What with all the hoo-ha about what Jose Manuel Barroso did and didn’t say about membership of the EU this week, we decided – what with being proper journalists and everything – to take matters into our own hands in an attempt to get to the truth. Caroline Winchester is the European Commission’s Press & Policy Officer at its Scottish office in Edinburgh. We emailed her directly yesterday. (Emphasis added.)
As you’ll be aware, the Commission’s President has recently found himself at the centre of much interest from the Scottish and UK media with regard to his recent comments on a potential independent Scotland’s relationship with the EU. The press has almost without exception reported his comments as referring specifically and explicitly to Scotland. Some examples include:
“The SNP Government was on collision course with the European Commission last night after Nicola Sturgeon refused to accept a ruling by the body’s president that a newly independent Scotland would have to apply for membership of the EU.” (The Scotsman)
“José Manuel Barroso: Independent Scotland not EU member” (The Telegraph)
“Barroso: no automatic entry to EU for Scotland” (The Times)
These interpretations seem to be clearly at odds with the President’s actual words, which appeared to repeatedly and expressly state that he was speaking in generalities, and NOT specifically about Scotland’s particular and unique constitutional situation.
I wonder if you could clarify the Commission’s view in the light of this apparent confusion. Did President Barroso intend his comments to be interpreted or inferred as being applicable to Scotland, or have the publications in question drawn unwarranted conclusions from what he said and misrepresented his statements?
Rev. Stuart Campbell
Ms Winchester’s reply on behalf of the Commission arrived a few minutes ago. It’s short, remarkably similar to other recent comments issued by the Commission, and absolutely unequivocal. (Emphasis ours again.)
Dear Rev. Campbell
Apologies that I did not reply yesterday. Yes, the Commission has not ever commented on specific scenarios and has been very clear that it will only give its legal opinion in response to a specific scenario put from a Member State.
So there it is. However much the Scottish and UK media pretend otherwise, the European Commission’s official position is that they’ve all misrepresented President Barroso’s comments, and that he in fact expressed no view about Scotland. We really don’t know how much clearer it could be.