The European Union is a political, social and economic project that has always sought unity, not division. It is based on peace, to eradicate the dark shadows of war and artificial divisions in Europe. It is a project that develops the most demanding democratic principles in the world so that the citizens of its regions and states can be duly represented. The 21st century world in which we live demands that we underpin the European Union, not weaken it. Hence, we must make the right choices regarding the political issues of vital importance.
The European Union is not just an economic community and neither is it merely a cultural and social union. It is also a rule-of-law union, a union of respect for the law. The rule of law is the bedrock for the singular nature of the democracies on which Europe stands. Nobody is above the law and everybody is equal in the eyes of the law. All of this means that the complex and interlocking institutional framework – with the various bodies (EU Commission, Council, Parliament and Court of Justice, as well as their Treaties, Resolutions, Rulings and Conventions that form part of the EU) – has produced the most advanced rule-of-law union in the history of humanity.
Public international law defines the secession of territories in which democratic order exists as a principle that is opposed to their legal system, and therefore gives priority to their territorial integrity. That same spirit is enshrined in UN Resolutions, the EU Law of the Treaties and their various interpretations reached by the European Commission.
One of the aspects on which that project for the future of the EU is based, refers to the territorial integrity of states and respect for that integrity. Hence, the European People’s Party calls loudly for the solidarity of our citizens and their various regions.
It is an argument for peace, progress and prosperity. Europe is facing extremists, intolerance and nationalism that is far removed from the constructive spirit of our political family. Hence, the European People’s Party reasserts that doctrine contained in the interpretation of the Treaties of the European Commission itself, the Treaties and international law.
International law does not recognise the free determination of territories when that is accompanied by any action aimed at, either fully or partially, shattering or undermining the territorial integrity of sovereign or independent states with a government that represents the entire population belonging to that territory regardless of race, creed or color.
Hence, the position adopted by the European People’s Party must reflect that:
In light of the above, and notwithstanding that striving for more autonomy is a democratic right, we can firmly state that any self-proclaimed sovereignty process aimed at unilaterally declaring the secession of territories forming part of Member States is beyond the realms of legality and, therefore, will not be recognised as legal by the other Member States. In the hypothetical case that a territory were to unilaterally declare its independence and that territory forms part of a Member State of the European Union, by virtue of Article 20 of the Treaty of the European Union, the citizens of said territory would lose their status as European citizens because the status of European citizen derives from the prior status of citizen of a Member State.
Hence, if the territory in question were to complete a secession process, that new state would become a non-EU country that, as appropriate, would need to launch a new process of accession to the European Union in order to re-join; its citizens would lose the rights and obligations they previously enjoyed as belonging to a territory forming part of a Member State. This would represent an unparalleled step backwards for the project of reconciliation and progress that has cost us so much to build.