The European Union is helping the Scottish independence movement by giving Nicola Sturgeon special treatment, the foreign minister of Spain’s separatist Catalonia region said.
Catalonia’s regional government accused Brussels of having “double standards” because it is deaf to the breakaway Spanish region’s calls for independence and offered it no support after its illegal referendum in 2017.
The European Commission has repeatedly warned that Catalonia would leave the EU as well as Spain if it broke away from Madrid. It would only be able to rejoin the bloc after a lengthy accession process, which would require Spanish support.
Victòria Alsina, the foreign minister, said that if Scotland voted for independence and then rejoined the EU, the same should be offered to Catalonia.“What goes for Scotland must also go for Catalonia. If Europe is favourable towards Scotland having a referendum, it has to look favourably on Catalonia having a referendum,” Ms Alsina told The Telegraph.
“If Scotland were to vote in favour of independence and entered as a new member, this mechanism would have to be applied to Catalonia as well,” she added.
Describing the EU’s approach to the Catalan government as “cold”, Ms Alsina said there was a stark contrast with the “complicity” offered to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon by leading European officials.
“It’s undeniable that Brexit has had an impact on Brussels’ relations with London, but this goes back further,” said Ms Alsina.
“The constitutional order of the member states (and former member states) of the EU are internal matters for them. We never speculate on the accession of regions to the EU,” the European Commission’s chief spokesman said.
The Scottish government declined to comment.
Ms Sturgeon said that Brussels was “very sympathetic” to finding a way to keep Scotland in the EU after talks with then European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker after the Brexit referendum in 2016. The EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, also held talks with Scotland’s leader.
On the night that the UK finally left the EU, on January 31, 2020, a light show was projected onto the European Commission’s headquarters in Brussels reading “Europe loves Scotland”.
At the time, a commission spokesman said the stunt, which was paid for by the SNP, was unauthorised.
The commission has long been wary of anything that might bolster independence movements in EU member states, such as Flanders in Belgium.
A crucial difference in Scotland rejoining the EU as an independent country is that it will not have broken away from a member state of the bloc, unlike Catalonia. The UK will not be able to veto Scottish accession in the way Spain could with Catalonia.
The Spanish government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has agreed to hold talks due to start this month with Catalonia’s administration on the region’s political future.
Regional President Pere Aragonès is demanding a timetable for the holding of a self-determination referendum for the region. On Saturday, Barcelona witnessed the annual Diada march in favour of independence,
Mr Sánchez has consistently maintained that he will never agree to a referendum on independence for Catalonia.
In June his government approved pardons for nine pro-independence leaders who had been imprisoned for their role in the illegal referendum and declaration of independence that took place in 2017.
At the time senior Catalan politicians fled to Belgium and implored the EU for support but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
Ms Alsina said a good starting point for the talks would be for Spain to adopt recommendations recently approved by the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe.
This includes reforming its laws on sedition and rebellion and consider dropping extradition requests for politicians such as former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, today an MEP.
The Council of Europe is not an EU body but an older organisation with more members focused on human rights.