Friday September 19, 2014

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday September 19, 2014

European Integration Emboldens Europe’s Separatists

Scotland’s referendum has galvanized national movements across Europe. The irony is that this has been made possible in part by the European Union, for decades the driver of economic and political integration across a once war-torn continent.

In the past week, Edinburgh has been like a magnet for politicians across Europe who regard their regions as nations. Representatives from Wales, the Basque Country, Flanders, Catalonia, Galicia, Corsica, Sardinia and Friesland visited the Scottish capital.

They have been emboldened in part by the safety net that the EU is perceived to offer to small countries. The institution that was created to make national borders irrelevant may perversely play a role in creating new ones.

Even as voters in many European countries register growing dissatisfaction with the EU, membership offers smaller nationalities the hope of separation with a minimum of disruption.

Today, “separatism has a spring in its step,” says Charles Grant, director of the London-based Centre for European Reform.

Europe’s borders have already fractured in the last 20 years. With the exception of Czechoslovakia, which split in 1993, these changes have been born out of the violent breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

What is seducing nationalists these days is what Michael Desch, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, calls the prospect of Velvet Divorce: a gentle segue into an independent state while preserving membership of institutions like the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and retaining the same currency.

But governments across the continent have viewed developments in the U.K. with growing alarm, as support for Scottish independence appeared to strengthen. Europe’s other capitals, surprised that London has appeared to sleepwalk into a potential constitutional crisis, are unlikely to succumb meekly to the phenomenon.

Their reaction, should Scotland become independent, will be instructive. Scottish Nationalists have portrayed Scottish membership of the EU as a foregone conclusion, suggesting it would be waved into the bloc with little fuss. (Source: Wall Street Journal)

Scotland, independence, separatism, Wales, Ireland, Basque, ISIS, Quebec, Flemish, England, UK, Great Britain