November 29th 2012 04:54:50 PM
Instead of the Europeanization of the Balkans, are we now witnessing the start of the Balkanisation of Europe? On Sunday, Catalans voted for a new regional parliament, and regardless of how the vote split among parties, one thing is immediately clear from the result: A majority of the electorate wants a referendum on whether to declare independence from Spain.
Whether and how Catalonia secedes will now unfold. But it is no longer in the realm of fiction that we may in a few years find ourselves talking about “rump-Spain,” “the former Belgium” and “the former UK.”
All this should sound familiar to anyone who followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. [INDEED!] The similarities, with the collapse of Josip Broz Tito’s multinational state [THERE WAS A MULTINATIONAL STATE BEFORE TITO, as everyone conveniently forgets to mention] and the current stirrings of separatism around Europe, are evident on two levels. First, there is the north-south split of the European Union; and second, there is the north-south split within countries - think of Scotland versus Wallonia in Belgium.
At both the European level and in the three country cases, the northerners are fed up with subsidising, as they see it, the lazy and spendthrift southerners. That animus is all too clear when Germans talk about Greeks, Catalans about the rest of the Spain, the Flemish about the Walloons and, in the case of the UK, the Scots about London taking Scotland’s oil.
Olaf Tempelman, the former Eastern Europe correspondent of the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, recently summed up the parallel between the Balkans of the 1990s and the current rift between southern and northern Europe.
He argued that Croatia and Slovenia put up with contributing toward the development of the poorer parts of Yugoslavia, such as Kosovo and Bosnia, “as long as prosperity continued, and as long as the inhabitants failed to notice much of their further entwinement with the other regions.”
When the money ran out, however, heavily indebted Yugoslavia began to lurch from one economic crisis to another and things began to change. “The current northern European slogan ‘Not one more cent to the garlic nations’ is eerily similar to the Slovenian one of that time: ‘No more funds for the biftek (beefsteak) zone,”‘ Tempelman wrote.
The Dutchman went further, pointing to similarities between the nationalist and far-right leaders who are making headlines in the economically stricken Europe of today, and the men who came to power in Yugoslavia in the late 1980s, such as Slobodan Milosevic [sic: he was a socialist, so not exactly “far right”] in Serbia and Franjo Tudjman [demonstrably fascist] in Croatia.
…As Yugoslavia broke up, many Serbs said the drive for secession that began as a cancer in their country would spread elsewhere in Europe, if not checked.
Now some Serbs feel vindicated, even if this particular argument is false - Milosevic aimed to carve out a Greater Serbia and Tudjman wanted a Greater Croatia, but Catalonia and Flanders have no such ambitions.
Neither did Milosevic, but we bombed him anyway. So this means that we should soon see Europe bombing itself.
The general point of the article is well-taken, but rather than making lazy comparisons and ham-fisted generalizations, while reinforcing Balkan fictions, one should stick to accurate comparisons — and we should judge the right-wing leaders that crop up on their own merits or demerits.