The European Commission vice president responsible for competition, Spaniard Joaquín Almunia, has said that if Catalonia opted to break away from Spain and create a new state, it would automatically also cease to belong to the European Union.
“The party that separates is not a member of the European Union,” Almunia stated at a seminar on European held in Barcelona.
Without referring specifically to Catalonia, a European Commission spokesman also reiterated that if a territory of a member state of the EU declares its independence, it becomes a “third country” according to EU treaties. The spokesman said that in order for the Commission to formally rule on the issue of EU membership, a member state, in this case Spain, would have to request this. He also said any new or existing state is free to seek admission to the EU.
Almunia urged the governments of Catalan premier Artur Mas and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to sit down “face to face and will cool heads” and work out a solution to Catalonia’s insistence on holding a vote to decide the region’s future within Spain.
Mas said Sunday that he accepted Rajoy’s offer to hold talks on the issue, but insisted on his agenda that includes a status vote next year.
Attending the same seminar as Almunia, the economy commissioner in the Catalan government, Andreu Mas-Colell insisted that Almunia’s comments are a strict “legal reading” of the situation, noting that are cases, such as that of Scotland, which holds its own independence referendum in September of next year, where negotiations are underway. He added that in the event of Scotland voting for separation from England, he does not believe it would remain outside of the EU, as would also be the case for Catalonia.