EU says no to referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, but maybe yes to Catalonia
Tuesday, 26 September 2017
The referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurdistan took place as planned yesterday amid protests from the international community and threats of sanctions from surrounding countries. The Kurdish on-line newspaper Rudaw English reported yesterday evening (25 September) that the voter turnout was 72 % or even more according to other newspapers. The first results, when only ca 9 % of the votes had been counted, showed that 93 % had voted yes for an independent Kurdish state.
The EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini issued last week a statement in support of Iraq’s territorial integrity. “Unilateral actions, such as the proposed referendum, is counterproductive and must be avoided,” said the statement briefly.
That said, EU recognizes that there are outstanding issues between Erbil and Baghdad that need to be resolved. “This should be done through a peaceful and constructive dialogue between the two parties.” The Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil hopes that this will happen after the referendum which it sees as an expression of the Kurdish right of national self-determination.
EU’s position on the Kurdish referendum has been explained by its concerns for secessionist aspirations within the union, such as in Catalonia and Scotland. In Catalonia a referendum is planned to take place on 1 October, amid strong opposition from the Madrid government which considers it a breach of the Spanish constitution.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said earlier this month that “If there were to be a ‘yes’ in favour of Catalan independence – which remains to be seen – then we will respect that choice”.
Afterwards Vice-President Frans Timmermans clarified that Juncker also was referring to the constitutional court in Spain. “You should expect all actors in any member state to respect the constitutional order in the member state.”
Asked by The Brussels Times at a press briefing yesterday (25 September) to explain the different positions on the referendums, a spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS) declined to comment.
“We are following the situation and have nothing to add to the previous statement,” the spokesperson said.