Secession threatens sovereignty of several EU countries

(VOVworld) – More than 4 million people in Scotland voted in an independence referendum 2 months ago. More than 80% of the people in Spain's autonomous Catalonia region supported full independence in an informal vote. Although the referendum was unofficial and legally invalid, it alerted EU leaders to take action to minimize the risk of secession in EU countries.

Secession threatens sovereignty of several EU countries - ảnh 1
Catalonia people support the independence vote (Photo: Matthias Oesterle/Demotix/Corbis)

About 2 million out of 5.4 million voters in Catalonia cast their ballot and 80% of them said yes to independence. Although the Spanish Constitutional Court had earlier banned the referendum and the central administration dismissed its political value, the separatists succeeded in mobilizing voters to the poll.

The risk of a prolonged political crisis

In the latest development, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy rebuffed a proposal by Artur Mass, Head of Catalonia’s regional government, to establish a permanent dialogue on Catalan independence. Mr. Rajoy rejected any independence request for Catalonia and promised to protect national unification and territorial integrity. Spanish prosecutors are considering legal action against Catalan officials for conducting the referendum at schools and administrative offices.

Analysts say the tense relations between the central and regional governments could ignite a political crisis in Spain.

Economic difficulties drive push for secession

Catalonia is one of the most developed industrial regions in Spain. It comprises 4 provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragon. With a population of 7.5 million people and a dynamic economy beside the Mediterranean Sea, Catalonia has an annual GDP of 300 billion USD, accounting for 20% of Spain’s GDP and 25% of its total export revenue.

In the Eurozone, Spain has been one of the countries hardest hit by the global economic recession. Its budget deficit is 9% of GDP and unemployment is more than 30%. In recent years, the Catalan government has rejected austerity policies set by the EU and the Eurozone. One of the motives for secession is that Catalonia has to share Spain’s debt to the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund and has been the biggest contributor to the national budget. A different language and culture are another motive to become an independent state.

Impact on EU security and prosperity

The ultimate status of Catalonia is not yet declared but the unofficial vote will force the central government to take action to reconcile interests. EU leaders will have to find a way to keep the germs of secession from spreading. The Spanish crisis could incite secession movements in Corsica, an island of France, in developed industrial regions of northern Italy, in Flanders and Wallonia in Belgium, and in the Faeroe islands of Denmark, creating a domino effect of regions claiming independence from the EU to protect local interests from the EU’s burdensome difficulties.

If the secession movement gains momentum, it will impact the EU’s security and prosperity. The EU is on a path of unification, but embers of nationalism and separatism are smoldering in each nation.