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Vice-President Reding's Remarks on Catalan independence

European Commission - SPEECH/14/152   23/02/2014

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European Commission

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Viviane Reding

European Commission Vice-President, EU Justice Commissioner

Vice-President Reding's Remarks on Catalan independence

45th Citizens' Dialogue

Barcelona, 23 February 2014

  • I have known Catalonia for a long time. I am one of the few non-Catalonians who received the Creu de St Jordi (St George's Cross from the Generalitat of Catalonia). I love the Catalan language. In Europe, it needed a Luxembourger with a strong and proud feeling of the Luxembourgish language in order to understand what the Catalan language meant to your people. You might remember the 'Reding declaration' of 1990 with which I promoted the status of the Catalan language in the EU. And I love Catalan wine: I have visited vineyards in and around Penedès. I love Catalan literature and I admire Catalan architecture – just look at the Pedrera or the feeling you get in the monastery of Montserrat! In short: I love Catalonia.

  • I know Catalans are ardent Europeans. You, in turn, know the legal situation. Bridging these two is the difficulty for me here today. The law says that an independent Catalonia would no longer be part of the Union. An independent Catalonia would have to apply for EU membership again. To put it bluntly: a few seconds after a vote for independence, Catalonia would be out of the Union. You would be out of the euro system. You would not have EU citizenship. In short: I would lose you. The process to come back into our Union would not be a quick one. It would be lengthy. It would require long negotiations and the unanimous approval of all EU countries. It would be a project of a generation.

  • I understand your wish for more autonomy. I respect your desire for independence. But I personally would find it a very regrettable result: a Europe without Catalonia. And Catalonia outside our Union.

  • I would find it particularly regrettable as European unity is the recipe for coming out of the crisis and for a stronger Europe playing a central role in the world: European countries sticking together like a family to overcome difficulties. This is the strategy that helped put Europe on the path of economic recovery: Europeans sticking together, Germany and Greece; France and Spain; Portugal and Spain. Look at it from an outside perspective; world powers like the U.S. and China are only just starting to see a united Europe as a real force to be reckoned with. And they will only measure themselves against a strong and united Europe. This is the time for solidarity and working together, not for separation or division.

  • A Catalonia out of our Union would weaken Europe. It would weaken Spain. And it would weaken Catalonia – economically and politically.

  • Barcelona and Madrid are partners. I refuse to take sides. It is clear that in the medium term a new arrangement must be found. A new arrangement that accommodates both the needs of Catalonia and its citizens as well as those of Spain as a whole and its citizens. Take the time you need to find this arrangement. It will not happen today or tomorrow. It should be a solution that you work out together – all of you together – without any outside interference.

  • As a long-term friend of Catalonia, I know one thing for sure: the interest, love and passion of its citizens for Europe will remain strong. 

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