The European Commission would “respect” a Yes vote in a referendum on Catalan independence, Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday, but Catalonia shouldn’t expect to become an EU member straight after such a vote.
The European Commission president was asked for his thoughts on the referendum that Catalonia’s leaders have pledged to hold on October 1 — and that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to stop at all costs — in an interview with young YouTubers.
“The Commission does not involve itself in internal, domestic debates,” Juncker said, adding that the discussion was hypothetical as the referendum is not recognized by Spain. But he said “if there would be a Yes vote in favor of Catalan independence, then we will respect that opinion.”
However, even if that was to happen, “Catalonia will not become an EU member state on the day after such a vote. It will have to follow the same accession procedures as those member states who joined in 2004.”
Juncker said the same would apply to an independent Scotland and even, he joked, to an independent Northern Luxembourg.
The hour-long interview featured questions from three YouTubers. One of them, Abdel en Vrai from Belgium, told Juncker that many of his Muslim friends were discriminated against for wearing a headscarf at work and had difficulties finding jobs.
Juncker said this was against EU labor rules, adding, “I would never refuse a woman wearing a veil working in the Commission.”
“Where we have an impasse is the burka,” Juncker said. “But as for wearing the veil, I don’t see a reason why we should ban this religious sign.”
The European Commission chief was speaking a day after he delivered his State of the Union speech in Strasbourg. While he touched on a range of subjects in the address, and sprung a surprise by calling for the jobs of Commission president and Council president to be merged, he barely touched on Brexit.
Asked why he didn’t spend more time discussing the U.K.’s exit from the EU, Juncker said “Brexit isn’t the future. Brexit has already become the past and I wanted to talk about the future.”
The former prime minister of Luxembourg said he didn’t want the British to suffer as a result of Brexit because “I just like them too much.”