Analysis: Europe's separatists gain ground in crisis

PARIS/BRUSSELS Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:27pm EDT

Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond gestures during a news conference on a referendum of independence for Scotland, at St Andrew's House in Edinburgh, Scotland October 15, 2012. REUTERS/David Moir

Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond gestures during a news conference on a referendum of independence for Scotland, at St Andrew's House in Edinburgh, Scotland October 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/David Moir

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PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - From the Pyrennean pastures of Catalonia to the heathery highlands of Scotland, separatists are gaining ground as Europe's economic crisis deepens, but this does not necessarily mean there will be more national flags on the map.

Flemish nationalists scored sweeping gains in Belgian local elections on Sunday, Scotland agreed terms on Monday for a 2014 referendum on independence from Britain, and Catalan separatists expect a regional election next month to advance their cause.

Just as nation states are ceding more power over budgets and economic policy to the European Union, regional grievances and conflicts that have simmered for centuries have taken on new intensity in fights over a shrinking pie of public money.

Richer regions such as Catalan-speaking Catalonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders, which already have wide-ranging autonomy, resent paying for poorer areas such as Spanish-speaking Andalucia and French-speaking Wallonia.

In Germany, there is no separatist movement but prosperous Bavaria is challenging in court a fiscal balancing system that makes it hand over some revenue to poorer federal states.

Scotland, though poorer than England and subsidized by London, thinks it could manage better on its own by harnessing offshore oil and gas reserves.

There are as many differences as similarities between the separatist movements, and opinion polls suggest none has yet secured clear-cut majority support for breaking away.

Backing for Scottish independence hovers between 30 and 40 percent, a range that has changed little as negotiations have intensified. The latest survey by Spanish pollster Metroscopia in late September found 43 percent of Catalans wanted full statehood while 41 percent were opposed.


Catalonia, one of the wealthier regions of Spain per capita but with overstretched public finances, is in the paradoxical position of seeking a debt bailout from Madrid even as it presses demands for independence.

"Without a state, Catalonia will not survive," regional premier Arturo Mas of the center-right sovereignist Convergence and Union party said in a weekend speech.

He argues that the region, home to hi-tech industries and productive farming, pays more to Madrid than it gets back and could use the cash to provide better social and health services.

After a demonstration by at least 500,000 separatists on Catalonia's national day last month, Mas pledged that if he wins the regional election he will hold a referendum on independence, which Madrid says would be illegal.

Many Catalan and Spanish officials say they expect no referendum, but instead a negotiation that would grant Catalonia more power to raise taxes and spend the revenue. The Basque Country, where nationalist groups look set to win a majority in regional polls this month, already has such an arrangement.

Elsewhere, charismatic politicians such as Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and Flemish N-VA leader Bart De Wever have transformed what were once fringe nationalist groups into respectable mainstream forces.

They have played on the growing unpopularity of traditional parties of the center-right and center-left that have shared responsibility for implementing harsh austerity measures in the economic crisis since 2008.

Salmond has used Britain's decade-old devolution system to spare Scotland some of the most unpopular austerity measures imposed by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, such as raising university tuition fees and some healthcare charges.


De Wever, by contrast, has advocated cutting spending instead of the unpopular tax increases imposed by the federal Belgian coalition led by Socialist Prime Minister Elio di Rupo.

The Flemish firebrand was cautious in an interview with Reuters a day after topping the poll in the port city of Antwerp, a Socialist bastion since the 1930s. He stressed conciliation and gradualism rather than a dash for sovereignty.

Asked if he felt he had a majority for independence, De Wever said: "That's not on the agenda now."

He urged Di Rupo to start negotiations before the 2014 general election to revise the federal constitution to establish a looser confederation. Flanders is home to 6.3 million of Belgium's 11 million people.

"Let's prepare this together, it is in our common interest to make this country work. Confederalism is the key and everybody understands that," De Wever told Reuters.

Asked about parallels with the Catalans or Scots, he said: "People make that comparison a lot but I especially see the differences. We are not a minority in our country, we are also not just one piece in a game with many players. We are quite a unique country."


Despite such distinctions, Europe's separatists are increasingly working together, sharing tactics and drawing inspiration from each other. They are also keeping a watchful eye on Quebec, where the separatist Parti Quebecois won a provincial election last month, but without the majority support needed to press again for independence.

The rise of European separatist movements is also part of a generation change, with political parties rooted in the class struggles of the 19th century losing ground to newer forces that have emerged in the lifetime of today's voters.

These include ecologist Greens, libertarian Pirates, and far-right Eurosceptical and anti-immigration groups as well as nationalists who have gained experience in devolved regional assemblies and local government.

Far from vaccinating nation states against break-up, the decentralization of many European countries since the 1970s and 1980s has anchored separatists in the landscape.

While the main Catalan, Scottish and Flemish nationalist parties are all pro-European, there is a parallel between the separatist trend in some EU countries and the large protest vote for Eurosceptical, anti-immigration populists in others.

Italy's Northern League, in decline after a spate of scandals, combines demands for far-reaching autonomy for a region it calls "Padania" with fierce hostility to immigrants.

De Wever's N-VA, founded in 2001, has given Flemish voters a respectable alternative to the far-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Cause) party which wants to ban mosque-building and send home Muslim immigrants.

Belgian political scientist Cas Mudde drew a link between the identity politics of separatists and far-right populists.

"Nativism feeds upon the feeling of endangered or threatened ethnic or national identity, linked most notably to the process of European integration, mass immigration, and the mechanics of ‘multiculturalism'," he wrote in a 2007 study of Populist Radical Right Parties.


The increased role of the European Union, combined with devolution of power in many countries, has reduced the powers of nation states in Europe and hence eased the trauma of secession.

But in trying to dissuade voters from choosing independence, some governments are playing a European scare card.

Conservative Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is warning that any region opting for independence will find itself shut out of the EU, since the admission of new member states requires unanimous agreement.

"If you are outside Spain and outside the European Union you are nowhere, you are condemned to nothingness," Rajoy said in a speech on Sunday.

British officials say Scotland would not automatically join the EU if it voted to quit the United Kingdom. That would depend on a complex negotiation on sharing the national debt and other administrative issues, and London would have a veto.

While the Scots are more pro-European than the traditionally Eurosceptical English, Salmond has sought to minimize the economic dislocation of any vote to secede by saying Scotland would keep the pound and not switch to using the euro.

(Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels, Fiona Ortiz and Tracy Rucinski in Madrid and Jon Boyle in London; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Comments (2)
DeanMJackson wrote:
Ladies and gentlemen, the Communists that still control the USSR and East Bloc nations want the EU to disintegrate, because the collapse of the EU would bring about the fall of NATO, which Communist strategists in Moscow/Beijing had planned on when they disbanded the Warsaw Pact in 1991. Well, Moscow and Beijing have gone to “Plan B” in their quest to destroy NATO…destroy the EU.

Now you know why Chancellor Angela Merkel (her code name within the East German Stasi secret police was ANITA) is doing all she can do to destroy the EU by continuing the economic suffering in Europe by offering bailouts and austerity measures that all know won’t revive Europe’s stalled economies.

The only remedy is to raise interest rates otherwise, naturally, people won’t invest more (and consume less), since the return on investment would be so low, assuming there was a return.

So why does Merkel want to to destroy the EU? Simple, the “collapse” of the USSR and East Bloc were strategic ruses, and naturally Moscow knows that if the EU goes down so goes NATO.

For more on this neglected subject, read KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn’s 1984 book, “New Lies for Old” (available at Internet Archive), the only Soviet era defector to still be under protective custody in the West (what does that tell you about the “collapse” of the USSR/East Bloc?).

Golitsyn’s book will inform you of the “Long-Range Policy”, which all Communist nations signed onto in 1960 as their “new” and more workable strategy to defeat the West. After Stalin died Communists naturally knew that they needed a new strategy to defeat the West, since Stalin’s strategy was provoking the West into creating defense organizations, such as NATO, SEATO, ANZUS and CENTO.

I bet you never heard of the “Long-Range Policy”, have you? Now why would that be, considering:

(1) the Russian electorate these 21 years have inexplicably only been electing for President and Prime Minister Soviet era Communist Party Quislings;

(2) there was no de-Communization program initiated after the “collapse” of the USSR to ferret out Soviet era Communist agents still in power;

(3) not one “crime against humanity” indictment of the thousands of Soviet era criminals still alive;

(4) the refusal of the Russian Navy to remove the hated Communist Red Star from the bows of vessels, and the refusal of the Russian Air Force to remove the Communist Red Star from the wings of Russian military aircraft, not to mention placing the hated Communist Red Star on all new Naval vessels and military aircraft; and

(5) Lenin’s tomb still exists in Red Square!

How obvious can it be that Communism didn’t “collapse” in the USSR?

Take a look at all the other 14 republics that made up the USSR. Take a look at who the Ukrainian “electorate” have been “electing” for President since the “collapse” of Communism there:

Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk, December 5, 1991 – July 19, 1994, joined Ukraine Communist Party in 1958.

Leonid Danylovych Kuchma, July 19, 1994 – January 23, 2005, Communist, 1960.

Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko, January 23, 2005 – February 25, 2010, Communist, 1980.

Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych, February 25, 2010 – Present, Communist, 1980.

Every single President of the Ukraine these last 21 years has inexplicably been a Soviet era Communist Party Quisling!

Here’s another “former” USSR republic:


Levon Ter-Petrossian – October 16, 1991 – February 3, 1998, Communist.

Robert Kocharyan – February 4, 1998 – April 9, 2008, Communist.

Serzh Azati Sargsyan – April 9, 2008 – Present, Communist.

Now do you comprehend that the “collapse” of the USSR was a strategic ruse?

“Lenin advised the Communists that they must be prepared to “resort to all sorts of stratagems, maneuvers, illegal methods, evasions and subterfuge” to achieve their objectives. This advice was given on the eve of his reintroduction of limited capitalism in Russia, in his work Left Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder.

… Another speech of Lenin’s … in July 1921 is again highly relevant to understanding “perestroika.” “Our only strategy at present,” wrote Lenin, “is to become stronger and, therefore, wiser, more reasonable, more opportunistic. The more opportunistic, the sooner will you again assemble the masses round you. When we have won over the masses by our reasonable approach, we shall then apply offensive tactics in the strictest sense of the word.” |Emphasis in original.]

If you examine the backgrounds of prominent Russian figures, you will find that they have long Communist Party/ KGB or Komsomol pedigrees. Yet for some inexplicable reason, the Western media have accepted their sudden, orchestrated, mass “conversion” to Western-style norms of behavior, their endless talk of “democracy,” and their acceptance of “capitalism,” as genuine. “Scratch these new, instant Soviet “democrats,” “anti-Communists,” and “nationalists” who have sprouted out of nowhere, and underneath will be found secret Party members or KGB agents,” Golitsyn writes on page 123 of his new book [The Perestroika Deception]. In accepting at face value the “transformation” of these Leninist revolutionary Communists into “instant democrats,” the West automatically accepts as genuine the false “Break with the Past” — the single lie upon which the entire deception is based.

In short, the “former” Soviet Union — and the East European countries as well — are all run by people who are steeped in the dialectical modus operandi of Lenin. Without exception, they are all active Leninist revolutionaries, working collectively towards the establishment of a world Communist government, which, by definition, will be a world dictatorship.

It is difficult for the West to understand the Leninist Hegelian dialectical method — the creation of competing or successive opposites in order to achieve an intended outcome. Equally difficult for us to comprehend is the fact that these Leninist revolutionaries plan their strategies over decades and generations. This extraordinary behavior is naturally alien to Western politicians, who can see no further than the next election. Western politicians usually react to events. Leninist revolutionaries create events, in order to control reactions to them and manipulate their outcomes.”

Oct 15, 2012 1:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
DrFinlay wrote:
The Scottish Independence Referendum has nothing to do with the crisis in Europe. In fact the crisis has made a yes vote less likely.

Oct 16, 2012 2:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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