Nationalism is Now: The Quest for Independence in Modern Europe
With the birth of Nationalism in 1848 the concept of a nation has become defined by a shared national history, language, ethnicity and language. The end of imperialism and the collapse of colonial empires following the Second World War has seen the birth of many new countries. This trend towards small ethnically defined nations continues today and will continue into the foreseeable future. Autonomous regions offer a pseudo state for provinces with too great of importance to be allowed independence. This denial of self determination increases the local demand to free themselves from their self styled foreign occupation. Today in Europe the three regions with the greatest chance of receiving their own state include; Venice, Catalonia and Scotland. These regions are in a much different position than Europe’s newest country, Kosovo and have a long journey to Independence.
The sinking city has a long history of independence, not until the 19th century was Italy united. Home to five million people with a Nominal GDP of 166 million Euros, Venice has the economic ability to survive as its own state. Various online polls have shown that the majority of Venetians want independence from Italy. The people of Venice do have their own unique language of Veneto, which is the native language of 4 million people. Venice still seems far from achieving its independent goals, as little progress has been made legally or through garnering public pressure.
A region of deep routed culture, Catalonia, with its capital of Barcelona, is one of the most economically prosperous regions on the planet. The people speak various local tongues including Catalan and Castilian. Enjoying extensive autonomy, Catalonia had few calls for independence previous to the Eurozone crises and the resulting failure of Spain’s economy. Catalonia itself is home to a Nominal GDP of 255 million Euros, a number which would place it in the top 50 of all countries. This is in spite of a population of a little over 7 million people. Spain refuses to recognise any motions set forth by the local Catalonian parliament due to the economic significance of the region and the huge value of Barcelona’s port. This tiny region accounts for a fifth of Spain’s total GDP. The Catalonian parliament has set forth multiple declarations of separation from Spain, with some taking place as early as 2017. It is possible that Catalonia will achieve independence but Spain’s constitution prevents any provinces from seceding from the union thereby offering them no legal course to follow. Famous non-Catalans have largely condemned the movement from Angela Merkel to Pope Francis, there is little support for a new state and none from the European Union.
Native Highlanders have long desired their own country. As far back as the original union under James VI, Scots have largely held dreams of a return to independence. With over 5 million people Scotland boasts an impressive Nominal GDP of the equivalent of 217 million euros. A referendum in 2014 saw the Scots just fail to reach independence by 5.3%. The Brexit controversy has put the question of Scottish independence back on the table, at the very least as a veiled threat. The Scottish Independence movement stems largely from cultural and social differences. Scots are generally more left wing than their southern counterparts. Scotland is not far off politically from the English state as Scotland enjoys a significant degree of autonomy already despite practising less autonomy then they are legally allowed to. Scotland is the most likely region to gain independence in the upcoming years but the question will remain dormant until the results of Brexit are determined.
Europe’s newest country has been known to be left off maps, its small size and smaller population make it forgettable to a foreigner. Kosovo is nearly entirely ethnic Albanians. With under 2 million people and a Nominal GDP of just over 8 billion it is not a global power. Its independence is not due to its power but to its majority Muslim population. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and now receives recognition from 108 states with the notable exclusion of Serbia. Kosovo is one of two Muslim majority countries on the European mainland with 96% of the population practicing Islam. The war torn history of Kosovo does not represent an ideal example for aspiring countries to abide by.
Nationalism is not an ideology of the past nor is it trending that way but few regions offer a sure fire example of a future country. Venice, Catalonia and Scotland are all making moves to gain their independence but each have been stalled for various reasons. Venice lacks popularity and legal grounds. Catalonia is legally blocked by the Spanish constitution. Scotland failed to pass a referendum and will turn its eyes to the development of Brexit. As is a constant in history new countries will continue to form but it is unclear where these countries will come from.