An “independent” Catalonia would automatically be excluded from the European Union. It could only be able to join the EU after a new accession process. However, it would still be necessary for this approach to respect certain conditions enabling it to be validated by the 28 members.
Which independence for Catalonia?
The member states of the EU “will not recognize Catalonia as a state if it is born in violation of the law and in particular of the Constitution of Spain”, warns Jean-Claude Piris, lawyer specializing in the law European.
The referendum on the independence of Catalonia was organized despite its invalidation by the Spanish Constitutional Court, whose decisions served as a basis for the Spanish government to try to prevent the vote, at the cost sometimes of a decisive use of force.
Moreover, the voting system did not benefit from the guarantees usually required (electoral commission, assessors, public voters lists, secret ballot …), making it unlikely that the proclaimed independence of Catalonia would be recognized by the 28 EU members on this basis.
If after a mediation Madrid agrees to organize a new “legal” consultation, respecting the Spanish Constitution, the result could open the way to a declaration of independence recognized by the international community and the European Union. At this stage, however, this scenario seems highly unlikely.
The “Prodi Doctrine” also in Catalonia?
The founding treaties of the EU do not provide a procedure to be followed in the event of a split of part of the territory of a Member State. This said, the European Commission has based itself for 13 years on the “Prodi doctrine”, imagined by Romano Prodi, former president of the European executive.
This “legal position” establishes the principle that a state born of a secession within the EU would not automatically be considered part of the Union.
“A newly independent region would become, by virtue of its independence, a third country in relation to the Union and all treaties would no longer apply to its territory from the first day of its independence,” Prodi said in 2004.
It would therefore have to “stand as a candidate to become a member of the Union”, and then negotiations would be initiated to integrate it into the EU after the unanimous approval of the 28 member states.
Negotiations would, however, be different from those currently under way with Balkan countries or Turkey, where the Union would first have to harmonize their legislation with its own, but also align itself with its foreign policy and comply with its standards in the field of human rights and the rule of law.
With Catalonia, which is currently part of an EU country, “it would certainly be less difficult because there would already be a regulatory convergence”, says a diplomat in Brussels.
Calls for pragmatism.
Experts believe, however, that in the event of recognized independence, Europeans would have no interest in following through on the “Prodi Doctrine”.
“Once the Rubicon of independence has been crossed, Europe would have everything to lose by putting these states in quarantine: its entrepreneurs would no longer be able to invest in it, its young people won’t be studying there, their workers won’t freely circulate there, their fishermen won’t sail there”, said the French magistrate Yves Gounin, in an article for the magazine Foreign Policy.
He argued that “the most reasonable solution would be to simultaneously negotiate independence and accession to the European Union”, saying that “realism” outweighs “orthodoxy”.
In the meantime, Catalonia should be able to continue using the euro. This international reference currency is already used as a national currency outside the EU, sometimes by common agreement with Brussels, as is the case in Monaco, sometimes without the endorsement of Brussels, as in Kosovo which declared its independence in 2008.