Catalonia and Scotland in the EU? Hmm…

Herman Van Rompuy just said: The treaties apply to the Member States. If a part of the territory of a Member State ceases to be a part of that state because that territory becomes a new independent state, the treaties will no longer apply to that territory. Following this my question is as follow: Would you say that the fact that there is no clear EU membership perspective could be one of the factors in Scottish independence referendum and maybe also a factor which will influence the Catalonia independence movement?

James Ker-LindsaySenior Research Fellow on the Politics of South East Europe, The London School of Economics and Political Science

I would not say that there is no clear membership perspective for either Scotland or Catalonia. There is. The problem is how their relationship with the EU would develop. On the one hand, the Scottish Government argues that Scotland would automatically remain within the European Union. On the other, there are a number of EU officials who insist that they would have to leave the Union and reapply for membership.

My own view is that the reality would actually fall somewhere between the two. I do not think that Scotland or Catalonia should expect automatic membership. At the very least, there would have to be a period of negotiation in order to determine some key issues concerning their membership, such as their voting weight in EU decision making, the number of MEPs, etc. Then the new structures would have to be ratified by the other member states. However, it must also be recognised that they have been functioning parts of the EU for many decades. They are fully integrated into EU structures and are far more aligned with the acquis communautaire, the EU’s body of laws, than many of the newer members of the Union. They would have very little problem ‘making the grade’, so to speak. To this extent, I see no reason why there should not be an expedited accession process. This would run hand in hand with the necessary negotiations that they would have to undertake in order to become independent. As a result, at the moment Scotland and/or Catalonia became independent from the UK and Spain they would accede to the EU as an independent state. In other words, independence and EU accession would be a seamless process.

Ultimately, what we are dealing with is a political problem, not a legal one. I have no doubt whatsoever that if the EU members wanted to adopt a different approach concerning Scotland and Catalonia they could do so very easily, and that they could both join the EU in a relatively easy and unproblematic manner. Indeed, the idea that they would be forced out the EU and would have to join the queue with the states of the Western Balkans and Turkey is verging on the absurd. I would even go so far as to say that to even suggest this is a deliberate attempt by senior EU officials, such as van Rompuy and Barroso to influence the debate in an unacceptable manner. They should simply confine themselves to saying that this is a decision for members states and that the EU strongly supports European unity and the full respect for democracy and constitutional politics.

Vincent Laborderie, Doctorant à l’Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Centre d’Etudes des Crises et Conflits Internationaux (CECRI)

I answer that the possibility of being excluded from EU, even it is for a certain period, clearly constitute a factor which influence Catalonia as well as Scotland.

In the case of an independent Scotland, the new country probably will not have difficulties to re-integrate EU because there is an Agreement with UK government. But this point will be used by supporters of the “No”.

On the contrary, Madrid reject the possibility of a referendum and even the right to Catalans to decide alone to quit Spain. It must be recalled that, for a candidate-member can enter EU, it must be accepted by ALL actual members. Every actual member have a veto right to new applicants. Therefore, Spanish government would have the possibility to block an independent Catalonia and leave it outside EU.

Polls in Catalonia showed that 50-55% of the population wanted to leave Spain but also that 70% don’t want to leave EU. What is more, exclusion from EU, even for a while, seems unbearable economically and unacceptable for business community. As a consequence, I think that the most probable outcome will be a settlement between Spain and Catalonia, even if it takes years to achieve it. Maybe a referendum will be hold but, even if a majority of the population vote for independence (which I doubt), I think it won’t result in total independence but in a crisis which can lead to a very autonomous status for Catalonia.

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