Catalan secessionists on Wednesday added a new element of confusion to the ongoing row over the hypothetical effects of independence, after a leading campaigner stated that an independent Catalonia would “undoubtedly” be left out of the European Union for a “temporary” period.
Until now, all pro-independence parties have defended the view that the EU would find ways to keep Catalonia part of the union.
Just hours after stating his opinion, Jordi Sánchez, head of the National Catalan Assembly – a non-governmental association that has been an active promoter of self-rule – was forced to issue a correction.
Do you believe that the EU, which is bending over backwards to prevent Greece from leaving the euro zone, is going to allow Catalonia to leave it?” National Catalan Assembly head Jordi Sánchez
“Catalonia will remain part of the EU if this is the wish of the Catalan people,” he wrote on his Twitter account, noting that there is no legal precedent for kicking a newly formed state out of the union.
Sánchez, who is part of the Junts pel Sí (Together for Yes) coalition running in the upcoming September 27 regional elections, had earlier told the SER radio network that self-rule would initially see Catalonia “temporarily left out of a zone such as the EU,” but that this did not mean that the new state would abandon the euro.
Catalonia to Valencia and Aragón: be whatever you wish to be
The Catalan government this week tried to calm Aragón and Valencia regional officials angered by comments made by one of its members stating that an independent Catalonia could offer Valencian and Aragonese residents the chance to apply for Catalan citizenship.
Catalan government spokeswoman Neus Munté said on Tuesday that regional justice chief Germà Gordó's statement about the Països Catalans (the Catalan Countries) only referred to a linguistic union, not an annexation as some critics seemed to suggest. "The citizens of those regions will be whatever they want to be," she said.
“Do you believe that the EU, which is bending over backwards to prevent Greece from leaving the euro zone, is going to allow Catalonia to leave it?” he asked during his radio interview.
But his views quickly created a cascade of reactions within and without secessionist circles.
Junts pel Sí’s top candidate in the regional election, Raül Romeva, later added that an independent Catalonia’s membership in the EU would “be very much conditioned” by whether “a clear democratic mandate” emerges from the September ballot. “There is nothing on paper regarding the secession of part of a country, but we need a clear democratic majority.”
Other parties said secessionists were finally admitting the risks of an independent Catalonia.
“Until now, various leaders had denied it in every possible way,” said Socialist spokeswoman Eva Granados.
Inés Arrimadas, of Ciudadanos, asked the pro-independence campaigners to make things clear, because “people have to know what they are voting for on September 27.”
Xavier García Albiol, the PP nominee in the Catalan election, warned that an independent Catalonia would immediately have to leave the EU and “retirees would no longer collect their pensions.”
Catalan regional premier Artur Mas, who is also part of the Junts pel Sí coalition, is casting the legislative election as a de facto plebiscite on independence, and suggesting that if his secessionist group wins a large enough majority, it would give them the legitimacy to declare unilateral independence soon thereafter.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), has already stated that “Catalonia will never be independent in any way.”
Sources at Junts pel Sí admitted that the various groups that make up the coalition are having a hard time coming up with a unified position on matters ranging from independence to social policy. There is no campaign program to date, and several members have publicly expressed differing views on a number of issues, including the creation of a minimum guaranteed income for low earners.
English version by Susana Urra