Flanders Revisited: Mapping Possible Microstates in Europe
Last week I wrote a post about secessionism in Flanders and regionalism in Europe, more generally. That post had been inspired by a post by “Chirol”at the blog Coming Anarchy. I now see that Chirol followed-up his original Flanders piece with an essay considering a possible future of microstates in Europe. He wrote:
I’ve put together a map of the future of Europe in 2020. It is purely speculative and in no way a firm prediction, but rather a sketch of the possibilities and list of the most likely cases. It is by no means exhaustive and you’ll notice seemingly obvious states such as Wales, Sicily, Crete and others are not listed. This is in part because I will argue that two local conditions are necessary for a viable movement and successful independence.
First, the state must be well off economically and able to hold it’s own, i.e. it must have more to gain than lose. Hence, states like Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are the two richest in Germany, essentially subsidizing the rest would have more motivation than the poor underdeveloped east German states which feed off the rest. The second condition is that the region must have a well developed and unique identity which comes in the form of a strong dialect or different language, history of independence or autonomy and other characteristics that go into defining a culture.
In his speculative map of Europe in 2020, Chirol includes not only Flanders, but Baden-Wurtemburg and Bavaria (from what had been Germany), Padania (which would be carved out of Northern Italy), and the Basque Republic and Catalonia as independent states.
Chirol is careful to explain that this is a thought-experiment. There are reasons to be skeptical that regionalism within the EU will turn into widespread secessionism. For example, the very EU rules that empower the regions may actually act as steam valves, reducing the pressure building for full independence. Regionalism within the EU is a pretty good compromise in which the regions get much of what they would have as sovereigns. It may be enough to satisfy many of those who had clamored for independence. I am not sure if this will work, but it is a factor to consider.
More significantly, few regions would want to take the step to become independent states if the pre-existing country would veto the new state’s accession into the EU. They can remain autonomous regions within the existing state and reap the EU regulatory benefits described in my previous post and avoid the relatively bad scenario of seceding and then being frozen out of the EU by an irate predecessor state. In that case, they would receive neither EU regulatory benefits for being a subnational region nor the advantages of being an EU member state.
Of course, both of these arguments assume that decisions regarding secession would be made by through cold cost/benefit calculations, and that is a shaky assumption.