Catalonia seeking EU assurances similar to the north
A senior Catalan politician has spoken of the parallels between her own region and Northern Ireland.
Maria Badia, the government of Catalonia's secretary for foreign affairs and the EU, said it will also be seeking a commitment that it can remain a member of the union in the event of independence from Spain.
Catalan nationalists' calls for a referendum have been rejected by the Spanish government, despite majority support in the regional parliament.
They say that if Madrid does not grant their wish they will hold an independence poll unilaterally in the autumn.
Ms Badia, who visited Belfast yesterday, welcomed last month's commitment to allow the north to automatically rejoin the EU in the event of a united Ireland.
The former MEP said Catalonia would seek similar assurances.
"Of course we will – we are European citizens, we have all the things the EU wants from a new member," she told The Irish News yesterday.
"We are very European – we cannot imagine Catalonia outside the European Union."
Ms Badia addressed a conference at Queen's University yesterday looking at the effects of Brexit on Catalonia, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
She claimed the UK's vote to leave the EU was a "symptom of the increasing separation of the EU from its citizens".
"One can only fear what the result of a similar referendum would have been in countries such as France, the Netherlands, Hungary or Poland, just to mention some examples," she said.
"We must rethink the kind of EU we want – a private club of member states or a true Europe of citizens, regions, municipalities, and nations?"
Ms Badia said the "pro-European territories" of Catalonia, Scotland and Northern Ireland offered an opportunity for the EU to regain some trust - "to better reflect the essence of the European ideal and a more balanced sovereignty-sharing model".
She also urged the EU to intervene in the event of Catalans being denied the opportunity for self-determination.
"A peaceful democratic vote on Catalonia's political future is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised – and sooner or later the EU will have the responsibility to assume a role on this," she said.