. Now the same may be true for regional independence. "Independentism has become a cross-cutting movement."

Catalan region renews call for independence

One and a half million people gathered in Barcelona on Tuesday demanding independence from Spain. It was the biggest self-rule rally ever in Catalonia.

All eyes on Catalan election

Catalans will cast their vote for a new regional assembly on Sunday in an election that could have considerable consequences for Catalonia and the rest of Spain.

Interview

'National governments declining in importance'

As more key powers are transferred to Brussels, it poses an existential question for central governments. But regions are anxious to step into the breach.

Opinion

Would an independent Catalonia remain in the EU?

The Spanish government believes it can cast fear and doubt among Catalan people by arguing that an independent state would be outside the EU and isolated from the international community.

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us