13.09.2013 - 18:07
In an interview with the Catalan News Agency, the Prime Minister of Latvia, Valdis Dombrovskis, stated that the ‘Catalan Way towards independence’ human chain is a “powerful signal” that is “worth paying attention to”. He was referring to the 400-kilometre human chain requesting independence from Spain, which spanned Catalonia from north to south on Wednesday and finally gathered 1.6 million people according to the Catalan Police. It was based on the ‘Baltic Way’ that took place in 1989 when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were calling for independence from the USSR. When asked if Riga would recognise Catalonia if it were to become independent, the Prime Minister stated “if there is legitimacy in their process, then I would say, theoretically, why not”.
The Latvian PM believed that we should “look at options” on how to successfully resolve the demands for independence. If the Spanish Government refuses the referendum to take place, some voices suggest that Catalonia should perform a unilateral declaration of independence, which according to Dombrovskis would be “more complicated”, although he does not rule out the possibility of its success. He also spoke of the problem of how Scotland and Catalonia – if they were to gain independence – would enter the EU as “the issue” has not been “worked on with a sense of urgency” yet. However, he admitted that some discussions have already taken place at EU level about what would happen if a territory of a Member State secedes, but a final decision has not been taken yet.
The ‘Catalan Way’ human chain is “a powerful signal”
The ‘Catalan Way towards independence’ was a 400-kilometre-long human chain that linked 1.6 million Catalan independence supporters. Participants joined hands as the chain stretched from the French border in the north all the way through major towns and cities until Valencia in the south. The event was inspired by the ‘Baltic Way’ that took place in 1989 and involved citizens from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania who made a human chain to campaign for independence from the USSR.
Catalan independence supporters joined hands on Wednesday at the historic time of 17:14 (11th September of 1714 is the date when Barcelona was conquered by the Bourbon troops in the Spanish War of Succession) on Catalonia’s National Day and formed a huge human chain. The Latvian Prime Minister stated that the human chain is a “powerful signal” that is “worth paying attention to”. The event built on last year’s demonstration on the same day, 11thSeptember, in which around 1.5 million Catalans assembled in Barcelona city centre to call for a referendum to take place that will decide if Catalonia remains part of Spain.
Ongoing negotiations with the EU
The Latvian Prime Minister noted how, “it is being discussed right now”, the issue of whether new European states originating from a current Member State would gain instant access into the EU, or if they would have to “act as an accession country”. Both Scotland, which is set to have a vote on independence from the UK in September 2014, and Catalonia are evaluating the dilemma. Dombrovskis stated that “there are different options” for a newly independent country, however, the issue “is not being worked on with a sense of urgency”. However, he admitted that some discussions have already taken place at EU level about what would happen if a territory of a Member State secedes, but a final decision has not been taken yet. “It would definitely be good for people to know so that when they vote, they know the consequences”, he continued.
Dombrovskis revealed that so far Latvia has “not formulated an official foreign position” on whether it would officially accept a new country that were to gain independence within the EU. However, if there were “legitimacy in their process, then I would say, theoretically, why not”, he stated.
Following the ‘Baltic Way’ we were unsure whether the Soviet Union “would react with violence”
He noted how the 1989 ‘Baltic Way’ that linked Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia was “one of the milestones towards independence because this was something that caught the attention of Western countries”. The event united people from all classes and walks of life and showed to the world that “something serious going on, and that they should be actually be engaging more actively with what was happening in the Baltic states”.
However he did reveal the uncertainty that followed the event. “There was a very clear will of the Baltic states to regain their independence, so the question was basically how the Soviet Union would react” he noted. There were essentially two events that could have occurred, “It would react with violence and a crackdown, or would it actually allow this [independence] to happen”. The human chain can be considered a success as Latvia gained independence two years later in 1991. “we can feel very happy that we were eventually able to restore independence in a very short time and relatively peacefully way”, concluded Dombrovskis.