By Anne-Marie O’Donnell
The legal basis for an independent Scotland’s entry into the European Union is clearly set out under the Lisbon Treaty, according to experts.
Politics professor Michael Keating told the BBC’s Sunday Politics show that Scotland “already meets most of the criteria” for membership of the EU and queried previous statements made by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who claimed in February that it would be “extremely difficult” for an independent Scotland to join the EU.
“It already meets most of the criteria for membership having been a member, or part of a member, for 40 years. The experience of the Nordic countries is that when they were joining is that two years is normally sufficient so I would have thought something like this would be realistic,” said Professor Keating.
“If Scotland were to apply to join the European Union, the job of European Commission President would simply be to ascertain whether Scotland meets the membership criteria. If Scotland does meet the criteria then Barroso or his successor would be obliged to recommend to the European Council that Scotland be admitted.”
Professor Keating’s view was backed by Professor Steven Blockmans, a senior research fellow and the head of the EU foreign policy unit of the Center for European Policy Studies, who confirmed that Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allows EU members to agree to make amendments through an ‘ordinary revision procedure’, was a route through which Scotland could gain membership of the EU.
Under Article 48, Scotland could be permitted to join the EU by 26 March 2016, which is the day Alex Salmond says Scotland would officially become independent should the upcoming referendum on independence return a Yes vote.
“The legal basis exists, article 48 of the treaty on European Union prescribes an ordinary revision procedure for the treaty’s themselves and then [what] would essentially have to happen is to write in the name of the newly independent countries as one of the signatories to the treaty of the European union and arrangements would have to be hammered out as far as representation is concerned of this new independent country in the European union in its institutions, the commission, the parliament and the other intuitions,” he said.
The comments underline previous statements from experts on the EU’s position should Scotland become independent. In February, a former Director General of the European Commission, Jim Currie, said an independent Scotland had the “right” to be an EU member and that Scottish people were already citizens of the European Union.
Mato Skrabalo, the Croatian Ambassador to the EU, said that smaller nations play a significant role in the European Union and their place is important.
“There have been some occasions, right after a membership in which our seven votes were crucial, so they count,” Mr Skrabalo said. “Even when they are not tipping the balance. However there are some decisions that are made unanimously, and there Croatia has a right to veto any decision and in these areas of the work of the union. So I would say that our role, even though we are a small country is quite significant.”
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, an SNP candidate for the European parliamentary elections, welcomed the comments and said an independent Scotland would play a “constructive role” in the EU.
“These are very welcome comments from a range of EU experts – and further backing for the common sense position of the Scottish Government,” she said. “The Croatian Ambassador to the EU’s comments are particularly welcome – highlighting the significant role Scotland could expect to play as an independent member state.
“A Yes vote will allow Scotland to play a constructive role at the heart of Europe – in stark contrast to an increasingly Eurosceptic Westminster system which risks ripping Scotland out of the EU with an in/out referendum.”
MEANWHILE, the Scottish Lib Dems are facing embarrassment on the day they launched their European Election campaign after it emerged their sole MEP, George Lyon, has been preparing for defeat and the prospect of losing his seat.
According to the Sunday Herald, Lyon recently attended a meeting in Brussels aimed at providing assistance to outgoing MEPs.
The party has failed to recover after forming a coalition with the Tories after the 2010 General Election. The SNP are favourites to pick up Lyon’s seat if Willie Rennie’s party fails to attract enough support across Scotland in the ballot which will be held on May 22nd.