The referendum granting independence to the former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro is spurring similar hopes in Spain, where Basque and Catalan separatists see it as paving the way for their regions to become sovereign states.
The Montenegro vote "shows that the right to self-determination is real and is applied today in the heart of Europe," the Basque separatist party Batasuna said in a press release.
"I feel a sane envy," said Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira, leader of the Catalan separatist party ERC.
The Spanish government and mainstream parties, however, rushed to reject any comparisons between Montenegro and the Spanish regions, fearing a new upsurge of separatism.
The Montenegro referendum came at a time of a heated debate on the status of the Basque and Catalan regions, with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero planning to launch a peace process with the armed Basque separatist group ETA, while Catalonia has just secured a wider degree of autonomy from Spain.
Separatists and moderate regional nationalists stress small nations' right to self-determination in Europe, while the conservative opposition accuses the Socialist government of endangering the country's unity by being soft on regionalism.
The Montenegro referendum was awaited eagerly by nationalists in the northern Basque region of 2.1 million, where ETA has killed more than 800 people in its four-decade campaign for a sovereign Basque state carved out of northern Spain and southern France.
The group declared a permanent ceasefire in March, and Zapatero now intends to launch a peace process which is expected to include talks between the Basque political parties on the region's future.
The region's governing moderate nationalist party, PNV, and the Batasuna radicals are planning to table a request for a referendum on the right of the Basques to decide their own future, something Spain has categorically rejected so far.
"It may take several decades and successive referendums to win independence," conceded Joseba Alvarez, one of the leaders of Batasuna, which was banned in 2002 as ETA's political wing, but which expects to become relegalized soon.
About half of the Basques support nationalist parties such as Batasuna and the bigger PNV, which has proposed a considerably wider autonomy short of full independence.
Zapatero's government is trying to counter separatism by offering watered-down autonomy plans, such as the new Catalan statute, which has been approved by the Spanish parliament and is to be confirmed in a June 18 regional referendum. The plan fell short of separatist expectations in the wealthy north-eastern region of 6.8 million, where the radical ERC plays a minor, but increasingly visible role.
Regionalism is also on the rise in other regions, such as the southern Andalusia, which does not have its own language like the Basques and Catalans do, but which is nevertheless seeking a recognition of its specific identity.
The centrifugal tensions are causing concern in Madrid, where politicians and commentators stressed the differences between Spain and the former Yugoslavia.
The two were not comparable, "neither politically, nor diplomatically, nor judicially," Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana -- a Spanish Socialist -- said it would be "delirium tremens" to compare Montenegro with EU countries including Spain.
Conservative editorials stressed the differences, saying Montenegro had already existed as an independent state and that it was functioning as a separate entity from Serbia, something that was not the case for Catalonia or the Basque region.
Liberal democracy and communist autocracy are at the initial stages of a historic battle. Taipei has chosen its side in this fight and has sought to frame “cross-strait relations” as an international issue, while Beijing says that Taiwan is an “internal issue” and a hangover from the Chinese Civil War. Taiwan’s status as a nation has new clarity and the international community is beginning to defend Taiwan’s democracy. The Washington Post has praised Taiwan’s diplomatic achievements and Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton has said that it would be inconceivable for Australia not to join Taiwan and the US in a conflict with
At a time when China continues its assertive policy toward its neighboring countries, the regime of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Bhutan last month to resolve a longstanding border dispute. However, this is not the first time China and Bhutan have taken such efforts on this issue. Over the years, China has expanded its claim over territory in Bhutan. China claims over 764km2 of Bhutan’s territory, which includes Doklam, Sinchulung, Dramana and Shakhatoe in the northwestern region and the Pasamlung and Jakarlung Valleys in the central part of Bhutan. Although the two sides held
Thanks to the communist side of the Strait, awareness of the threats facing Taiwan is higher than at any time in the last 50 years. It’s an opportunity to educate the world about all the country has to offer, from public health and disaster relief to entrepreneurship and democratic governance. One of Taiwan’s greatest strengths — its semiconductor industry — however, is also potentially a terrible political liability. Taipei and friends of Taiwan should be careful how they wield it. The idea that China could shut down large swaths of the global economy with an attack on the center of 60%
The world community has just seen an election victory with more than 90 percent of the vote under a dictatorial regime, but Dolqun Isa’s large election win was for a good reason. The World Uyghur Congress’ (WUC) 7th General Assembly was held in Prague, Czech Republic, from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14. The WUC was formed in exile to re-establish the independent state in East Turkestan — officially called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by China. At that meeting, Isa was re-elected to the presidency. He was the only candidate, and before the vote, another well-known Uighur advocate, Abduwali Ayup, said: “Are we living