Commission moves back into neutral gear
I have received a response from the European Commission to my request for a meeting with the President, Jose Manuel Barroso.
A copy of the letter and my response is attached here.
- European Commission response to Nicola Sturgeon
- Nicola Sturgeon’s letter to EC Vice-President Sefcovic
The letter asserts that Mr Barroso “has not commented on any specific situation in relation to any member state and will continue to refrain from doing so”.
Accordingly the Commission now maintains that the Barroso comments, widely reported before Christmas, were not actually meant to be specifically about Scotland at all!
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.
We have had significant interventions in the debate from hugely respected figures such as Sir David Edward, formally of the Court of Justice, and only yesterday from Professor David Scheffer, former counsel to the United States Representative to the United Nations.
And today David Cameron spells out his policy of the UK’s very own renegotiations of the terms of membership of the European Union.
So there is actually a lot to talk about.
However, the letter from Vice-President Sefcovic does open the door to a route forward. 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.
In line with that we are happy to discuss with the UK Government (as existing member state) a joint submission to the European Commission that would set out a “precise scenario” and invite the Commission’s opinion of the transition process we might jointly work towards.
Of course, given that the Commission is not the final arbiter on this matter any opinion issued would be no more than just that – one of several opinions – but it would be helpful in further informing the referendum debate.