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Separatist Movements in Europe

Categories Economics, Economy, Government, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics

Essay, Pages 7 (1748 words)

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Essay, Pages 7 (1748 words)

Political Separatism is inextricably linked with nationalism, focusing on the ideas of identity within groups. It has been claimed that “identity is the ultimate popular knowledge” and it is this idea of collective community that has initiated many people around the world to create movements to ensure their group has a chance at developing in the modern world. Within some states, certain collectives have a shared idea concerning their culture, territory or rights, which encourage them to push to have more autonomous power, or even to break away completely, forming their own state.

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There are more than 70 known separatists groups around the globe, with more than 24 of these being considered active, and a small minority pursuing their interests through violent means. Separatists are concerned with campaigning for more power to be given to a specific group within a state, which is often unsupported by the government or the public, and can be differentiated from secessionists, who wish to create a new state entirely.

Linked to both separatism and secessionism is irrendentism, groups who wish to leave the rule of the state they are part of, and join another, already established state. There are many causes of separatism, including territorial and ethnic identity, as well as economic and bureaucratic inequality. Many nation-states have felt pressure from separatist groups or parties, such as the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the United Kingdom, Basque separatism in the north of Spain and south west France, and the issue of Flanders and Willoma in Belgium.

Through exploring the definition of separatism, as well as its causes and methods, this essay will analyse the success of separatist movements in Scotland, Spain and Belgium, Separatism is inextricably linked to identity and nationalism within a group.

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Nationalism is the approach a group has towards their feelings of identity and how they approach self-determination. Slobodan Milosevic stated that “the loss of national identity is the greatest defeat a man can know, which explains the driving force behind the conflict and breakup of

Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. It has been difficult to define the term separatism, as many scholars use the term secessionism in the same context, however there is a clear distinction between the two. Secessionism refers to the “formal withdrawal form a central political authority”, meaning that a group wishes to create its own independent, sovereign state, which is recognised by the political community.

Separatism on the other hand, is concerned with groups who are not fully in agreement with the governing body, and they wish to achieve more political autonomy, perhaps leading to an independent state. Those in these communities believe they should be allowed to govern themselves, and look for ways to advance their people economocially, socially and culturally. It can be said that there are two different kinds of national separatism – territorial and ethnic. Territorial Separatists and Ethnic Separatists.

Territorial separatists look to achieve more autonmy for a specific region, who feel that the land is either rightfully theres, or wish to break away from another region who are not helping their best interests. Ethnic Separatists are define by a certain culture, race or language, and believe that the ruling state is not contributing to the development of their community. However separatist groups can include both of these elements, evident in Basque Country groups, who have their own language, as well as seeking political autonomy for a specific region.

To understand why some separatist groups are more successful than others, we must first examine the causes behind the want to attain more autonomous power, or independence. Separatism arises through the “consciousness of deprivation and unfulfilled potential” of a group, who feel that the ruling state is incapable of promoting their best interests. Poor development in certain regions, as well as evidence of class divides in certain areas, contribute to groups wishing to break away from the state, so as to pursue their own goals.

These economic motives are apparent in the distribution of wealth in the UK, with a higher wealthy population in Southern England than in the north of the UK, including Scotland. Those with less economic and political power may seek ways to attain better circumstances for their community, looking to improve health, education and living standards. However cultural differences have been shown to cause more support for separatist groups, with language, colour and religion creating “deep, permanent human and moral chasms. Language proves especially important, most notably in regions such as Flanders, Wales and Brittany, perhaps as it establishes “limits of loyalty and concepts in terms of which effective loyalty can be felt” demonstrating the significance of national identity. Separatist movements may look to strengthen communication ties with the governing elite, to further the wants of those they are representing, through the creation of more political involvement, at either a national or local level.

To evaluate the achievements of these groups, an analysis must be made about their success in highlighting these issues, and how they attained enhanced economic and/or cultural circumstances for those they represent. The methods separatist movements use may also contribute to their popularity and their ability to further the desires of their communities. Non-violent separatism uses democratic methods such as participation in national elections, peaceful protests and other campaigns.

The separation of Norway and Sweden in 1905 is an example of the use of the method, as after a few decades of Swedish rule, activists began protesting diplomatically for a sovereign Norwegian state, maintaining that an end to the union would allow for Norwegians to expand politically and economically. However some groups have resorted to violent measures in an attempt to gain more autonomy, utilising techniques such as bombings, assassination, kidnapping and other forms of terror to highlight their community, and bring about political self-government.

The Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) has a long history of campaigning against Britain, and have used violent methods, including the Omagh Bombings in 1999, which killed 29 people. It is evident that non-violent separatist groups are more common in developed nations, and do not always wish to create a fully independent state, instead seeking to attain more political power in their host nation. The desire for full secession is more common in developing nations, where violence is also more commonly used amongst separatist groups.

The triumphs of these movements may be a result of the methods they implement to attain their goals, as it will contribute the image that is presented to the public and to government, which will in turn affect the groups popularity and the approval for further political autonomy. Perhaps one of the most successful separatists groups in Europe in the Scottish National party (SNP), created in 1934 when the National Party of Scotland joined with the Scottish Party. They received 45. % of the vote in the Scottish Parliamentary election in 2011, hold 6 seats in the UK parliament and 2 in the EU parliament, and their success has been attributed to the parties “forward looking and practical” policies. Support for the party increased in the 1960’s after the discovery of oil in the North Sea, which led to SNP campaigns in 1973 claiming “It’s Scotland Oil! ” Their percentage vote trebled in the 1970’s, followed even more support in the 1990’s, due to UK membership in the EU, and the creation of New Labour.

Economic advancement has always been central to SNP doctrine, with the party leaning to the left in many areas, putting it into competition with the Labour Party. The EU provided an institutional lightweight to the English state and as a possible alternative to the British market,”(Meadwell and Martom 10996 78) demonstrating that if Scotland were to attain more power, there would be economically sound measures in place. Situating itself as leaning towards more left ideas meant that the success of the New Labour Party in 1997 allowed for a referendum in Scotland to determine whether or not nationals wished for a devolved government.

The Scottish public voted in favour of more political autonomy, and now have power over many aspects of healthcare, education and tax. Evidently, the SNP has been successful due to his emphasis on economic matters within its nation, having aimed to turn “poor Britons” into “rich Scots”, a tactic which has allowed for a devolved government, and a large amount of political autonomy. Through realising the want of their community, they have successfully become the first majority government in the Scottish Parliament, and seek to gain independence in a referendum in 2014.

The Basque Country in the north of Spain and south west France has resulted in many movements campaigning for over 100 years, concerning the area spanning the Pyrenees Mountains. Seperatist movements in these regions seek to provide more autonomy for the Basque people and their culture, and many wish for full political independence. The Basque region is more economically advanced than other areas of Spain including Castille and Aragon, therefore most separatist movements focus on the cultural differences the Basque eople have compared to Spanish and French nationals, including their own language. The region attained more autonomy in the post Franco years, and now have almost complete self-governance. However some separatists wish for full sovereignty, including the group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA definition: Basque Homeland & Freedom) who have sought to free the Basque Country, and wish for full separation and independence. They have done this through employing violent methods, which have been considered terrorist actions, including intimidation, bombing, kidnapping and bank robberies.

They seek to “maximise effectiveness & minimise exposure,” with most members being unconnected, and communicated on single occasions, and have been responsible for over 800 deaths since 1968. However in recent years the public have become disolluisioned with the movement, rejecting the group as they believe they are now causing indiscriminate violence. The government has clamped down on ETA members, arresting hundreds in the past decade, and opinion polls show little or no public support for the group.

Whilst ETA may be credited with raising the profile of the Basque cause and the Basque Country may now have its own parliamenent, it could now be consired to be failing as without the support from the public or within government it is limited in the ways it can further fight to create independence. As earlier stated, non-violent separatist groups are more common in developed countries, and as a Western Democracy Spanish and French citizens may be more inclined to support a group who are seeking more political autonomy through peaceful means.

Cite this essay

Separatist Movements in Europe. (2017, Jan 20). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/separatist-movements-in-europe-essay

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