The European Disunion: The Richest Increasingly Want To Fragment From The Poorest

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Europe, and its apparent Union, is rapidly fragmenting as tensions mount on large and small scales across all of its regions and nations. From Scotland's independence referendum to Flanders' autonomy and now Catalonian separatism on the rise once more, this is no longer a north-south divide, but a rich/poor, debt/no-debt divide. As the NY Times notes, this seems to emerge from the ebbing of the concept of shared sovereignty (richer - or less debt-saturated - nations increasing anger at having to bail out their poorer neighbors), or as Stratfor describes it - the paradox of integration - as this apparently 'good thing' means vastly different things depending on which side of the fence you sit on. Now, as Russia Today reports, Venice is pushing for independence from Rome and there is increasing independence movements in Sicily and Sardinia. As old battles and historical grievance come back to the fore, "when it comes to the crunch, while money may be the catalyst (who commits what to central budgets); it is, as the NY Times puts it, "the meta-narrative and emotions of 'do we feel oppressed?... as the ghosts of history return." From Bannockburn to WWII, "Europe seems shakier; some of the taboo questions are coming out again!"

 

Stratfor On The Fragmentation Of Europe (and the paradox of integration) - great overall summary of the tensions facing the dis-union:

 

and specifically addressing the rise of independence across the union and the drivers (both economic and socio-political) of such uprising:

 

 

NY Times: Europe's Richer Regions Want Out

Catalonia may be the catalyst for a renewed wave of separatism in the European Union, with Scotland and Flanders not far behind. The great paradox of the European Union, which is built on the concept of shared sovereignty, is that it lowers the stakes for regions to push for independence.

 

 

While a post-national European Union may be emerging out of the euro zone crisis, with a drive for more fiscal union and more centralized control over national budgets and banks, the crisis has accelerated calls for independence from member countries’ richer regions, angry at having to finance poorer neighbors.

 

Artur Mas, the Catalan president, recently shook Spain and the markets with a call for early regional elections and promised a referendum on independence from Spain, although Madrid considers it illegal. Scotland is planning an independence referendum for the autumn of 2014. The Flemish in Flanders have achieved nearly total autonomy, both administrative and linguistic, but still resent what they consider to be the holdover hegemony of the French-speakers of Wallonia and the Brussels elite, emotions that will be on display in provincial and communal elections Oct. 14.

 

There are countless things that hold unhappy countries, like marriages, together — shared history, shared wars, shared children, shared enemies. But the economic crisis in the European Union is also highlighting old grievances.

 

Many in Catalonia and Flanders, for example, argue that they pay significantly more into the national treasury than they receive, even as national governments cut public services...

 

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Now the Brussels director for the Open Society Institute, Ms. Grabbe said the key variable for separatism is less a matter of money than of historical grievance and language.

 

A lot of the pressure is about revisiting old settlements and defeats and agreements about who commits what to central budgets,” ...

 

But the crisis has also presented a real conundrum for regional leaders, because it has undermined the attraction of the European Union. ...

 

As euroskepticism rises in the United Kingdom, these issues have come to bedevil Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party, whose slogan is “Scotland in Europe.” The 2014 referendum is supposedly timed to the 700th anniversary of a decisive episode in the first war for Scottish independence, the Battle of Bannockburn.

 

European Union has traditionally been popular with the leaders of these regions... “They see strengthening the power of Brussels as diminishing and relativizing national governments, a process accelerated by the single market in Europe,” Mr. Janning said. Many of them have formed regional groupings that bypass the central government — Catalonia, along with Baden-Württemberg in Germany, Rhône-Alpes in France and Lombardy in Italy, for example, are regional powerhouses that call themselves “the four motors for Europe” and together have a bigger G.D.P. than Spain.

 

“But now,” Mr. Janning went on to say, “comes the crisis,” which presents a dilemma for the regions, because it also means a re-concentration of power by national capitals trying to cut the national budget. “Now eyes are again on Madrid and Rome and Paris and Berlin,” he said, “so regional opportunities are squeezed, and the affluent are made to pay.”

 

While European leaders believe the answer to the crisis is “more Europe,” which would ordinarily please separatist regions, European voters and taxpayers are shaken, skeptical and angry. Mr. Janning told me: “These regional entities and leaders need to be on the right side of public sentiment and feel close to public opinion and regional identity. So now they’re torn.”

 

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There are also larger anxieties at play...

 

European (and NATO) enlargement to the east was a major accomplishment, but it distorted the cores of both organizations, especially the European Union. And now with the new crisis of the euro, “Europe seems shakier, there’s so much anxiety,” Ms. Grabbe said. “Some of these taboo questions,” she said, “are coming out again,” with economic, legal and ethnic trouble re-emerging in the new states, like Hungary and Romania, and new divisions in the old ones.

 

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and the latest protest begins in Italy as Venice (and Sicily and Sardinia potentially) begin to demand independence

 

Russia Today: Venetian protesters demand independence from Rome

Protesters have gathered in front of the central government in Veneto, Italy to demand an immediate referendum on the region’s independence from Rome. The reason is mainly economic, according to the rally’s organizer.

 

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The situation here is almost explosive...

 

The territory would be known as the "Repubblica Veneta," and would consist of around five million people...

 

The main reason is economic. We are in a situation worse than a colony because the tax rate in Italy is the highest the world and our services are extremely poor. We have 20 billion euros missing from our regional resources each year and that’s unbearable,” Pizzati said.

 

The push for independence shouldn’t come as a total surprise – Venice has only been part of Italy for 146 years.

 

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“It can more than survive on its own. It will be the second richest country in Europe,” he said.

 

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Sicily and Sardinia have strong movements for independence too…soon after us, it’s going to happen to other regions of Italy…and probably in other places in Europe like Belgium or Spain,” he said.