The outgoing President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, angered Scottish voters by suggesting Scotland’s chances of becoming a member of the European Union are close to zero.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Barroso claimed it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible for an independent Scotland to join the EU.” They need unanimous agreement of all Member States to join the trading bloc. Not only would this be an extremely lengthy procedure, it may never come to fruition, because of the threat of a veto by Spain.
Barroso’s comments have been labelled “preposterous” and “nonsense” by the Scottish National Party (SNP). The party is convinced they will successfully secure entry into EU only 18 months after winning the referendum.
But why does Barroso think Scotland will have a hard time getting approval? He emphasised on the Andrew Marr Show that he respected the democratic process and that it was for the Scottish people to decide whether they want to break away from the rest of the UK. As he said, “I don’t want to interfere…” However, he pointed out that Spain has been opposed to the recognition of Kosovo as a Member State, so it is not unthinkable that Member States will be opposed to Scotland’s application in order to discourage separatism in their own countries. Cyprus, Greece, Romania and Slovakia have likewise refused to recognise Kosovo as a Member State since it broke away from Serbia in 2008.
The Spanish Government strongly opposes the membership of countries which have left a Member State, because of Catalonia’s ambitions to secede from Spain. For example, Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish Prime Minister, said that if a “region” chose to leave a Member State, then it would “remain outside the European Union.” An independent Scotland entering the EU would be a precedent Spain will not permit.
The First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond said he will attempt to formulate a plan about how Scotland will transition out of the UK and into the EU. Alistair Darling, on the other hand, said Salmond is “a man without a plan on currency and Europe”. Indeed, until the Scottish government come up with a well-thought out plan about how to gain EU membership, the whole issue remains shrouded in uncertainty.
Sam Woolfe, Research Assistant