Honors World Regional Geography 2017 – Blog #7 Posted on September 4, 2017 by saorsa2014 Discuss the rise of separatist nationalism in Western Europe. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related
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Europe as a whole has been tasked with recovering from past dictatorships, making nationalism an extremist ideal until recent shifts of political tides. In Spain (which did not have a democratic constitution until the 70’s) patriotism was right-wing taboo until recently, as the Catalonian referendum has inspired unity in the areas of Spain outside of Basque and Catalonia. Catalonian nationalism is feeding Spanish nationalism because the respective movements (and all of their genre) need enemies. Nationalism depends on opposition, because oppression (or imagined oppression) is part of the platform. Take a look at the ultra-right nationalist movement that stemmed from the 2016 American election–the primary argument of the group was that immigration and modern liberals are oppressing and removing rights from the white (and usually male) population through Affirmative Action, diversity efforts, and the notion of “political correctness.” The Catalonians argue they are oppressed by Spain, the Spanish argue that Catalonian separatism is actively attacking the national law and identity.
Separatist nationalism has been present in Western Europe since, well, World War I, but more recently since the 1990’s. Violence in former Yugoslavia surrounding Kosovo and Serbia was the warning alarm that nationalism was in Europe to stay. Since the Kosovo conflict, the ever-present nationalism of Russia was fueled, bringing us the crisis we see along the Ukrainian border today.
The refugee crisis reaching new and massively recognized heights was the catalyst, what sparked Western Europe’s rapid embrace of nationalism. Influxes of Muslims (and Arabs in general) put the majority of Western Europe on edge while the atrocities of DAESH only made Europeans more and more uncomfortable. Minor riots have been consistently present in Nordic countries regarding immigration for the past several years, and adding refugees to the mix only heightened tensions. Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, Marine Le Pen of France and Germany’s Alternative for Germany party (to name a few) all found popularity though anti-Islam rhetoric. While Wilders and Le Pen were defeated and the Alternative for Germany did not successfully overthrow Angela Merkel, their sentiments remain very alive.
The paranoias of both the citizens and governments of such Western European nations can be traced back to the ever-present ethnicism and racism that has been consistent through European history. Evidence of such ethnicism is found in separatist nationalist movements and their oppositions. From Flanders to Sicily to Basque Country to Wales, ethnicities and regions in Europe demand fragmentation from their current host countries. Western Europe, more so than other regions, has forced unity through economic incentives such as the European Union, a narrative that conflicts with the splintering separatist movements that sprawl throughout the area. Europe is facing an identity crisis, one unlikely to be solved in the aftershocks of Brexit and the struggling Catalonian referendum. Separatist nationalism, and European nationalism in general, is unlikely to subside any time soon.
Separatist movements have existed in Western Europe since regions first began to congeal into states. Their claims to independence are usually based on the unique cultural identities of the people belonging to the region. Despite these claims, the map of Western Europe has remained largely unchanged since the Second World War. However, because of recent economic uncertainty in Europe, due to the hardships brought during the recession of 2008-2009, these movements have begun to gain some support. These movements interact with the larger trend towards right-wing nationalism in Europe.
Because there are so many separatist movements in Western Europe currently, it is difficult to talk about all of them without defaulting to making broad statements and vague generalizations. (See my introductory paragraph for an example.) So I’m not going to attempt that. Instead I’d like to focus on two movements that recently made headlines for their votes for independence—the Scottish separatist movement and the Catalonian separatist movement.
In 2014, Scotland held a referendum to determine if Scotland should be an independent country from the United Kingdom. The campaign for separation was largely based on an argument of cultural identity—that Scotland is subjugated by the English, and to restore its pride, it must throw off these colonial overlords. Nicolas Wood, in his essay “Things Fall Apart: Why the Future of Europe Rests on Scotland,” also points to the economic success of Scotland relative to the rest of the UK as a possible argument for Scottish independence, as “Scottish output per capita is at 98 percent of the UK average and the highest outside of London” (35). But economic uncertainties still plagued the Scottish vote for independence. Would Scotland automatically be granted EU membership? What degree of monetary independence would Scotland actually have while it keeps the pound as its currency? There was no guarantee of future economic prosperity for Scotland if it left the UK, and therefore, the pro-independence movement failed to gain the support it needed for a resounding “yes” to independence. While the movement failed within the borders of Scotland, it nevertheless encouraged other separatist movements to conduct their own referendums.
Catalonia perhaps has a stronger economic basis for its claims to independence than the Scottish separatist movement. Because the region is so prosperous, its tax revenues are used to subsidize the rest of Spain. For every euro of tax revenue paid by Catalonian citizens, only 57 cents are returned to the region in the form of budget allocations by the central government (Wood). Additionally, the region has claim to a distinct cultural heritage—one that is very much still alive as the region speaks Catalan, unlike the rest of Spain. Perhaps it was the strength of these cultural and economic claims to independence that led to the disputed success of the October 1st referendum on Catalonia independence.
For Western Europe, these separatist movements feed into the related trend of the rise of far-right nationalist parties. The instability that results from these movements can lead voters to turn to the isolationist politics of these parties to restore order (Wood). These movements can also feed into a reactionary escalation of ardent nationalism, as Catalonia’s vote for independence did in Spain (Kingsley and Minder). This resurgence of nationalism also has the potential to bolster support for far-right parties in Europe. Additionally, successes in these movements can lead to the breakdown of the EU’s single market—leaving new states created in the separatist struggle unincorporated into the EU’s framework. Separatist movements, even if they aren’t wholly successful, thus have the potential to escalate the polarization of European politics and break down the current economic order in Europe.
Very nice work
The rise of separatist nationalism in Western Europe largely coincides with the emergence of right wing populism. Many of these movements have been encouraged by economic separatist movements such as Brexit in 2016. While this was still much different than redrawing the borders of a country, it was pushed by economic nationalism and ethnic disputes. The large influx of refugees into Europe throughout the Syrian Civil War has given clout to fear-mongering populists such as Theresa May, Marine Le Pen, and has even influenced American politics with the election of Donald Trump.
The unexpected Brexit vote has since stirred up independence discussions in Scotland. In 2014, 44.7% voted for Scottish independence and separation from the United Kingdom. Many Scots disagree with Brexit and want to remain in the European Union, causing people like First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to push for another referendum in 2018.
In Flanders, a Flemish region of Belgium, the New Flemish Alliance has become the largest party in Belgian parliament. There has always been a rift between the Dutch and French speaking regions of Belgium, yet the Dutch account for 56.3% of the population. This independence movement probably won’t surface to national news much until 2019, when elections occur. But it leaves big questions lingering. What happens to Wallonia; will they function independently or be absorbed into France? What will happen to Brussels as the capital of the EU and NATO headquarters?
While there are numerous more independence movements flickering across Europe, such as those in Italy, Wales, and so on, the most recognized recently have been those in Spain. Areas that were oppressed during the Franco dictatorship (lasting until 1975) still feel the inherent oppression that never disintegrated along with Franco’s regime. Basque Country (País Vasco) accounts for 4.6% of Spain’s population, but stretches into France, through the Pyrenees Mountains. It is most commonly referred to geographically as its legitimate status as one of the 17 provinces of Spain. Many Basques face discrimination, especially for the use of their language Euskara, and have surmounted into a terrorist organization known as “ETA”. ETA has since ended violence (2011) yet the Basques aren’t seen as legitimate as other separatist movements, like Catalonia, due to their violence.
Catalonia, on the other hand, accounts for 16% of Spain’s population and 20% of their GDP. 90% of those who voted in the past referendum wanted an independent Catalonia. You really can’t blame them, considering Spain’s central government is filled with rampant corruption. The constitutional monarchy wastes an extreme amount of money on the lavish lifestyle of the King, who serves as nothing more than a figure head, and many politicians such as Cristina Cifuentes (President of the Province of Madrid) have been caught stealing government funds. Cifuentes is a member of the Partido Popular, along with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Having studied abroad in Spain, I can attest to the fact that many Spaniards are disenchanted with Rajoy’s leadership and the overall corruption. My host mom, in particular, is of Basque descent yet has lived in Madrid her entire life. She identifies largely with the separatists (while loving Madrid) and hates to see Rajoy abuse his power and the people. The general consensus I gathered, from professors, my host mom, and friends, is that many Spaniards don’t necessarily want Catalonia to separate from Spain, however they support sovereignty and disagree with Rajoy’s methods of quashing democracy. Rajoy and the central government have since encouraged that the “silent majority” emerge and vote in favor of the Partido Popular on December 21st. Sound familiar?
Very nice work
As of the last five years, the world, though specifically the western world, has seen a significant increase in nationalism and alt-right sentiments. For many European countries, the culmination of these feelings was the election of far-right political parties. In some cases, however, the increase in separatist nationalism has resulted in regional strides for greater autonomy or moves for independence altogether.
In June of 2016, the United Kingdom made a historical vote to separate itself from the European Union. What is referred to as Brexit, is an interesting display of rising nationalism and an increasing sentiment that an increase in autonomy is the solution to serious economic problems. For the U.K, separating itself economically from the E.U also meant a resurgence of Scottish separatist movements, as the country voted predominantly to stay in the E.U. For Scotland, which had taken a vote to leave the U.K before, Brexit was just another reason to re-evaluate the independence movement. Brexit was an event felt among all of Europe, Scotland is not the only country looking at a resurgence of separatist ideals but Catalonia, the Basque country, Corsica, and several other regions have also seen a rise in separatist nationalism.
Arguably the most well-known case of separatist desires within Europe is Catalonia. The region within Spain, once an independent country with its own culture and language now falls under the umbrella of the Spanish national government. Catalonia, which is home to Barcelona, is responsible for 19% of Spain’s GDP. Catalonia, somewhat understandably, wants independence from the corrupt government and struggling economy of Spain. Spain obviously does not want this to happen. They would lose roughly 20% of their GDP, a blow that would be detrimental to the functioning of the government and state. Catalonia also has a distinct culture, the primary language being Catalan with 95 percent of the population speaking Catalan while the official language of Spain is Spanish. They are deeply proud of their cuisine, of their sports, and of their culture, which they feel (and rightly so) is very much separate from Spain. While Catalonia has their own regional parliament, they want full independence and their most recent move to vote on such an issue was met with a forceful put-down by the Spanish government. The Basque country in Spain has also seen a rise in separatist sentiments. While not as rich a region as Catalonia, the Basque country has greater economic autonomy, not having to send their taxes to Madrid but getting to keep it all within the region. Similarly to Catalonia, however, Spain has rejected any and all attempts of the Basque country to obtain independence.
Corsica, a French Mediterranean island off the southern coast of the mainland has long wanted independence from the country. With a language repressed by the French government, as it fears regional languages are a threat to French unity, Corsica has long felt oppressed by the French government. The National Liberation Front of Corsica, a party intent on Corsican independence, resorted to violence, attacking French representatives and destroying French symbols. Alas, nothing came to fruition. Corsica nationalism has been around since the 1960 and is likely not going anywhere, but we might see a greater rise in popularity with regional shifts toward separatist ideologies.
While the list of regions in Europe wanting either greater autonomy or outright independence is far greater than just Catalonia, Corsica, or the Basque country, the rise in all these movements coincide with an increasing popularity of far-right ideologies, and nationalism in general. It no doubt makes sense that with an overall increase in country pride and nationalistic ideals, regions that do not feel a part of their country would now want independence. What effect these movements will have on the stability of European politics is unknown, but we will no doubt find out soon enough.
Currently in Europe there are dozens of separatist movements occurring. Some of these movements, such as the ones in Catalonia and Northern Ireland, are wanting more drastic changes. Others, such as Brittany and the Jura Region, are simply wanting more autonomy. Nationalism as we know it today arose in the mid-1800s. Following new political ideas and reforms, nationalism become a tool used by those in power to have people rally behind them. Nationalism was driven by compulsory education where people were taught in a common language, an united army where men could serve alongside people from different regions, the usage of the mass press to give news beyond the local community, larger markets and easier transport via railways, and the government encouraging new monuments, flags, anthems, and holidays that entire communities in a single nation could gather behind. Leaders would offer liberties such as universal male suffrage in order to consolidate more power for themselves and to create a large nation-state. Nationalism became more and more prominent as nations began competing to become the most industrialized and powerful nation. Countries wanted to be the best and be better than their neighbors. These ideas of nationalism have transferred into separatists movements across Europe. Many groups either seeking greater autonomy or complete independence usually have valid reasons for wanting so. Typically, they share a common language, unique geographic location, culture, history, and/or religion. These regions believe their differences from the larger nation are grounds for separation. These movements are common in Europe. Ranging from the Scottish National Party to the Faroe Islands of Denmark to the northern regions Italy, Lombardy and Veneto. Some of these regions are wealthy and see the economic benefits of independence; others are seeking to create more autonomy for themselves. Many of these movements evoke political action in the form of political parties that are pro-independence. These parties work to preserve self-determination within their region while also pushing for more autonomy. However, some movements have incited violence across a region. The violence may be incited by the separatist or the national government and may result in more instability. The Basque movement in Spain is known as a more violent independence movement. Altogether though, these movements have not actually resulted in independence. Leaders see the complex and difficult political and economic situations that may arise from separation.Usually a region can become more autonomous however.
The independence movement of Catalonia is one of the more well-known in Europe. The Catalonia movement stems from Catalonians wanting more autonomy within their region. For years under dictator Francisco Franco, Catalonians unique cultural identity and language were oppressed and neglected. Very recently, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont held a referendum vote to decide whether Catalonia would declare independence or not. Although the Spanish government declared the vote illegal, the movement has reopened the conversation about Catalonian independence. For decades, there have been Catalonians who have cried for independence. The reasons are mainly economic (Catalonia represents 20% of Spain’s GDP), however the history of Catalonia provides a unique culture that Catalans believe should be enough for their own state.
Very good discussion
Throughout Western Europe there has been a shift toward right wing nationalism in policy. This has been due to the various of economic problems the states have undergone. Usually economic instability leads to some form of analysis on who the blame should be placed on. In addition to economic instability, an increase in terroristic attacks on regions, and issues with foreign policy are also catalysts for right wing nationalistic movements. When states security is compromised the immediate response has been to close borders and provide extreme vetting. However, in Western Europe and the United States immigrants have served as the scapegoats for these events.
The first demonstration of this nationalistic movement was Germany. The foundation of the campaigns were anti- establishment, with a huge advocacy base for xenophobia. A very important component to nationalism is opposition. In my opinion that is why the Catalan movement in Spain has resonated so well with the people. It is very similar to the Spanish Nationalism wave the country has undergone. The Catalan people are discontent under Spain rule because they are not accurately represented. After collaboration with some classmates I feel comfortable drawing the parallel between the Catalan Separation movement and the radical tea party movement in America. Both situations encompass a portion of the population that feels oppressed, and underrepresented.
Another clear depiction of this separatist nationalistic movement is proven through France. France just went through a general election cycle. They had a representative, Marine Le Pen who represented the rise of nationalism. It was the same Xenophobic, and fearful rhetoric Spain, and the US had shown the world. Surprisingly, unlike the rest of the Western European elections. This is also very similar to the German election, of the right wing party. Angela Merkel, the current president of Germany was challenged by the opposing party.
Due to the increase of terrorism there have been a plethora of anti- Muslim rhetoric, and policy. An example, is the Netherlands Freedom party. There has been a huge influx of Muslim immigrants from Morocco looking for refuge. Due to this the government has used Anti- Muslim rhetoric to isolate them. This also led to an increase in the suppression of free speech, and voting rights. We can see a parallel in the United States like this with the silencing of the environmental agencies, and many bureaucracies in the American Government. There can also be a parallel that is drawn due to the rejection of Muslim folk. In America, there have been attempts to ban Muslims, and limit their migration to this country. Another example of limitation of speech is illustrated through Greece’s government. They have also praised Trump’s Anti- Immigration rhetoric. Fear has played an interesting role in these election cycles. I think it is safe to say this right wing nationalistic is a representation of this. Other reflections have been BREXIT in the summer of 2016. In my opinion this was the catalyst in most economic nationalistic movements in Western Europe. Shortly after, the election of President Trump happened, which in turn caused for the spread of separist nationalism in Western Europe.
Very well done
Europe has had a long and rich history of different ethnic groups throughout the region that go through periods of being subject to domination and liberation. Nationalism began its mark during the Enlightenment, and by the Second World War, it was spreading like wildfire. This idea has led to the empowerment of groups such as the Magyars in Hungary in the 19th century, and more recently the independence of Kosovo in 2008 and present-day Catalonia efforts to declare independence from Spain.
Russia has long strived to maintain allies and influence in Eastern Europe in order to keep with the Western world and maintain trade with a warm water port. When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, many Eastern European countries that were submissive to the U.S.S.R. began gaining independence, and this spurred unrest and inspiration among Western Europe. The biggest movement is currently in Catalonia which is a region in Northwest Spain. Catalonia has been granted some form of autonomy with their own regional parliament, but these Catalonians want economic independence as well. As up to 20% of Spain’s GDP comes from Barcelona alone, these people feel that Spain is consuming the region’s wealth. Catalonia has had numerous referendums to decide the fate of the region, and the most recent one at the beginning of October revealed that there was a 42% voter turnout and 90% were in favor of separation from Spain. But, they are receiving harsh backlash from Spain as up to 893 people at the polls fell victim to attacks from Spanish riot police. Spain is definitely fearful of losing this strategic region, especially considering their economic support and influence. If Catalonia were to declare independence, mass chaos across Spain would ensue.
Another region inspired by separatist nationalism is Scotland, which has been a part of the U.K. for the last 300 years. Scotland also has their own parliament, and the Scotland National Party is pushing towards independence from Britain. After a failed referendum in 2014, Scotland has been inspired by Brexit to have yet another one as Scotland is being unwillingly forced into leaving the EU. It’s their hope to hold a second referendum in 2018, although the results are projected to stay consistent. Catalonia and Scotland aren’t the only regions expressing independent ideas; in fact, their values are trickling into other areas causing a disruption across Western Europe. For instance, regions such as Padania in northern Italy, and Corsica in France are less heard of, but nonetheless are on the same road to independence.
All of these movements in Western Europe share one thing in common, they are all motivated to independence by a desire to be represented, and from inspiration from each other. Separatist nationalism is like a domino effect, and whether or not these regions are seeking independence for ethnic or economic reasons, they all want a voice and an end to being overlooked. However, if you support one movement, you’ll feel obligated to support another, and another after that. So, the movement for independence sounds great at first, but if achieved, they could cause major problems for Europe both politically and economically.
Mark Magazine, a few years ago, had a feature with a map of Western Europe if every separatist movement succeeded. What they discovered was that many countries would cease to exist, instead dividing into multiple smaller states. For many countries, separatist movements had slowed. However, the recent Catalonian declaration as added new heat to many fires. It would be impossible, as stated earlier, to discuss every separatist in Western Europe, so I will instead highlight two major ones recently in the news: Flanders and Corsica.Flanders is the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium that has been at odds with the French-speaking Wallonia for decades. This tension has resulted in Belgium’s complex governmental system, which was again changed in 2010-2011 during a political deadlock that lasted 541 days to form the current federal system. Belgium operates under what they call confederalism, which as they see it, is simply an extension of the regular federal system. The main concept is that they are a union of autonomous regional states that handle their own internal affairs independently, such as education or cultural integration programs. The federal government over all the smaller states would be concerned with crime and justice, as well as foreign and internal (between states) affairs. Recently, after the terrorist attacks in France, the Belgium government has increasingly tried to mainstream and increase federal power and enforcement. But the New Flemish Alliance (NVA) population feels the government is ignoring their concerns, and the recent Catalonian uprising has fueled a resurgence in working toward an independent Flanders. Currently NVA politicians are discussing strategies for the 2019 elections. The Belgians opposed to the NVA believe that the country of Belgium will disappear as we know it by 2025.Corsica is a Mediterranean Island under French control, opposed to what many term oppressive French cultural and political dominance. There are two main branches of the Corsican rebellion, those that aim to promote Corsican identity and culture on a global platform, and those that are pushing for a hardline independence far removed from French influence. Recently, the Corsican cause gained a foothold when, during regional elections, they received 35% of the votes for Gilles Simeoni, meaning that the Corsicans and others seeking independence are two seats shy of the majority. This resulted in a great display of Corsican pride as their flag, called the Moor’s head, was flown for all to see.
Catalonia’s declaration created a resurgence of separatist movements across Western Europe, of which Flanders and Corsica are only two examples. And perhaps unfortunately, for major European countries and for international relations as a whole, this means large complications in politics and economics as each group finds its footing. As we’ve seen with Flanders and Corsica, success is possible and it will completely change world dynamics.
Separatism is defined as the advocacy for one to separate itself from the larger group in regards to culture, religion, government, etc… Separatist nationalism is the separation from a larger whole due to a nationalist ideology, which is becoming more and more popular in western Europe today. Longstanding and powerful sovereignties such as the United Kingdom are experiencing separatist movements. Analyzing the specific grievances that movements list and the success that their movement has will reveal what inspires separatist nationalism in western Europe.
The separatist nationalism movement in the United Kingdom refers to Scotland’s political battle to become its own independent nation. The Scottish independence movement has been in existence since 2005, after the Independence Convention’s inception, but was majorly popularized after the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. There are several reasons for the Scottish independence movement that generally reflect the majority of separatist nationalism movements. National autonomy is the main goal of Scottish separatism, as the population desires full governmental authority in its decision making, independent of the United Kingdom. This will bring a variety of positive social, economic, and cultural effects to the country. If the Scottish nation successfully secedes from the United Kingdom then it will hold its own authority on the worldwide political stage. An independent Scotland will have seats in several multinational organizations such as NATO and the United Nations. Having an international voice will allow the promotion of Scotland’s international interests without the concern for the United Kingdom as a whole. Independence will also bring full control of Scotland’s natural resources. With full control of the vast oil reserves located in Scottish waters, huge revenues could be collected by the country alone that would send it into economic prosperity. Furthermore, the abundance of available renewable energy from wind and tidal energy could be harnessed and bring a new era of green energy for the Scottish state. Lastly, Scotland’s possible independence has inspired a new cultural revolution with artists influenced by the new age of nationalism for the country. Separatist nationalism in Scotland appears to be a great step forward for the country into prosperity.
The 21st century has brought a rise of separatist nationalism in western Europe due to newfound political issues and disagreements over them. Scotland, though a notable example of these separatist movements, is not the only active one. There are separatist nationalism movements in many large sovereignties across the entire European region, indicating a popularity in this ideology. The conclusion to be drawn from these separatist movements is that the modern day brings modern ideas of a country. Some Scottish people believe that in the modern era, there is no need for involvement with the United Kingdom. Scotland should exist as its own state in control of its own politics rather than being controlled by a larger governmental body. This belief is reigning all over Europe and with the coming of the 21st century it seems that these beliefs can be viably applied. The 21st century is the age for separatist nationalism in Europe and it appears that in the near future several new countries will come into existence on the multinational political stage.
The Catalonian separatism movement has caught the attention of the world. Riots in the streets and patrolling police forces are seen on news reports. Catalonia is not alone in their separatist movement: Scotland recently had a referendum on whether they should become independent; the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU; and nationalist movements are gaining popularity in Poland, Czechia, the Netherlands, France, and many more countries. Many European countries are comprised of different ethnic groups living in specific regions, such as: Catalonia, the Basque region, Flanders, Scotland, and Corsica. These ethnic groups have existed for hundreds (even thousands of years), so why are they all wanting independence now? In order to answer this question, you must take a look at the historical context leading up to these movements.
Following the destruction of World War 2, a new Europe emerged. Spain was ravaged from a civil war; Germany was divided in two; France, the UK, and Italy were hit hard during WW2; and Eastern Europe was under the influence of the USSR. It would take a massive effort to help rebuild these countries. The United States helped the effort by implementing the Marshal Plan. The European Union was developed in order to promote peace in Europe and give people a sense of pride in their “European identity” rather than their national identity. Many of the separatist issues were pushed on the backburner because everyone had to help rebuild their countries from scratch. The Cold War was also going on during this time, and Europe was center stage for it. Separatist movements were squashed by government in order to maintain stability in their respective countries, and so that they would not show weakness to the enemy (whether that is NATO or the Soviet Bloc). There was a necessary need for unity in the European continent, but this ultimately set Europe up for the situation it is in right now.
Once the Soviet Union fell and the Cold War ended, the European Union grew massively. They added many more countries to the Union and developed a central currency- the euro. This made the EU a powerful economic force. By the arrival of the 21st century, Europe was peaceful and prosperous. Now that there were not larger issues at hand, many of the separatist movements began to pick up momentum. These regions could become independent and still be a member of the EU. This would guarantee them security both militarily and economically. An independent Catalonia or Scotland could now be feasible idea. Then came the 2008 financial crisis. Many countries like Spain, Greece, and the UK were hit hard by the stock market crash. This left many people angry towards their government, and it served as a springboard for separatist movements. These movements gained traction over the years and have led us to where we are now in terms of separatism. Governments are trying to find a solution that makes all parties happy, but that is not something that can be done overnight. For now, however, the future is unclear, and only time will tell the result of the movements.
A common narrative of European separatist movements is as follows: a more prosperous or somehow culturally distinct region of a nation desires independence for their own sake, and the government with which they are associated rejects the idea because loss of the region would lead to some significant negative impact on the nation as a whole. In many cases the region seeking independence has been historically oppressed by the nation it is a part of, due to differences in language or culture. While this is not a universal model, the idea is clear in several cases including Catalonia, Flanders, Scotland. The larger nations sometimes view the cultural differences of their regions as threatening to the unity of the state. Therein lies their mistake. By failing to celebrate diversity and seeking to preserve the state over prioritizing the individual or the small group, they have motivated their opposition. Recently, separatist movements have been on the rise and have received global attention. The implications of the Catalonian vote to secede from Spain are vast for the international community and for Europe specifically. It inspires other regions with similar circumstances to do the same and gives hope to people who desire independence.
Frequently, finances are a significant driving factor behind the desire to separate. In Catalonia, a wealthy region of Spain, citizens are paying taxes to Madrid that constitute 20% of Spain’s total GDP. They no longer wish to financially support a government that they do not feel connected to. Catalonians speak a different language than the rest of Spain and they have their own traditions. They also harbor remaining resentment over the oppression they endured under the Franco dictatorship. In the view of Catalonians, they do not have a strong enough connection with Spain to justify the continued financial depletion. For the same reason Spain does not want to see Catalonia go. Their secession would put Spain under financial stress and cause other discontent regions of Spain, like Basque country, that has violently opposed Spain in the past, to desire the same freedom.
The Flanders region of Belgium is gaining traction in a movement for independence. While there are no current steps being taken to separate, their leader, Bart De Wever, believes that independence from French-speaking Wallonia is inevitable. Like many other regions seeking independence, Flanders is linguistically distinct from the rest of Belgium. They believe that they would be more financially stable as an independent nation. The Wallonia region worries that its economy would take a huge hit and separation would cause the loss of major world organizations like the European Union and NATO being based in Belgium. In fact, it is thought that Flanders independence would lead to Wallonia losing independence itself and being absorbed by one of the surrounding countries.
Scotland is another example of a nation desiring independence for financial reasons. They have been a member of the United Kingdom for over 300 years. In 2014 Scotland voted to remain a member of the UK in a referendum vote; however, after Brexit, some Scottish political leaders are calling for the population to reconsider independence as the majority of the Scottish population voted to stay in the European Union. They believe that an independent Scotland may be better off financially and could join the EU independently. This movement has not garnered significant support but its existence is evidence of the recent rise in separatist nationalism in Western Europe. In summation, talk of independence has increased across Western Europe as culturally or linguistically distinct regions garner nationalism and seek their own good over the unity of their current nation.
Very nice work
Nationalism has been on the rise throughout Europe, particularly within the last decade. In the wake of nearly a half-century of relative European unity, right-leaning nationalist parties are rising to prominence seen since the 1930s. Nationalism has rapidly increased in the wake of recent world events, notably the Arab Spring and the subsequent influx of Refugees from the Middle East, which has resulted in various factions wishing for a more independent power of their state governments, as opposed to the joint council of the European Union. These right-wing nationalist parties hope to make their nation stronger, regarding their political, economic, and military powers and often state the importance of preserving their cultural traditions, and in some extreme cases the sanctity of their national race in the presence of what they believe are “Islamic Invaders.” As these parties gain prominence, the impact is detrimental to the European unity which the EU has fostered for nearly three decades, not including the economic agreements which date as far back as reconstruction following World War II. As right-wing parties such as Germany’s “AfD,” and France’s “National Front” grow in power, along with recent nationalist events such as the United Kingdom’s Brexit, the future of the EU looks relatively uncertain. The rise of new nationalist parties is not limited to right-wing, or extremist movements of hate and fear, however, as there has also been a rise of separatist nationalist movements throughout Europe, advocating for independence or autonomy from their ruling state. Independence movements have resurfaced following the increasingly fractured approach to the political crisis in recent years, one of the most noteworthy being Scotland and the possibility of independence referendums following the results of Brexit. The United Kingdom was heavily divided on the vote to formally leave the European Union, one of the most important divides being that of Scotland’s remarkable turnout for the “stay” vote. Unfortunately for much of Scotland, their efforts fell short, as, in a very close election, the UK voted to leave the EU. Following the inevitable removal of the UK from the EU, it is very likely that another referendum for Scottish independence would find success, as it nearly did in 2014. One of the most recent independent movements which has reached the American News Cycle is that of Catalonia. The Northeastern region of Spain, which houses Barcelona has recently vied for independence despite the federal law forbidding it. Federally illegal polls have found that nearly 90% of Catalonians were in favor of independence; however, it is likely that these numbers are incorrect due to surprisingly low turnout and the complexity of polling processes. Protests, both for and against independent, have spread throughout the region and placed tremendous stress on the Spanish government. As opposed to the right-wing nationalist movements covered earlier, Catalonian independence is on the left-side of the political spectrum. Overall the increase of nationalism and threat of political fracturing throughout Europe is a testament to the times and the risk of crisis. The response of the European Union has been one which, with the proper support, should have further fostered European Unity in a time of political instability, but due to fear, hate, and fundamental disagreements has resulted in the alarming rise of right-wing nationalist movements, and to a lesser extent separatist movements throughout Europe.