Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, has said it could take years for an independent Scotland to be integrated into the European Union, as all 28 countries would need to agree unanimously. “It’s clear that if one part of a state separates, it converts itself into a third territory with respect to the EU,” he said. “They can ask to be integrated and begin a process that could take years. In the case of Spain it took eight years.”
Rajoy has previously indicated he would block Scotland’s entry into the EU.
The strength of the yes campaign in Scotland has buoyed separatists in Catalonia and put the Spanish government on the defensive. Madrid argues that any type of vote for independence in Catalonia would violate the country’s 1978 Constitution, which states that such issues must be decided by all Spaniards.
Rajoy’s remarks to Parliament this week came in response to a question from Aitor Esteban, a Basque Nationalist party MP, who asked, if the yes campaign wins the Scottish referendum: “Will your government facilitate the integration of Scotland in the European Union?”
Rajoy said he had spoken to representatives from the 28 countries in the EU and that “everyone in Europe thinks that these processes are tremendously negative, because they generate economic recessions and more poverty for everyone”.
“They act like a torpedo to the vulnerabilities of the EU, which was created to integrate states, not to fragment them. Strong states are what’s needed today,” Rajoy said.
“There are many differences between the process of Scotland and that of here. The main one is that Scotland has virtually no powers compared to Catalonia and other autonomous regions.”
On Tuesday, Spain’s foreign minister, José Manuel Garcia Margallo, said his government would do everything it could to block any sort of referendum from taking place in Catalonia. On Wednesday, he said Scottish secession would be a catastrophe. “It would start a process of Balkanisation that nobody in Europe wants,” he said.
Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, has long argued that it would be possible for the country to renegotiate membership of the EU from within. In a speech on the subject in April, he said it would be absurd to deny the people of Scotland entry.
“The Scottish government recognises that continued membership of the EU will require negotiations on the specific terms. That is only right and proper, but these negotiations will be completed within the 18-month period between a yes vote in September and achieving independence in March 2016,” he said.
“Scotland will ask for continued membership on the basis of ‘continuity of effect’.”
“Five and a quarter million people ceasing to be EU citizens against their will … is more than absurd. There is simply no legal basis in the EU treaties for any such proposition. And it is against the founding principles of the European Union.” – © Guardian News & Media 2014