By Martin Kelly
The EC’s next President has endorsed the Scottish independence referendum and confirmed he will respect the result.
Jean-Claude Juncker, who will replace Jose Manuel Barroso as head of the European Commission, has told MEPs that he is “in favour of democratic expressions” and would respect Scotland’s decision whatever the result.
The official said: “I am in favour of democratic expressions, but I’m not so arrogant to pre-empt the debate.
“I will respect the result of Scotland’s referendum.”
Mr Juncker was also asked about the situation in Spain. In what appeared to be a thinly disguised jibe at the man who he will be replacing as EC President, Mr Juncker said of Catalonia:
“I’m not arrogant enough, nor do I have the desire, nor the madness, to meddle in debates that affect the territorial organisation and politics of different EU states. It is a question that Spain will resolve.”
Outgoing President Jose Manuel Barroso had angered some officials in Europe with his continual interventions into the Scottish and Catalonian constitutional debates.
Mr Juncker’s comments were warmly welcomed by SNP MEP Alyn Smith, who attended the meeting with the official.
The MEP said the comments showed “refreshing common sense”.
He added: “Mr Juncker is playing it straight. He’s shown he will respect the democratic process, and then deal with the choice of the people of Scotland.
“We can do business with Mr Juncker, which is more than can be said for his predecessor.”
However, claims by the BBC that Mr Juncker had said, in relation to a newly independent Scotland that “One does not become a member of the EU by sending a letter.” have been called into question with Spanish newspaper reports suggesting the official was in fact referring to a letter written by Catalan President Artur Mas.
Mr Juncker had been questioned by Josep Mari Terricabras, a Catalan MEP representing the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, the second largest party in the Catalan Parliament.
Pressed by the Catalonian MEP if “respecting the election means that EU institutions will accept the choice that citizens have made freely, peacefully, and democratically”, Junker responded “No one becomes a member of the EU by sending a letter.”
Earlier this year it emerged that Artur Mas had written to every major European leader outlining Catalonia’s reasons for wanting independence.
In a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mas wrote: “I am confident I can rely on you to encourage the peaceful, democratic, transparent, and European process to which I and a vast majority of the Catalan people are fully committed,”
The Catalonian president sent similar letters to the EU’s 26 other capitals and to 45 leaders of non-EU states.