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What would Scotland’s independence mean for the EU?

September 17, 2014

In a blog posted on September 16th, admeuro writes about potential implications of the Scotland’s independence on the future of the United Kingdom. By writing this blog, I wanted to join admeuro in covering referendum in Scotland by writing about potential implications of Scotland’s independence on the EU.

The first question that arises with Scotland’s potential secession is whether Scotland automatically maintains its membership in the EU (as claimed by one of the leaders of campaign that is in favor of Scottish independence, Alex Salmond) or whether it would have to go through the same process of negotiations that all other countries go through.

The outgoing president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said in February of this year that it would be “difficult, if not impossible for Scotland to join the EU,” since that would require the approval of not only the UK, but also Spain, Italy, Belgium, and other member states, which fear that this event would encourage separatist movements in their respective states. Salmond, however, described Barroso’s claim as “absurd”, explaining that it would be inconceivable that the EU would not accept a country whose citizens are already citizens of the EU, whose laws are already aligned with the European standards, and with such rich deposits of oil.

Ever since, Barroso has been silent on the EU stance regarding Scotland’s EU membership in the case of independence and in all recent statements he has only been repeating that the EU will respect the democratic procedure regardless of the outcome. He has also been saying that “it is for the Scottish people and for the British citizens to decide on the future of Scotland.”

Regardless of the EU’s stance on the issue of Scotland’s independence, this would definitely be a new challenge for the EU, and a very unwelcome one, keeping in mind the current crisis in Ukraine and the ongoing European economic crisis. Extensive European regulation, after all, simply did not foresee a possibility of secession in one of its member states.

Even though the EU stance might be uncertain on this issue, member states that face significant separatist tendencies themselves will definitely be a firm barrier for Scotland’s accelerated membership process. For example, the Spanish Minister for European Affairs has recently stated that Scotland’s membership procedure “will have more ifs than Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem.”

The second question that arises with Scotland’s potential secession is weather the EU will be able to defend its long-lasting promise that joining the EU means definitive stabilization of an acceding country in terms of its borders. For example, with countries that had some difficulties in their history on this issue such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, and more recently Slovenia and Croatia, it was always emphasized that joining the EU meant that the possibility of disintegration and separatism was greatly reduced.

Nevertheless, if the EU accepts Scotland, does it mean that it opens up a Pandora’s Box of future separatism? What about the candidate countries? Will it leave them with doubt and uncertainty that even after joining the EU, there remains a possibility for eventual separation of the country into two or more countries?

The answers to these questions will probably be clearer in the very near future.

For the entire interview with the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in February 2014, look here:

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