EU To Secessionists: New Countries Don't Automatically Earn Membership
With secessionist movements gaining strength in several countries, the head of European Commission has declared that any new nation thus created will have to re-apply for membership in the European Union.
The Scottish National Party, in particular, has been reassuring the public that they would retain their EU citizenship. EU citizens can relocate to and work in any member nation.
EU commission president José Manuel Barroso has dealt a serious blow to a key part of the SNP's plans for a "soft" form of Scottish independence. EU membership is vital to the SNP's plans in several ways. Automatic membership would emphasise the ease of the transition from being part of the UK to being an independent state, ensure continuity for Scotland's economy and the business world and simplify negotiations with the UK government over independence. While an application for EU membership by an independent Scotland ought to be relatively straightforward, it would mean that the new state would have to spend two or three years outside the EU.Barroso spoke to the BBC yesterday.
Those negotiations might be complicated if Scotland were seen as a precedent for other "discontented" regions like Catalonia or Flanders, and perhaps by issues like the Schengen accord. In international law, Scottish membership of the EU would depend on the question of which state or states are successor to the present UK. There are three answers to that question: that the "rump UK" of England, Wales and Northern Ireland is the successor state, but a newly independent Scotland is not; that both states are; or that neither is.
"I am not going to speculate now about possible secessions, it is not my job. But I can tell you that to join the European Union, yes, we have a procedure. It is a procedure of international law," he said. "A state has to be a democracy first of all, and that state has to apply to become a member of the European Union and all the other member states have to give their consent." Pressed on whether all new countries were regarded as new states by the EU, Barroso said: "A new state, if it wants to join the European Union, has to apply to become a member like any state. In fact, I see no country leaving and I see many countries wanting to join." His remarks put Salmond under pressure to defend his government's position, which is intended to reassure Scottish voters in the runup to the independence referendum in 2014 that there are few risks posed by breaking away from the UK.In addition to the secessionist movements mentioned above (Scotland, Catalonia, Flanders), Germany's wealthy state of Bavaria also has a contingent calling for separation.