Catalan premier Artur Mas on Thursday responded defiantly to comments by European Commission officials who reiterated this week that Catalonia would automatically be excluded from the European Union if it voted to secede from Spain.
“Catalonia will be in Europe whatever the Catalans decide,” Mas told reporters. “Our economy won’t feel it.”
The nationalist premier said the Catalan economy is too important for the EU to leave it out of the bloc. “Catalonia is a very important market for Spain and for the EU. They will take care not to do damage to themselves,” Mas said. “The free movement of goods and people is sacred. There is no need to be afraid.”
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has officially told Mas that if a referendum is held on Catalonia’s status within Spain without approval from the central government, it would be in breach of the Spanish Constitution. Rajoy has offered to hold a dialogue with the Catalan government to find a way out of the impasse.
Mas said that the EU has never had to deal with a situation in which a territory within a member country secedes from that country. “The EU has never had to face a case such as that of Scotland and Catalonia. They found rapid solutions for the integration of the Democratic Republic of Germany.”
He took umbrage at the fact that EC officials has focused on the exclusion issue rather than helping Catalans to secure the right to vote on their future within Spain. “Should not being a member of the EU club not be a guarantee that a people that wants to vote should be able to vote?” he asked rhetorically. “The EU should pay more attention to helping a peaceful and politically mobilized people vote in a democratic manner, as in the case of the Scots.”