Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was arguing for a "continuation of the status quo", which would require negotiation but not a "full-blown accession", if the country votes to leave the UK.
Her comments came as it emerged the SNP administration has appointed an expert on European law to help them engage with the EU in the run-up to the independence referendum.
Drew Scott, professor of EU studies at Edinburgh University, will advise ministers on European treaties as they prepare to negotiate the terms of entry into the EU if Scotland votes yes to independence.
Speaking in an interview published in The Times today, Ms Sturgeon said: "There is nothing in any of the European treaties that would provide for a scenario where part of a member state was cast adrift from it, simply because it exercised its democratic right to self-determination.
"We are going to be simply arguing for a transition from membership as part of the UK to membership as an independent country, but on the same terms as we were a member as part of the UK.
"We`re simply arguing for a continuation of the status quo, so it would require negotiation, other countries would of course have a say on this, but we`re not talking about an accession.
"(Former European judge) David Edward made the point when he said it would be a treaty amendment scenario, not a new accession treaty.
"We`re in the EU, we`d have a process of negotiating the terms of our continued membership, but it`s not equivalent to a full-blown accession."
Last week, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore set out the UK Government's understanding of new legal analysis on the implications of independence by two eminent international lawyers.
James Crawford, Whewell Professor of International Law at the University of Cambridge, and Alan Boyle, Professor of Public International Law at the University of Edinburgh, believe the most likely outcome of Scottish independence would be the continuation of the UK as the existing state under international law and the creation of a new state of Scotland.
The Scottish Government's claim that Scotland would remain a member of existing international organisations such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and, crucially, the EU "can be dismissed as, at best, inconclusive", according to the expert analysis.
Speaking at the time, Ms Sturgeon declared the UK Government's position was "hugely arrogant".
She said: "A legal opinion is just that - there are opinions from other legal experts that say the opposite, that Scotland would be a co-equal successor state.
"International law is not settled - the reality is these matters would be settled by negotiations."
Scottish Labour's Patricia Ferguson described the issue of Europe as an "open wound" for the SNP.
She said: "Nicola Sturgeon said an independent Scotland would get automatic entry to the EU - which was completely wrong. Alex Salmond said he had legal advice on the issue - which was completely untrue.
"The truth is that if Scotland left the UK we would have to apply to join the EU.
"That is what the president of the European Commission has said. That is what the overwhelming amount of legal opinion says.
"But Nicola Sturgeon can't admit the truth and just continues to make it up as she goes along.
"Almost every time she says something about the EU she is proven wrong and then makes up another tall tale.
"Nicola Sturgeon's opinion on the EU isn't news. The day she tells the truth about it will be."