Friday, November 9, 2012

The Balkanization of Europe.

About a month ago, I and others (see here) commented in another blog against the Catalonian move to secede from Spain. The readers might be aware the regional Catalonian elections are due to take place next November, 25.

The Catalonian parliament has 135 seats. According to a recent poll (La Vanguardia, October 28), Artur Mas' nationalist/centre right CiU could win between 65 and 66 seats; the PSC (local PSOE branch) and PP are disputing the second place (18 and 17 seats, respectively). The left wing Esquerra could become the fourth parliamentarian party, with 16 seats. (See here, Spanish)

Out of the 4 main parliamentarian parties, only PP has spoken openly against the independence.

Mas has promised a referendum over the issue of secession, even though such a move is unconstitutional and members of the armed forces have threatened with violence.

In the recent Basque regional elections, the nationalist parties from all over the political spectrum, won by a landslide. (See here)

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But Spain is not the only European country affected by this outbreak of regional nationalism and separatism. (See here)

In my comment, I mentioned the German-speaking South Tyrol province, which could try to break away from Italy and perhaps join Austria. Others mentioned Padania (northern Italy, more generally) with the nationalist Lega Nord.

Recently, the extreme right Bart de Wever, of the New Flemish Alliance, popular among segments of ethnic Dutch Belgians, won the local elections for Antwerp on an anti-Wallonian platform.

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What could be the consequences of this?

If you believe The Financial Times' Tony Barber (see here), there is little to fear in this process. For Barber, only a South Tyrolese independence and union to Austria could have serious consequences.

I fear Barber's view is almost panglossian, because it assumes the only consequence to fear is open military conflict. In my opinion, he also underestimates the likelihood of such an outcome.

Furthermore, he ignores the possibility that garden-variety nationalism could morph into outright racism and xenophobia. And experience shows that is far from a remote possibility.

For good or ill, we could be witnessing the beginning of the end for European nation-states. So far, the examples of Yugoslavia and the Caucasus seem far from auspicious.

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