PARIS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – From the Pyrennean pastures of Catalonia to the heathery highlands of Scotland, separatists are gaining ground as Europe’s economic crisis deepens, but this does not necessarily mean there will be more national flags on the map.
Flemish nationalists scored sweeping gains in Belgian local elections on Sunday, Scotland agreed terms on Monday for a 2014 referendum on independence from Britain, and Catalan separatists expect a regional election next month to advance their cause.
Just as nation states are ceding more power over budgets and economic policy to the European Union, regional grievances and conflicts that have simmered for centuries have taken on new intensity in fights over a shrinking pie of public money.
Richer regions such as Catalan-speaking Catalonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders, which already have wide-ranging autonomy, resent paying for poorer areas such as Spanish-speaking Andalucia and French-speaking Wallonia.
In Germany, there is no separatist movement but prosperous Bavaria is challenging in court a fiscal balancing system that makes it hand over some revenue to poorer federal states.