THE EU President Jose Manuel Barroso has rejected Nicola Sturgeon’s bid to set up talks on an independent Scotland’s place in Europe.
Mr Barroso has sent a message to the Deputy First Minister saying that he is not in a position to “usefully discuss” the issue because he has yet to see a “precise scenario” from the Scottish Government on Scotland’s relationship with the EU in the event of a “Yes” vote.
Ms Sturgeon asked for talks with Mr Barroso after controversy erupted over SNP claims that Scotland would have automatic entry to the EU post-independence.
Last month Mr Barroso said any new independent country would have to apply to join the EU – a stance that is at odds with the SNP’s position that Scotland would negotiate its position from within Europe.
A letter from Mr Barosso to the House of Lords economic committee confirmed his position that a new independent state would “become a third country with respect to the EU”.
Responding to Ms Sturgeon’s call for talks, Mr Barroso’s Vice President Maros Sefcovic wrote to her saying: “The European Commission has consistently refrained from expressing a position on questions of internal organisation related to the constitutional arrangements in the member states.
“The European Commission has expressed its views in general terms in responses to several parliamentary questions from members of the European Parliament to which the European Commission is democratically accountable.
“However, the European Commission has not commented on any specific situation in relation to any Member State and will continue to refrain from doing so. The European Commission would only be able to express its opinion on the legal consequences under EU law of a specific situation upon request from a Member State detailing a precise scenario.”
Mr Sefcovic added: “At the present stage in the absence of a precise scenario, President Barroso has, therefore, asked me to signal that he would not be in a position to usefully discuss this further with you.”
In a blog published today, Ms Sturgeon drew attention to the phrase in the letter saying that Mr Barroso would refrain from commenting on “any specific situation in relation to any member state”.
This, she argued, showed that last month’s comments by Mr Barroso “were not actually meant to be specifically about Scotland at all”.
She added: “Fine. That is helpful and effectively reasserts the Commission’s previous position of neutrality on this issue. The Commission have moved back into neutral gear.
“The letter goes on to argue that since they don’t have a position on a particular case then there is nothing usefully to be gained from a meeting at this stage. That’s a pity since the world has moved on even since December.”
Ms Sturgeon said that Mr Sefcovic’s letter opened the door to a way forward.
Ms Sturgeon added: “It says that the Commission will give an opinion if they are presented with a “precise scenario” put forward by a member state.
On the basis of the Edinburgh Agreement there is no reason why this should not now be done. As I have said previously, it would be helpful if the UK and Scottish Governments had discussions to develop a shared understanding of the issues on which we will require to negotiate after a ‘yes’ vote in 2014.”