20 November, Monday


Separatism in Europe could lead to the weakening of the EU - Eurasia Diary from Finland

Interviews

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Oula Silvennoinen
Researcher of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters Oula Silvennoinen
 
 
- What is happening in Spain today? What forces are interested in the independence of Catalonia?
 
- There are two forces at play: separatism, which is a long-term tendency in culturally and ethnically diverse Spain. Franco's Spain did its best to quell any regional separatism, ultimately by force, but did not really succeed. Now separatism is again threatening the coherence of modern Spain. Another force comes from the ranks of comtemporary European radical nationalism, which seeks to support regional separatism as a tool to break up the EU. This, of course, is also the goal of Russia, which is seeking to fan separatism through propaganda in order to weaken the Union.
 
- What can separatism lead to in Europe?
 
- There are separatist ambitions in almost every European country. At it's worst, succesful separatism could lead to serious internal troubles and that way to the weakening of the EU and other European countries in the face of Russian pressure. I very much doubt, however, that any separatist movement, within the EU at least, and including Catalan separatism, is really in position to bring about their aims of independence.
 
- Is it possible to abandon the "Europe of National States" in favor of the "Europe of the Regions"?
 
- I see no fundamental impossibility of organizing the EU along, say, a regional basis rather than that of nation-states (so-called nation-states anyway, as they hardly are of uniform "national" composition). In Catalan and Scottish separatism, for example, we see that they are not demanding secession from the EU. The EU is probably actually the best platform within which to build better functioning regional autonomy and sense of participation among the EU citizens.
 
- What regions in Europe want independence?
 
- There are many separatist movements in Europe. Within Spain itself, Basque separatism, for instance, has a long and bloody history. Ireland, Poland and Finland - to just name a few - are examples of states brought into being by succesful separatist drives. But let us remember that regions and nations are abstract concepts, and not actors. They do not themelves want anything. Separatist movements are always ideological mass movements of people, who see their rights and/or interests better safeguarded through building a state of their own.
 
- Why do the internal contradictions in the European Union grow?
 
- I don't think there is actually much to explain. We've had separatist ambitions and actual separatist movements in Europe as long as there have been so-called nation-states. The nation-states are nowhere uniform, but - less so than the former multinational empires, but nevertheless - conglomerates of different ethnic, religious and regional identities, from which separatist movements have materialized before. The history of Spain as a nation-state has been a history of conflict with its inner centrifugal tendencies. The nation-states are thus not quite what the name implies.

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