Saturday, December 22, 2007

Russia and Separatism in Europe

This morning I ran across an interesting article put out by the Russian News and Information Agency, “Hotbeds of Separatism in Modern Europe.”

It’s an interesting article for two reasons. First, it provides an interesting read as a catalogue of separatist sentiment and movements across Europe (though greater discussion of degree of seriousness or importance of separatism in each case would have been useful – but see discussion on subtext below), including the Basque region in Spain and France, Catalonia and Valencia, Corsica and Bretagne, Northern Italy, Belgium, the Faeroe Islands, the Swiss canton of Yura, Vojvodina, and Romanian Transylvania.

Perhaps more interesting are the areas not discussed. Kosovo isn’t particularly discussed in the article, though it is a primary motivation for the article – see below. In an article that delves into separatist politics in the Faeroe Islands or Swiss cantons, it’s striking, but perhaps not surprising, that none of the areas in which Russia supports separatist movements or governments, i.e. Trandsniestra, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, are mentioned, nor are any of Russia’s separatist regions, most obviously Chechnya. (Technically, depending on where you want to draw the arbitrary line between Europe and Asia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Chechnya might be out of Europe, but Trandsniestra is in Europe by any remotely conventional definition.)

The article has an overall editorial agenda that’s pretty clearly stated in the first paragraph:

“The Kosovo issue has been forwarded to the UN Security Council. The Russian Foreign Ministry suggests that Belgrade and Pristina should have another chance to come to terms. A decision on Kosovo's cessation from Serbia will create a precedent and violate international law.”

In addition to this brief editorializing against Kosovar independence, the subtext involved in cataloguing such a broad range of separatisms (except those involving Russia), as interesting as it is in its own right, seems to be a warning that much of Europe is only in need of the precedent of Kosovo for Spain, France, Belgium, the UK, Italy, etc., to come flying apart.


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