The Kingdom of Spain is facing another major crisis on top of its economic difficulty as the region of Catalonia threatens to secede and form its own independent democratic nation. If Catalonia secedes, Spain will be losing one of its most economically prosperous regions, further driving Spain into impoverishment. Catalonia seeks recognition from the European Union to establish its autonomy. Catalonia claims that it is already a member of the EU because it is a region of the member state, Spain. The region of Catalonia’s main issue is its status in the European Union, whether or not it is an automatic member or will be required to apply for membership.
If not accepted as an automatic member of the EU, Catalonia will need to fulfill conditions under the Copenhagen criteria in order to join the EU. This requires a political, economic, and finally the fulfillment of the Maastricht Treaty; requiring each current member state as well as the European Parliament must agree to any enlargement. Catalonia is a democracy that supports the Euro, is regionally wealthy, and therefore already meets most of the requirements to join the EU. Catalonia faces difficulties dependent on whether or not the EU would automatically accept it as a member state if it does secede.
The ability to join automatically or require formal application and acceptance is a critical issue for the European Union. If the EU were to allow the automatic acceptance of a member state’s regions, this acceptance authorization could cause serious division amongst the member states. The automatic acceptance of a member state’s region into the EU would particularly affect Great Britain, Belgium, and Germany as each nation consists of regions with historically independent cultures. On November 7th the Catalan President Artur Mas confronted the EU’s hesitant position by saying it would be “illogical” not to accept small, rich, pro-EU Catalonia as an automatic future member if it splits from Spain. The EU is abstaining from discussing this issue until after the Catalan elections which will take place on November 25th 2012.
The Catalan elections occurring on November 25th are critical for Spain, the European Union, Catalonia, and restless regions of other EU member nations because the elections will force the European Union to take a position on regionalism. President Artur Mas will seek to secede if his party wins the election, “The question will be if the EU is prepared to offer solutions to countries such as Catalonia, that have the will to be in Europe, that have the same rights as European citizens and that … only to change their political status.”