In an opinion adopted on 12 April on the state of devolution in the EU and the place for local and regional self-government in EU policy making, the Committee of the Regions (CoR) made it clear that demands for autonomy and independence movements on the part of a region must be seen as internal matters for the Member State concerned. The CoR also plainly emphasised that in the hypothetical situation where such a region would become independent and wants to remain in the EU, it would have to apply to become a member of the EU like any state.
In the opinion, adopted by a large majority, members of the CoR stressed that neither the EU nor the CoR is meant to interfere in questions of internal organisation related to the constitutional arrangements of Member States, including developments in the direction of the independence of a region.
The question about the EU integration of a region having achieved independence was also a main focus of debate and was heavily discussed. CoR members agreed on the view that such a new sovereign state wishing to join the EU should be required to make a formal application to the Council and to follow the accession procedure as laid down in the EU Treaties, in the same way as any other country wishing to become an EU Member State.
More specifically on the issue of decentralisation, the opinion regrets the growing trend towards centralisation that has been noticeable throughout the EU since the economic and financial situation began to deteriorate. In this regards, the rapporteur on the dossier, Franz Schausberger (AT/EPP), Delegate of the Region of Salzburg for the CoR, said that: "Some Member States are using the economic and debt crises and the austerity measures that are required across Europe as an excuse to further centralise powers, to devolve powers without providing corresponding financial resources or to rationalise, reduce or abolish sub-national bodies altogether. I am firmly opposed to this trend which will end up weakening local and regional democracy, and which is based on the mistaken assumption that transferring public services to the central government level will make them more cost-effective."
Drawing on the findings of a recent European Commission's report on public finances in the Economic and Monetary Union, which shows a growing trend towards fiscal decentralisation, the opinion also encourages the Member States to replace transfer payments, as far as possible, with own financial resources i.e. independently raised sub-national taxes or charges. The CoR calls upon the European Commission to repeat this review of sub-national public finances every year.