Heard in Europe

Like many misinterpretations, it all began with an innocent question.

“Will the Greek elections have any impact on the European economy? And having in mind that an independent Catalonia would be automatically out of the EU, and thus the economic consequences, what would be your message for the Catalonian voters?” a EurActiv reporter asked European Commission vice-president, Valdis Dombrovskis, on Friday (18 September)

Dombrovskis replied:

“The European Commission is not normally commenting on party politics in member states or their regions and now it’s really a choice of the voters so from that point of view we cannot comment a lot on elections on different implications of one vote or another because certainly our intention is not to influence votes in member states and regions.

“So now it’s really in the hands of voters. As the Commission has always outlined, we are ready to work with democratically elected or appointed authorities of member states.”

Not exactly a ground-breaking story or a particularly succinct response. However, nobody had remembered to tell Dombrovskis the Commission’s recent line on Catalonia ahead of the regional elections on 27 September.

Dombrovskis’ team rushed to add what Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the day before:

“If a part of a member state becomes independent, the Treaties would no longer apply to it and it becomes the third country in respect to the EU. Nevertheless, it can apply for EU membership”.

But it was too late once the Catalonian news agency got hold of it. And this was the result:

Dombrovskis: “We are ready to work with democratically elected or appointed authorities of member states.”

The news spread like wildfire across Catalonia´s media landscape. Suddenly, Dombrovsksis had changed the EU executive’s position on secessionism, which has remained untouched since 2004!

>>Read: Answer given by Mr Prodi on behalf of the Commission

Interestingly, it is not the first time that the Commissioner has had some problems over his comments on Catalonia. An interview with the Catalonian news agency in 2013, when he was Latvia’s prime minister, triggered a furious reaction from Madrid.

>>Read: The Prime Minister of Latvia does not see an issue in recognising Catalonia if it reaches independence in a ‘legitimate’ way

The same day the saga hit new heights as the head of the pro-independence platform in the elections, supported by various parties including the ruling CDC, former MEP Raül Romeva, happily echoed the allegedly Commission’s new position:

…leaving Dombrovskis to plead…

Heard in Europe’s conclusion? Always be aware of unintended consequences when dealing with innocent questions during a political campaign.

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