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Europe’s Secessionist Movements: Venice to Edinburgh want to break free of national governments
National Review ^ | 04/28/2014 | John Fund

Posted on 04/28/2014 8:26:01 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

Warsaw, Poland — The debt crisis and years of barely perceptible economic growth are fueling independence movements in some regions of Europe.

On September 18, Scotland will vote on becoming independent from the United Kingdom. If a majority approves, the U.K. would lose a full 10 percent of its population and a third of its landmass. Polls show that backers of independence are trailing but gaining; they now have more than 40 percent of the vote.

Last month, Venice and its surrounding areas held a non-binding online referendum on independence from Italy. Of the Veneto region’s 5 million people, more than 2 million cast ballots, and an astonishing 89 percent supported secession. Even if some of the votes cast were duplicates (something security precautions were erected to prevent), the result clearly shows an alienated and angry electorate. The regional government might soon announce a more formal referendum to be held at polling places.

Catalonia, the region that includes Barcelona and generates one-fifth of Spain’s economic activity, is planning to hold a regional referendum on November 9 for independence. The national government in Madrid has refused to grant permission for the referendum and has persuaded the European Union to declare that a new state of Catalonia couldn’t become an EU member.

Here in Poland, the Silesian Autonomy Movement is gaining strength in its efforts to forge a separate political identity for the old industrial and mining region east of Krakow. In the last local elections in 2010, the group won 9 percent of the vote, doubling its previous showing.

These new secessionist movements in Europe aren’t anti-European or xenophobic (as many such efforts have been in the past). At the same time that nine out of ten Veneto voters supported independence, majorities also backed staying in the European Union and NATO, and keeping the euro as currency (although the last question carried with only 51 percent of the vote).

The Scottish National Party, which already runs an elected majority government with a great deal of autonomy, has said that an independent Scotland should automatically become an EU member since it would be seceding from an existing EU state. But the European Commission president, speaking to the BBC, said it “would be extremely difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to join the European Union because all 28 EU member states would have to agree. Britain has also warned that an independent Scotland would be unable to keep the pound sterling as its currency, though this stand might be part of a “bully and bluster” campaign to defeat the independence movement by sowing uncertainty.

Catalonia’s regional economy minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, has described backers of independence as coming from all sides of the political spectrum and also as “strongly pro-European.” “We are a government of moderates — centrist and business-friendly,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal this month. He explained the desire for independence as “a reaction to the recent dramatic reversals in the extent of self-government that Catalonia once enjoyed” in areas ranging from health care to education to public administration.

In Venice, the resentment against the national government in Rome is intense and long-standing. Italy’s regions have few legislative powers of their own, and a 2006 attempt to give them more autonomy failed. Italy’s northern regions make huge transgers of wealth to what they see as the corrupt and dysfunctional regions of southern Italy. Analysts at the Italian Central Bank believe that Veneto and other northern regions get back only five dollars in transfers from the Rome government for every seven dollars they send to it. “You could eliminate all income taxes in all the northern regions if they didn’t have to send all that money to the South,” Alberto Mingardi, president of the Milan-based Bruno Leoni Institute, told me.

Luca Zaia, the president of the Veneto region, acknowledges that the Rome government isn’t about to grant the region a formal vote on independence. But he believes that making appeals on the basis of self-determination to the European Court of Justice and the United Nations can ratchet up pressure on the national government. Venice was an independent republic for centuries until Napoleon conquered it in 1797. Its trading merchants, symbolized by the explorer Marco Polo (1254–1324), traveled the globe and brought back amazing riches, sustaining a culture that gave the world composers such as Antonio Vivaldi, writers like Giacomo Casanova, and painters such as Titian.

Insisting that old, fixed boundaries of nation-states remain in place forever strikes many modern European voters as against the spirit of the EU. “If the EU is really a common framework of rules for all its citizens, it should be a proper setting for old national boundaries, which were often the result of conquest, to be discussed and redefined,” the Bruno Leoni Institute’s Antonio Martino has argued.

It’s safe to say that national governments won’t agree that the EU membership can grow through the “internal enlargement” of independent countries. But the restless electorates in some regions may force the national governments to grant more flexibility and freedom to grow. Catalan business owners chafe under Spain’s total effective corporate tax rate of 58.6 percent of profits, a clear barrier to economic growth. Andrea Soranzo, a clothing-store owner in Venice, told USA Today that he hopes the local revolt will result “in a little more autonomy and a little more pride in our city.” In Scotland, the push for independence spurred British prime minister David Cameron last Friday to say that it is “right” that the Scottish Parliament should win “more powers,” specifically to set Scotland’s tax policy — if Scots reject independence.

Drives for secession in the United States have had an obvious bad odor ever since the Civil War, but in Europe they are looking more and more like the flavor of the times.

— John Fund is national-affairs columnist at National Review Online.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: scotland; secession; uk; venice

1 posted on 04/28/2014 8:26:01 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Governments could turn the tide but they won’t.

2 posted on 04/28/2014 8:29:22 AM PDT by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: SeekAndFind

I wish we in Louisiana would secede from the USSA , the socialist states of America.

If Texas secedes I’ll move there

3 posted on 04/28/2014 8:29:50 AM PDT by Democrat_media (Obama ordered IRS to rig 2012 election and must resign)
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To: SeekAndFind

Yowsa..go back to the Barony’s, Duchy’s, and Kingdoms that were Europe prior to WWI and do a RESET ala Hillary and watch the world go up in nuclear flames once again. WTG! There is little or no intelligent life on the third rock from the sun.

4 posted on 04/28/2014 8:33:29 AM PDT by Don Corleone ("Oil the the cannoli. Take it to the Mattress.")
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To: Don Corleone
Scotland has not been independent since the 1707 Act of Union, and effectively since 1603, when James VI of Scotland became James I of England. Catalonia has not been independent since the Middle Ages. Venice and its surrounding area lost independence under Napoleon. Perhaps Catalonia and Venice can make it on their own and not need any help from the European Union. Scotland may not be as strong despite North Sea oil riches. The political climate is to the left of England. With that climate, it is unlikely that Scotland will follow the example of Ireland and open up its economy with lower taxes and less regulation. In any case, independence for Scotland is still not favored by a majority of voters.

Spain, Italy, and Britain would likely collude to block the breakaway regions from European Union membership.

5 posted on 04/28/2014 8:52:25 AM PDT by Wallace T.
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To: SeekAndFind

Peaceful secession is a great solution to bad government.

Which is why it’s usually illegal. The only exception is when the would-be seceders have a high quotient of useless parasites.

Hint: if the people you are seceding from are happy to see you go, there’s something you’re missing.

6 posted on 04/28/2014 8:52:48 AM PDT by agere_contra (I once saw a movie where only the police and military had guns. It was called 'Schindler's List'.)
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To: SeekAndFind

In “Imperial Earth”, an engineer-administrator clone returns to Earth and gets to listen to a big debate by someone who is trying to re-unite the United States of American for the 500th anniversary of its founding.
Then someone says it really doesn’t matter, because they all pay their world government taxes.

7 posted on 04/28/2014 8:57:49 AM PDT by tbw2
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To: Democrat_media

Dissolution will follow national bankruptcy. Not before.

Texas going it alone would be subject to a brutal occupation far harsher than anything the US has done in living memory.

At the end of the day only three things hold large polities together:

1) Common culture

2) mutual prosperity

3) brute force

The Washington government has resorted to all three at one time or another.

At this point common culture is gone, by design. Mutual prosperity still functions at an acceptable level, and brute force backs the Washington regime if needed, although we saw some threads pop at Bunkerville recently. Sovereign bankruptcy would erase the economic benefit, and brute force requires solvency for the military or its analogs to leave barracks and beat people back into submission.

The former Soviet Union was designed to be held together no matter what happened, but bankruptcy saw it fragment faster than anyone would have believed.

8 posted on 04/28/2014 9:15:07 AM PDT by Psalm 144 (FIGHT! FIGHT! SEVERE CONSERVATIVE AND THE WILD RIGHT!)
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To: Psalm 144

More signs of balkanization—this happens when Governments are weak or has lost the support of their people. This is about to change as Europe turns Right. A group of Strong Men will once again dominate Europe. It will be here in 4 more years—I believe. Good for workers (there will be work)—Good for Nationalists (their will be national patriotism) Bad for Islamic people (they will be tossed out and put down). Bad for pirates, tin pot dictators, and Socialists—(all will be put on notice as out of favor).

9 posted on 04/28/2014 10:21:12 AM PDT by Forward the Light Brigade (Into the Jaws of H*ll)
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