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Europe deals with independence movements in Britain, Belgium, Spain
In Belgium, meanwhile, the country’s slogan, “Strength through Unity,” has been put to the test. Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north of the country and French-speaking Wallonia in the south have been at odds for more than a century.
Flanders is wealthier and more economically productive than Wallonia, an imbalance that has long rankled Flemish voters. The New Flemish Alliance, a party that wants to split Belgium along linguistic lines, stormed to power in Flanders’ municipal elections in October and has vowed to achieve self-government — through independence, if necessary.
“If we can reorganize the state, make it a modern state, have the autonomy we want to be able to run our affairs without having to compromise on everything with the French-speaking, then we can live under the label of Belgium,” said Danny Pieters, a Belgian senator and alliance party member. “But the question is whether the French-speaking will accept that.”
“The more they are opposed to reform the state in that direction, the more of course the alternative will be complete independence,” he added.
Smaller, lesser known regionalist movements — like the Northern League in northern Italy and Corsican nationalists in France — have also fought for more autonomy over the past decade.
Little threat to EU
“We realize that whether we are Belgian or Flanders, we are still small countries, and we need the EU to mean something in the world,” said Mr. Pieters. “Just like the Scottish, just like the Catalans, we see our future within Europe.”
In fact, the EU’s success in integrating its member states might have made regional independence more accessible and allowed individual identity to flourish.
“Because so much power has now been transferred to the European level of decision-making, the change from being part of Spain to being a sovereign state that is part of the EU would, in fact, not be that dramatic in many ways,” said Thomas Klau of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Paris.
As Scottish nationalists campaign for independence, many in Britain are pressing to withdraw from the European Union because they believe the massive bureaucracy in Brussels is a threat to British sovereignty.
Mr. Cameron has announced he will hold a referendum on whether his country should stay in the bloc — an initiative infuriating his fellow European leaders.
“It would be a disaster for the U.K., a complete disaster economically — the economy is so tied to the EU,” said Judy Dempsey, a senior associate at Carnegie Europe’s Berlin office. “Britain’s diplomacy, its long tradition of foreign policy, its defense and security — it’s so important to the EU that if Britain really did leave, it would be damaging.”
Yet a recent poll indicated that anti-Brussels sentiment is running high in Britain. Only one in three Brits say they would vote to stay in the union.
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
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Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
A column dedicated to discussing politics, national security, civil liberties, and education.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow