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Brussels' main think-tank CEPS recommends that Spain and Catalonia name "an external mediator"

In an interview with ACN, the Head of the EU Foreign Policy Unit of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Steven Blockmans argued that “the European Union or the United Nations could play this role” if “both parties, including Madrid, voluntarily accept it”. Besides, Blockmans explained that Catalonia’s and Scotland’s self-determination processes and the possibility that they become independent states “is being debated” in Brussels circles, and it is even mentioned “often”. In addition, he also stated that if Madrid agrees, “a summit would be enough” to take “the political decision” to allow an independent Catalonia to become an EU Member State.

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11 June 2013 12:51 AM

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ACN

Brussels (ACN).- The Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), which is the most influential think-tank based in Brussels and specialised in European Affairs, proposed that Catalonia and Spain should agree to name \u201Can external mediator or conciliator\u201D to solve their dispute. In an interview with ACN, the CEPS Head of the EU Foreign Policy Unit, Steven Blockmans argued that \u201Cthe European Union or the United Nations could play this role\u201D. However, he warned that \u201Cboth parties, including Madrid, should voluntarily accept it\u201D prior to choosing. In addition, the CEPS expert also stated that if Madrid agrees, \u201Ca summit would be enough\u201D to take \u201Cthe political decision\u201D to allow an independent Catalonia to become an EU Member State. Besides, the CEPS Senior Researcher explained that Catalonia\u2019s and Scotland\u2019s self-determination processes and the possibility that they become independent states \u201Care being debated\u201D in Brussels circles, and they are even mentioned \u201Coften\u201D. Despite this fact, Blockmans also stated that \u201Cthe European Commission will not officially recognise that it is preparing itself\u201D for such a scenario. In fact, the European Commission is currently avoiding all questions related to Catalonia\u2019s self-determination process, officially stating that it is Spain\u2019s internal matter.


In the last few years, but in particular since last September, Catalonia\u2019s independence from Spain is a political option backed by a greater number of Catalan citizens. On the last Catalan National Day, 1.5 million citizens peacefully demonstrated throughout Barcelona\u2019s downtown supporting an independent Catalan state within the European Union. Furthermore, recent opinion polls and the last electoral results show that around 80% of Catalan citizens back the call for a self-determination referendum and around 50% of the population would vote \u201Cyes\u201D to independence from Spain. Despite these claims, the Spanish Government has chosen to totally oppose any democratic vote on the issue and it is trying to stop Catalonia\u2019s self-determination process.

Shedding some light on the current situation, Steven Blockmans recommends that the Catalan Government \u201C should at least convince [the Spanish Government] to invite the European Union to act as a mediator\u201D and this way try to overcome \u201Ca political blocking\u201D if it is convinced that it is \u201Cimpossible to negotiate\u201D with the Spanish Executive on the organisation of a self-determination vote for Catalonia,.

If Madrid agrees, \u201Ca summit would be enough\u201D for Catalonia to become an EU Member State

This expert in EU Foreign Policy, including External Action, Enlargement, Neighbouring, Security and Trade policies, affirmed that, if Madrid agreed to it, \u201Cthe exit and re-entry\u201D of an independent Catalonia into the European Union might be done \u201Cvia a fast track\u201D, through \u201Ca simple meeting\u201D. According to Blockmans, in the scenario of a negotiated independence with Madrid\u2019s agreement, \u201Ca summit would be enough\u201D to take \u201Cthe political decision\u201D to allow an independent Catalonia to become an EU Member State.

According to \u201Cinternational law\u201D, \u201Csecession is illegal if there is not an agreement between both parties\u201D

\u201CLogically, Catalonia already meets all the requirements to be part of the European Union: for human rights, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law\u201D and it also has \u201Cthe entire acquis communautaire\u201D, which means it has already adapted its legislation to all the EU legislation and rules, explained Blockmans. However, this Professor of EU External Relations Law and Governance at the University of Amsterdam and visiting professor at the University of Leuven, also warned that without a green light from the Spanish Government, Madrid could veto a Catalan state in the EU. He explained that the European legislation \u201Csays nothing about the secession of a part of a Member State\u201D, but \u201Cin international law, the basic rule is that secession is illegal if there is not an agreement between both parties\u201D, warned Blockmans. \u201CObviously, this would have a very high cost for Catalans and businesses: borders would be in place again and the free circulation of people, goods and capital would be stopped\u201D, the CEPS Senior Researcher cautioned.

\u201CA transition agreement\u201D should be negotiated

However, Blockmans admitted that this last possibility \u201Cwould be unacceptable\u201D and he foresaw that Catalonia and Spain negotiate \u201Ca transition agreement\u201D in order to guarantee that Catalans do not lose all their rights they now have as European citizens. \u201CHowever, if there is the political veto of a single Member State, since unanimity is required, this transition agreement would not be adopted\u201D, he underlined.

To sum up, the CEPS Head of the EU Foreign Policy Unit insisted that \u201Cthe European Union has reasons to avoid the situation\u201D of having an independent Catalonia which is not an EU Member State. However, he warned that \u201Cthe main interested party is Catalonia\u201D. Therefore, he advised the Catalan Government to think about \u201Can external mediator or conciliator\u201D if the Spanish Government blocks the self-determination process.

The CEPS, the main think-tank in European Affairs

Founded in 1983, the Centre for European Policy Studies is the most influential think-tank in Brussels, as many experts on European politics agree. The CEPS also defines itself as \u201Cthe leading debate forum in European Affairs\u201D. Directed by the German economist Daniel Gros, it has an annual budget of \u20AC6.7 million. Around 30 researchers work in the centre, from 21 different countries.

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  • Steven Blockmans is the the Head of the EU Foreign Policy Unit of the Centre for European Policy Studies - CEPS (by A. Segura)

  • Steven Blockmans is the the Head of the EU Foreign Policy Unit of the Centre for European Policy Studies - CEPS (by A. Segura)