The 7.5 M inhabitants of Catalonia have duties but also rights as European citizens
Catalonia has 7.5 million inhabitants – more than ten of the EU’s existing member states. They are all citizens of the European Union, including the 300,000 people from the rest of the EU who live there. Catalonia is also home to over 5,600 foreign companies and a major contributor to Europe’s growth and economic recovery, as Catalan businesses are a vital part of Europe’s economy. Since 1986, the acquis communautaire has applied in Catalonia, and all of Catalonia’s laws are compatible with the EU.
Whatever Catalonia’s future status, it is clear that Catalans will remain in Europe. Their European citizenship cannot be removed. The Catalan economy will continue to function as part of the wider European economic system: Catalonia will continue to use the euro as its currency and will continue to trade with its European neighbours.
Europe is obliged to give Catalonia, and the Catalans who are EU citizens, a fair deal. If Catalans want to rearrange their constitutional relationship with Spain, this is something that the European Union has to accept as long as it is the result of a democratic and pacific process. If Catalans want to remain in the European Union, there is no need to create artificial barriers.
It is absurd to suggest that Catalonia could be expelled from the EU overnight and would then have to queue behind countries which are currently far from satisfying Europe’s criteria. Let us remember that it took both Greenland and St-Bartelemy five years to leave the EEC/EU, even when both islands had requested to leave in a referendum! The creation of an new state within the EU is unprecedented. The only honest answer to the question of “What happens next?” is “We don’t know.” And decency should oblige Europe to add: “But we will find a way to make things work.”