Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Europeanization and Secession: The Cases of Catalonia and Scotland

Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

Europeanization and Secession: The Cases of Catalonia and Scotland

Article excerpt

The break-up of states has international implications and, especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has become a concern for the European Union (EU). The EU has sought to influence secession outcomes in processes as diverse as the independence of the Baltic States from the Soviet Union; those following the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia and later division of Serbia; and the separation of regions in Georgia and Ukraine (Coppieters, 2007 and 2010; Caplan, 2005). It has exerted pressure through measures ranging from diplomacy, enlargement conditionality, targeted sanctions, arms embargos and peacekeeping missions. The existence of around 20 significant independence movements in Europe means the EU is likely to remain implicated in secession processes (Coppieters, 2010: 240).

In addition to EU actions targeting non-EU and applicant states, the EU may influence secession within existing member states. Independence advocates may need to convincingly argue that their new state will easily join international organizations, fundamentally affecting economic prosperity and security (Tierney, 2013: 370). Indeed, many have observed that the prospect that a new state could continue to be part of the EU's common market and seek protection under its latent security umbrella appeared to reduce the costs and risks of separation (e.g. Keating and McGarry, 2001; Hepburn, 2010: 76). Minority nationalists have long used European integration as a political resource 'grafted onto their political discourse' to bolster demands for autonomy (Lynch, 1996: 16-17; Hepburn, 2010). The EU may also affect secession processes in less direct ways. The European sovereign debt crisis, for instance, may strengthen secessionist movements. In the Catalan case, various studies argue that the severity of the economic crisis in Spain bolstered economic arguments for secession and thereby helped turn the predominantly autonomist Catalan nationalist movement into a secessionist one (Guibernau, 2013: 383; Blas, 2013: 399; Serrano, 2013: 524 and 534). Others expect 'contagion effects', or independence for one stateless nation in Europe to encourage other highly mobilized movements to also pursue independence (Tierney, 2013: 359).

Together, these arguments suggest that the EU, either as an actor or as a politico-institutional context, may play a role in the politics of secession in Europe. As such these arguments can be considered arguments about "Europeanization", or the ways in which European integration affects politics, policies and institutions within European states. In this article, I examine discourses and strategies mobilized by pro- and anti-independence movements in the United Kingdom (UK) and Spain in order to examine how the EU as an actor or as a political institutional context affects contemporary secessionist politics within member states.

Independence debates in Scotland and Catalonia are the highest profile cases of secession movements within the EU at present. Scotland held an independence referendum on 18 September 2014, where the 'No' campaign won with 55% of the vote. In Catalonia, debates on independence top the political agenda, even if legal disputes between Catalan and Spanish authorities mean the promised November 2014 independence consultation may not take place. More importantly, the cases permit use of a 'most similar' research design. Both Spain and the UK are longstanding EU members and leading advocates of independence in both Catalonia and Scotland favour immediate EU membership. These are cases, as Guibernau puts it, where a form of 'emancipatory nationalism' has emerged, which is a 'democratic type of nationalism [...] defending the nation's right to decide upon its political future by democratic means' (2013: 372).

An advantage of focusing on discourse and political and argumentative strategies is that it acknowledges the importance of public deliberation for secession processes within the EU. In Europe, the break-up of states has taken various forms that included violent civil war (e. …

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