Splitting Countries: The End of Expansionism Part 2
An Editorial by Nick Bernold
Just as the British made rash decisions in their definition of territories, demonstrating a particular lack of foresight in the creation of one large Sudan, so, too is it possible that the European Union has recently made a strategic mistake. With the signing of the treaty of Lisbon in 2007, the EU strengthened the Union and gave it some of the same legal privileges as a state would have. Many separatist groups have begun to use this to their advantage by claiming that they would rather be provinces of the EU than of the countries to which they currently belong. Because of its haste to create a power to rival that of the United States, and possibly that of China, the EU has opened itself up to a very real problem. Scots, Catalans and Flemings are all demanding their own autonomy within the Union. Nowhere is this demand more pressing than in Flanders. The Flemish are dissatisfied with the government, which they consider to be controlled by the French-speaking Walloon majority against Flemish interests, and they feel that the richer Flanders is fiscally supporting a Walloon welfare state through taxes. With close to fifty percent of the vote in the most recent Belgian elections going to separatist parties, the trouble is not going away in the near future. Again, we can draw a parallel between Britain and the EU. Like Britain’s, the EU’s attempt to create a larger and more unified state has in fact created tensions that threaten internal unity. Granting Flanders some kind of special status could be very detrimental to the union, as other separatist groups would redouble their efforts to gain their own independence. We can also wonder exactly what kind of status they would have in terms of decision-making within the EU if they were not full-status countries. Wallonia would then be either left as an economic blemish in the middle of Europe (embarrassingly enough, it is also the seat of European government), or absorbed into France. This option, too, would send shockwaves through the European community. France is currently the second most powerful state in the EU; were it to absorb Wallonia, it would justly demand more votes, potentially upsetting the balance of power and causing France to surpass Germany as most powerful country. In any case, France is ill-equipped to take on a floundering economy, since France itself is struggling with austerity measures and wildly unpopular retirement reform. Though the problem in Belgium is obviously less serious than the one in Sudan, it is more difficult to solve. Currently, I see no simple solution, and apparently, neither does the Union, since it has not significantly moved on or proposed a solution to the problem.
Up to this point we have been purely objective. The discord and possible dissolution within the Sudanese and Belgian states are purely factual. There have been many states that have been dissolved, and also many that have been formed throughout history. Still, I think that the two situations mentioned above might be part of a larger trend to be developed in the years to come. The misjudgment and lack of foresight that led to the creation of unstable states and the attempt to hold them together were part of a larger trend that will be reversed in the years to come.
Let us take a quick detour through our own country. As I write this, polls across the nation are closing. The House of Representatives and a third of the Senate will see new faces come January. Large gains are expected for the Republican party, which many expect will regain the House and slim its deficit in the Senate. Throughout the campaign, a major talking point has been the polarization and radicalization of politics, especially in regard to the Tea Party. We have seen hate, vitriol and anger beyond belief this season, with each party slipping towards its respective pole. Our country, too, is splitting apart. Gone are the days when policy issues could be hashed out over a drink and a game of cards. The last few decades have shown us that “bipartisan” has become a hollow word. This shift may go along with a general loss of courtesy and decorum in our society, but I do not think it is by chance that it coincides with the international phenomena of which we spoke above. The split is not only abroad—it’s in our backyards, too.