Via Meadia readers have been following the progress of Scotland’s push for a referendum on secession from the UK. Evidence that the English want the Scots out may dampen the ardor for independence north of the Border; now comes the news that Spain may block any effort by a newly independent Scotland to join the EU.
For the Spanish government, the calculation is simple. Spain is full of restive regions that want to go their own way: Catalonia and the Basque country in particular have strong independence movements. One argument that separatists in European countries use is that because the newly independent countries could join the EU, independence is a low cost, low risk step.
Spain would like to take that argument out of the hands of its separatists. And Spain is not the only country worried about regions wanting to go their own way. The richer, Dutch speaking parts of Belgium would like to ditch their poorer French speaking compatriots. Italy’s Northern League would like to set up shop on its own. An agreement among Europe’s central governments to make like tough for secessionist wannabes would strengthen the hands of all governments dealing with pesky, recalcitrant regions.
Spain’s stand against secession is nothing new. Spain has refused to recognize the independence of Kosovo, the breakaway Serbian region recognized by many countries around the world, including the US, as an independent republic. As a result, Kosovo’s path toward the EU is blocked. Kosovo remains in limbo even as other ex-Yugoslav countries (most recently Croatia) join the EU.
The Scottish nationalists have argued that Scotland would immediately join the EU, benefiting from EU spending on poor regions and enjoying all the rights and privileges of the single market. Any change to that forecast would have a serious impact on voter support for a break up. If Spain persists in this approach, it could well keep the UK in one piece.