CATALAN NEWS AGENCY – They also highlight the importance of “international recognition” for the process of acceptance of an independent Catalonia within the EU
The European Union will adopt a “pragmatic approach” and employ “common sense” in the case of an independent Catalonia or Scotland and would not work to expel them, according to experts gathered at a conference on self-determination on Friday at the prestigious Sciences Po University in Paris. At the conference, which was organised with the support of the Catalan public-private soft diplomacy council Diplocat, experts highlighted the importance of “international recognition” for the process of acceptance of an independent Catalonia within the EU. Graham Avery, member of the Brussels-based think tank European Policy Centre (EPC) and Honorary Director General of the European Commission, said that the EU “has no problem in accepting changes in the borders of states”, but that it has never experienced a secession which would create “two new member states”. The conference also featured a panel discussion on the philosophy of the right to decide upon self-determination within the EU, which involved experts on the subject from throughout Europe.
The conference was held in Paris’s Sciences Po university this Friday with the goal of furthering the political debate about the Catalan self-determination consultation vote, which is due to be held on the 9th of November, and the Scottish Referendum, which will take place on the 18th of September. The discussion aimed to explore their implications for the EU. Experts debated the differences between an independence declaration, a proclamation and, above all, the international recognition process. They emphasised that the international acceptance of a hypothetical new state would vary depending on the international organisation and how the independence process had taken place.
Welsh academic Graham Avery, who wrote a report on the issue for the British Parliament, said it would be “absurd” for Scotland to leave the European Union. He stressed that there would be a “pragmatic” solution applied to an independent Scotland which would employ “common sense” to negotiations, so that the new state could be accepted into the EU. For Avery, the agreement between London and Edinburgh would make this process far simpler than in the case of an independent Catalonia.
Catalonia’s entry into the EU dependent on Spanish acceptance
Professor of International Law at the University of Girona, Francina Esteve, explained that the accession process of a hypothetical independent Catalonia would depend largely on the extent to which the Spanish Government would accept the new state. “If Catalonia could reach an agreement with the Spanish Government, like in the case of Scotland and the United Kingdom, it would facilitate Catalonia’s entry into the EU. However if they didn’t, it would complicate things”, she said. According to Esteve, “the EU does not encourage the emergence of new states” but “secession is not prohibited as such”.
Francinia Esteve also commented that, “there is no international standard that explicitly prohibits unilateral [independence] declaration” but that it is important to recognise that each case depends on “how the process has been done”. She also commented that the attitude of the original state could affect the international recognition process, as well as whether the new state has “allies”. “The EU has traditionally adopted a pragmatic attitude” she said. The Professor warned that “if Greece could destabilise the EU, so could Catalonia, which is not what the EU wants”.
“Maintaining the status quo can also mean instability” if the Catalan conflict is not solved
The Head of the Research at the German Institute for International Security Affairs, Kai-Olaf Lang, said that the EU tends to defend “stability”, which is often linked with the status quo. “This is the problem because maintaining the status quo dos not necessarily mean maintaining stability”, he said, warning of the risks of having a “permanent conflict with the member states”. In this respect, the expert admitted “maintaining the status quo can also mean instability”.
Lang also commented that there was a remote possibility that the EU or its member states could attempt to intervene in the Catalan process if there was no option of a consultation vote. However, the academic was sceptical about this possibility, noting that in cases like this the member states were hardly ever “active”, in order to prevent being caught up in another state’s internal affairs.
If Spain does not recognise an independent Catalonia, it would automatically continue within the EU
He also explained that the type of recognition a hypothetically independent Catalonia would receive would affect how easily it would be able to enter into the EU. In fact, Lang has warned of a potential scenario which would see Catalonia “in limbo”. In this situation Catalonia would “look like a state in all aspects”, and would have all the benefits of being a member of the EU, but it would not have been officially recognised as such.
“If an independent Catalonia is not recognised by Spain, it would mean that the country has not left the EU from the point of view of Spain and the EU”, he stated. In this case “it is not only the citizens, but all of the territory that is part of the common market, the Schengen agreement and the Eurozone”, Lang remarked. He went on to say that this implies that, firstly, Catalonia could not be expelled from the EU, but would instead be recognised as an independent state and, secondly, that Spain might want to “prolong” the situation and it would not be “catastrophic”, rather it would be an action of “pragmatism” for Brussels. According to the German professor, this model would “specifically guarantee economic interaction” but, at the same time, “prevent new states from being full members of the EU for a long period of time”.
A panel discussion with a range of experts
The conference also featured a panel discussion on the philosophy of the right to decide upon self-determination within the European Union, which included the participation of: the Professor of Political Science at the University of Quebec, Alain-G Gagnon, the Director and Professor of the Paris-Sorbonne University, Gérard-François Dumont, the Professor of International Public Law at the University of Barcelona and the Director of the Chari of MADP (mobile application development platforms) at Sciences Po, Jean-Bernard Auby.