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May 29, 2022

Regions, blessing or curse?

It’s improper to say thatScotland has said “no” toindependence. Almost halfof the voters have neverthelesssaid “yes.” Sometimes howeverthe majority can be extremelyfragile. Quebec was a similarcase almost two decades ago,remaining part of Canada onlyon account of a few votes thatcame up short. Such referendumsare, at any rate, risky,especially since a precedentcan lead to a chain reaction.Many Europeans this timeawaited with real concern theresult of the vote in Scotland.The more so since evendespite the result the simplefact that it took place remainsencouraging for independenceand autonomy seekers. Seenfrom the context of the currentEuropean unity, are suchtendencies destructive or onthe contrary constructive?After all, regionalism hasstrengthened European solidarity,lessening national tensionsand creating new developmentopportunities.

Thus, a new, more flexible and at least insome cases more stimulating context wascreated. It was first of all an economic policyoption, so the benefits of the states’administrative reform should not be neglectedeither. The stake of regional “architecture”consisted of the chance of morefertile collective solidarities, based on morediscrete (meaning less exclusivist) but moreinfluential areas of cultural identity (in thewide sense). In other words, a combinationof positive conservatism that insists on relaunchingthe resources validated by history,and by visionary innovation, throughsuccessful projects of some unusual coalescing.It’s true that not all stood to win fromthe new regionalist trend, but the EU triedto lessen the disparities, which in certaincases meant an unhoped-for chance. Onthe other hand, the separatist movements(some with terrorist components) saw theirpopular base diminished because those whostarted to appreciate the advantages ofintermediary levels of autonomy were notfew in number. Understanding that independencealso entails costs. Some of thembeing major ones, entailing the risk ofsocial involutions and economic crises. Butthe current context brings with it specialimperatives too, first of all a re-launch ofmilitary strategy. Europeans are starting todiscover that they are threatened and canbecome vulnerable. And the independencemovements are partially centrifugal in relationto the EU, which in case of their successrisks ending up weakened. UnitedEurope is a complex project with a serious,albeit ambiguous, cultural basis. If constituentparts, even small ones, leave thatwill be an ideological failure and the implicationscan be unpredictable because theycan coagulate the most varied dissatisfactions.The true political fault lines are notthe regional ones. In Italy for instance thereis a right wing that decries the firmnessshown against Putin’s Russia, but at thesame time would want a more aggressivereaction against Islamists (and immigrants).The polemics concerning regional identityoften hide other types of conflicts.The Romanian case is different.Regionalism is more of a dream. Althoughthrough the game of chance the newEuropean commissioner for regional policieswill be a Romanian woman, we areamong the last places in the EU in whatconcerns reforms in this domain. Reformsalways postponed, with the perfect alibi ofpreventing Hungarian separatism. After all,the pragmatic reasons having to do withthe legitimacy of Szekely autonomy are twoin number: economic opportunities and thefear of slow ethnic assimilation. The formeris debatable, because it’s not certain at allthat the Szekely Land will become a secondSouth Tyrol with its tourism and industryboom. Mostly because of economic reasons.And an economic failure can stir addedfrustrations and raise the stake of the politicalconflict. We could even wonder whyUDMR’s lengthy participation in rulingcoalitions did not do more to change theSzekely Land’s appearance. The other reasonis apparently more “moral.”Assimilation is a natural phenomenon, notjust imposed through active policies (likeback in Ceausescu’s time). Measures for thepreservation of a cultural-ethnical identityare justified, but they have to respect theprinciples of the current democracy: to forbidthe “immigration” of Romanians in theSzekely Land through artificial measures ishard to accept. The policy of “numerusclausus” cannot be constructive in the currentcultural context. But Romanian partiesgiving up on the evolution of regionalism isnot a solution either. The political gridlockin Romania owes to this backlog too.

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