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Secessionist tensions within the EU

Geography

Specific Objectives and Competences

  • To identify regions that could potentially seek to become new EU states.
  • To understand what lies behind the secessionist movements within the EU.
  • To understand the possible positive and negative effects of independence.

Contents

  • Regions like the Faroe Isles (Denmark); Basque Country, Catalonia and Navarra (Spain); Sardinia (Italy); Flanders (Belgium); Northern Ireland and Scotland (The United Kingdom); and Corsica (France) have political parties with representation in their respective regional assemblies that defend the right to self-determination for their territories.
  • A hypothetical secession of some of these territories could give rise to a new EU member state.
  • The reasons why some regions want to become independent could vary, but they could be generally summarised as relating to cultural and/or economic differences.
  • The majority of these regions have a markedly different culture from the countries that they form part of and they were either annexed, or lost their autonomy, during the Modern or Contemporary period.
  • The cases in which this pro-independence sentiment is strongest usually coincide with regions that enjoy a higher standard of living than their national average.
  • In places with a lower standard of living, pro-independence forces tend to be in the minority. The prospect of losing transfers from central government seems to put an effective brake on many nationalist aspirations.
  • For the moment, the only territory that has managed to secure a commitment from its central government for a referendum on independence has been Scotland. In this case, the consultation will take place in 2014.
  • The incorporation into the EU of a territory that has gained its independence from a member state is not foreseen in the existing treaties and, as a result, it is difficult to consider such a future scenario. There is also the possibility of a member state vetoing the entry of such a new state into the EU. There is therefore great uncertainty concerning the whole question.
  • Even so, the integration of the former German Democratic Republic within the German Federal Republic, and its consequent entry to the EU, was solved by a political agreement between the member states. A similar agreement could therefore probably be used to solve a case like this which is not contemplated within the existing treaties.
    • The Community institutions have done their utmost to enable the integration of the former German Democratic Republic into the Community to proceed as smoothly as possible within the deadlines set by the pace of events. The Commission's immediate reaction was that the integration of the Democratic Republic into a unified Germany, and hence into the Community, could be done in stages without any need to amend the Treaties. By April the Commission was already considering the practical arrangements which unification would involve. Out of this emerged a blueprint for integration which it laid before the European Council and this was adopted at the special meeting in Dublin on 28 April. (European Community Gazette, 1990).

Debates

Based on the video “Can the EU become a federation of regions?” (en, 9’53’’)

Discuss the possibility of creating an EU based on smaller states.

Based on the article  (es)

What would be the economic repercussions of the separation of a country within the EU?