Rarely have I found myself left speechless by the comment of a politician, but the Jose Manuel Barroso’s attempt to compare Scotland with Kosovo left me in a state of spluttering incoherence. I have nothing against the people of Kosovo – indeed, I supported military intervention to stop genocide there in 1999.
But Kosovo is not in the European Union and has not even applied to join. It is a small, poor country with profound ethnic divisions and serious security issues. Scotland is one of the richest and most stable democracies in the European Union, has its own parliament, five world class universities, abundant natural resources and fishing grounds that the Spanish fleets have been trawling to extinction for decades.
Scotland fulfils all the Copenhagen criteria for membership of the EU – by definition because Scotland already is in the EU. Scotland has been part of the European Union since its creation in 1993 and has been subject to European law for over forty years. There is no precedent for a country being expelled from the EU, and the mere suggestion is contrary to the founding principle on which Europe is based: the right of all nations to self-determination.
Or will Mr Barroso be assuring the Russian President Vladimir Putin that it is “impossible” for Ukraine to join the European Union? Former communist countries like Bulgaria have recently been welcomed into the EU fold despite having serious economic problems and profound human rights issues, including recognised breaches of the European Convention. But not Scotland whose parliament incorporated the ECHR into its very constitution. It took a nanosecond for the EU to recognise the existence of countries like Latvia when they broke from Russian domination. Yet we are to believe that one of the oldest countries in Europe is to be blackballed.
Mr Barroso may think he is doing the UK a good turn here, but he will get precious little reward. It will make no difference to David Cameron’s determination to hold a referendum on withdrawal from the EU. But it will make the one country in the UK that supports the EU think seriously about the whole project. Even as the UK is threatening to leave, here is the president trying to prevent Scotland from staying in.
The president of the EU is going beyond his remit with this attempt to interfere with the democratic processes in a member nation – and remember Scotland remained a nation despite the union with England in 1707. It is the voice of a bureaucrat who clearly has no understanding of British and Scottish history. There can be only one possible response: no way Jose.