IndyRef2: McEwen on how Scotland could learn from Brexit
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Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, ramped up her call for Scottish independence this week, telling the Financial Times it would be “unthinkable” for Westminster to deny Scots another vote. And if her bid is successful, Ms Sturgeon has vowed to apply for Scottish membership of the EU, after 62 percent of Scots voted for remain during the Brexit referendum.
Ms Sturgeon appears to be quietly working on her goal to have Scotland as a European Union member in the background.
The EU Ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida, will meet Ms Sturgeon during his first in-person visit to Scotland on Thursday as she ramps up efforts to win friends in Brussels.
However, the EU might not welcome Scotland with open arms if it does try to rejoin the bloc in the future.
This week, an EU summit in Slovenia saw the accession of six Western Balkans nations dominating talk, as EU enlargement remains a divisive point amongst member states.
The nations have long been in a bid to join the bloc, and the bureaucracy of enlargement has become something of a laughing matter among European critics.
For example, accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania — which have already received a green light from Brussels — are being blocked primarily by Bulgaria, a country that hosted its own Western Balkans summit in 2018.
Now, Bulgaria is holding up Macedonia’s membership due to disputes over history and language, which it insists must first be resolved.
And in 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron has sharply criticized the EU enlargement process and blocked the opening of membership talks for Albania and North Macedonia at a summit last year.
He branded the current system “bizarre” and declared the EU should be able to reverse the process if candidate countries backslide on key issues.
The Western Balkans issue could very much become one for Nicola Sturgeon, too.
At a closing news conference at the summit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen insisted the EU’s arms were wide open to the Western Balkans, before backtracking.
She said: “The Commission’s message is very clear. First of all, the Western Balkans is part of the same Europe as the European Union.”
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She went on: “We share the same history. We share the same interests, the same values and, I am deeply convinced, also the same destiny.
“And the European Union is not complete without the Western Balkans.
“So, my Commission will continue to do its utmost to advance the enlargement process and the region’s EU integration.
“We want the Western Balkans in the European Union. There cannot be any doubt that our goal is enlargement.”
But moments later, she admitted that while the Balkan nations have all undertaken reforms to meet EU membership requirements, the EU is not living up to its end of the bargain.
She said: “In the meantime, the European Union also has to deliver
“And in particular, the lack of a decision for opening the negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania is jeopardising our standing and our leverage in the region.”
European Council President Charles Michel agreed on the importance of enlargement but admitted it’s no easy task.
He said: “It’s no secret … there is an ongoing discussion among the 27 about our capacity to take on new members. On this subject, it’s clear that we still need to make some progress.”
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