Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016



Strange news from Germany this week. The Bavarian President Horst Seehofer announced his plans to travel to Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin. You're asking yourself: Shouldn't THE MERKEL handle such matters? You're right. However, Bavaria has always been the most independent of Germany's states. It is also vigorously opposed to the new Migrant policy and hopes to send a message to Berlin: Bavaria can secede from Germany, so start listening! This incident reminds us that Europe has many other regions that also claim independence. Here is an update on nine current movements:

BASQUE COUNTRY.  Europe's longest running independence movement, the Basques trace their history back to pre-Roman times. Since then, they've been part of dozens of empires, republics and dictatorships. Nonetheless, the steadfast society has kept her unique language and customs intact. Unfortunately, for six decades a terrorist group known as ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) high-jacked the independence movement and has clouded any altruistic aims for a new state.

BAVARIA. Up until the formation of the Second Reich in 1871, Bavaria was a prosperous and independent kingdom, active in European affairs. In fact, King Ludwig III did not formally abdicate until 1918. When Bavaria joined the new Federal Republic after World War II, it did so as a "Free-State." However, this is truly in name only, much like Massachusetts being a Commonwealth has no special status either.

CATALONIA. Like the Basques, Catalonia is a part of Spain. They speak their own language and are also more industrious than other provinces. This is reflected in federal taxes: Of the $15 billion they pay to Madrid, only two-thirds returns to Barcelona in spending. Every September Eleventh, or the Diada Nacional de Catalunya, everything shuts down as protesters fill the streets. They still remember the exact day...way back in 1714...when the King of Spain officially annexed Catalonia.

CORSICA. Everyone knows Napoleon was born on this French island, but not everyone knows that Corsica had just joined France the year before (1768). Prior to that, Genoa owned the isle. Before then, it had been traded from empire to empire. The Tuscans, Venetians, Ottomans, even the British all claimed Corsica. All the time, Corsicans developed their own unique culture and language (Corsu). Today, 39% of the people want to separate from France.

FLANDERS. Belgium is always confusing to young Geography students. It doesn't follow the mold. See, they speak Danish in Denmark. Poles speak Polish, etc. But Belgium is different. The country was basically created as a buffer between Holland and France. So the upper half (Flanders) speaks Dutch while the lower region (Wallonia) speaks French. Economically, however, the two groups are inseparable and the Flemish National Party only garners 35% of the vote.

LOWER TYROL. After the First World War, everyone ganged up on Germany and Austria, snatching large chunks of territory. Italy managed to grab South Tryol from the demolished Hapsburg Empire. The only problem is 95% of the population spoke German. Despite aggressive attempts from Mussolini to Italian-ize to region, this figure still remains at 70%. Despite efforts by the S├╝dtirol Freiheit Party, the region looks to remain part of Italy. See, it produces most of their Winter Olympians.

SCOTLAND. The most high profile independence movement in Europe took place in September of 2014. That's when five million Scots took the polls to vote on separation from the United Kingdom. Much to the horror of the other independence movements on this list, the referendum failed, 55% to 45%. The closeness of the numbers leads one to believe there will be another vote in the future.

SILESIA. Often in Europe's multi-cultural nations, one hard-working region ends up supporting other, less-industrious provinces. In Poland, the mineral-rich region of Silesia accounts for 14% of the nation's GNP, despite only accounting for 7% of the population. The RAS Party slogan is: "Silesian Money for Silesian People." In all, some 1000,000 people work in the coal mines, while Fiat and Opel have opened car manufacturing plants.

VENICE. Like their neighbors in Milan, many Venetians clamor for separation from greedy Rome. Like the Catalans, they yearn for a better return on their tax payments: For every five euros Venice pays in Federal taxes, they receive only three euros back in services. Despite achieving 89% of the vote (the highest of any party on the list), its highly unlikely for any change. Thanks to the Mussolini inspired constitution, it is nearly impossible to secede from Italy.

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