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Barroso: “it is not the Commission’s role to express an opinion” on Catalonia

The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durao Barroso, has responded to the letter sent in December by Artur Mas, the President of the Catalan Government. Mas had informed Barroso and the leaders of the EU Member States about Catalonia’s self-determination process and the recent agreement to organise a consultation vote on the 9th of November. The Commission President “thanked” Mas for his letter and the information about “the latest political developments in Catalonia”. However, he rejected issuing further comments “on a question of internal organisation related to the constitutional arrangements in the Member States”. Furthermore, concerning Catalonia’s EU Membership, Barroso “recalls the position […] expressed on several occasions”.

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08 January 2014 08:57 PM

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ACN

Brussels (ACN).- The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durao Barroso, has responded to the letter sent in December by Artur Mas, the President of the Catalan Government. Mas had informed Barroso and the leaders of the EU Member States about Catalonia’s self-determination process and the recent agreement to organise a consultation vote on the 9th of November. Furthermore, the Catalan President sent a memo to 45 world leaders on the issue. The Commission President “thanked” Mas for his letter and the information about “the latest political developments in Catalonia”. However, he rejected issuing further comments “on a question of internal organisation related to the constitutional arrangements in the Member States”. Furthermore, concerning Catalonia’s EU Membership, Barroso “recalls the position […] expressed on several occasions”. Previously, several Members of the Commission have said that “as a general principle”, a “part of a Member State” that secedes is a “third state” and “EU treaties are no longer applicable”. However, at the same time, they also added that regarding Catalonia’s or Scotland’s specific cases, they will only talk about their EU membership “on the basis of a precise scenario” at the explicit request of the Spanish or British Government, which have not made such demands.


The President of the European Commission has responded this Wednesday to the letter sent by the Catalan President on the 20th December. Barroso stated that the organisation of a self-determination referendum in Catalonia is Spain’s internal issue and that the role of the organisation he chairs is not “to express an opinion or encouragements on such a question”. Furthermore, in the daily press briefing given by the Commission’s Spokespersons in Brussels, Olivier Bailly, explained that “it is not the Commission’s role, as defined in the Treaties, to give an opinion on such a political development and the organisation of a referendum. This depends on the national debate and the legal situation of Member States”, Bailly said. Barroso’ Spokesperson highlighted that the letter written in response to Mas’s one was a “short” text (approximately 6 lines long) in which the Commission President “thanked Mas” for explaining him “Catalonia’s situation”.

Following up Catalonia’s situation

In the Midday Briefing, Bailly added that “without any doubt” the European Commission will follow up on the political developments in Catalonia during the coming months, but they will not interfere with them. “From a political and legal point of view, it is an issue for the Spanish authorities and it is a debate that has to be developed within Spain”, emphasised Bailly.

“Nothing in the EU Treaties” to express an opinion on such an issue

“We will not go into the debate about the legality of any vote or referendum, because the rules applicable to the particular situation are Spain’s”, he insisted. “There is nothing in the EU Treaties” that gives the European Commission “the authority or the legal analysis to express an opinion” about the validity of a self-determination referendum in Catalonia, Bailly added.

The European Commission asks for its role to be respected

“In order to respect what is going on in Spain we have to maintain our role, which is not to comment on this particular situation”, he said. “It is a debate that has to be developed within Spain and, while we respect it, we also ask for our role to be respected, which is that of not commenting on such issues”, he concluded.

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  • Barroso (left) and Mas (right) meeting in Brussels in 2011 (by ACN)

  • Barroso's letter to Mas (by ACN)

  • Barroso (left) and Mas (right) meeting in Brussels in 2011 (by ACN)
  • Barroso's letter to Mas (by ACN)