The Center for European Studies at the University of Texas, Austin is hosting a symposium entitled, “Secession Redux: Lessons for the EU” tomorrow (Friday). It will be held all day at the LBJ School, Sid Richardson Hall, Room 3.122. It is open to the public. The schedule is here. I will be speaking on “Secessionism in the New Europe” on a panel dedicated to “Current European Challenges.”
Posts Tagged ‘secession’
Today’s election results from Catalonia are in, and the verdict is: status quo. Turnout increased dramatically from 58.8% to 69.6%, but there was little change in the overall position of pro-independence and anti-independence forces. Explicitly pro-independence parties received 74 of 135 seats, down two from the previous parliament. However, if the pro-independence referendum quasi-nationalist Catalan Greens are included, the pro-referendum forces won 87 seats, up one from the previous parliament.
The biggest shift came within each camp, as there was growing polarization along the independence-centralism dimension. The most moderate pro-independence party, CiU lost 12 seats, from 62 to 50. The more radical and left-wing ERC went from 10 to 21 seats. Meanwhile, the most radically anti-independence party, Citizens, went from 3 to 9 seats, while the most moderately anti-independence party, the Catalan Socialists, went from 28 to 20 seats.
So the bottom line is that the apparent surge in independence support we heard so much about apparently came exclusively within the camp that was already nationalist, as reflected in CiU’s adoption of independence — or more properly, “statehood,” as their objective. Moreover, while a full analysis will have to wait until exit poll details are known, it is possible that among the Catalan-born there was a shift from non-nationalist parties to nationalist parties. The reason is that in most regional elections the Catalan born participate at much higher rates than immigrants. The big increase in turnout most likely reflects mobilization by immigrants, who are overwhelmingly anti-independence. Hence the status quo result, which will be somewhat disappointing for the pro-independence side. Nevertheless, independentists did win a clear majority of seats and will easily be able to push through a bill on a referendum if they decide to do so.
I don’t think Catalan secession is an easy issue. There are good arguments on both sides (that is, to the desirability of secession, not whether Catalans should have the right to decide their future status). Precisely because it is a complex issue without easy answers, the haughty dismissal of Catalan independence from Anglo-American elites rubs me the wrong way. Here’s the latest example from The Economist:
At first blush, it is hard to object to what Catalan nationalists call the “right to decide”. In fact, there are many reasons why Catalans should not waste their energy trying to break away from Spain. Start by recalling Orwell’s definition of nationalism as “power-hunger tempered by self-deception”.
Nationalism always involves popular self-deception and power hunger from elites who cater to it. But that is just as true of status quo nationalism (Spanish nationalism) as it is of minority (Catalan) nationalism.
Under Spain’s constitution of 1978, Catalonia enjoys more self-government than almost any other corner of Europe. It runs its own schools, hospitals, police, prisons and cultural institutions. It lacks only tax-raising powers and the Ruritanian trappings of statehood, which nationalist politicians appear to be hungry for.
It runs schools, hospitals, police, jails, and museums? Why, Catalonia seems to have as much autonomy as an American township! Complete with limited tax-raising powers. Even so, Catalonia enjoys far less autonomy than, say, Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden (or an American state).
The argument that Catalans should not subsidise feckless Andalusians is a dangerous one: apply that more widely and the euro zone would fall apart.
Catalonia on net subsidizes the rest of Spain to the tune of 8% of GDP, far, far beyond what any EU member state contributes to common institutions in aggregate, let alone on net.
Indeed, far from welcoming Catalonia as an independent member, the euro zone’s leaders hardly yearn for an extra nation-state.
The “timing is bad” argument is one of the best ones against independence — but it’s hardly a trump. It all depends on your discount factor.
At MR, Tyler Cowen has a rather strong reaction against an economist who supports Catalan secession:
He taught me Ph.d Micro I at Harvard, so it’s too bad he wants to wreck both Spain and Europe, and for so little in return. Didn’t one of his theorems suggest this was a bad idea? It’s not as if Catalonia is treated like Tibet.
Would Tyler also say the Velvet Divorce “wrecked” the Czech Republic and Slovakia?
As an aside, if only peoples treated like Tibet are granted a moral right to secede, then in fact no one will secede permissibly, for governments that treat Tibet like Tibet don’t let Tibet secede.
A pro-secession protest in Catalonia on September 11th brought out 8% of the region’s entire population, The Economist reports. Opinion polls have support for independence at about half of the electorate, possibly more. The moderate nationalists in power in Catalonia have even radicalized their platform. In the past, Convergence and Unity was a moderate nationalist, center-right party coalition dedicated to greater autonomy for Catalonia and a recognized right to self-determination. While refusing to rule out independence in the long run, they rejected secession as attainable or desirable in the near term. Now, they explicitly advocate eventual sovereignty (effectively, independence within the European Union).
In addition to Convergence and Unity, there has been, since the mid-1980s, a significant independentist strain within Catalan nationalism. The Catalan Republican Left (ERC) has been the main exponent of this current. In the early 2000′s, ERC actually formed the regional administration along with the regional Socialists. They helped put together Catalonia’s new autonomy statute that, among other things, defines Catalonia as a “nation” rather than a “nationality” for the first time. (Yes, this sort of symbolism seems to matter to nationalist voters.) Over time, ERC support has been growing, and so has broader support for independence. Thus, this most recent outbreak is nothing new, rather the last expression of an upwelling of “fed-up nationalism” that has been going on for at least a decade.
In one sense, Catalan nationalism is easily explicable as the (more…)
The debate over the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s imminent application for full recognition at the United Nations continues to rage domestically and internationally. The dominant perspective here in the U.S., at least among Republicans, is that Palestinian statehood should be denied except on Israel’s terms. The most common reason given seems to be that the Israelis are more trustworthy and just better people than the Palestinians. For instance, this Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial argues that the Palestinians are full of hatred for Israel, disqualifying them from their own state. (It also wrongly asserts that the PLO has not recognized Israel’s right to exist. The PLO has not recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.)
Should Palestine’s recognition depend on the virtue or justice of its people? Certainly, other governments should not reward terrorism or human rights violations by offering statehood to groups of people who use such means to control territory and establish a government. Recognizing the PLO in the 1970′s would have been gravely mistaken. But the internal mental state of Palestinians – the extent of their hostility toward Israel or the United States – should not matter at all. When considering how to use the recognition power, governments ought to place first and foremost the promotion of peace and stability. A secessionist movement does not have to be virtuous and high-minded to be recognized as a state. There have been many dubious aspects about secession movements in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Eritrea, Bangladesh, and South Sudan, but that hasn’t prevented the United States and other powers from recognizing these countries in order to establish stability and prevent further killing.
When considering whether to recognize Palestine as a fully independent state, governments should tough-mindedly consider the consequences of doing so for long-term peace and stability. As I argue in my forthcoming book, Secessionism, providing a legal path for secession does not require celebrating the motivations or consequences of secession, but “legalizing secession” does reduce the risk of major violence. Basing the recognition decision on the relative moral desert of the Israelis and Palestinians as peoples – if such a comparison between groups of peoples can even be made – is a distraction.
Risk-pooling in an era of frequent financial crisis is not as good an argument against Scottish independence as Tyler Cowen thinks it is. First off, bailing out is a policy choice to which there are alternatives. Second, financial governance matters. Who had a worse financial crisis in 2008: the United States (population 300 million) or Canada (population 35 million)? Which set of countries suffered more in the 1997 East Asian financial crisis: South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia or Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan?
Finally, the European Central Bank and leading European Union member states have shown that they are more than willing to pool risk with weaker members. The SNP favors joining the Eurozone in the event of Scottish independence. Even if the optimal size of nations has gone up with the increased risk of financial crisis, that does not mean that Scotland falls below the optimal size.
The biggest story of yesterday’s British elections has to be the stunning success of the Scottish National Party in elections to the Scottish Parliament. As tipped on this blog, the SNP were rising in the polls, but in the end their success outstripped expectations, as they won 69 seats in the 129-seat parliament, a solid majority, despite a moderately proportional electoral system. The SNP won 45.4% of the constituency vote and 44.0% of the party-list vote. With Greens and an independent nationalist, pro-independence MSP’s will take up 72 seats in the new parliament.
SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond (pictured) has promised that the new government will hold a referendum on independence, likely toward the end of their term. For the first time ever, Scottish voters are going to have a direct say on whether they want to be part of Great Britain or not.
In other news, the IRV referendum appears to have gone down in flames, as was widely expected.
On May 5, Britain votes in a referendum on a new electoral system called “alternative vote,” also used in Australia (polls show it going down to defeat), but in Scotland and Wales, there are also elections to the devolved parliaments. The Scottish National Party (SNP), which advocates independence for Scotland within the E.U., is heading up a minority administration with about 36% of the seats in the Scottish Parliament.
Now, a new poll shows the SNP opening up a big lead in the upcoming election, with 45% in the constituency vote and 42% on the party-list regional ballot. Since Scotland has a compensatory mixed-member system like Germany’s, the latter percentage is the better guide to the ultimate seat breakdown. If the SNP indeed wins north of 40% of the seats, they may have enough votes to authorize a secession referendum with the support of minor secessionist parties like the Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialists. Whether such a referendum could obtain the requisite 55% of the vote is doubtful, but such a step would be historic nonetheless.
With South Sudan apparently on the verge of declaring independence, the Economist has asked readers to contribute their suggestions for a new name for the country. While I personally am partial to suggestions appealing to the shared cultural heritage of most of the ethnic groups in the region (“Nilotia”/”Nilotic Republic”), I think it’s most probable that the country simply continues with the name South Sudan. Your thoughts?
Tensions are rising in Sudan ahead of January’s scheduled vote in South Sudan over independence. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has accused members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the primary political party in the South, of violating the terms of the peace deal, and Sudan’s government is dragging its feet on referendum preparations. Moreover, al-Bashir is now explicitly warning of war over disputed border regions. This warning is particularly disturbing since the disputed regions are holding their own “popular consultations,” in which they are virtually certain to vote to join the South. The last civil war between North and South Sudan lasted 22 years and took the lives of more than 2 million people.
While I am not certain that the U.S. government has legitimate interests in this conflict, it is worth pointing out that the U.S. has limited its own options by maintaining economic sanctions against Sudan over the Darfur war crimes issue. There is little left that the U.S. can do to deter al-Bashir from all-out war, except to threaten some kind of military intervention. That’s precisely what Nicholas Kristof advocates, predicting genocide otherwise. But how credible would such a threat be, given the U.S. military’s current overstretch?
“Let A Thousand Nations Bloom” is a blog loosely associated with the Seasteading Institute (well, at least, Patri Friedman is a contributor). This week, in the runup to Independence Day (which we all know is a superior term to “Fourth of July,” right?), they are blogging about secession. Each day has a different theme, and today’s is the optimal size of nations. There’s actually a substantial economics literature from the late 1990s and early 2000s on this question, but Brad Taylor questions whether there really is such a thing as an optimal nation size, arguing that different public goods are best provided at different scales and scopes.
At any rate, check it out – and I am planning to add some of my reactions ere long.