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Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister accuses the Catalan Government of lying about independent Catalonia's EU membership

The Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, has accused the Catalan Government of "not telling the whole truth" regarding the EU membership of an independent Catalonia. García-Margallo stated a month ago that an independent Catalonia would "roam across space" and would be "excluded from the European Union for centuries of centuries". On Wednesday he referred to an expert report issued this week by the Catalan Government's Advisory Council for the National Transition (CATN), formed of prestigious academics. The CATN stated that EU Treaties do not include provisions for automatic expulsion nor for automatic admission. Therefore, the final decision would be reached in a negotiation with political and economic interests at play. For them, the most likely scenario is one with transition measures to guarantee the continuity of EU Law, the Schengen Area and the Euro, while waiting for the official admission of Catalonia to be accepted.

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16 April 2014 09:41 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, has accused the Catalan Government of "not telling the whole truth" regarding the EU membership of an independent Catalonia. García-Margallo stated a month ago that an independent Catalonia would "roam across space" and would be "excluded from the European Union for centuries of centuries". On Wednesday he referred to an expert report issued this week by the Catalan Government's Advisory Council for the National Transition (CATN), formed of prestigious academics holding university chairs in Constitutional Law, Economics, Political Science or Sociology. This report stated that EU Treaties are not explicit about what would happen regarding the EU membership of an independent Catalonia, and that EU Treaties do not include provisions for automatic expulsion nor for automatic admission. Therefore, the final decision would be reached in a negotiation with political and economic interests at play. For the CATN, the most likely scenario is "an ad hoc admission", based on transition measures to guarantee the continuity of EU Law, the Schengen Area and the Euro, waiting for the official admission of Catalonia to be accepted. However, the Spanish establishment has totally downplayed the report, refusing to comment on its arguments and saying it lacked political and legal rigour. In addition, yesterday in the European Commission's midday briefing, the institution's Spokesperson was asked to repeat explicitly the general principle of becoming "a third country" and therefore outside the Treaties in the event of independence, since at the beginning the Commission refused to comment on the CATN – which it only knew from the press. The Catalan Government responded to the Commission comment by saying that Brussels had not issued "a formal judgement" yet, as it will only do so after a request from the Spanish Government, which has not made a request in all these months. They also insisted that the issue is not crystal clear and has many nuances, as otherwise the European Commission would have been for more explicit.


García-Margallo repeated once again that independence would "automatically exclude Catalonia from the European Union". However, García-Margallo was satisfied that the European Commission had corrected the CATN's report "in a matter of a few hours".

The Commission Spokesperson, Spaniard Alejandro Ulzurrun, was asked by a Spanish journalist about the report. Ulzurrun admitted he had not read it and that the information he had was also "from the media". First he refused to comment on the report. Then he was asked the question again, but now only about "what would happen if a part of a Member State seceded". Ulzurrun then stated that the opinion of the European Commission on the matter is "already known". At this point, he was asked for a third time and this time he was explicitly asked to repeat the European Commission's position.

On many occasions the Commission has repeated that this is "a general principle", but it refused to provide a definitive answer on the Catalan or Scottish case, since it needs a "precise scenario". It will only do so after a request from a Member State government, and nobody has asked for such an analysis.

Ulzurrun forget to mention that no Member State has requested a thorough analysis of the question and he repeated the general principal, which is that the EU Treaties would not apply to the seceded part from the day of its independence. This was the only question the European Commission was asked that day in the entire Midday Briefing.

The Catalan Government insists that the issue is not so clear, because if it was a matter of black and white, the Spanish Government would have already asked for the report and the Commission would have given a strict and definitive answer, which is not the case.

An "automatic and immediate exclusion", without any shadow of doubt

In Alicante, after meeting with Ministers for Foreign Affairs from the Mediterranean area, García-Margallo repeated that if a territory separates from a Member State "it is excluded, automatically and immediately, form the European Union". Then, according to him, this territory has to re-apply for membership, following the procedures established in Article 49. This means that the vote for re-admission has to be unanimous, he emphasised. In addition, he stated that while its re-admission was being debated, custom duties would be in place and the free circulation of people, goods, services and capitals would be stopped. Catalonia would also be out of the Euro. "A secession would be damaging for Spain, extremely damaging for Catalonia and even for Europe". According to the Spanish Minister, Catalonia "would face problems of paying the external debt, among others".

Several EU experts say the issue is far from being crystal clear

However, the European Commission has explicitly refused to say what exactly would happen in the Catalan case, and has not explained any procedure, nor whether those transition measures could be in place, despite the many pressures from the Spanish Government to join its side. In fact, several EU experts have stated that it is not obvious what would happen. A report drafted by the former Chief of Staff of the French Minister for EU Affairs stated that an independent Catalonia would not be excluded from the Union. A Brussels-based think tank and other EU experts expressed a similar opinion. In addition, a professor of the prestigious Sciences Po argued that an independent Catalonia should benefit from transtion measures in order to guarantee the continuity of EU Treaties while its full-membership was being negotiated and approved.

Furthermore, yesterday Graham Watson, Chairman of the European Liberals and Member of the European Parliament, stated that a territory that is already part of the EU cannot be kicked out, in his opinion. Watson stated that it is likely that in the very first moment, Catalonia would be out of the EU but that it would re-join the Union very soon. Meanwhile, transition measures could be in place.

On top of this, the European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, a Spaniard, stated in October 2012 that “it would be dishonest [...] to give a strict answer” as to whether a separated part of a Member State would still be part of the EU. The European Commissioner for Competition explained back then that “the question is not a black and white one” and “it has many nuances”. Now, after pressure from the Spanish Government, Almunia is repeating the mantra of becoming "a third country" and having to ask for readmission".

Spanish authorities picture an automatic, traumatic and definitive exclusion

The Spanish Government insists on picturing a definitive exclusion, without any transition measures. The Spanish Prime Minister even stated last week that an independent Catalonia would be "the most similar thing to Robinson Crusoe's island", being "out of the EU, the Euro, the United Nations and all the international treaties". In addition, García-Margallo stated that Catalonia would “roam across space” and would be "excluded from the European Union for centuries of centuries".

However, nobody has stated what would happen with Spain in the event of Catalonia seceding, since many Spanish politicians have been repeating that "Spain would no longer exist". In international law, when a country totally disappears, all the parts can claim to be "a successor state".

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  • The Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, on Wednesday (by J. Soler)

  • The Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, on Wednesday (by J. Soler)