Spanish government confirms no EU veto for an independent Scotland
People’s Party members claimed veto for fear of emboldening Catalan and Basque independence movements
People’s Party members claimed veto for fear of emboldening Catalan and Basque independence movements
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, has stated that the independence process will be officially launched if pro-independence parties obtain an absolute majority of the MPs elected in the forthcoming Catalan Parliament elections, to be transformed into a ‘de facto’ plebiscite on independence from Spain. Mas emphasised that during the last 3 years, Catalan parties have been trying to organise a legal and mutually-agreed vote but that the Spanish Government has not wanted to talk even about it, despite more than 1.5 million citizens demonstrating each year on the streets and the results of the previous Catalan elections of November 2012. However, Mas stated he would still “exchange the forthcoming elections for a mutually-agreed referendum”, but highlighted that the Spanish Government has only left the transformation of regular elections into a plebiscite for Catalans to freely and democratically vote on their future as a country, an option that Mas already identified as the last resort in 2013. Therefore, according to him, “in elections, MPs are counted”, “if we were having a referendum we would be counting votes, but this is not the case”, he stressed.
International experts have participated in a day of debate over the hypothetical scenarios and the possible consequences regarding membership or expulsion from the European Union of an independent Catalonia. The panellists ruled out automatic expulsion, as well as automatic membership, in any scenario. Graham Avery, Senior Adviser of the Brussels-based think tank European Policy Centre (EPC), underlined that "the most important" element in deciding what would happen to an independent Catalonia would be "the process" through which it achieves this independence. If it was carried out with the agreement of the Spanish Government, the transition towards full EU membership would be quite fast and smooth. If it was done unilaterally, then a wide range of scenarios are possible, with risks and costs rising. However, a majority of experts have stated that even in the worst case scenario, the costs would not be as high as the Spanish Government is saying. In addition, they affirmed that the EU is likely to adopt a pragmatic approach and that a transition regime is likely to be set up, with basic policies and freedoms not being interrupted.
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, is on a visit to the United States to talk with think tanks, investors and media. Mas held a conference at Columbia University on Wednesday evening in which he stressed the democratic principle as the driving force of the independence movement. He praised the American Constitution's "We, the people" to emphasise that "we will vote in September", in elections transformed into a 'de facto' vote on independence. Besides this, Mas also held an interview with 'Bloomberg', saying he hoped that "the biggest" European Union countries will convince Spanish Prime Minister to negotiate a split if Catalans voted for independence. He has also penned an article in the 'Irish Times', stressing that no "decision taken by the Spanish political sphere will break the will of the Catalan people to freely and democratically decide their political future".
The left-wing pro-independence party ERC has accepted the last proposal put forward by the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, to run separately in early elections but with a large part of civil society representatives and independents being included in the President’s candidacy. However, the ERC has not ruled out the possibility of also including civil society representatives in its own list and wants elections in March. Any such elections should become a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence. The Catalan President accused the ERC of “twisting” his proposal. Furthermore, sources of the Catalan Government criticised the ERC’s “intransigency” because “they have not moved from their initial stance” of running separately in elections taking place this winter. Mas initially wanted to run together but was not particularly in a hurry to call the elections.
The former European Commission’s Spokesperson for Economic Affairs during the Eurozone crisis, Amadeu Altafaj, is to become Catalonia’s Permanent Representative to the EU institutions. This position has been created as a way to increase the political weight of the already existing Catalan Government Delegation in Brussels in the middle of the debate about independence from Spain. Altafaj, who has also worked as Deputy Chief of Cabinet of the Commission’s Vice President for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, since 2012, will now direct this delegation and become Catalonia’s voice in the EU institutions’ offices. On many occasions, Altafaj has been vocal about Catalonia’s self-determination, supporting it and emphasising that an independent Catalan State would be economically viable.
The Spanish Government has welcomed a European Council decision which emphasises that "territorial integrity" is "an essential function" of each Member State. Furthermore, the EU institution will "respect" the "national identities of Member States inherent in their fundamental political and constitutional structures, inclusive of regional and local self-government". Such statements are included within a more general declaration about respecting the rule of law within the European Union, issued after recent events in Hungary. However, the Spanish Government managed to include such references to the document, in the middle of the debate about Catalonia's potential independence from Spain and its continuity within the EU. EU Treaties would have to be reformed to include Catalonia, but they would also have to be reformed in order to kick it out of the EU, since there are no specific provisions on this case.
A few hours after the Scottish people decided to remain within the United Kingdom through a referendum, the Catalan President and the Spanish Prime Minister congratulated the Scots, although they sent completely different messages. Through a recorded video message, Spain's PM, Mariano Rajoy, stated that Scotland has rejected the "severe consequences" of "splitting up from the UK and the EU". Rajoy stressed that Scots have chosen "between security and true risks" and that the vote "has strictly respected legality". In a press conference, the Catalan President, Artur Mas, stated that the UK has given the world "a democracy lesson". Mas stated that Catalonia's self-determination process is "strengthened" by the Scottish referendum. He insisted that his main priority is not independence but allowing the Catalan people to vote on their future.
The European Union will adopt a "pragmatic approach" and employ "common sense" in the case of an independent Catalonia or Scotland and would not work to expel them, according to experts gathered at a conference on self-determination on Friday at the prestigious Sciences Po University in Paris. At the conference, which was organised with the support of the Catalan public-private soft diplomacy council Diplocat, experts highlighted the importance of "international recognition" for the process of acceptance of an independent Catalonia within the EU. Graham Avery, member of the Brussels-based think tank European Policy Centre (EPC) and Honorary Director General of the European Commission, said that the EU "has no problem in accepting changes in the borders of states", but that it has never experienced a secession which would create "two new member states".
The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, stated on Tuesday that the self-determination process is following 3 principles: respect for "the law and dialogue", "but also democracy", which will guarantee that citizens are able to vote. He said that the Government "has done its homework" by "providing information" about the process and how to build a new state, by ensuring "participation" from civil society, by proving "a will to talk" with Spanish authorities, and by showing "determination" to go ahead with the mandate resulting from the last Catalan elections to organise such a vote. Mas highlighted that the vote will be legal since it will use Catalan legislation. However, he asked citizens for "psychological strength" for the months ahead and future "challenges". Mas also emphasised that Spain's "economic recovery" is mostly "coming from Catalonia", since Catalans are "leading" the statistics regarding job creation, exports, tourism, scientific research and foreign investment.
Despite the fact that the International Liberal-Democrats explicitly recognised Catalonia's right to self-determination in their last congress in April, their group within the European Parliament (ALDE) has finally accepted 6 MEPs from the Spanish nationalist and populist parties Unión Progreso y Democracia (UPyD) and Ciutadans (C's), who totally oppose this principle. Desperately looking for seats in order to continue being the 3rd largest political group within the Euro-Chamber, the ALDE leadership proposed to accept the membership request from UPyD and C's, who would bring 4 and 2 MEPs respectively, despite the strong protests from the Catalan Liberal party CDC (which is part of the governing Convergencia i Unió coalition, CiU) and the Basque National Party (PNV). The members of the ALDE finally voted to accept UPyD and C's MEPs, but they also approved the creation of a sub-group defending Catalonia's self-determination.
The Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) stated it cancelled a debate on the EU Membership of an independent Catalonia because they could not find a speaker arguing that Catalonia would be excluded from the EU. However, the Catalan Government and the Catalan Public Diplomacy Council (Diplocat) suspect the Spanish Government pressured the CEPS to cancel the debate, as it already tried to do with previous events. The Spanish Executive denied the accusations, which are also rejected by the CEPS. The event was organised weeks ago and was supposed to take place on Tuesday at 9.30am at the CEPS facilities, which is the most prestigious think tank in EU Affairs. It was "postponed" on Monday evening, just a few hours before it was due to start. A prestigious Constitutional expert, who advises the Catalan Government, Carles Viver i Pi-Sunyer, was supposed to present a report arguing that Catalonia would remain within the EU.
Civil-society organisations from Catalonia have simultaneously built a traditional human tower, on Sunday 8 June at 12 o'clock (CET), in Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, London, Lisbon, Paris, Rome and Barcelona, as well as in 41 additional Catalan towns, to claim for the right of self-determination. "Catalans want to vote. Human towers for democracy" is the banner shown at the action, which ended with a manifesto read by famous personalities such as Paul Preston, Jordi Savall and Pep Guardiola. This large-scale action taking place in almost 50 different locations throughout Catalonia and the rest of Europe has been organised by the civil-society association Òmnium Cultural and has been exclusively funded via private donations and membership fees. 71 'castellers' groups, who are those building the traditional human towers (called 'castells' in Catalan) have participated in the action, which represent 85% of the existing 'castellers' associations.