A fractured Europe?

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corymaylett
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A fractured Europe?

Post by corymaylett » Sun Jun 18, 2006 5:43 pm

Is Europe moving toward a common identity and increased political unity or is it breaking up into smaller mini-states based upon old ethnic divisions?

Simultaneous to the European Union's growth, the remnants of Yugoslavia continue to divide (Montenegro just recently), Catalonia is poised for a vote that would give it near de-facto independence and set the stage for the possible fragmentation of Spain. Czechoslovakia is already divided, and the remnant states from the Soviet Union are moving in multiple directions. What's next? A Basque homeland? An idependent Corisca or Kosovo? Down the line, maybe, independence movements in Brittany, Wales, Bavaria, Crimea?

The relative stability of Europe since World War II has fostered the impression that Europe has finally put its divisiveness behind it, but is this really the case? Are we now seeing the adjustments and realignments that are simply the precursors to Europe resuming its complicated and time-honored intramural ethnic and political disputes? Or are we seeing the lessening of importance of the existing states as the notion of a greater Europe takes hold.

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Chaos
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Post by Chaos » Sun Jun 18, 2006 8:28 pm

If Bavaria wants to secede... good riddance, I say :D

But seriously... I don´t see this necessarily as a bad thing. Most of those countries that we see splitting up have been artificial constructions to begin with, and/or were rather unhappy marriages. A split removes a source of conflict and (hopefully) directs nationalism/patriotism towards improving one´s own country, instead of harming the "partner". From what I can see these divisions work out rather well, and (with the exception of Yugoslavia in the 90´s) the actual split is usually less painful than what went before it (see also: Basque and Corsic separatism), and what happens to try and prevent it (see also: Chechnya)

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Post by green.tea » Sun Jun 18, 2006 10:00 pm

I predict the United States of Europe

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Pedantica
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Post by Pedantica » Sun Jun 18, 2006 10:06 pm

The vast majority of the fractures are of countries that were only held together by brutal dictatorship and not by popular consent. The break up of Soviet bloc states and superstates, like Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and even Czechoslovakia was entirely predictable even if the exact details and timetable were not easy to foresee. They were empires not nations.

Even states with a longer history of democracy were often formed by conquest. Scotland was not invited to join England, it was conquered by it.

Regarding nations with a longer history of democracy in Europe I think there is a trend towards some decentralization. I can think of 3 main reasons for the trend:

1) Peace makes smaller states more viable:

Conventional war being largely a numbers game; small countries have a harder time defending themselves. Accordingly they must rely more on alliances than larger countries; a generally less secure position than being able to defend yourself. So when there is a greater threat of war there is a greater attraction to forming larger states as "marriages of convenience".

The threat of war in Western Europe has progressively reduced.

2) Free trade makes smaller states more viable.

Free trade allows states to specialize and trade rather than having to attempt to provide for all their own necessities. Some states are fairly obviously alliances of industrial and agricultural regions, such as perhaps the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The amount of free trade in Western Europe and much of the world in general has progressively increased.

3) The European Union and other European institutions like the Council of Europe make smaller states more viable.

This is partly because they promote (1) Peace and (2) Free Trade above. But for other political and economic reasons as well:

i) The European Union allows countries to pool their political power internationally, giving small states far greater international bargaining power than they would have alone.

ii) The European Union is taking on much of the regulatory burden of law making across a wide range of different areas from car safety to employment protections. Whilst I am sure coming up with a new safety standard for seat belts arguing about it and publishing it in 20 languages is a tad on the inefficient side it's probably still more cost effective than 25 countries coming up with 25 different sets of safety standards (and also clearly much better for companies wanting to export their cars and not wanting to have to adhere to 25 different sets of regulations). Essentially there is some burden sharing here, which again makes small states much more viable.

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Post by Xipe_Totec » Mon Jun 19, 2006 12:56 am

I would agree with Pedantica, especially in that I don't percieve separation in smaller states as something negative. I would even go so far to say it is mandatory, if nothing else, then for the sense of selfworth for the nation involved.

Take for instance Montenegro. The split came about very good (for Balkans/Yugoslavia, that is :lol:) and now both countries are able to approach EU on their own. While that creates a bit more bureocracy (sp?), there is a big difference between Montenegro joining in as a sattelite state to Serbia, and joining in on it's own. That way you eliminate any potential resentment to Serbian led negotiations.

Personally, I don't care what the name of my country is, as long as it obeys the principles of modern society (inalianable rights, no discrimination etc).
The Government did it.

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Post by UseYourNoodle » Mon Jun 19, 2006 2:46 pm

Doctor X wrote:Since the French consider themselves superior to everyone else?

No.

--J.D.


Not sure where your single mindset for France comes from but I bet they consider themselves superior to the United States (along with China and Russia) in light of our Iraq fiasco. :lol:
It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money so long as you have got it. EDWIN WAY TEALE

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Post by Giz » Tue Jun 20, 2006 4:20 am

Pedantica wrote:Even states with a longer history of democracy were often formed by conquest. Scotland was not invited to join England, it was conquered by it.



Ahem:
"The Acts of Union were two Acts of Parliament passed in 1707 (taking effect on 1 May) by the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland. The acts were the implementation of the Treaty of Union negotiated[b] between the two kingdoms."

(bolding mine).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acts_of_Union_1707

Too much braveheart?


(Of course if you'd picked just about any other place in the world that we'd gone then you would have been alright... As Mark Twain said: "The English are mentioned in the Bible; Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.")



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Pedantica
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Post by Pedantica » Tue Jun 20, 2006 7:23 am

The negotiation was not between the people of the two kingdoms it was between the owners of the two kingdoms; conquering landowners who from the Norman invasion onwards had taken and held their rights by force.

It was not supported by popular opinion in Scotland. Indeed public opinion was overwhelmingly against it. However the people's consent was neither sought nor required.

Over the 300 years popular opinion has ebbed back and forth between being in favour of or against the union. At the moment it is fairly clearly in favour of partial independence but against complete independence. It is not inconceivable that it will in the future once again be in favour of independence and unlike on previous occasions when this has been the case a democratic consent of the people will be accepted.

Scotland had been conquered long before 1707, the Act of Union was a cleaning up exercise with no more democratic legitimacy than the formation of the Soviet Union from previously conquered territories of the Russian empire.

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Post by Giz » Tue Jun 20, 2006 4:24 pm

Pedantica wrote:Scotland had been conquered long before 1707, the Act of Union was a cleaning up exercise with no more democratic legitimacy than the formation of the Soviet Union from previously conquered territories of the Russian empire.


So prior to the advent of representative democracies in the late 19th century there were no legitimate treaties? (FWIW, I guess this means we can agree that that the coalition did not violate Iraqi soveriegnty in 2003, as said soveriegnty did not exist).

My intention wasn't to go all pedant but... but…. "Scotland had been conquered long before 1707"? If you mean temporarily semi-occupied by Edward I in the 1290's then yes. But by 1707 that was in the distant past (reversed by Wallace and Bruce - and Edward II ! - in the early 1300's). And FWIW when the crowns were joined in 1603, it was a Scot who became king of England - some conquest!

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Pedantica
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Post by Pedantica » Tue Jun 20, 2006 10:45 pm

Giz wrote:So prior to the advent of representative democracies in the late 19th century there were no legitimate treaties? (FWIW, I guess this means we can agree that that the coalition did not violate Iraqi soveriegnty in 2003, as said soveriegnty did not exist).

My intention wasn't to go all pedant but... but…. "Scotland had been conquered long before 1707"? If you mean temporarily semi-occupied by Edward I in the 1290's then yes. But by 1707 that was in the distant past (reversed by Wallace and Bruce - and Edward II ! - in the early 1300's). And FWIW when the crowns were joined in 1603, it was a Scot who became king of England - some conquest!


I was not attempting to accurately capture 500 years of history in a single sentence.

I thought the point of my example was clear from the context of my post: countries not formed by popular consent are vulnerable to fragmentation when the people have the power to decide their own governance. This should not be seen as a bad thing. And I didn't want to restrict this point to obvious examples such as Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, I think it includes separatist and independence movements in countries with more democratic histories including Britain.

The people of Scotland had for long periods of the history of Britain not been allowed to decide their own destiny and had they been they would on many occasions in the past have chosen independence. In that respect the vote for partial independence in the 1990s did not reflect a unique swing in popular opinion, it reflected the fact that people's opinion was for once actually being respected.

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Post by jj » Tue Jun 20, 2006 11:11 pm

Chaos wrote:If Bavaria wants to secede... good riddance, I say :D


As long as they don't take Franconia with them. :D
Why does an infallable book have to be constantly revised?

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Post by Chaos » Wed Jun 21, 2006 2:10 pm

jj wrote:
Chaos wrote:If Bavaria wants to secede... good riddance, I say :D


As long as they don't take Franconia with them. :D


Why not?

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Post by Giz » Wed Jun 21, 2006 9:48 pm

Pedantica wrote:
I thought the point of my example was clear from the context of my post: countries not formed by popular consent are vulnerable to fragmentation when the people have the power to decide their own governance. This should not be seen as a bad thing. And I didn't want to restrict this point to obvious examples such as Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, I think it includes separatist and independence movements in countries with more democratic histories including Britain.


What European countries were formed by popular consent? Maybe the Dutch? England is the result of Wessex and Danish conquests... not because there was a surge of support for warm beer and interminable test matches some time around 800 AD.

That England survives is due to a shared sense of history and culture, a sense of belonging, if this tribalism went... so too would England.

Pedantica wrote:The people of Scotland had for long periods of the history of Britain not been allowed to decide their own destiny and had they been they would on many occasions in the past have chosen independence. In that respect the vote for partial independence in the 1990s did not reflect a unique swing in popular opinion, it reflected the fact that people's opinion was for once actually being respected.


Yep. Of course if Scotland and Wales were fully independant then Westminster would have a virtually permanent Tory majority... thereby giving the people of England what they obviously want, a desire that has been repeatedly frustrated by solid "Celtic Fringe" (i.e. Wales and Scotland - incidentally Scotland is very overrepresented at Westminster-) votes for Labour. Would be liberating all round!

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Post by Pedantica » Thu Jun 22, 2006 10:44 am

Giz wrote:What European countries were formed by popular consent? Maybe the Dutch? England is the result of Wessex and Danish conquests... not because there was a surge of support for warm beer and interminable test matches some time around 800 AD.

That England survives is due to a shared sense of history and culture, a sense of belonging, if this tribalism went... so too would England.


I agree. I was simply questioning the degree to which that shared sense of history and culture is essentially British or divided into separate English/Scottish/Welsh components. The votes for limited but not complete decentralization in Wales and Scotland indicate that it is a mixture of the two.

I personally consider myself primarily British rather than English. Many people, including perhaps you, as far as I can tell from your post, do not.

The point is that now people are actually being asked to provide democratic consent for the political unions they find themselves in, it should not be a surprise that those in many countries are voicing their support for limited or complete independence.

Giz wrote:Yep. Of course if Scotland and Wales were fully independant then Westminster would have a virtually permanent Tory majority... thereby giving the people of England what they obviously want, a desire that has been repeatedly frustrated by solid "Celtic Fringe" (i.e. Wales and Scotland - incidentally Scotland is very overrepresented at Westminster-) votes for Labour. Would be liberating all round!


Labour won more seats in England than the Conservatives in each of their last three UK wide General Election victories. 286 seats in 2005 compared with 194 for the Conservatives. In an English-only Parliament Labour would have an overall majority of 43.

Labour actually only won slightly higher percentage of the vote in 2005 in Scotland compared with England (35.46% in England, 38.87% in Scotland)

The big difference in Scotland is the collapse in the Conservative vote since the 1950s, when Scotland was more Conservative (Unionist) than England and presumably contributed to Conservative Party majorities in the same way that it now benefits Labour.

The actual number of seats in Scotland and England is now pretty well in line with population size. Although Scotland has slightly more than it is entitled to purely on the basis of population. Scotland has 59 seats, if it had the same number per capita as England it would have 5 fewer.