EU Getting First Taste of European Separatism Due to Financial Crisis
For every reaction there is a reaction. Since World War II (and before even during the Nazis pushes), the push has been for a more consolidated union in order to “resolve historic conflicts” or so the powers that be have maintained. Along the way, European nations have surrendered sovereignty to Brussels, the seat of the European Union. From 1967, a major goal was a common currency, and this has been part-and-parcel of a similar political push.
But, as sovereignty has been sacrificed throughout the economic crisis, many regions in Europe are calling for independence not only from the EU, but also in some cases from their own countries. The mainstream press has highlighted first and foremost the north-south conflict developing in Europe as core nations like Germany and France impose measures for southern countries like Spain and Greece, namely through Europe-wide institutions such as the European Central Bank. But, just as prominent as these antagonisms, independence movements have gained momentum inside countries, especially in better-to-do regions. Populism is a considerable woven through these movements.
For example, Italy’s South Tyrol regions was annexed from Austria under Mussolini. It’s current unemployment is considerably smaller than the rest of the eurozone at 4.1% compared to 11.4% according to August numbers. This makes South Tyrol one of the best places for employees in the entire Union. South Tyroleans, despite their model social welfare and healthcare system, could lose the privileges and subsidies they have enjoyed since the signing of the South Tyrol autonomy agreement in 1972.
In South Tyrol, an anti-Italy sentiment has been fueled by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti’s most recent austerity reform program. Because of the declared “national emergency” – due to a national debt of about $2.6 trillion – Monti has attempted to reduce South Tyrol spending by 750 million euros. This goes against the agreement which calls that 90 percent of tax revenue collected in South Tyrol will be returned to the province.
Negotiations between Rome and Bolzano have soured, and an anger among South Tyroleans is developing. They are not responsible for the crisis, they claim.
In Belgium, Antwerp mayoral candidate de Wever has paraded an anti-Belgian agenda, whose people have also grown angry as their money flows to the poorer south. ”Belgium is a transfer union in which the Flemish democracy contributes more than its fair share to the federation,” says the leader of the Neo-Flemish Alliance.
Eli D. Rupo, a socialist from Belgium’s southern half of French speakers, took over as head of a government coalition between Socialists, Christian Democrats and Liberals in the joint capital Brussels in 2011, Flemish separatists have opposed that 66 billion euros a year is transferred from wealthy Flanders to poorer Wallonia. The worst-case scenario for Belgium is a complete dissolution or the splintering of the country into two countries.
Scottish nationalist have been on the rise in Northern Ireland due to policies in line with the UK and, ultimately, the EU. The “New IRA” is organizing, issuing communiqués highlighting the ”necessity of armed struggle in pursuit of Irish freedom.” The group is declaring British military forces and Irish police officers as “legitimate targets,” according to Spiegel. But, officials estimate this group to be tiny: just a few hundred people.
Nevertheless, fears are on the rise in the fear based world. The fears hold that the economic crisis can be blamed on Great Britain, thus sparking an IRA Part Deux. Although former IRA members, such as Martin McGuiness, have taken on government posts, young people are rioting in the slums of Belfast and Derry. Britain is blamed for the systemic brokenness, as the New IRA calls for unifications with the Republic of Ireland.
The marquee movement is in Catalonia, Spain. A Colonel in Spain’s military has promised military intervention to prevent Catalonia’s independence.
Political and economic crisis is heightening. In Spain, accute class division, regionalized politics, street violence, civil disobedience and rampant corruption are weighing on Spain’s political system. Migrants’ rights to free health care have been removed, as sights of uniformed firefighters clashing with riot cops, helmet to helmet, signal a deep social crisis. References to the bloody Civil War have become more common, possibly creating a feedback loop that in the future will lead to carnage.
One week ago, the Catalan government called elections. The ruling party – the Convergence and Union party – has a strong minority desiring independence, although this could be achieved slowly by moving towards fiscal autonomy. The far left, a smaller contingent, also supports independence of Catalonia. The elections came after the 1.5 million Catalan march, with many calling for the region to become a new country within the European Union.
Madrid does not have the patience right now to deal with an independence movement, and tempers are running short. Colonel Alaman wishes defends “the non-negotiable principle of Spain’s unity…even with our lives.” But, the Catalan parliament recently voted for an independence referendum. The Association of retired military personnel in Spain, the AME, has called for “any flicker of secession to be suppressed”: those who call for independence “will have to respond with all rigor to the grave accusation of high treason under the jurisdiction of military tribunals.
Madrid does not have just Catalonia to contend with as, from all over the nation, outrage from economic injustice creates tension. the Spanish youth, who were thought to be apathetic, demonstrated in the streets in May 2011 in a protest that hinted at the coming Occupy movement. The banks are bankrupt, taking bailouts, and Mariano Rajoy’s government has committed to 90 billion in cuts over the next two years. This will cause the economy to shrink, conservatively by 1.5%, sending the nation into unquestioning depression.
No surprise that regions across Europe are still rejecting central control over an EU body, especially amid crisis. While the Eurozone was growing, independence movement were scantily a vector, and when they did crop up, such as with the IRA, they were strictly political. Today, the movement’s arise from the mis-making of economic society by Brussels. The EU is a relatively new phenomenon and now is more than ever a critical time for central authorities to get all their pieces on the right part of the board as populism is surely to keep on growing amid wealth re-allocation by the EU.
The Swiss philosopher Denis de Rougemont is credited with having inspired the EU. He wrote of a “Europe of regions” in which sovereignty was given up to a super-entity: Europe. The European Union was not supposed to be a dark ages version of the Holy Roman Empire and consist of small autocratic countries. Instead, it was intended to be a strong, centralized union, in which decision-making was made at the tip of the maze of institutions meant to comprise the bureaucracy of Europe’s plumbing. The worse-case scenario for European technocrats is a dissolution of the Union. This is highly unlikely, however, as this “core group,” as Spiegel refers to the pro-EU forces, can print unlimited quantities of cash for the entire union.