2014 will be a decisive year for separatist movements in Europe. A referendum about the independence of Scotland is scheduled for September. Catalonia’s government intends the same for November, but has to face strong opposition from Madrid. Belgian federal elections will be held in May giving Flemish separatist sentiments opportunity to express themselves and therefore making a repeated political crisis possible.
The blog series ‘Separatism in Europe’ will feature four posts analysing various ideational, political and economical aspects of separatist movement in Europe.
Characteristics of separatist movements
Given the aforementioned timetable and the heated debate, several scholars have tackled the topic of separatism. Carles Boix and JC Major, in Politique étrangère 2013/14, analyse Catalan separatism as a continuation of the long struggle for independence since its loss in 1714 and not merely as a “révolte fiscale de la part d’une région riche confrontée à une crise économique”. They argue that much of the support for independence flows from Catalan disappointment about Madrid’s continuous attempts to encroach upon the various statuses gradually accorded to Catalonia since 1978.
Also the latest issue of the journal Ethnopolitics 2013 focuses on the Catalan secession movement by contributing six articles, each of which analyses a different aspect. The issue contains among others an analysis by Montserrat Guibernau, who classifies the quest for independence from a theoretical angle, and also examines the constitutional restrictions and the Spanish opposition to it.
The issue is further developed by Ivan Serrano who scrutinizes in his article, Regional & Federal Studies 2013, the underlying causes and motivations of Catalan separatism. Moreover, this issue features Edurne Bartolomé Peral’s article, which investigates the impact of the end of violence in the Basque conflict on subnational identity in Catalonia and in the Basque country.
Boonen and Hooghe’s empirical analysis in quarterly Nations and Nationalism 2013, present Flemish separatism, and classifies it as a rather a bottom-up process, in which voters with an already strong subnational identity tend to vote for separatist parties, rather than separatist elites cueing voters and spreading separatist sentiments.
Patterson et al., in Regional & Federal Studies 2014, emphasise the important impact of language on the support for Scottish independence, which has not been traditionally identified as one of key decisive causes of the Scottish separatism.
From sources more on the institutional side, there is the Institut d’estudis autonòmics, created in 1984 by the Catalan government to conduct and promote research in the field of territorial organization and give advise in self-governance issues. The Scottish government has created a website and a blog to inform the citizens on all issues related to the referendum for independence.