The northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto held referenda on 22 October and voted for greater autonomy from Rome. Both regions have a history of secessionist views, stemming from the increased economic burden they feel has been placed on them by the South. Lombardy and Veneto are two of the richest regions in the country, accounting for approximately 30 per cent of national wealth, containing the prosperous centres Milan and Venice respectively. Italy has long been divided by regionalism between the more industrial north and agricultural south, dating back to unification in the 19th century. In fact, the leaders of Lombardy and Veneto, Roberto Maroni and Luca Zaia, are members of the Lega Nord, Northern League, a political party that argued for the creation of an independent state during the 1990s. The recent events in Catalonia have resulted in people taking the result much more seriously. The Northern League has already stated it is not seeking independence. The Catalan situation, however, demonstrates that separatist sentiment should not be underestimated.
Spain by Alice Jones:
With the Catalan parliament declaring independence on Friday, the region’s separation from Spain looks increasingly likely. Brussels is watching with concern, fearing a domino effect, jeopardising the European Project. Catalonia is Spain’s economic power-house. Catalan’s illegal but telling referendum revealed that a resounding 92 per cent of citizens demand in-dependence from Spain. A breakaway from the Madrid government could plunge Spain into economic crisis, considering that 17.6 per cent of youths are unemployed and the country is carrying huge debts. With potential economic crisis in Spain, pressure is mounting on net contributing countries such as France and Germany to prop up the EU project.
If prosperous Catalonia separates, then Spain could well need economic assistance from the EU. This will provoke further dis-content among existing Eurosceptic countries, making taxpayers less inclined to support the union and more likely to rail against it. The Spanish Senate in Madrid voted overwhelmingly to restore direct rule over Catalonia on the same day in which the Catalan Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence. As a result, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy officially dis-solved the Catalan Parliament. It is currently unclear how Rajoy intends to take back control of the region. The possibility of violence like that seen on referendum polling day is something that can-not be ignored.The EU is an institution founded on the idea of unity in Europe, such divisions will only serve to undermine it. As Madrid moves to reassert control over Catalonia, what is the EU willing to abide for the sake of so-called unity?
Austria by Federico Grassi:
Following election held in Austria on the 15 October, the country awaits the formation of a new government. It looks increasingly likely that the far-right FPO will become the junior partners in coalition with the larger centre-right OVP under a new Chancellor, the 31 year-old Sebastian Kurz who is set to become the world’s youngest leader. This is a reversal for the OVP, which had been in decline, perceived by some as being too disconnected from the electorate. The party has been able to rebrand with its new leader. Kurz has sought to shift the OVP to the right to win votes from the FPO. During the campaign he pledged to restrict foreigners’ access to welfare and to get tough on illegal migration.Consequently, a coalition is likely. This would not be for the first time, as both parties were in government together from 2000-2005. This placed Austria in diplomatic isolation; the EU is no doubt fearing a repeat.