Will an independent Catalonia maintain an open border with Spain and France?



It is said that Catalonia plans to declare independence on Tuesday.

If they do, did the proponents of independence indicate that the new republic will have an open border with its neighbours? Because I've heard that it would have to apply to join the EU and Schengen all over again.


Posted 2017-10-08T11:24:46.823

Reputation: 121

8Who knows what will happen. But I don’t think it’s likely that Catalonia will close the border, as that would amount to economical suicide and they don’t even have the thousands of border guards that would be necessary; and Spain won’t close the border because that would mean accepting that a new state has come to be. – chirlu – 2017-10-08T11:38:40.690

1@chirlu Didn't stop Serbia and Kosovo from setting up hard borders with one another (except on one road) – Crazydre – 2017-10-08T11:39:22.833

1It’s my guess of the future. Unfortunately, I don’t have a fool-proof crystal ball. :-) – chirlu – 2017-10-08T11:51:26.387

1@chirlu - fixed the question to be answerable instead of guessable – user4012 – 2017-10-08T12:44:44.550

1There's a third possibility: Catalonia could leave its borders with Spain and France (and Andorra) open, while Spain and France could close their borders with Catalonia (I have no idea what Andorra would do in such a situation). But don't forget that immigration is not the only issue; there's also customs to consider. – phoog – 2017-10-08T19:23:51.157

As far as I understand, a huge majority of Catalan independantist want to remain part both of the-EU and of the Schengen treaty. Or 'enter' those treaties as fast as possible if an (hypothetical) independant Catalonia is technically expelled from them. Which means open borders with other Schengen Countries, including France and Spain. – Evargalo – 2017-10-09T11:39:42.970

@OlivierPucher people may hope that an independent Catalonia can be in the EU from the outset, but that hope is almost certainly misplaced, and the process of joining will take months even in the unlikely event that it goes smoothly. If Catalonia achieves independence unilaterally, the time is more likely to be measured in years. During those months or years it would essentially be impossible for Spain and France not to have border controls on traffic from Catalonia. – phoog – 2017-10-09T20:57:41.673

@phoog Indeed. I answer about what seems to be the goal of most independentists, not about all the obstacles in their way. – Evargalo – 2017-10-09T21:13:08.387



The possible declaration of independence by itself would not be the defining factor, what would be important is what happens after that; either:

  • the Spanish government prevails and it ends just being some guys "declaring" themselves to go to jail, and nothing else happens, or

  • the Generalitat government prevails and it becomes independent.

Now, since the first possibility does not change the status quo, let's focus on the second possibility.

The independentist parties have claimed that they will be part of the EU and that everything will be "business as usual" the following day, but the EU and some important members do not agree with that idea. At best, and providing that no member of the EU wants to block them, they would have to follow the admission procedures.

So, Catalonia is outside the EU, what happens now?

  • In relation to Schengen, it is outside. People from foreign countries allowed inside of Catalonia will have no right to travel through the EU1, unless the EU decides otherwise.

  • In relation to freedom of movement within the EU of Catalonian citizens, it will depend of their nationality. Spain allows double nationality, so current Spanish citizens could travel through the EU as Spanish nationals. Spanish nationals could even ask Spanish citizenship for their offspring born after the split. Of course, that depends on both Spain and Catalonia not forbidding such a double nationality, but I think that move would be rather impopular in both places.

    Of course, by virtue of Catalonia being independent, they would be free to decide who they allow to enter, and the conditions of entry (visa, etc.). Since tourism is an important industry, it would make sense to keep the doors reasonably open to people from the EU, and the independentist politics have made claims to that effect.

  • In relation to trade the issue becomes way more complicated. Whatever their opinion, EU members trade is regulated by trade agreements that bind all of its members. Even if they wanted to, no member of the EU can just say "hey, let's open our borders" because it would mean opening the borders of all the states. So Catalonian trade would be subject to tariffs, import quotas2, and all the issues that, say, South Sudan3 trade to the EU has to face.

    A trade agreement could be negotiated, but that requires plenty of time (as has been discused when talking about Brexit); and even countries that do not feel threatened by independentist movements may use the opportunity to block the Catalonian goods that are a competition to them.

    Of course, the Catalonian government could open their side of the border, and unilaterally accept EU goods without limits or tariffs. But that could be troubling, as any producer in Catalonia could then move elsewhere in the EU and benefit from tariff-free trade with the EU and Catalonia, instead of facing tariffs and trade controls to access the EU market if it remained in Catalonia.

1Remember, Schengen applies to people who are not nationals of EU countries.

2And with no trade agreement assign Catalonia any of that quota.

3To mention another recently independiced country.


Posted 2017-10-08T11:24:46.823

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1Catalonia won't forbid dual nationality, at least initially. Article 9 of the Llei de transitorietat: "L'atribució de la nacionalitat catalana no exigeix la renúncia de la nacionalitat espanyola ni de qualsevol altra." – Peter Taylor – 2017-10-09T12:16:42.353

1@MichaelKjörling, FWIW that's Catalan rather than Spanish (although those who can read French, Spanish, or Italian can probably understand most of it). "Attribution of Catalan nationality does not require the renunciation of Spanish nationality nor any other". – Peter Taylor – 2017-10-10T11:32:32.377


"The proponents of independence" is a rather broad term, and the various movements in favour of Catalan independence agree on independence but not necessarily on anything else. (The parallels to Brexit are notable, but off topic).

However, the intent of the governing coalition in the Catalan parliament to remain in the EU (in spite of the EU saying that it is impossible) is clear in the law which they passed on the 8th of September, the Llei de transitorietat jurídica i fundacional de la República (roughly Law of Juridical Transition and Foundation of the Republic), which is intended to serve as an interim constitution. It states

Article 4. Dret de la Unió Europea i dret internacional

  1. El dret de la Unió Europea manté la seva naturalesa i posició respecte el dret intern.
  2. ...

Article 10. Continuïtat del dret vigent

  1. ...
  2. També es continuen aplicant, d'acord amb aquesta Llei, les normes del dret de la Unió Europea, el dret internacional general i els tractats internacionals.

Article 14. Continuïtat del dret de la Unió Europea

  1. Les normes de la Unió Europea vigents a Catalunya en el moment d'entrar en vigor aquesta Llei es continuen aplicant respecte de les obligacions que eren d'aplicació a les institucions catalanes i d'aquelles que s'aplicaven en el territori català per part de les institucions de l'administració central de l'Estat espanyol en les mateixes condicions que estableix el dret de la Unió Europea.
  2. Les normes de la Unió Europea que entrin en vigor amb posterioritat a l'entrada en vigor d'aquesta Llei s'integraran automàticament en l'ordenament jurídic de Catalunya, respecte de les obligacions que siguin d'aplicació a Catalunya, en les mateixes condicions que estableix el dret de la Unió Europea.

Article 15. Continuïtat dels tractats internacionals

  1. Els tractats internacionals celebrats pel Regne d'Espanya que siguin d'aplicació a Catalunya, sempre que la seva aplicació no resulti incompatible amb l'objecte i la finalitat del tractat o canviïn radicalment les condicions de la seva execució, es continuen aplicant a Catalunya, integrant-se en el seu ordenament jurídic fins que s'acordi la seva retirada, es renegociïn d'acord amb les normes del dret internacional o es vegin substituïts per un nou tractat internacional.
  2. En el termini més breu possible, el Govern declararà la inaplicació dels tractats que incorren en les incompatibilitats del paràgraf anterior. Quan els tractats haguessin estat autoritzats parlamentàriament, caldrà sotmetre la inaplicació a l'aprovació del Parlament.
  3. ...
  4. ...

In short, EU law continues to be supreme to "internal" law and new EU law will be automatically adopted; and international treaties continue to hold, although the government will conduct a review to determine which treaties no longer make sense ("as long as its application is not incompatible with the aim and purpose of the treaty nor changes radically the conditions of its execution"). Thus Catalonia would position itself as a successor state to Spain.

This maintenance of treaties and EU law is completely incompatible with closing the borders to Spain and France, so it can be taken as a definite "Yes" in response to your question.

Peter Taylor

Posted 2017-10-08T11:24:46.823

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