A Game of Scottish Solitaire for Europe (II)
Pyotr ISKENDEROV | 12.11.2014 | WORLD / Europe

A Game of Scottish Solitaire for Europe (II)

Part I

The results of the November 9 unofficial referendum on independence of Catalonia leave no doubt it’s only the beginning. The activities of Catalonian separatists make the Spanish government rapidly respond to the dynamical changes of situation. Other «separatist» regions are closely watching the events to unfold. 

The recent two months have witnessed the bitter bickering between the supporters of plebiscite and their opponents to end up in a compromise. The leaders of Catalonian separatists agreed to hold an informal poll. The government of Spain went to the Constitutional Court to substantiate its decision not to recognize the results. The Catalonians were asked if they wanted an independent state. According to preliminary count, 2, 25 out of 5, 4 million Catalonian registered voters took part in the vote. Over 80% responded positively. Thus, over two million out of 7 and a half million want an independent state while only 10% prefer to remain part of Spanish monarchy. 

Is it not a result to reckon with? But the figures in or of itself are not the main thing. Artur Mas, the head of Catalonian government, has already declared the plebiscite results to be complete success. 

The main thing is the depth and acuteness of the problem, the demographic factor and consistent development of separatist movement in the province which is the economic leader of the country. 

Catalonia accounts for about 16% of the total population of Spain with 23% of national GDP. According to the estimates of European experts, the total GDP of Catalonia is comparable with that of Finland of Denmark and the living standards are almost as high as in Germany. Catalonia sells almost as much as Finland and more than Portugal. At that, the Catalonian leaders want to separate from Spain preserving the ties with Madrid as equal partners – members of the European Union. 

Madrid and Barcelona have a hard bargain ahead no matter what decisions may be handed down by the Constitutional Court or any other courts of Spain. Madrid-based newspaper El Pais reports that the financial issues and change of responsibilities will hit the agenda of would-be talks. 

In the article Back to Negotiation Table (3) it says principles of democracy make impossible to ignore the fact that the idea of independence has so many supporters, «The number of «Yes» voters is large enough to reckon with. The way to solve the problem is to hold a political dialogue instead of referring the issue to courts. The both sides should sit at the round table and find a win-win solution». 

«If silence, indifference and neglect will be the only results of the day, then the prospects for finding a solution may fade away», writes La Vanguardia. 

Now the upcoming debates will determine the stance taken by separatist leaders, as well as the way the separatist trend will develop in other parts of Europe. Intensive discussions on the revision of relationship between London and Edinburg loom ahead. Almost 90% of respondents wanted the creation of the independent Republic of Veneto, according to the survey conducted in the March of 2014 in the region of Veneto in Italy. It means the Italian central government will have to be involved in tough bargaining on financial and economic issues. Danish Greenland has many aces up its sleeve. The leaders of the independence there want more control over the uranium production and their demands should be taken seriously. 

The prospects for separatist trends are directly intertwined with the state of EU economy. 

There is nothing to brag about. The European Bank has recently announced its decision to change the record low interest rate (0.05%). Its head Mario Draghi has made murky promises to take «unusual» steps like buying out debts in case the economy continues to go down. But he has failed to convince investors. 

Dragi continues to agitate markets even when he does not want it, as Craig Erlam is Market Analyst at Alpari (UK) puts it. 

Various anti-crisis programs are being prepared in different parts of Europe. Until now the leaders of the Veneto self-determination movement have been sounding conciliatory enough. They wish to retain the euro while others call for leaving the eurozone and go back to national currencies. Marin Le Pen, the head of French National Front, is convinced that her country has to return the national currency, something possessed by 95% of the countries in the world as the circulation of euro makes thousands of enterprises go bankrupt. 

The same stance is taken by Georgia Meloni, the leader of the Brothers of Italy – National Alliance (Fratelli d'Italia – Alleanza Nazionale, FdI–AN). She says that abandoning the euro, the sick currency, is the way to restore the control over national economy. 

The economic problems faced by the European Union and the growth of separatist trends in Europe are two sides of the same coin.