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European Liberals’ leader: “I would not have any problem with a self-governing Catalonia within the EU”

Graham Watson, one of the leaders of Liberal Group at the European Parliament emphasised that “the EU has to be a sufficiently strong but sufficiently flexible entity to allow people to express themselves within it”. This “may mean some changes to boundaries; but we are democrats and if that is what the majority wants then that is what must happen” added the leader of the third largest group at the Strasbourg Parliament. According to Watson, the debate about Catalonia or Scotland’s possible independence “is a very important issue for the European Union”. The British politician sent a clear message to Spain: “This is not a period of kings and nation-states, it’s a period of people working together through their democratically-expressed will and that should be as clear to a Castilian as to anyone else”.

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22 October 2013 02:44 PM

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ACN

Brussels (ACN).-Graham Watson, one of the leaders of Liberal Group at the European Parliament emphasised that “the EU has to be a sufficiently strong but sufficiently flexible entity to allow people to express themselves within it”. This “may mean some changes to boundaries; but we are democrats and if that is what the majority wants then that is what must happen” added the leader of the third largest group at Strasbourg Parliament in an exclusive interview with the Catalan News Agency. According to Watson, the debate about Catalonia or Scotland’s possible independence “is a very important issue for the European Union”, since “people still feel that Woodrow Wilson’s idea of the right of self-determination is an important one”. Consequently, the British politician, who is native to Scotland, stated that he “is certainly not opposed to a referendum in Catalonia if that is what Catalan people want”. He also added that he does not have “any problem with a self-governing Catalonia within the European Union”. The Member of the European Parliament sent a clear message to Spain: “This is not a period of kings and nation-states, it’s a period of people working together through their democratically-expressed will and that should be as clear to a Castilian as to anyone else”. Watson is from the same party as the UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the same political family as the European Commissioner for Monetary and Economic Affairs, Olli Rehn.


In an interview with the Catalan News Agency in the European Parliament’s Brussels buildings, Graham Watson defended the idea that the debate about Catalonia’s and Scotland’s independence “is a very important issue for the European Union”. “People still feel that Woodrow Wilson’s idea of the right of self-determination is an important one. You can see it in Kosovo, you feel it in Scotland, you feel it in Catalonia and elsewhere”, said the leader of the European Liberals, who is native to Scotland.

“The EU has to be a sufficiently strong but sufficiently flexible entity to allow people to express themselves”

According to the Spokesperson of the ALDE Group at the European Parliament, “the European Union has to be a sufficiently strong but sufficiently flexible entity to allow people to express themselves within it and that may mean some changes to boundaries”. He immediately added “but we are democrats and if that is what the majority wants then that is what must happen”.

When asked about the possibility of organising a self-determination vote in Catalonia and the EU membership of an independent Catalan state, Watson answered the following: “I’m certainly not opposed to a referendum in Catalonia if that is what Catalan people want nor would I have any problem with a self-governing Catalonia within the European Union”.

A message to Spain

The leader of the European Liberals was also asked about the Spanish Government’s opposition to organising such a vote. Watson admitted that in Madrid “they are very worried”. He added that he has experience in dealing with the Spanish Government run by the People’s Party, since he is British Member of the European Parliament “and therefore also a representative of Gibraltar”.

In this vein, Watson highlighted that “Spain is one of the only five countries that has not yet recognised Kosovo”. He then added: “I think we need to wake up and recognise that we no longer live in the 18th century. This is not a period of kings and nation-states, it’s a period of people working together through their democratically-expressed will and that should be as clear to a Castilian as to anyone else.” The Spokesperson of the third largest group at the European Parliament urged the EU to be flexible and move on. “The world has moved on and Europe has to move on too” he stated.

When Watson was asked about the possibility of pro-independence parties running together at the next European Parliament Elections, he said that “it might be the way forward” but he refused to give his opinion since this “is something that has to be discussed and considered locally”. However, he added that he “knew” that “Catalonia, as my native Scotland, is one of those countries where the people are still struggling for proper recognition and representation. We are the countries that were left high and dry by the Europe of the military and industrial nation states”.

The next EU elections could have a greater turnout

Graham Watson said that the next European Parliament elections – scheduled next May – might register a greater turnout than on previous occasions. According to him, “the big question about this time is whether people will finally recognise, as a result of the economic and financial crisis we’ve been through, that the important decisions are taken at European level and we need democratic oversight and control of the policies carried out”. Therefore he wonders “whether in fact we might not see far more people voting this time than in the past”.

However, democratic politicians have to “increase efforts” to explain to citizens “how Europe is important for our lives”. In this vein Watson is “very concerned about the growth of populist and extremist parties” such as French Front National and British UKIP. According to him “they are a danger for democracy”. In addition, he emphasised that “greater coordination of political parties at supranational level is needed” and that “democracy is essential” in order to leave behind “these difficult times altogether”.

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  • Graham Watson, interviewed by the CNA (by A. Segura)

  • Graham Watson, interviewed by the CNA (by A. Segura)
Graham Watson, on the CNA: "the EU has to be a sufficiently strong but sufficiently flexible entity to allow people to express themselves within it and this may mean some changes to boundaries"
Graham Watson: "I would not have any problem with a self-governing Catalonia within the EU”
Watson: "Spain is one of the only five countries that has not yet recognised Kosovo. I think we need to wake up and recognise that we no longer live in the 18th century. This is not a period of kings and nation-states, it’s a period of people working...
Watson: "the European Union has to be a sufficiently strong but sufficiently flexible entity to allow people to express themselves within it and that may mean some changes to boundaries. But we are democrats and if that is what the majority wants then...