Independence within the European Union

June 3 2012

Author: Kevin Sànchez | Source: El Jurista

One of the concerns that relate to a virtual independence of Catalonia depends whether the eventual secession from Spain would entail Catalonia’s expulsion from the EU or if otherwise Catalonia would automatically remain in it as an independent state.

This question, that citizens of nations with similar aspirations throughout the European continent are particularly worried about, is slowly being lit up.

The debate has been restarted because of a letter signed by the general secretary of the European Commission, Catherine Day, who gave an answer to an European Citizen Initiative (ECI) promoted by Reagrupament, a Catalan party seeking independence. The initiative, collected in the article 11.4  of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and available since the first of April of 2012, requested the Commission to present a legislation proposal in order to recognize as a member of the EU any country that could arise in a democratic secession from another European country. Even though the initiative has been rejected for not being within the competences of the Commission (which can’t present a proposal related to a juridical act with the purpose of applying the Treaties), it provides new information about what would happen if a region gets separated from a State member of the EU.

The document gives a key to find the resolution of integrating in the EU a possible independent region of a State member. According to the Commission, the solution would be and would be negotiated within the international legislation. This statement implies tacitly the no remission of the internal legislation of the States to solve the question of integrating the new independent land into the EU. In the same way, the document would deny any sort of risk of expelling or punishing the new State.


Regarding the citizens of the new territory, the Commission reminds that according to the article 20 of the TFEU (old article 17 of the Treaty establishing the European Community), only people who have the nationality of an State member of the EU are members of it. The European citizenship is complementary, but not substitutive, of the national citizenship. This means that European nationality is, if so, secondary since the nationality of a State member is needed before, in order to access afterwards to the European. This assumption manifests that the secession of a part of a State member it is not an impediment or obstacle to obtaining the European nationality.

With this document the European Commission manifests the possibility of independence of a territory that is now part of a State member and the will of the EU to solve the status of the new State through the international legislation. Therefore, Catalonia as other nations, could be an independent State within the European Union.

Translation: KS

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