Barroso ‘will change his mind’ on Scotland’s EU membership after a Yes vote

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   By a Newsnet reporter

In an interview with the Times newspaper, Andoni Ortuzar, the president of the Basque National Party, has stated that he believes José Manuel Barroso – President of the European Commission – will drop his insistence that an independent Scotland must apply for EU membership.

Mr Ortuzar said that Mr Barroso was under pressure from existing member states to instil fear in Scots and persuade them to vote against independence, but after a Yes vote such pressures would disappear and he would change his mind on Scotland’s membership of the EU.

When asked why Mr Barroso would change his mind on Scottish accession to the EU, Mr Ortuzar said:

“Because he is the president of a Commission formed by states. But if the Scottish referendum comes out ‘yes’, the next day Mr Barroso will change his discourse.”

Mr Barroso said in a statement last year that an independent Scotland would become a “third country” in respect of the EU.

Newsnet Scotland has previously revealed that EU Commissioners have come under strong pressure from existing member states to maintain the status quo.  Last year EU Commissioner Vivian Reding, in an interview with a Spanish newspaper, made comments supportive of the EU membership of an independent Catalonia.  

As reported in Newsnet Scotland, Ms Reding immediately came under pressure from the Spanish government to backtrack on her comments, and later issued a partial retraction. The pressures put on Ms Reding by the Spanish government to change her statement went unreported by the rest of the Scottish media.

However if Scots vote Yes in September 2014, Scottish independence would become a fait accompli, and Mr Ortuzo believes Mr Barroso would alter his position as it would be in the joint interests of both Scotland and the rump-UK for both states to retain EU membership and the rump-UK government’s stance would change.

Mr Ortuzar also predicted that if Scotland votes Yes to independence in September 2014, the Spanish government would drop its opposition to Scottish membership of the EU.  

Asked about the claim by anti-independence campaigners that Spain would attempt to veto the membership of an independent Scotland, Mr Ortuzar said:

“The Spanish would probably respond in that way. But I am not quite sure how long they would be able to maintain that position.

“Why Slovenia yes, and Scotland no? Or the Czech Republic yes, and Scotland no? We are in Europe, we are part of Europe, we are Europeans.”

The Spanish foreign minister, José Manuel Garcia-Margallo, has previously stressed the differences between Scotland and the UK on one hand, and Spain and Catalonia and the Basque Country on the other.  

In an interview reported in the Spanish media and in Newsnet Scotland in October last year, Mr Garcia-Margallo stated that there were no parallels between the Scottish case and the Catalan case.  The Spanish government recognises that Scotland’s referendum is legal under the terms of the UK’s constitutional settlement, and Scottish independence would thus be fully legal, negotiated and consensual.  The Spanish government claims that the Catalan independence referendum will be illegal under the Spanish constitution.

In February last year, Mr García-Margallo stated that Spain would not object to Scottish independence. At a press conference in London after attending an international summit on Somalia, the Spanish foreign minister said:

“If the two parts of the United Kingdom are in agreement that [Scottish independence] is in accord with their constitutional arrangement, written or unwritten, Spain would have nothing to say, we would simply maintain that it does not affect us.”

Mr Garcia-Margallo also hinted that Spain would view both Scotland and the rump-UK equally as joint successors to the United Kingdom.

Speaking in San Sebastian-Donostia in the Basque Country in October, Mr García-Margallo said:

“Every country has its own different constitutional order and different history and in [the case of] Scotland, the creation of the United Kingdom, Great Britain, was born as a consequence of the union of two kingdoms, that of Scotland and that of England.”

He added: “The British constitutional order foresees a referendum of this type, something which does not occur in any other country of the European Union.”  

In his interview with the Times, Mr Ortuzar also expressed his belief that the Scottish referendum, which has not been blocked by the UK government, would help to break the current impasse between Madrid and Catalonia, which has already stated its intention to hold an independence referendum in 2014.  Mr Ortuzar’s party would also like to hold a similar referendum in the Basque Country, where a significant number seek either independence from Spain or greater autonomy.

Mr Ortuzar said:  

“For the Basque National Party, the effect of calling the referendum itself is positive because it demonstrates that that aspiration doesn’t convert these people into some strange sort of being, some strange entity, requesting the right to decide — it is not just the Basques, there are other people in Europe having this aspiration.

“And it is important, very important, that there are states that respond in a very different manner to the way the Spanish state is responding to the requests that are coming from the Basques.

“For Spain, what is happening in Scotland is impossible, it is prohibited, it is unthinkable. But in the United Kingdom, it is going to happen. For the Basques, the Basque National Party, it opens the door to hope.”