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EU states: “at this moment”, Catalonia’s vote is Spain’s “internal matter”

The referendum in Catalonia was on everyone’s mind at this Friday’s European Commission press conference in Brussels. 20 minutes of the conference were devoted entirely to the Catalan issue. The EC Spokesperson Pia Ahrenkilde confirmed that Catalonia’s self-determination vote remained “an internal matter for Spain”. Ahrenkilde did not wish to stray away from the official EU stand on the issue, despite the persistence of Catalan, Spanish and foreign journalists. Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, also addressed the Catalan referendum issue this Friday. She explained that even though “it is true […] that the Spanish Constitution does not allow one region to break out”, she “hoped common sense imposes itself in Spain, in order to solve that problem”.

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13 December 2013 07:13 PM

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ACN

Brussels (ACN).- The referendum in Catalonia was on everyone’s mind at this Friday’s  European Commission press conference in Brussels. 20 minutes of the conference were devoted entirely to the Catalan issue, with journalists from Catalonia, Spain, and many other countries asking over a dozen questions on the matter. The EC Spokesperson Pia Ahrenkilde, has confirmed that the “important issues raised” by Catalonia’s self-determination vote remained “an internal matter for Spain”. Ahrenkilde did not wish to stray away from the official EU stand on the issue, despite the persistence of journalists: “The EC has no comment to make on the matter”, she insisted. Pia Ahrenkilde added that it “was really not for the EC to qualify, assess or judge these [referendum] questions”. Yesterday Catalan parties reached an agreement on the exact question wording and date to held a self-determination referendum. Besides, the Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, also addressed the Catalan referendum issue this Friday. She explained that even though “it is true, and here the Government of Madrid is right, that the Spanish Constitution does not allow one region to break out”, she “hoped common sense imposes itself in Spain, in order to solve that problem”.


Pia Ahrenkilde avoided referring to the political and institutional consequences of yesterday’s announcement. She simply asserted several times that the referendum was “an internal matter for Spain”. After journalists from Catalonia, Spain and other countries asked her many questions on the issue, Pia Ahrenkilde even suggested discussing the legal consequences “outside” of the press conference.

As the Spokesperson for the EC President, Jose Manuel Barroso, Ahrenkilde has also avoided answering on whether she agreed with Herman Van Rompuy’s latest statements. Indeed, during Rajoy’s press conference in Madrid yesterday, the President of the Council said he wished the “unity” of Spain would be maintained and declared himself against “separatism”. Ahrenkilde also refused to comment on the two-part question announced by the Catalan Government and parties: It “is really not for the EC to qualify, assess or judge these [referendum] questions”, she stated.

Pia Ahrenkilde has not suggested any answer as to how the Catalan Government should deal with Madrid’s constant refusals to negotiate a referendum. She also avoided confirming whether the European Commission respected the people’s right to self-determination in Western Europe:  “I have to insist, these important issues that you raise are an internal matter for Spain and the EC has no comment to make on the matter”.

Some journalists question whether the European Commission has double democratic standards

One foreign journalist said that the EU seemed to “be less guilty about promoting the independence of Kosovo” than about mentioning the Catalan case. It is “because you have a slightly different attitude when it is about a Member State and when it is not?” he asked Pia Ahrenkilde.

In response, the CE spokesperson stated “I don’t think it’s our role here now to make a full analysis of these very different situations that we have here, in different Member States and indeed in different territories across the boarders.” She then explained it would be better to address those issues “outside” of the daily press conference.

Pia Ahrenkilde repeated the official discourse of the European Commission and the “general assumption” on the status of a newly independent State within the EU. She said that “scenarios, such as the separation of one part of a Member State or the creation of a new state would not be neutral as regards the EU treaties”. However, she also insisted that “on request from a Member State detailing a precise scenario”, for instance Spain and the United Kingdom, “the commission would express its opinion on the legal consequences under EU law”. Pia Ahrenkilde indicated that, at present, there was no evidence that London had made a request to know what would happen in case of an independent Scotland. In a similar way, Madrid has not made any request regarding an independent Catalonia.  

Viviane Reding also believes the problem “has to be solved in Spain”

The Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, also addressed the Catalan referendum issue this Friday. She said she “hoped common sense imposes itself in Spain, in order to solve that problem”. In a speech from Vilnius (Lithuania), Reding admitted that “from the constitutional point of view, what Catalonia wants to do now is a rather difficult question”. “It is true, and here the Government of Madrid is right, that the Spanish Constitution does not allow one region to break out” she explained. However, Reding called on the Spanish Government to find a solution to a problem “which I do believe has to be solved in Spain”.

The Vice President of the EC stated that if Catalonia becomes independent in the future, it “[will] not automatically [be a] member of the EU but then it will have to ask to become a member of the EU and go through the whole procedure […] explained just before, for Ukraine and Turkey”. Reding’s opinion on such a matter has radically shifted since last year, when she stated that newly created States within the EU would remain within the Union.

The EC Responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship has joined the EC Spokesperson Pia Ahrenkilde by voicing that the self-determination vote in Catalonia was “an internal matter”. Indeed, she stated that the “decision, [to break from Spain] can only be taken by the whole of the Nation. [Regarding] the Spanish question of the territory of Spain [the EU should] leave the Spaniards do that”, she added.

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  • Pia Ahrenkilde this Friday at the Midday Briefing (by EBS)

  • Pia Ahrenkilde this Friday at the Midday Briefing (by EBS)