22 October 2012
Concentric Circles in Europe
The peripheries of Europe tend to split. It was traditionally observed that the most prosperous regions in Europe were those relatively closer within each state to the industrial area around the Rhine and Ruhr rivers in Germany, the core of early industrialization. In the current process, as Germany is also becoming the financial and political core of the European Union, those same regions relatively closer to the core tend to split from their states. See in the map how concentric circles centered on the Rhine-Ruhr within the larger states can help to explain some past splits (including Czecho-Slovakia and the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia), as well as some current political developments.
There have been recent elections for the autonomous parliaments of the Basque Country and Galicia, in Spain. The Basque elections were the first fully democratic as there is no more terrorist violence by ETA and its party ran legally in the election. The two Basque parties in favor of more self-government and independence, one on the center-right and the one on the left (the one just mentioned), got together two-thirds of the votes and seats. In contrast, in Galicia, a periphery of the periphery, the strong Spanish nationalist People’s Party won again. But the two nationalist candidacies increased their total amount of votes which together surpassed the second Spain-wide party, the Socialists.
Meanwhile, during the last few weeks, the Scottish government has agreed with the British government the call of a referendum for independence of Scotland in two years from now. In this case, it's England that is moving increasingly away from the European Union process and then the peripheral Scotland that tries to move closer to it. The government of Catalonia has also announced, in this case without any arrangement with the Spanish government, the call of a referendum within the current legislative period on whether Catalonia should become a new state in the European Union. In Belgium, the formation of a federal government after a very long period without it seems not to have hindered Flanders’ enhanced self-government. The map suggests explanations for other economic unbalances, such as those in the Nordic countries and in some Eastern EU members, and some potential political splits within currently existing states, including Padania in Northern Italy and the division of Ukraine between pro-Europeans and pro-Russians. Nevertheless, significantly different capacity of state institutions to manage latent divergences will induce varied political developments.