Roger Albinyana

Foreign Affairs Secretary of the Government of Catalonia

It is 70 years since the end of the Second World War. To avoid a repetition of that catastrophe, Europe has managed to build a political and institutional system over the last seventy years which not only has rendered another war at continental level impossible, but has also provided its citizens with the highest levels of well-being ever known. Without a doubt, the European Union is a success story. A glance at the statistics makes that quite clear: the EU accounts for 7 per cent of the world’s population, over 20 per of the world economy and 50 per cent of the world spending on welfare. Thus, being a citizen of the EU is a guarantee of safety and rights which are practically non-existent in the rest of the world.

Reaction: SNP's Alyn Smith and EU and Scottish politics expert Michael Keating respond to Mr Albinyana's views

However, for the first time in many years, the Europe which we have constructed is at the centre of a crisis without precedent, which has been caused by a number of factors. On the one hand, the underlying conflict with Russia has taken on new dimensions due to the Crimean crisis and the military threats in the north of Europe. Russian aircrafts have flown worryingly close to the British Isles, scenes long forgotten since the time of the Cold War. In the Middle East, the fratricidal Syrian war and the emergence of the Islamic State have caused an escalation in armed conflict in one of the most volatile regions on Earth, with the increased military involvement of Europe. The result of this war is an enormous wave of refugees. Hundreds of thousands of people are attempting to cross Europe, or the Mediterranean in flimsy vessels, in an attempt to flee war and desperation. Europe, considered by many to be the cradle of democracy, freedom and human rights, has reacted to this humanitarian crisis by erecting walls and creating barriers defended by police, thus showing a division between member states which is putting the basic values of the EU at risk. Terror attacks have increased the feeling of insecurity and fear amongst Europeans, many of whom demand even higher walls and a greater police presence on the streets. Europe is at risk of completely cutting itself off.

HeraldScotland: Scotland and Catalonia are different circumstances Sturgeon cautions

Consequently, it could be said that Europe has become a success story while these neighbouring regions are suffering very serious problems. The world is turning to Europe, but Europe is unable to offer sufficient responses, embroiled in its own doubts. It is for this reason that Europe must change its way of thinking and take advantage of the current crises to leap forward once again. A more united and stronger Europe is needed. Europe needs to adopt a single voice and a unified policy regarding sensible issues. Of course, it is vital that the external borders are strengthened, but at the same time, we need to design a policy to accept refugees in a fair and humane way which is appropriate for Europe. It is crucial that we cooperate with neighbouring countries, especially those in the south of the Mediterranean, to help to stabilise them and help them on the road to economic and social growth.

In the current context of change, and the consolidation of the European movement, the great European institutions must adapt. They must also change their way of tackling internal challenges. I am referring to the possible creation, by democratic means, of new states emerging from existing member states. This possibility, as we saw a year ago in Scotland or, which is now the case for Catalonia, worries the European institutions. It should not be that way. Neither Catalonia nor Scotland is a problem. A democratic and peaceful decision taken by a European majority from a territory should never be a cause of fear; to allow it to be so would amount to fear democracy itself and Europe must not go down that road. The EU must find a mechanism or protocol to manage such cases, which are not as common as some would make us believe. Besides the Scots and the Catalans, which other European nations without its own state have made a similar proposal? None. Europe will only overcome the new external and internal threats with more democracy, more dialogue, more tolerance and more justice. To act otherwise would be to give path to extremism and radicalism in ways that Europe has already come across and we profoundly reject.