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Germany Backs Spain’s Catalonia Position, But Avoids Scottish Comparison


(EurActiv) — The German government on Tuesday endorsed Spain’s position on Catalonian sovereignty and avoided making any comparisons with Scotland’s own push for independence.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) said that he agrees with his Spanish counterpart, Alfonso Dastis, on the Catalonian question, during a joint press conference following a meeting in Berlin.

“I am in agreement with my colleague,” Gabriel said, insisting that the Catalonia and Scotland cases are matters “that should be decided within the constitutions and legal frameworks of each country and should not be influenced from outside”.

On the same day that the Scottish parliament agreed to ask London for permission to hold a new independence referendum, Dastis said that Madrid will accept Scotland’s decision to hold another vote if it complies with UK law and if both countries reach an agreement beforehand.

“We will respect the decision if it is in accordance with the law and we will react accordingly,” he added.

Dastis also said that if an independent Scotland eventually asked to join the EU, then the case would be evaluated “like any other candidate” looking to join the bloc, without any special treatment.

As such, Scotland would have to first fulfil the necessary criteria, obtain a favourable opinion from the European Commission and gain the consensus of all the member states.

When asked if the Scottish and Catalonian cases are comparable, the foreign minister replied that the differences “are obvious”.

“My position, which I think is shared by him (Gabriel), is that we must not fuel any type of secession in Europe. Europe is about removing barriers, not creating new ones,” he added.

Gabriel focused on the idea of eliminating borders, saying that “it is obvious that we in Europe are all interested in having as few borders as possible. That’s what my colleague just said and I agree.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also said yesterday in Barcelona that Madrid will invest €4.2 billion in Catalonia’s infrastructure up to 2020, mostly in the region’s rail system, as well as supporting Catalan businesses.

Rodalies, Catalonia’s main rail system, will absorb much of the funding. €1.88 billion is earmarked for the period up to 2020 and €2 billion has been pledged for the five years after that.

The other big project in the pipeline for the Spanish government is the Mediterranean Corridor, which Rajoy called a “backbone project”, aimed at connecting transport hubs and logistic centres. Catalonia’s sections of the Corridor are scheduled to be completed by early 2020.

Madrid’s investments will also go into the region’s airports, with €240 million promised for the same period, as well as further funding for motorways and other roads.

Rajoy insisted that the investment plan is “realistic, viable and verifiable at every stage” and called on regional and local administrations to collaborate to see the projects implemented.

He also touched on the independence issue, criticising those that “intend to disconnect not only from the future, but from the Spanish and European reality, from the law and from the debate”.

Without mentioning him by name, Rajoy alluded to the independence movement being steered by Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and claimed that Spain has managed to “overcome a trememdous crisis and is now able to work towards a better future”. He added that this should “not be squandered on impoverishing adventures” that would “slow the recovery”.

Puigdemont, in Washington, responded to Madrid’s promise of investment by insisting that the only pledge Catalonia wants from the government is the promise of a vote.

“The people want to vote. This is the announcement that would satisfy both those in favour of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, as is done in advanced democracies,” he said.

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