French minister: Catalonia will lose EU membership with independence
Both Madrid and the Catalan authorities have been raising the stakes in the matter of Catalonia's independence from Spain. In a new development, the French government has conveyed that it will not recognize Catalonia as an independent nation. France asserted that any such move will be met with expulsion from the EU. This comes as Catalonia is expected to declare independence soon. Here's more.
On October 5, Catalonia's president Carles Puigdemont stated that they may declare independence "at the end of this week or the beginning of the next." 90% of Catalan voters overwhelmingly voted for independence from Spain in a recently conducted referendum. Meanwhile, Madrid stressed that the referendum was illegal and slammed the Catalan government for breaking democratic principles.
Catalonia is an area located in the north-east of Spain and is considered to be among its richest and most industrialized areas. With its capital in Barcelona, Catalonia has a distinct identity and language from Spain.
Catalonia recently organized a referendum seeking to find out whether its citizens wish to be independent or remain part of Spain. Violence erupted on voting day as police forces deployed by the Spanish government tried to stop people from voting, leaving 900 voters and 33 policemen injured. Huge anti-police protests have since erupted in Catalonia, bringing major centers such as Barcelona to a standstill.
According to figures released by Catalan authorities, out of 2.2 million people who voted in the referendum, 90% backed independence. However, the voter turnout was as low as 42% and could possibly weaken Puigdemont's arguments for Catalan independence.
French minister for European Affairs, Nathalie Loiseau said, "if there was a declaration of independence, it wouldn't be recognized." "The first consequence will be an exit from the EU," she added. Loiseau also hailed Spain as a "great democracy" and highlighted the level of autonomy each of its regions already enjoy. She urged for the crisis to be resolved through dialogue.
Spanish authorities have done everything in their power to stop Catalonia from being independent. After Puigdemont stated his intent to declare independence soon, the Spanish Supreme Court moved to suspend the Catalan parliament session to preempt an independence declaration. Stepping up economic pressure on pro-independence leaders, two banks and three companies have announced that they would be moving their offices out of Catalonia.
Once President Puigdemont addresses the parliament, it shall trigger a 48-hour period during which the MPs have to decide on independence. In a scenario where Catalonia does declare independence, the PM can take measures to compel Catalonia to not act against Spain's general interest under Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. Moreover, with independence, Catalonia may lose privileges of EU membership, including free movement.