Europe to Face «Parade of Sovereignties»
Vladimir NESTEROV | 14.08.2015 | WORLD

Europe to Face «Parade of Sovereignties»

The Maidan protests in Ukraine caused the Ukraine’s partition and revived many territorial disputes inside the European Union.

* * *

The undeclared war continues in Northern Ireland. The 1998 Belfast Agreement (the Good Friday Agreement) was reached between parties on all sides of the religious and political divide. It also created a number of institutions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. At that the Agreement has failed to offer a final solution to the conflict. The London’s efforts to gain loyalty on the part of Catholics have fallen flat. And it’s not about confessional differences only.

Anglo-Saxon Protestants still enjoy leading positions in economy and politics of Ulster. Northern Ireland became an independent state in 1921 only because Protestants accounted for the majority of population. They were reluctant to join Ireland, a Roman Catholic country, and opted for Protestant Great Britain. The situation has changed since then. According to December 11, 2012 census, the Protestants are not a majority anymore. All political parties of Northern Ireland stand for cessation from the United Kingdom. It is defined as a major goal by their political programs.

The per capita GDP in the neighboring Ireland is 1.5 times higher than in Ulster. About 80% of population in the Republic of Ireland supports the idea of unification with the fellow believers.

* * *

Catalonia is another European hot spot. It emerged on the map thanks to the people who came from Occitània (Southern France). The Catalan language sounds more like French than Spanish. Catalonia joined Spain in 1479 as part of Aragon. The people have resisted the Spain’s policy of centralization. Catalonia has always struggled for independence.

The province first obtained a Statute of Autonomy in 1932 during the Second Spanish Republic. At the time of the Spanish Civil War Barcelona was a loyal ally and main industrial base of the Republic. Having won the war, Franko abolished the law. He forbade the use of Catalan in public. Even the sardana, the native dance, was banned. In 1938-1953 4 thousand people were fusilladed in Catalonia. 460 thousand escaped the fascist regime leaving Catalonia for France. In 1979 Catalonia became autonomy again. Schools and higher educational institutions teach only in Catalan. State and municipal bodies use Catalan only, no matter Spanish has an official status. To work for the government one has to go through a Catalan language examination. It has become routine in Spain that the supporters of Barcelona football team display Catalonia is not Spain! posters.

Catalans want an independent state. With the EUR 30 000 of GDP per capita Catalonia is at the same level as Great Britain and Austria. Every year the Catalonian government pays to Madrid the sum that exceeds its own budget by 16 bln euros. According to 2009-2010 informal polls, the idea of independence has thebacking of over 90 percent of the responders. In September 2012 the Catalan "March towards Independence" gathered around 1.5 million participants under the slogan "Catalonia, new state in Europe".

The 2012 Catalonian parliamentary election held in November 2012 resulted in vast majority of seats won by supporters of independence. The Declaration on the Sovereignty and Right to Decide of the People of Catalonia was issued on 23 January 2013. A non-binding vote on the political future of Catalonia was to take place in November 2014, according to the decision of the Catalonian government, but was suspended by the Constitutional Court of Spain. The ballot consisted of two questions: "Do you want Catalonia to become a State?" and "Do you want this State to be independent?» The second question could only be answered by those who had answered Yes to the first one. 

In mid-July 2015 Prime Minister Mariano Rajoystated that "Catalonia's independence will nottake place". In response Artur Mas, the President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, called a snap election for September 27, 2015 centered on its independence bid. Pro-independence political parties will run the race with a common roadmap toward secession. It’s highly probable that the pro-independence parties will win. In this case the Catalonian government will obtain a powerful mandate to open independence negotiations with Madrid within 18 months, paving the way for a binding referendum next year. 

* * *

South Tyrol has been a bone of contention between Austria and Italy for 100 years. In 1915 Italy was promised this region in exchange for joining WWI on the side of Entente. The territory populated by 250 thousand people, who spoke Austro-Bavarian dialect of German language, moved to Italy according to the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. With Mussolini coming to power the territory was called Alto Adige. The local people had to speak Italian and have only Italian names, even writings on the headstones of graves were to be in Italian language. Italian unemployed were made settle down in this land to do away with German ethnos.

The local population never not put up with the situation. The South Tyrolean Liberation Committee was an underground secessionist organization founded in the mid-1950s which aimed to achieve the right for the region’s self-determination by terrorist activities. On 12 June 1961, the Committee organized the bombing of dozens of electricity pylons supplying power. The terrorist act has gone down in history as the Night of Fire. In 1969 South Tyrol was granted the status of an autonomous area. The region was returned its German name – South Tyrol. In three years a new status was granted to the province making it possible for the local people to take part in the country’s political life. In 1992 Austria declared the dispute with Italy over South Tyrol closed. Now the region has a total population of 511,750 inhabitants. 70% are German speakers while 25% speak Italian.

But the people of South Tyrol want independence. Unemployment rate is 4% - the lowest in Europe. Social benefits and health care are the best in Italy and quite up to par in comparison with the rest of Europe. The people of the region are proud of the fact that they are among leaders in the old continent from point of view of living standards. Over 5 million tourists visit South Tyrol annually, its power station provide with electricity almost the entire northern Italy.

After the independence of Kosovo was proclaimed the South Tyrolean Freedom Party (STF) launched a poster campaign with the slogan «South Tyrol is not Italy!» In May 2014 the STF made a survey to know if the people wanted to secede from Italy to become part of Austria. 90% out of 61 thousand responders, who got the questions by mail, supported the idea. It goes without saying the people of the region receive help from North Tyrol (Austria).

Peter Pernthaler, the University of Innsbruck, has come up with the draft constitution of independent Free State of South Tyrol. He is the author of the book The Identity of Tyrol in Europe, (Peter Pernthaler. Die Identität Tirols in Europa. Wien: Springer, 2007) where he puts forward the arguments for self-identification of South Tyrol. The Austrian Freedom Party, one of leading political forces of European «new right», supports the South Tyrol’s national liberation movement. This stand is supported by majority of Austrian population. The Heimatbund poll held in January 2015 showed that 89% out of 1000 respondents supported the idea of dual citizenship (Austrian and Italian) for the people who live in South Tyrol.

* * *

At first glance the partition of large national states may benefit the European Union and transnational corporations. But one should not forget the consequences. The genie of nationalism is out of bottle and the emergence of continental war in Europe is just a matter of time.

RELATED ARTICLES