Can catalans lose EU/Spanish citizenship if Catalonia is independence?



I was reading the answers of What's will be like a viable and legal roadmap to Catalonian independence? and one of them says:

-If the vote to leave is over 50%, then the process for creating a new country starts. All the Spanish citizens that vote to leave lost their Spanish (and EU) citizenship. All those that vote No retain their Spanish citizenship and are treated as any Spanish citizen in a foreign country. Until there is a no double taxes treaty with the new country, Spanish citizens must pay taxes in Spain. The new country must ask to join EU, UN, etc. In the meantime, there is a frontier between the EU and the new country.

I am confused, I though that any person that was born in a European country would not lose the EU citizenship if Catalonia leaves EU but Spain doesnt (The citizens could choose which nationalities to maintain, so they could choos to maintain the Spanish one and then the europian one). The answer states that no, if you vote to leave you are out and if you vote to stay you maintain your citizenship.

Can someone make that clear, in a situation like this. Can catalans keep the Spanish citizenship if they are independence or it would depend on the governments? +1: If the answer is true (I dont think so), how they control who votes yes or no? It is supposed to be anonymous.

EDIT: There are people stating that the LAW says that in this case they will not lose citizenship but only statements, I couldnt confirm it. Example, in an interview to the president of Spain the interviewer says:

Porque la ley dice que el ciudadano nacido en España no pierde la nacionalidad aunque resida en un país extranjero si manifiesta su voluntad de conservarla.

Translation: A citizen born in Spain would not lose the citizenship (EU and Spain) even if it resides in another country and want to keep it.

I know that it is not exactly the same residing in another country that the independence situation, but in the interview they are talking about that and they make it clear as if it will happen the same if Catalonia leaves.

EDIT2: I do not want to discuss if Catalonia will or not stay in the EU directly after, that was already discussed.Can Catalonia enter the EU after its independence from Spain? (It was more or less clear that no they do not stay in the EU and they will need to apply later)

I want to discuss if any law in EU or Spain contemplates something like this (Like that any person who already has a citizenship of a EU country would not lose it even if a region is not from this country and you are there) Similar to what @phoog answer, but with some sources. The main point will be if Spain will allow catalans to mantain citizenship, if not, if it is force to do it or if it is not clear. I dont think the EU will have anything to avoid the Spanish government to choose their citizens.


Posted 2017-10-20T10:07:58.530

Reputation: 560

Question was closed 2017-10-20T14:37:00.117

This is not primarily opinion-based, but too broad. – 27620 – 2019-10-01T17:06:31.633

4Since the Spanish government refuses the possibility of independence, there have been no talks about what would happen in the event of independence. Spanish law currently allows for double nationality, and Spanish citizenship grants EU citizenship. *That is all we know about it right now*. Would citizens of a hypotetical independent Catalonia be able to keep its Spanish nationality? We do not know, and will depend on a lot of unknown factors. The question is unanswerable as of now. – SJuan76 – 2017-10-20T10:14:19.603

Well, I heard before that in the law it is clear. In a famous interview with Rajoy they say so. (It is in spanish)

– Ivan – 2017-10-20T10:18:48.627

3Wouldn't this hinge on the not yet determined question of if Catalonia would start off in the EU? My understanding of EU citizenship is that it's tied explicitly to your country's membership. Not sure this is answerable as a result. – Jack Of All Trades 234 – 2017-10-20T13:00:11.177

1The answer from which you took that statement currently has 4 downvotes and does not state any sources. It is possible that the author of the answer simply made that up. – Philipp – 2017-10-20T13:21:31.400

@Philipp thats what I though, but then I though if it is really true that they keep the citizenship (as I heard) or is possible that they lose it – Ivan – 2017-10-20T13:24:10.227

@Ivan current law does not allow a spanish citizien to loose his citizienship, not even by personal choice. you can't not be spanish, and they recgonize multiple nationalities. – CptEric – 2017-10-20T21:17:37.957

@CptEric how then do you explain the section on loss of Spanish nationality on the nationality page of the Spanish embassy to Canada?

– phoog – 2017-10-21T08:22:50.403

1@CptEric How do you know? Can you give some source please? – Ivan – 2017-10-21T16:09:57.230

@Ivan yes, i was wrong. It's only by personal choice :
You loose it only when you acquire another nationality, and, in the span of 3 years, you do not request it to still be your nationality ( it's a small PDF), or when you officially renounce to it ( can be denied). you also loose it if you enlist another country's army.

– CptEric – 2017-10-23T06:44:23.700

@CptEric Thanks! Thats what I heard, good to know :) – Ivan – 2017-10-23T08:12:06.227

Still, @Ivan , it looks like you can not be stripped of it against your will, there was a case where they wanted to do so for some 120-year-ish condemned basque terrorist and they dismissed it, and in 2015 or 2016 same happened for some yihadists. – CptEric – 2017-10-23T08:24:38.877

1@CptEric Exactly, I heard that it is a right, that it was I was confused with this guy´s answer – Ivan – 2017-10-23T08:40:50.890



Spain decides on Spanish nationality. Current law does not contemplate a situation in which part of Spain becomes independent, so current provisions against the involuntary loss of Spanish nationality should not be assumed to apply in such a situation.

In the hypothetical case of a part of Spain becoming independent, Spain might decide that some of its citizens would lose Spanish nationality. For example, it might pass a law causing anyone who becomes a citizen of the newly independent country to lose Spanish nationality. In that case, assuming that the new country is not a member of the EU, those losing Spanish nationality would also lose EU citizenship.

On the other hand, if Spain were to decide that nobody would lose Spanish nationality in connection with the independence, then nobody would lose EU citizenship.

The more likely outcome, however, is that there would be some mechanism that causes most people to be citizens of one country or the other after independence. (The suggestion that post-independence nationality should be determined by how one voted in a referendum is entirely impractical because ballots are secret.) The existence of that mechanism would imply that at least some people would cease to be Spanish and, therefore, would cease to be EU citizens.


Posted 2017-10-20T10:07:58.530

Reputation: 9 434

3"...those losing Spanish nationality would also lose EU citizenship" isn't completely clear-cut. In the context of Brexit, people are floating legal theories that EU citizenship can be gained but not lost. Until someone brings a case to the ECJ it's best to qualify such statements. – Peter Taylor – 2017-10-20T12:32:35.017

@PeterTaylor It is more or less clear that Catalonia will not be in EU (Not for sure but pretty clear) so if they lose the Spanish one they lose the EU. – Ivan – 2017-10-20T13:18:23.670

@PeterTaylor interesting. Do you have a link to any such floatings? I've read nothing that suggests anything other than that member states are free to regulate nationality and that the loss of member state nationality implies the loss of EU citizenship. – phoog – 2017-10-20T13:24:34.847

@phoog I though Spain has a regulation for this. I heard that anybody born in Spain will keep its citizenship even if where they are is not Spain (As what would happen with Catalonia) – Ivan – 2017-10-20T13:25:43.740

1@Ivan it is nonetheless possible that the ECJ could rule that EU citizenship might exist independent of member state nationality, or its existence might restrict member states from depriving their nationals of their nationality in some circumstances. – phoog – 2017-10-20T13:26:40.143

@Ivan what about those born in formerly Spanish territory? Perhaps a court would rule that they're no longer "born in Spain" for the purpose of nationality law. What about those born outside both Spain and Catalonia? Anyway, for Spain to accept Catalan independence, many laws would have to change, and nationality law would certainly be among them. That's what I meant by "current provisions against the involuntary loss of Spanish nationality should not be assumed to apply." – phoog – 2017-10-20T13:29:42.063

@phoog Yes sure, they can change a lot of stuff but I wanted to know actually. I know they can change laws and do a lot but thats not the point, they can also say tomorrow that Spain will not form part of the EU but thats rather improbable. With Catalonia is the same, if they get independent is because Spain also agree in a way and Spain does not want to kick all the Spanish in Catalonia out (there are also a lot pro Spain) so then is rather improbable that they would do a law like this – Ivan – 2017-10-20T14:05:43.720

@Ivan If Spain were to accept Catalan independence, it would certainly do so reluctantly. In that case, it would not want to have a country on its border whose citizens are all also citizens of Spain. Therefore, it is almost certain that at least some Catalans would lose Spanish nationality. – phoog – 2017-10-20T14:48:42.297

Executive summary of The Feasibility of Associate EU Citizenship for UK Citizens Post-Brexit: First, the key question as to providing this protection is whether Union Citizenship continues post-Brexit, or whether Brexit extinguishes citizenship. The report considers that continuity (“Continuity”) is the more convincing interpretation of European Union law and international law as it stands...

– Peter Taylor – 2017-10-20T19:44:27.223

@Ivan, your reply to my comment seems to assume that I said something very different to what I actually said. – Peter Taylor – 2017-10-20T19:49:21.487

I don't believe they would cease nationality for at least 1M people that voted against independents. The problem is they cannot tell them apart. Besides, consider most catalan population has spanish ascendants – Whimusical – 2017-10-29T00:04:26.703

And if you include the non independentists but pro-referendum its over 2M – Whimusical – 2017-10-29T00:06:21.513


As others said, it's complicated and depends on decisions and negotiations. But I'll try to present the main possibilities :

  1. EU doesn't acknowledge Catalan independence. It considers Catalans to be Spanish citizens, and therefore EU citizens.
  2. Independent Catalonia is an EU member - Catalans are EU citizens.
  3. Independent Catalonia isn't an EU member. Some Catalans, perhaps most, may retain their Spanish citizenship, and EU citizenship, others will not (either won't be able or won't want it), and will lose EU citizenship.

Of course, it can change over time - e.g. from 1 to 3 to 2.


Posted 2017-10-20T10:07:58.530

Reputation: 2 495


Short answer: Unknown.

This would be a big problem for the European Union. This has indeed been approached in the European Parliament in Subject: Right to self-determination of peoples: referendum on Catalan independence and Spain's opposition to it from which I (partially) quote:

Also in the light of its answer to Question E-007453/2012, in which it states that in the hypothetical event of a secession of a part of an EU Member State, the solution would have to be found and negotiated within the international legal order, does the Commission not agree that the EU treaties and other international treaties are preventing Catalonia from calling a free and democratic referendum to allow Catalan citizens to exercise their inherent right to self-determination, which is also provided for in the UN Charter?

Should it not take action — and if so, how — to safeguard the rights of Catalan citizens and institutions which, as President Puigdemont told the European Parliament, want to exercise their right to self-determination and remain in the EU?

To which the response Answer given by President Juncker on behalf of the Commission was:

As already explained by the Prodi Commission in its answer to the written question P-000524/2004, and as recalled lately by this Commission, in its answer to the Written Question E-011776/2015, it is not the role of the Commission to express a position on questions of internal organisation related to the constitutional arrangements in the Member States.

Concerning certain scenarios such as the separation of one part of a Member State or the creation of a new State, these would not be neutral as regards the EU Treaties.

The Commission recalls that the process for the accession of States to the European Union must be fully in line with the rules and procedures foreseen by the Treaties.

Note: Before proceeding I would like to make a note here that much of the linked questions have been made by Euroskeptic parties. I'll purposely leave in the open if this might have, or not, an influence in the respective answers from the Commission.

Most of the European Commission answers (but not all) seems to lean towards the opinion that the seceding state will leave the EU. This will gain a new degree of complexity if Scotland decides to leave the UK while Brexit is still occurring (In terms of diplomacy the EU should not give a different answer for both regions).

I would phrase The Political Economy of Secession in the European Union by Roland Vaubel regarding the legal aspects of this issue (relevant: Barroso, Reding and van Rompuy have supported the opinion that leaving a EU country would mean leaving the EU):

The legal position taken by Barroso, Reding and van Rompuy has no basis in the European treaties. Nor is there a precedent in EU law. Nor has this question ever been settled in any UN agreement or Vienna Convention. There are merely practices, and they vary among international organisations.

And he provides his assessment:

For good reasons, Art. 34 of the Vienna Convention opts for the second solution: treaties in force at the time of secession remain in force in all successor states. How would this second solution work if membership in international organisations were not excluded (by Art. 4) from this principle? If, say, Catalonia seceded from Spain or Scotland from the UK, both would remain members of the European Union. The seceding state and the rump state would have to negotiate an agreement on how they wished to share the rights and obligations of the predecessor state. If they did not meet their joint obligations, both could be expelled by the international organisation.

Notice that the Vienna Convention (I assumed Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties) does not have any power over Spain or the EU. In fact it seems Spain is not a signatory. Vaubel presents Vienna Convention as a possible legal basis for the problem but not one that by itself enforces anything.

This is not immediately associated with the question but might have a big impact in future negotiations and as so I feel it's important to quote it (it's in the same paper I linked previously):

Political philosophers derive the right of secession either from the right of self-determination or from the right of resistence against injustice. The choice between these two justifications makes a big difference. While the right of self-determination may justify an unconditional right of secession, the right of resistence presupposes that the government has violated its legal obligations.

The philosophical difference is often made by how the seceding state is seen by the outside (victim or not). Giving the lack of adequate precedent the European Commission and the European Parliament will likely rule based on that (if all members states accept the decision or not is yet another question, and the European Court idem).

Personal interpretation: That being said I think the EU will try to keep itself out of this issue as long as it can. If forced to make a decision (in case Catalonia does indeed secede) it will likely keep itself on the side of Spain and request a period for the "divorce". This process would likely take years and a lot can happen meanwhile. The EU is not fast. In order to avoid this situation there might some pressure for Spain to reform (perhaps considering Federalism as opposed to Devolution). In any case it is possible (and perhaps likely) for Catalans to lose EU citizenship in case of secession.


Posted 2017-10-20T10:07:58.530

Reputation: 5 294

As in other questions says, Catalonia will indeed not be inside the EU.

– Ivan – 2017-10-20T11:41:33.770

@Ivan No. That's not what it says. What I wrote is one thing, what you read is something entirely different. Like any other situation without precedent and legal framework it will have to be negotiated. If what you are looking for is a bland answer without any background, that's the one. If you're looking into using my words (or anyone else) into scaring Catalans leave me out of it. – armatita – 2017-10-20T12:09:09.963

Yes you are right It is not sure, but it is probable. Lots of people says Catalonia would be out -Juncker on Catalonia independence referendum: “Catalonia would not become an EU member overnight.”- I dont want a bland answer, but I dont want an answer that only quotes the sentences that says one side of it. (You quote 1 opinion of only 1 person saying that 3 persons has no basis) Sorry but your answer is BLAND, you dont quote Barroso/Junker, you only quote what agrees with you. (If you dont want to see other points is your problem) Anyway you dont answer my question, is not the discussion – Ivan – 2017-10-20T14:27:46.387

@Ivan The second quote I gave is a quote from Junker (in a response to the European parliament). The problem isn't the sources but your own biased opinion about this subject. I'm not Spanish or Catalan and I've shared the opinion before that I feel it would be better for everyone if Spain remained united. But I refuse to write up answers with the single purpose of punishing a group you dislike. I think everyone has already figured it out what really is happening in this question (among others). Spread your agenda if that's what you want but don't count on me to do it for you. – armatita – 2017-10-20T14:48:56.710

What i mean is that you only quote people saying that catalonia will stay, but you ignore other important opinions (as Junker or Barroso). It is weird that you only ignore the ones about Catalonia staying out and when I comment that there are other people saying the oposite you say I am biased... The quote from Junker that you add is not saying if catalonia would or not stay, but Junker has already say it. I want an answer not biased, but yours seems biased, and now seems more biased after you answer to my comment like this, when I only comment that more people says the oposite... – Ivan – 2017-10-21T15:58:11.170

@Ivan What you mean is that you really didn't read the answer and are just looking for reassurance to support your POV. I'm not sure how could I ever be biased if I don't have any kind of connection to either side (other than being a fellow European). That being said, what Junker really said (including in my quote) is that Catalonia would need to apply to become a member state. The criteria missing for the acceptance is this: "having the consent of the EU institutions and EU member states", since its likely Spain would not approve. Seems easy if it's Catalonia but "what if" Scotland? – armatita – 2017-10-21T17:07:21.390


you are confused because there are nothing fixed by law yet. This situation has no precedents. All must be negotiated, legislated and become law. The previous statement is only a proposal to work on, don't states anything. That voting is anonymous is not writed on stone, and a signed voting is the only way that anyone assume the results of their voting, they want to have it both ways.

Rogelio Triviño

Posted 2017-10-20T10:07:58.530

Reputation: 144

Some people states that the law say so, see my edit – Ivan – 2017-10-20T10:43:54.223

I think it's more that he's confused because you've presented your own speculation as fact in your self-answer, which is linked in this question. – Peter Taylor – 2017-10-20T12:03:34.480


It seems that retaining EU citizenship in the case that Catalonia secedes from Spain and declares independence would not be automatic; the Guardian writes:

Despite claims by pro-independence campaigners that the EU would not want to lose a wealthy region that would rank 15th or 16th in the bloc in terms of GDP, Brussels has made clear that the region will not automatically become a member.

It would have to apply, and acceptance would require the agreement of every other EU member state – including Spain, which in 2014 threatened to veto an eventual Scottish accession bid precisely to discourage Catalan independence.

Mozibur Ullah

Posted 2017-10-20T10:07:58.530

Reputation: 3 678

I am not talking about the country, but the citizens and their citizenships – Ivan – 2017-10-20T10:43:36.417

"Brussels has made clear that the region will not automatically become a member." But that's only because it's walking on eggshells. Belgium, the UK, and to varying degrees Italy, France, Germany, and others all have their own separatists to worry about. If Brussels signals to regions that it's fine to declare independence, Europe might end up with an extra dozen members in no time and a handful of angry old-time members.

– Denis de Bernardy – 2017-10-20T10:48:11.387