Catalonia is a region of Spain where a big part of the population wants to be independent from Spain and form its own nation. If that happens, at the beginning, Catalonia as a nation will be out of the EU.

  1. Could Catalonia quickly join the EU after that?

  2. Can Catalonia alone fulfil the requirements?

  3. Is there a minimum period of time Catalonia must wait? Or does it depend only on economical and political factors?

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    One does not simply walk into the EU. First and probably biggest problem would be that EU member states do not want to support the idea of (European) nations splitting up (that somewhat clashes with the whole "union" idea) so there would be no political will to support Catalonia.
    – user10415
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:25
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    There were many questions about that, related to Scotland independence referendum: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/2558/…, politics.stackexchange.com/questions/12732/…, politics.stackexchange.com/questions/11462/…
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:30
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    @SoylentGray the issue being that Spain does not need to stand up to the EU, as new members must be approved unanimously.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:56
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    @jamesqf, As I recall, Czechoslovakia wasn't in the EU and their split into two countries was more amicable than any potential Spain/Catalonia (or UK/Scotland) split.
    – A Bailey
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 19:27
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    @SoylentGray, I think you misunderstand what "unanimously" means. If Spain in the European Council does not agree to accept a new member then membership will not be granted; a single "no" vote is enough.
    – user10415
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 12:26

6 Answers 6


To be allowed to apply to join the EU, Catalonia as an independent nation must be able to demonstrate they meet the Copenhagen Criteria which are defined as follows

Political criteria:

Stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;

Economic criteria:

A functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces;

Judicial criteria:

Administrative and institutional capacity to effectively implement the acquis and ability to take on the obligations of membership

Once they demonstrate they can meet all these criteria they enter into a series of negotiations with the European Union, which can take several years judging by past standards. It is worth noting this may be pushed back several years, as the EU are currently strung up with some of the "most complicated negotiations of all time", regarding Britain imminent withdrawal from the EU.

Once they have finished negotiations with the EU and demonstrate they can comply with all the EU's standards and rules

They must then seek

  • The consent of the EU institutions and EU member states

  • The consent of their citizens – as expressed through approval in their national parliament or by referendum

It is worth noting that for Catalonia to be allowed to become a member state they must have unanimous consent from all EU member states. Traditionally EU member states would be unlikely to support such a move if it risks antagonising Spain, who may also potentially block such a move.

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    Thanks for your detailed answer! Do you think it will fullfill the economic criteria after years of negotiation and being out of EU?
    – Ivan
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 15:24
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    @SleepingGod: +1. Note that as part of an EU member state, Catalonia is already in compliance with many EU requirements: For example on legal compatibility, technical standards, and human rights. This would likely help smooth the path to membership. Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 8:39
  • This all sounds nice on paper, but how did e.g. Bulgaria and Romania score on those criteria at the time of admission? And surely Catalonia is closer to meeting those criteria than Ukraine.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 22:10
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  • @ivan what do you think Spain will vote on Catalonia's EU admission? I'm guessing they will try to block that. After previous experience, what kind of union would want a separatist on its side? That will onlymean trouble, won't it?
    – YoMismo
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 20:06

Two years ago I read a thesis written by a law graduate in Catalonia, which dealt with these questions.

There are three legal theories on this:

  1. Spain continues to exist as a state, while Catalonia is a new state. In this case Catalonia would not inherit any of the treaties that Spain has signed, but would start with a clean slate. That would mean Catalonia would initially lose its EU membership and need to reapply. Among others, this requires unanimous approval by all present members—which might get blocked by Spain as well as by a few other member states who are afraid of secession movements within their own borders.

  2. Both Catalonia and the remainder of Spain are considered successors of the current Spanish state, and would thus both inherit the treaties which Spain has signed up until that point. That would make both Catalonia and Spain EU members from Day One—in fact both might be considered to have been members before.

  3. The current state of Spain ceases to exist, and both Catalonia and Spain without Catalonia are considered new states. In this case, both would have to re-negotiate any previous international treaties, which would mean they would both drop out of the EU.

There are precedents for each of these, but none involving the EU. The EU’s stance currently seems to be that they would treat it as #1. Some member states (those who see a risk of themselves losing territories to an independence movement) would likely favor #1, while those who regained their independence in the last few decades (the Baltic and ex-Yugoslavian states) might hold different views.

  • Is the thesis publicly available? Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 10:38

Joining the EU requires a unanimous vote by the members. Spain is never going to vote for Catalonia. And neither is France, lest the Basques get any funny ideas. For the same reason, neither Spain nor France would allow Scotland to join.

  • The question is not about scotland it is about Catalonia. Though I think scotland would have a better chance to get in since they would be breaking away from a non member state. I agree France has the Basques, and there are a few other local former kingdoms that might get ideas should Catalonia be rewarded like this. Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 15:08
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    The question presumes independence which doesn't seem possible without at least Spanish acquiescence. If Spain accepted independence I'm not sure other countries would reject it. No one wants to legitimize others' trouble spots, but once a Spain-Catalonia agreement was made recognition of the separatists by other nations isn't undermining the official government. More like the opposite to my way of thinking.
    – user9389
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 17:24
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    @StephanBranczyk If Catalonia gets its independence, Northern Catalonia will want to join in for sure Almost certainly not. It's not called "Northern Catalonia" - it's called "Rousillon" and their only common point with Catalogna is the Catalan language, which is still hardly used anymore in Rousillon - French with a Catalan accent has largely replaced it since the last 100 years
    – Bregalad
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 10:57

Catalonia would not gain admittance to the EU for many of the reasons stated already.

However the situation is not quiet comparable to that of Scotland. If Scotland were to coincide the timing of their independence with that of the rest of the UK leaving the EU then in that case Catalonia would be in a position similar to that of the UK and Scotland to that of Spain!! In effect the UK would be declaring their independence from the original EU member state i.e. the UK which contained Scotland!


I think the question is badly raised. The question is not how Catalonia joins EU, but if it is possible to EXPEL Catalonia, as Catalonia as a part of Spain is now is a part of the EU (including EU citizenship). So there are different possibilities:

  1. Catalonia makes a declaration of independence but is not recognized by Spain. Thus, at this moment Catalonia would be part of EU despite the political tension and despite the acts of sovereignty of Catalonia and despite the police and legal repression of the Spanish state over the Catalans.

  2. Spain recognizes the situation. At this moment the question of if Catalonia should be part of EU appears. But NOW is part of EU. It should be first expelled? First, large and unclear legal considerations should be taken into account, which probably it took years. Second question: It would benefit someone expel Catalonia?:

    1. I t will harm the same Spain (70% of Spanish goods traffic to Europe is transported by Catalonia)
    2. It would damage the overall European economy for the same reason, and by the reason of the own industrial and scientific capacity of Catalonia, the most developed region in Spain in many indicators.
    3. After Brexit EU the last thing the union wants is that more countries leave the EU.

If Catalonia wins his independence obtained in spite of the authoritarian opposition of Spain Government and by Democratic methods, and without violence, it would be a democratic lesson for the world and for Europe. Democracy should not scare us in any way, and the international laws of self-determination is mandatory.

There are regions in other countries in EU that could demand the same that Catalonia? May be, the History is dialectical and we must to accept political changes if democratic. But do not forget that may be other States do not have the same political blindness that Spain, which has practically not left more option to Catalonia than to fight for its independence. Despite that half of the actual States in Europe have become independents in the past, I do not foresee an epidemic of independence from other regions in EU. ....but Spain is a different question. If Catalonia becomes independent Spain will be disintegrated in several years. (by the way, this question was predicted by a history mathematician 80 years ago together with the URSS disintegration ).

  • 1
    Welcome to politics.SE. please consider using the formatting options to improve readability.
    – Federico
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:18
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    This answer demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of EU law. If Catalonia becomes an independent state it does not automatically gain EU membership, as indicated by the EU commissioner (although his remarks were about Scotland, the situation is comparable) . Also self-determination is not so mandatory that any state must allow a region to unilaterally secede. A lot of this is personal opinion and speculation and makes generally unsupported points. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:24
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    First, I reasoned that FIRST Catalonia should be EXPELED from EU. And this is not a easy practical question (see the long process about Brexit). Second, the EU commissioner Is free to express opinions, but the fact is that there is no legal opinion of a COURT to support it. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 11:34
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    An independent Catalonia would not be automatically part of anything, there are many precedents for it. Newly formed nations (South Sudan, Timor Leste, etc.) have had to apply for admission to organizations to which the "parent" state was part of (UN, for example). More telling is the issue with Kosovo, still without UN membership. More to the point, there are absolutely no treaties between the EU and Catalonia (for the simple reason that Catalonia is not a state). If Catalonian citizens were to retain their Spanish nationality they would be EU nationals, but Catalonia itself would not be EU.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 8:01
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    @MarioEzquerra "power to hurt" ? WTF ? EU has to decide NOTHING. Catalonia isn't a member state, whether independent or not. Now it's part of a member state, but as soon (if) it gains independence it will be a new state, and new states have a procedure to enter the EU.
    – roetnig
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 11:15

The theories and options about what happens next if Catalonia gets independence seems to be mostly just theories. There is a video here that explains that according to EU regulation any region of a EU member country that decides to declare independence automatically also decides to leave EU. Then they have the option to apply for membership and follow the established procedures for that. The hardest thing will be to get Spain to vote with yes.

  • This doesn't say anything that other answers haven't already said.
    – Brythan
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 23:08

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