Samstag, 13. September 2014

On the domino effect of self-determination...Scotland and Catalonia

Many in the EU and especially those who hold powerful positions for years complain of an "EU-fatigue" or a fatigue among the citizens to participate in the political process, which is reflected in constantly declining voter turnout.

And now since there are aspirations for sovereignty resulting in the drawing of new borders in various regions within the EU, just think of the imminent referendum on the secession of Scotland from the United Kingdom, in which the Scots try to free themselves from the burden of having been forced into the union with London for more than 300 years, or think of this week's (9/11, 2014 ... note the fateful date for this event) in Barcelona, where peaceful protest for independence of Catalonia from Spain took place with 1.5 million demonstrators on the streets of Barcelona. These events make leaders and decision-makers within the EU worry, just as if they feared any tendencies to self-determination within their own countries, which could be stimulated because of the momentums in Scotland and Catalonia. Do the powerful fear the voice of the people?

My position is, to respect the wish of the people for self-determination and cultural identity represented in their government, as long as it is consistent with human rights, which is beyond dispute in the cases of Scotland and Catalonia in their strive for independence. A crystal clear Yes to an independent Scotland and an independent Catalonia, if there is a majority of people in each of their regions voting for independence.
Rather, it is to be regarded as highly problematic when, as in the case of the central government in Madrid, and their rejection of the referendum for independence of Catalonia from Spain scheduled for November 9, 2014. The desperate proclamation of the Spanish central government in Madrid, declaring the Catalonian referendum for independence for illegal, is seen to be highly anachronistic and just reflects Madrid's imperial claims for further dominance over the rest of Spain and in particular over the economic power house Catalonia.

On the contrary, it is only an expression of democracy that individual regions have the governments they want and which reflect them culturally, and that they do not have to accept the government as a foreign rule they have out of anachronistic reasons from any colonial heritage. My plea is crystal clear, and goes for the democratization and self-determination of the people and takes a stand against repressive foreign rule or archaic domination by governments which do not represent the majority population anymore.

Even if regions like Scotland or Catalonia, or others shown by the domino effect for self-determination within the EU, after their separation from their former countries they belonged to often in a long and hated forced marriage, don't decide to join the EU after they became independent, this is to respect by decision-makers in the EU, if they take the right of the majority population for self-determination seriously.

Each of these cultural entities within countries must be admitted to choose the government they want. However, it is regarded as probable that, given the geographical location of regions like Scotland and Catalonia within the European continent, these cultural units, if they don't aspire to apply for full EU membership they will have close economic and cultural ties with the remaining EU Member States. So, it's primarily all about drawing new lines (borders) within the EU or about to hold close ties with these regions like the EU has with the EU-EFTA collaboration with Switzerland and Norway.

When it comes to non-EU members, the EU seems to be far less squeamish, just think of the secession of Kosovo from the Republic of Serbia. The Kosovo emerged only by massive intervention by the EU and the USA, and so it could come to its rightful self-determination. A tendency becomes visible when it comes to the process of readjustment of the self-determination of the peoples that are under foreign rule, in the resolution of the multiethnic state of Austria-Hungary into its respective successor states and in the decolonization of many areas around the world from its colonial powers. When Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved into the Czech Republic and in the Republic of Slovakia on the 1st of January 1993 this represents a role-model for a peaceful and successful separation process of two ethnicities and language groups.

Similarly to that, now also other ethnic groups located within the EU ask for their self-determination, which is, of course, to respect and to be hold in referendums for independent states, if that's the will of the people. Potentially, there are still many break-ups and detachments to come that go far beyond the EU, just think of that one third of the population of Turkey are Kurds. The Kurds, working for the foundation of their own soverain state since the beginning of the 20th century, are also living in Syria, Iraq and Iran. But the boundaries are in many places only a mirror of old and outdated power politics that are no longer tenable in the light of self-determination of the people. If one looks further beyond the borders of the EU, there are analog examples such as Chechnya, Transnistria, Palestine, Tibet or Kashmir, just to name few.

Within Europe, there is South Tyrol, which achieved at least through the efforts of Austria, a far-reaching autonomy status within Italy, after it was annexed by Italy after the First World War with the allowance of the Allies. Therefore there is no anticipated need for an independent state of South Tyrol, in the case of South Tyrol today. Another case is the Turkish part of Cyprus in the 1970s originated in a bloody separation war from Greek Cyprus under the auspices of Turkey which holds a protecting power.

A currently burning question is also the bloody ethnic conflict in the Ukraine. In the light of self-determination it is an actual question to which extend the regions within Ukraine with a majority of Russian speaking people also have the to be given the choice for self-determination, that means a status of autonomy within Ukraine, if not even an "Anschluss" to Russia. But in the light of Vladimir Putin's claim to support the self-determination of the Russian population in Ukraine, and to be seen as credible and not to use double standards, Putin would require a radical change of course in his attitude towards the self-determination of the Chechen population in the North Caucasus. This self-determination Putin denies to the Chechens with massive force, while he tries to enforce with heavy weaponry the ethnic self-determination for the Russian population in Ukraine, since the expected benefits of the new Russian land bridge between the Crimea and mainland Russia through the construction of a fragile bridge over the Sea of ​​Azov as a link from Russia to the Crimea seems Putin not to be enough. The blue print for the bloody take-over of territories with significant Russian populations was Putin's war in Georgia 2008 in which large parts of Georgia's territory were annexed by Russia. In any case, a violent intervention by foreign countries should be rejected because they lack a free political democratic process resulting in conducting referendums and accepting their results.

Ergo, it should be pointed out that any ethnicities integrated into another country represents a special case, and needs to be respected and represented by its country they live in and need to be given the right to choose to express their feeling of being part or not to be part of the country they live in, what can be dissolved, in giving them an autonomy status within the countries they live in or they choose to establish their own soverain country based on their cultural identity or they join a neighboring country they feel affiliated to.

Because only the process of unleashing the people from an unwanted community and this freeing of previously bound energy, results in new potentials for dynamics in economic and cultural developments for the given country. And thereof any necessary political collective relaxation emerges which the region needs for its economic development. These political relaxation processes are bottom-up and follow a different logic than top-down processes of political decision-makers who try in vain for decades to maintain traditional power structures by top-down measures. Here it would be appropriate by the policy makers to pay attention to bottom-up processes of cultural identity and to support them and to respect as much as they can, to build self-determination as well as passion for politics, even if it thereby results in new borders. The potential released from this stress decreasing processes turns into the benefit for all people in the end. All these processes of finding ethnic identities and new forms of political sovereignties are simpler within the EU, which gives these specific regions the option to reorganize themselves in new states and staying under the democratic and economic shelter of the EU at the same time.

Dr. Dr. Immanuel Fruhmann
Head of the Institute for Systemic Stress Management

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