What role does the European Union play in the Catalonia independence process?

When asked if they would vote yes for Catalonian independence Marta Martín and Aina Hernández, 22-year-old students, do not hesitate in answering: “Yes, I would”.

They are part of the estimated 50 percent of Catalans that want independence from the Spanish State, according to recent opinion polls.

However, Catalonian independence comes with the possible consequence of giving up EU membership. For Hernández, belonging to the European Union is not of huge importance

“The UK has decided to leave the EU and, in other countries, there are strong movements that wish the same,” she says.

But, on the other hand, Martín would reconsider her answer.

Spain has been living through unprecedented turmoil during these last weeks.

On the 1st of October, the Catalonian authorities held a referendum on independence, which has been declared illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

For this reason, the Spanish government, during the previous weeks, called on the security force in order to block efforts to hold a referendum. Ballots, ballot boxes and posters were confiscated.

Even some mayors and high-profile politicians from the Catalan government have been arrested for disobeying the Constitutional Court`s ruling that suspended the referendum.

However, these steps finally culminated in a Sunday that Spain, Europe and the world will never forget. They have witnessed police and the civil guard beating protesters, with a result of more than 800 injured.

The Spanish government and the opposition parties have asked for the respect of the state of law. However, the Catalan government have ignored these requests and they decided to continue with a referendum which has no legal guarantee.

Voters could vote more than once and wherever they wanted, and print off ballot papers at home. For this reason, any outcome of around 90 percent in favor of independence would be considered the truth.

So far, the European Commission has not been involved in the situation. In fact, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has declared that they would respect the rulings of the Spanish Constitutional Court and the decisions of the Spanish Parliament.

However, he has stated that an independent Catalonia “will have to follow the same accession procedures as the member states that joined after 2004.”

Although Junker has recognized this, he is personally worried about the situation.

Political consultant, Nacho Corredor says, “the lack of a formal position by the European Commission is normal. The European States are wary of their national sovereignty. None of them want other states to express their opinions about their own situation.”

However, there are other voices. The first movements on a European level are beginning to wake up.

Last week, on the 4th of October, the European Parliament became the first European institution to ever hold a serious debate about Catalan independence.

During the meeting, its president, Antonio Tajani, advocated a dialogue between governments but also stated that

“unilateral decisions, including declarations of independence from a sovereign state, are contrary to the European legal order and bound to provoke dangerous divisions

Ernest Urtasun, euro parliamentarian in the Group of the Greens and European Free Alliance, considers that he would like to see interference of the EU institutions because the Spanish Government is not giving any solutions and the Catalan Government has followed unilaterally.

Urtasun does not necessarily want that the EU play a political role, but he does propose mediation and arbitration.

Besides, he says, this situation could affect European integration.

“In other European countries, such as France and Italy, there are territorial tensions thus there are concerns that it could set a precedent for these kinds of nationalism,” he said.

The EU is not only an economic project, it also represents the defense of democratic principles and cooperation between European countries.

In essence, the European Union has been the guardian of peace for more than 50 years in Europe. It is a region, where historically, territorial tensions have long confronted governments.

Marisa López


Published in Euroscope and Are We Europe.

Captura de pantalla 2017-10-03 a las 12.15.47

Captura de pantalla 2017-10-11 a las 11.40.38

Fotografía: María Navarro

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