“Happy families are all alike: every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
The opening to Tolstoy’s great novel of love and tragedy could be a metaphor for Europe today, where “unhappy families” of Catalans, Scots, Belgians, Ukrainians, and Italians contemplate divorcing the countries they are currently a part of. And in a case where reality mirrors fiction, they are each unhappy in their own way …
Borders in Europe may appear immutable, but of course they are not. Sometimes they are changed by war, economic necessity, or because the powerful draw capricious lines that ignore history and ethnicity. Crimea, conquered by Catherine the Great in 1783, was arbitrarily given to the Ukraine in 1954. Belgium was the outcome of a congress of European powers in 1830. Impoverished Scotland tied itself to wealthy England in 1707. Catalonia fell to Spanish and French armies in 1714. And South Tyrol was a spoil of World War I.
In all of them, historical grievance, uneven development, and ethnic tensions have been exacerbated by a long-running economic crisis. There is nothing like unemployment and austerity to fuel the fires of secession.
The two most pressing secessionist movements – and the ones most likely to have a profound impact on the rest of Europe – are in Scotland and Catalonia.
Both are unhappy in different ways.
For more on this story, visit: Continental Drift: Europe’s Breakaways by Conn Hallinan — Antiwar.com.