British, Spanish, Dutch, Czech, Italian and German media on Europe's separatists

Article published on Oct. 16, 2012
Article published on Oct. 16, 2012

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

On 15 October British prime minister David Cameron agreed to a referendum on Scottish independence. In Belgium's Flemish region the nationalist party N-VA won local elections a day before. Some commentators fear the desire for autonomy in these regions poses a threat to the European community, others welcome the emergence of solutions to long-seething conflicts

‘Clear, fair and unambiguous ballot’ - The Scotsman, United Kingdom

The referendum on Scottish independence from the UK agreed on 15 October is planned for 2014, and is to consist of a simple yes or no question. Scottish first minister Alex Salmond had his way regarding the time frame, while British prime minister David Cameron won out on the issue of the question to be answered. The Scottish daily welcomes the 'historic agreement' and hopes for a wise decision from Scottish citizens: 'What is now in prospect is a clear, fair and unambiguous ballot. Scotland's political class, academics and civic and business leaders now have two years in which to explore all the implications of the independence vote in full detail. That result - and that long period of analysis and exploration - is surely to be welcomed. We thus have good cause to celebrate that the clouding issue of process will be over by the end of today. We can now move to debate on the substantive issues. The critical issue now is that Scotland can move forward to making an informed choice’

Read ‘Leaders: Historic agreement in place, we can now move forward’ on The Scotsman

‘Not even 30% want Scottish independence’ – ABC, Spain

With their deal for a referendum on Scotland's independence, British prime minister David Cameron and Scottish first minister Alex Salmond have agreed on a procedure that serves the interests of both politicians but sends a dangerous signal to other countries like Spain and Belgium, the Spanish conservative daily warns: 'Cameron has acted selfishly and frivolously. The polls guarantee him a clear 'no' to independence from the Scots - not even 30% want Scottish independence. So the referendum would mean he can shelve the whole issue for another few decades. Salmond is going along with this because the referendum gives his claims political substance and what he really wants at the end of the day is a compensatory fiscal pact and self-government similar to that of the autonomous region of Catalan. But this agreement of mutual convenience is based on a process that is very dangerous for the EU, where various nation states - particularly Spain and Belgium - live with the tension of an intense secessionist shock’ ( Ignacio Camacho)

Read more from ABC here

‘It takes two to stop tangoing’ - Lidové noviny, Czech Republic

The Scottish desire for autonomy reminds the Czech conservative daily of the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1992/93. But the Scots won't take things that far, the paper writes: 'The elections in England and Scotland in 2010 were just as fatal as those in Czechoslovakia in 1992. While eurosceptic conservatives swing the sceptre in London, in Scotland pro-European left-wing politicians have remained in power who support not only the welfare state but also an independent Scotland. Nevertheless it's unlikely that Scotland will separate along Czechoslovakian lines. It takes two to stop tangoing. And Cameron - unlike Václav Klaus - doesn't want his state to fall apart. He would have to deal exceedingly incompetently with the current British economic crisis for things to go that far. Or he'd have to personally persuade oil-rich Scotland to leave’ (Luboš Palata)

Read more from Lidové noviny here

‘Oh-so-civilised Belgium a mirror for diverse separatist movements in EU’ - Corriere della Sera, Italy

After the success of the Flemish-nationalist N-VA party in Belgium's local elections on 14 October, the Italian liberal-conservative daily fears that separatist ambitions may set a precedent in Europe: 'The threat of Belgium splitting up is not as acute as it was five years ago. More worrying is the danger that the elections results are echoed beyond Belgium's borders in different parts of Europe, for example in Catalonia or in Scotland. The nationalist flag is being hoisted as a defence shield against the economic crisis. And when oh-so-civilised Belgium discovers that it is a mirror for the diverse separatist movements in Europe or against Europe, it could succumb to dangerous temptations and become a breeding ground for a germ against which all medications are ineffectual’ (Luigi Offeddu)

Read more from Corriere della Sera here

‘How bad it would be if Belgium were to disappear’ – Trouw, Netherlands

After the victory of the Flemish nationalist party (N-VA) in Flanders in Belgium's local elections the party's leader Bart De Wever has called on Belgian prime minister Elio Di Rupo to start negotiations on turning the country into a confederation. The Belgian christian-social daily sees Belgium at a crossroads once more: 'The never-ending row over Belgium's structure raises the question of how bad it would actually be if this state were to disappear. The example of the separation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia shows that a 'velvet divorce' is indeed possible, even if this expression is somewhat romanticised. Just as the Czech Republic and Slovakia come together again as neighbours and partners within the EU, the same could happen with Walloonia and Flanders. De Wever has made explicit reference to this. It must be left to the Flemish and the Walloons to decide whether the inevitable heartache of such a separation is necessary. At any rate it's clear that Belgium cannot go on living forever with this existential question mark over its head’

Read ‘De Wever zet Belgisch drama op scherp; het wordt tijd voor ultiem besluit over het land’ on Trouw online

‘Catalonians also knock on Madrid's door for help’ - Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

The desire for independence cannot provide an answer to the current crisis in Europe, the German liberal business paper contends: 'Only by putting national borders and mentalities behind it has Europe become prosperous and secure. The same goes for dealing with banking, economic and financial crises that demand too much from small states like Ireland. Only a large community can help with problems that a small state can't cope with on its own. The separatists realise this too: the Catalonians, for example, would like to separate from Spain, but at the same time they knock on Madrid's door for help. However you can't claim success and wealth for yourself while at the same time passing on all the problems and burdens to the central government or the EU. Europe should maintain its regional diversity – along the lines of federalist Germany. But that doesn't mean proclaiming an independent state at every opportunity. In the long term that would overstretch Europe's problem-solving capacities’

Read ‘Zu klein für große Krisen‘ on Financial Times Deutschland online

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