In­de­pen­dence move­ments and the role of the EU

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Spain’s Cat­alo­nia is not alone in want­ing to split off from its par­ent coun­try. There is also a ma­jor move­ment in Scot­land for in­de­pen­dence. Two of Italy’s re­gions, Veneto and Lom­bardy, re­cently voted to ask for more au­ton­omy.

These am­bi­tions for greater in­de­pen­dence are not new. There have been rum­blings and ex­pres­sions of a de­sire for greater au­ton­omy in Cat­alo­nia, Scot­land and the North of Italy for many years, even cen­turies. The in­ter­est­ing ques­tion is why such move­ments just now and all within the Euro­pean Union?

There is a cer­tain logic here. Any re­gion that wishes to be­come au­ton­o­mous must con­sider how it will func­tion and ad­min­is­ter cer­tain gov­ern­ment func­tions that are nec­es­sary to re­main vi­able. It would have to leg­is­late and ne­go­ti­ate its for­eign re­la­tions, tar­iffs, treaties and bor­der con­trols, as well as a host of laws and reg­u­la­tions set­ting in­dus­try stan­dards , labour reg­u­la­tions, in­dus­trial pol­icy, fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tion, etc.

Repli­cat­ing these for a newly formed na­tion state would be a for­mi­da­ble task. How­ever, if the re­gion is al­ready part of a state within the EU, the prospect be­comes much less daunt­ing. It may ex­pect (re­al­is­ti­cally or not) that it will re­main a mem­ber of the EU and all these func­tions, which have now been as­sumed by the EU, would be ap­pli­ca­ble and op­er­a­tive in the new state.

As the EU has taken on more and more func­tions and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, the role of na­tional gov­ern­ments has cor­re­spond­ingly be­come smaller. The na­tion state’s his­toric role and func­tion is be­ing trans­ferred to the bu­reau­cracy in Brus­sels. This process has in­ad­ver­tently low­ered the costs and risks of in­de­pen­dence. The bu­reau­crats in Brus­sels no doubt see that this could en­cour­age in­de­pen­dence move­ments and thus the frag­men­ta­tion of Europe. The prospect of a Europe made of up of mini states is not one that would ap­peal to the EU. Per­haps this is why Brus­sels has avoided any show of sup­port for Cat­alo­nia’s ini­tia­tive. Hav­ing re­ceived no en­cour­age­ment, rather the re­verse, an in­de­pen­dent Cat­alo­nia can­not as­sume it would re­main within the EU.

The op­po­si­tion of Brus­sels pro­vides a pow­er­ful weapon for any na­tional gov­ern­ment op­pos­ing an in­de­pen­dence move­ment, such as that of Cat­alo­nia. But what if Cat­alo­nia did break away? This would pose Brus­sels with a dilemma. Could it con­tinue to ex­clude a re­gion that is an in­te­gral and his­toric part of Europe? That would be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult.

The Cat­alo­nian sep­a­ratists, de­spite their brave words, have ca­pit­u­lated and their lead­ers have fled into ex­ile. What­ever hap­pens next it is un­likely that we have heard the last of ei­ther the Cat­alo­nian move­ment or that of sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives. Other re­gions are watch­ing these de­vel­op­ments. Cor­sica and the Flem­ish part of Bel­gium, two ar­eas where talk of a split has a long his­tory, have been quick to re­mark on Cat­alo­nia’s drive for in­de­pen­dence. Is this the end or the be­gin­ning? Only time will tell.

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