News / Europe

Crimea Grab Spurs Mixed Feelings Among Europe's Separatists

People hold placards to form a giant Catalan flag in front of Sant Feliu townhall, near Barcelona, Feb. 16, 2014.
People hold placards to form a giant Catalan flag in front of Sant Feliu townhall, near Barcelona, Feb. 16, 2014.
Reuters
Russia's annexation of Crimea after a snap referendum staged under military occupation has whetted some appetites in the Balkans, but has done no favors to the Scots, Catalans, Flemish and others seeking independence in Europe.
 
The leader of ethnic Serbs in Bosnia was quick to claim a precedent, asserting his autonomous Serb Republic's right to secede or at least turn the former Yugoslav republic into an even looser confederation.
 
By contrast, Western Europe's nationalists have distanced themselves from Crimea, concerned that the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War may give separatism a bad name.
 
“Catalonia is not Crimea,” the government of the northeastern Spanish region declared last week after the central authorities in Madrid tried to link the two.
 
Catalan President Artur Mas wants to hold a referendum on November 9 on independence from Spain, but Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has opposed any such vote as illegal.
 
“The Catalan situation could not be further from the Crimean one,” the regional government said in a position paper circulated to the Madrid embassies of the 27 other European Union members. The Crimean referendum presented a “false choice” since it was an attempt to legitimize the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, it argued.
 
Western governments, condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin's move to change borders in Europe by force as a violation of international law, have mostly rejected any linkage between Crimea and the independence movements on their continent.
 
But European diplomats say several governments quietly hope voters will note the political and economic difficulties raised by the break-up of nation states and will want to avoid such uncertainty. Separatists may be hoping that Crimea is largely forgotten by the time they hold a vote.
 
Nearly a century after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson introduced the right to self-determination into the lexicon of international governance after World War I, the implementation of that principle remains fraught with risk in Europe.
 
Morally superior?
 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Britain had taken a morally superior path by agreeing a consensual process for a referendum on Scottish independence to be held on September 18.
 
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, tried to turn Kerry's statement against the British government. London has warned that an independent Scotland would have to reapply to join the EU and could not be sure of sharing the pound currency.
 
“Of course you lose all of that moral superiority in the democratic process if you then say, 'of course Scots have the right under this consensual process to vote for independence but then we will set about flinging them out of the EU, refusing to share sterling.' The whole argument dissolves,” Salmond told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.
 
Spanish leaders, struggling to hold their country together and avoid any vote on Catalonia's future, have tried to harness public revulsion at Putin's action by drawing parallels between the two cases.
 
Crimea's vote on splitting from Ukraine and the proposed Catalan referendum on secession shared one crucial feature, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said last month. Both were unconstitutional.
 
Spain is unwilling to give any ground on Catalonia, fearful that allowing a self-rule vote or granting the region greater autonomy would encourage similar demands from the Basque Country and other regions with historic nationalist movements.
 
Catalan leader Mas has signaled he will not break the law and if blocked by the courts, he will turn the next Catalan election in 2016 into a de facto vote on independence instead.
 
Opinion polls show that public support for Catalonia to go it alone is running at about 50 percent, while in Scotland, most polls put opponents of self-rule in the lead. A TNS poll on March 25 showed 42 percent of Scots would reject independence, with 28 percent voting “Yes” and 28 percent undecided.
 
In Belgium, which holds a general election on the same day as EU-wide European Parliament elections on May 25, talk of prosperous Dutch-speaking Flanders breaking away from poorer French-speaking Wallonia has been muted for once.
 
The main Flemish nationalist N-VA party's big campaign issue is tax reform. It is focused more on reducing the amount taxpayers in Flanders pay to the federal government than on further steps to pull the country apart.
 
The extreme-right nationalist Vlaams Belang party, for its part, is more concerned with fighting Muslim immigration.
 
Balkanization
 
Putin's action in Crimea has had the biggest echo in other breakaway regions of former Soviet republics where there are “frozen conflicts.”
 
The parliamentary speaker of Transdniestria - a Russian-backed sliver of territory that split from Moldova in 1990, went to war with it in 1992 but did not win international recognition - appealed to Moscow to annex his area too.
 
In the Balkans, where most blood has been shed in Europe in the last quarter-century in the name of self-determination, the Crimean crisis has caused a new flurry of calls for a further “Balkanization” or fragmentation of the region.
 
Kosovo's prime minister has rejected Russian leaders' comparisons of the situation in Crimea with his own country's separation from Serbia against Belgrade's wishes following NATO's military intervention in 1999.
 
Hashim Thaci, once the leader of ethnic Albanian guerrillas who fought to drive former Yugoslav forces out of Kosovo in 1998-99, said: “Under no circumstances can the Kosovo case be compared with the case of Crimea.”
 
“Kosovo is a unique case. The international community intervened after the genocide by Serbia took place,” he told Reuters in an interview. “We never demanded to leave one country and join another.”
 
But Bosnia's Serbs see Crimea as an inspiration, and a vindication of their struggle for their own state or unification with Serbia.
 
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik immediately supported Crimea's referendum on joining Russia as “legitimate and democratic” and said the Serb Republic was watching closely the secessionist movements in Crimea, Catalonia and Scotland.
 
“We are monitoring them closely and will apply the best world practices when the time comes,” Dodik told reporters during a late-March visit to Belgrade.
 
Serbia's new leaders, whose top priority is their own bid to join the prosperous EU, did nothing to encourage him.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid