Separatists are not only gaining ground in Scotland and Catalonia: the victory of Bart De Wever’s Flemish nationalists in 14 October local elections “is not just a warning for Belgium. It is a serious warning for all of Europe”, writesLa Tribune. For the French business daily —
… it would be naive to believe that the winds which have advanced these movements in recent months are completely independent of the storm that has swept across Europe over the last two and a half years. Although it may not be the cause, the debt crisis has certainly contributed. In countries where unity is problematic […] the question is who will pay the debts of the wider community and who will make efforts to pay this debt. In other words, the focus is not on the fight against austerity, but rather on the drive to avoid austerity and to make it an issue for other people.
This is what is behind the Flemish conviction that Belgium’s financial difficulties are linked to poor management of the country’s central government, notes De Standaard. In this context, the Flemish newspaper cites University of Leuven researcher Louis Vos —
When it turns out that the higher [federal] level does not work — the reproach hammered home by De Wever [the Flemish nationalist leader] is that Di Rupo’s high tax government does not have the support of a majority of Flemings — this leads to increased calls for autonomy.
However,notes Financial Times Deutschland, it may be “understandable” to raise the issue of independence, but it “cannot provide a response to the problems currently faced by Europe”. The German business daily continues —
Only by looking beyond borders and nationalism did Europe become prosperous and secure. We must do the same to overcome the banking, economic and financial crises that have submerged small countries like Ireland. Only a broad community has the capacity to help resolve problems that states cannot face alone. This has been well understood by the separatists: the Catalans want separation from Spain but they also want financial aid from Madrid. However, you cannot selfishly lay claim to successes and wealth while delegating problems and costs to central government or the EU. Europe should preserve its regional diversity without proclaiming an independent state on every occasion. To do so would undermine Europe’s capacity to resolve problems in the long term.
Other countries are bucking the trend, notes La Tribune, which points to the example of Italy, which is currently “reinforcing the central state at the expense of a fragile process of decentralisation” —
The Monti government, encouraged by the weakening of the Northern League, which has been undermined by scandal and its participation in the Berlusconi administration, has decided to overturn the 2001 reform to decentralise the state. Mario Monti wants to give greater powers to central government so as to avoid waste and corruption and also to exert greater control over the drive for austerity and the effort to limit public debt. […] The debt crisis has undermined the credibility of regional governments and the country’s major secessionist party.