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  • At the end of 2017, the regional parliament here in Catalonia declared independence from Spain.

  • This followed a controversial referendum, where a reported 90% of the turnout

  • voted for Catalonia's independence.

  • But Spain is just one of 11 other nations facing pro-independence movements

  • looking to redraw the map of Europe.

  • Along with Spain - Croatia, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Denmark,

  • Italy, France, Belgium, Germany and the U.K.,

  • all have regions that are challenging their nationhood and autonomy.

  • Each region has their own reasons or becoming independent,

  • based on everything from historical border disputes to, in Catalonia's case, a strong cultural identity.

  • During Francisco Franco's fascist dictatorship in the middle of the twentieth century,

  • many Spaniards saw their democratic liberties eliminated and their regional identities suppressed.

  • This included local traditions, as well as the Catalan language, which many locals still favor over Spanish.

  • Following Franco's death in 1975, Catalonia was given a statute of autonomy in Spain's new constitution.

  • In 2006, a referendum gave Catalonia's local government further power.

  • But when the Spanish Constitutional Court modified the law in 2010,

  • the Catalonian people's distrust of the national government grew -

  • with 91% of its people saying they don't trust it to do what is right for Spain.

  • As the distrust between Madrid and Catalonian people continues,

  • the modern resurgence of calls for independence are also economically motivated.

  • Catalonia is one of the most prosperous regions in Spain.

  • It makes up just 6% of the Spanish territory, but contributes about a fifth to the country's GDP.

  • Cultural and economic divide is apparent in other countries too.

  • Take Belgium. It's home to two dominant cultural and linguistic groups,

  • with the Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and the French-speaking Wallonia in the south.

  • Flanders is the wealthier of the two, thanks to outside investment,

  • the second largest port in Europe and its education system.

  • Its territory covers just over 40% of the country, yet provides 58% of the country's GDP,

  • much more than Wallonia's 24%.

  • Its unemployment rate of 5% is half of Wallonia's at around 10%.

  • The region's strong economy has given momentum to the independence movement,

  • with the pro-separatist New Flemish Alliance now the biggest party in the country.

  • Political momentum also seems to be gathering in the Faroe Islands.

  • The Faroe Islands, home to 50,000 people, have been self-governing since 1948,

  • but the Kingdom of Denmark still controls its currency, foreign affairs and some of its courts.

  • With rising fish prices giving its economy a nice boost, Republican separatists want to seize the moment

  • and take its self-governance one step further with independence.

  • But Unionists fear the economy is too small to flourish alone -

  • if fish prices drop due to overfishing, that booming economy could see a downturn.

  • The islands are currently debating a referendum on a new Faroese constitution,

  • which is seen by most as the first step to gaining total independence from Denmark.

  • Regions using the threat of independence to gain power and greater autonomy

  • has become a bit of a trend across Europe.

  • The wealthy region of Lombardy, in northern Italy, has rallied support for independence

  • in order to put pressure on the federal government.

  • They want Rome to invest local taxes into their economy, rather than in poorer parts of southern Italy.

  • The Veneto region, with its capital Venice, is pushing for the power to set its own taxes.

  • Yet the pro-independence parties in both Lombardy and Veneto have only one municipal councillor,

  • with most residents in the regions saying they don't want full independence.

  • In Germany, the region of Bavaria has long entertained the idea of independence.

  • But in 2013, the region's secessionist party had its best result since 1966.

  • And a 2017 poll suggested one in three Bavarians want independence.

  • That may be one of the reasons why Angela Merkel and the Christian Democratic Union

  • were a bit more open to its Bavarian sister party's demands during coalition talks at the end of 2017,

  • in which Chancellor Merkel was forced to agree to the Christian Social Union's proposal

  • of a limit on the number of refugees allowed into the country.

  • But some analysts argue that increased autonomy in these regions

  • has actually reduced the chances of total independence.

  • Basque nationalists have been campaigning and fighting for independence

  • from Spain and France since the nineteenth century.

  • But since Madrid gave away significant autonomy to the Basque region,

  • the calls for independence have died down,

  • and ETA, the infamous Basque terrorist group,

  • is looking for formal international recognition of its decision to disband.

  • And momentum for Basque independence may have been harmed further by the Catalonia crisis.

  • A regional poll taken after the Catalonia referendum

  • showed that more than 40% of Basque people want further self governance,

  • but only around 20% actually want total independence.

  • The uncertainty that surrounds Catalonia looks set to continue

  • with the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont being arrested in Germany.

  • A regional court decided not to extradite him to Spain for the crime of rebellion,

  • but it could still send him home for the misuse of public funds.

  • For the rest of the EU's independence movements, the outcome of this constitutional crisis

  • may have a significant and long lasting effect.

At the end of 2017, the regional parliament here in Catalonia declared independence from Spain.

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    robert posted on 2018/12/21
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