International leaders welcome result as maintaining strength of alliances

Barroso praises Scottish people for ‘reaffirming European commitment’

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen (right) with British prime minister David Cameron. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/PA Wire

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen (right) with British prime minister David Cameron. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/PA Wire

 

The European Union, Nato and a host of international countries gave a strong welcome to the Scottish referendum result yesterday.

European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, who previously said it would be “difficult if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to remain in the European Union, welcomed the decision of the Scottish people to “maintain the unity of the United Kingdom”.

He added that the commission welcomed the fact that the Scottish government and people had “repeatedly reaffirmed their European commitment” during the debate.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, a former Belgian prime minister who had not commented on the referendum before the vote, said he “respected and welcomed” the decision of the Scottish people.

In an apparent allusion to the possible British referendum on EU membership before 2017, he added: “The United Kingdom is and will remain an important member of the European Union to the benefit of all citizens and member states of the European Union.”

Obama supported No vote The status of Scotland in the E

U should it choose independence featured prominently in the debate on Scottish secession in the run-up to Thursday’s vote. But the EU institutions had refused to be drawn on the thorny issue of EU membership in the months directly preceding the referendum.

Speaking in Brussels, Nato’s general secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he “fully respected” the choice of the people of Scotland and welcomed David Cameron’s statement that the UK would go forward as a united country.

“The United Kingdom is a founding member of Nato, and I am confident that the United Kingdom will continue to play a leading role to keep our alliance strong,” he said.

Earlier this week, Mr Rasmussen had warned that Scotland would not automatically remain in the defence alliance should it choose independence, stating that the new state would have to apply for Nato membership and win the unanimous support of all existing members.

Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, who had voiced a preference for keeping Britain together, told reporters she respected the outcome of the referendum, adding: “And I say that with a smile”.

Belgian EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht, whose native Flanders region is in thrall to a growing nationalist movement, said a Scottish split would have been “cataclysmic” for Europe, triggering a domino effect across the continent.

“If it had happened in Scotland, I think it would have been a political landslide on the scale of the break-up of the Soviet Union,” said Mr De Gucht, a liberal who does not support demands from some of his fellow Flemings for their own state.

“A Europe driven by self-determination of peoples ... is ungovernable because you’d have dozens of entities but areas of policy for which you need unanimity or a very large majority,” he said, adding that “parts of former countries” might behave in a very nationalistic ways.

Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi underlined how the Scottish vote raised hopes that a united but more decentralised Britain would remain in the European Union.

“The value of diversity and the riches of our territories, not fragmentation, is the answer which the Scottish people, rightly proud of their history and traditions, has given to all of us,” he said.

Reaction to the Scottish vote also resonated further afield. US president Barack Obama reiterated his support for a No vote, welcoming Scotland’s decision to stay part of the United Kingdom.

“Through debate, discussion, and passionate yet peaceful deliberations, [the Scottish people] reminded the world of Scotland’s enormous contributions to the UK and the world, and have spoken in favour of keeping Scotland within the United Kingdom,” he said in a statement.

Russia criticised the conduct of the referendum, stating that observers it had sent to Scotland for the vote reported that the count “did not meet international standards”.

Russian MP Mikhail Emelyanov reflected the views of many pro-Kremlin commentators who made a link between the flawed referendum held in Crimea in March and the Scottish ballot, arguing that the Crimean referendum was more legitimate.

(Additional reporting, Reuters)