With an insistence that I find increasingly aggravating, an EU spokesman has yet again repeated the stale claim that "a new state would become, by dint of its independence, a third country with respect to the EU and the Treaties of the Union would not apply from day one of its independence”. Such a statement disqualifies the Commission's similarly repeated statement that it will only state its position at the request of a member state, in the light of a specific set of circumstances.
Moreover, the very statement throws a wide range of unknown variables into limbo. For a start, it takes for granted that the EU, which has not in the past displayed any admirable ability to make sudden decisions affecting millions of European citizens overnight, will have the capacity to do so should Catalonia declare its independence from Spain.
Far from it. Could the EU decide to lop off part of an existing member State before its Members have gone through the formality of actually recognizing the new independent country? Could it decide anything, given the unanimity required in such matters, until the affected member State - that has up to now dragged its feet over the whole issue of the Catalans' right to decide their own future - has been nudged into acknowledging the new independent State (by reminders about Spain's sovereign debt obligations, for instance)?
And where are the precedents? The Treaties of the Union that Commission officials are so prone to quote say absolutely nothing about internal secessions. Indeed, the only comparable cases hardly give credence to their apparent position. When Algeria became independent it didn't cease to be in the EEC till over a year later. And when Greenland decided to leave, the negotiations, to my knowledge, lasted several years. No Day One in either case.
Nor do these spokespersons fill us in on the border posts that, presumably, the EU Treaties would force France and Spain to set up on Day One, and the trade tariffs that would have to be charged at these borders, and at ports and airports, from Day One. Are they really saying that German cars being transported to, say, Valencia, to be shipped to Hong Kong, will have to pay tariffs for their passage through this "third country"...on Day One?
Would EU member States require people wishing to enter and leave Catalonia to show their passports at customs on Day One, if Catalonia is thrown out of Schengen (another supposition)?
And are we to supposed that Spain, with 7.5 million fewer inhabitants on Day One, will automatically have its cohesion funds revalued, the number of its MEPs automatically reduced, and the number of its representatives in the Commitee of Regions automatically recalculated? Can't we expect the Commission to be a little more serious when talking about Day One?
There are so many things that simply do not happen automatically overnight, that in the context of what is above all a pragmatic organization, the Commission's statements seem much easier to understand if they are seen as coming at the behest of Spain's active diplomacy, engaged in an offensive to cower over seven million EU citizens into changing what right now is the will of a clear majority of Catalonia's electorate.
That, dear reader, is a role that the Commission should never, never have allowed itself to play. It amounts to a gross, not to say grotesque, interference in the internal affairs of a member state. Such a role goes well beyond the stated functions of the Commission itself, and also pushes it down a slippery slope into contravening the democratic principles the Union itself is supposed to be built upon.
It is high time it stopped being bullied and took a neutral, respectful stance, for seven million committed Europeans might get second thoughts about the advantages of a Union which, right now, is certainly not wooing them to stay inside it.
Professor Miquel Strubell