The Catalan government has announced 90.9 percent of citizens who voted in Sunday’s referendum on independence circled the option “yes.”
The referendum, which is not recognized by Madrid, was marked by unrest.
Separatism in Europe traces its roots back to the 1990s. It started in Slovenia in 1991.
“It’s possible to draw a parallel between Slovenia and Catalonia, because in both cases the reason for the referendum on the independence was the economy, that is, the impression that more was being given to the federal state, and that Slovenia, that is, Catalonia, paid the bills of others,” says Zoran Radovanovic, a journalist.
And that was fine as far as the European Union was concerned – the free will of the people had to be respected.
It continued in Croatia, and once again Europe said yes. The finding of the Badinter Commission, set up by the European Community, was that the SFRY (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, SFRJ) constituted of autonomous federal units, and that they could be separated along the so-called AVNOJ borders.
The domino effect followed: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia became new states that Europe recognized in 1992. In Bosnia, the epilogue was the worst.
The break-up of Yugoslavia continued in the following decade.
Paradoxically, one of the key roles was played by a Spaniard, the renowned Javier Solana – first as the NATO secretary general who bombed FR Yugoslavia (made up of Serbia and Montenegro) and made Kosovo an international protectorate, and then as EU’s main negotiator who participated in the dissolution of the federal state in 2003, when the provisional State Union of Serbia and Montenegro was established under his auspices.
Finally, in 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Knowing what this meant, Spain did not recognize it, but 22 other EU member-states did.
“It is clear that Spain is opposed to Kosovo’s independence because of Catalonia, but it could have learned from the example of Serbia that repression cannot solve problems and you only mobilize the separatists,” says Bosko Jaksic, a political commentator.
And the judgment of the International Court of Justice on Serbia’s suit in 2010 goes in Catalonia’s favor, as it states that Kosovo did not violate international law by declaring independence.
“They use democracy as a stick, so they say – we bombed you in order to introduce human rights and laws by force! Now the bill has arrived for this brutal force of imperial countries,” says Cedomir Antic, a historian.
Since the virus of separatist movements was released in Europe, the problems have been spreading beyond the Balkans: Crimea left Ukraine in 2014 and decides to join the Russian Federation, and here, for the first time, the European Union said – international law has been violated, and then imposed sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea. The same year, Britain was in turmoil: Scotland organized a referendum, but 55 percent voted to remain in the United Kingdom.
And so we arrive to 2017 and Catalonia: separatist movements also exist in the Basque Country, that has three million people. In Italy, the Northern League is in favor of separating the rich north from the poor south. There has been a movement for independence since the 1960s in France’s Corsica, which Paris is fighting with all possible measures. Nevertheless, it is the Belgian region of Flanders has the best chance of gaining independence – a rich area kept in Belgium solely thanks to the will of the international community, that has been preserving this country for 200 years as a buffer zone between Germany, France, and Britain.