The hypocrisy of Europe shaken by referendums
The Catalan referendum on Oct. 1 has dominated the news as the Spanish government did not refrain from using force against peaceful demonstrators to stop it, which would’ve triggered a strong reaction from the European Union had it happened elsewhere.
The EU has already warned the Catalans that if they vote to secede from Spain, they would be left out of the EU, too.
It is clear that not only Madrid but other European capitals, from Brussels to Rome, have started to develop concerns not only over the future of the EU but the future of their nation-states as well.
A week ago, on Sept. 25, another referendum in the Middle East took place, when the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish administration asked its people whether they wanted independence from Iraq, without any consent from Baghdad. It triggered reaction from its neighbors Iran and Turkey with their own concerns and problems of Kurdish independence and terrorism. Turkey has mobilized units of its army, the second biggest in the Western military alliance NATO, for exercises along its borders with Iraq and Syria.
The Catalan independence vote, despite not being given consent from Madrid, came at a time when the British government and the EU is about to start Brexit talks, the terms of divorce in a way. The ever-growing EU has started to get smaller and weaker.
There are four gravity points which have been defining the outer geostrategic limits of Europe for centuries: Russia in the North East, the United Kingdom in the North West, Spain in the South West and Turkey in the South East.
In the framework of such a definition, Germany represents the geostrategic center of gravity of Europe also with its current soft power qualities in political, economic and social terms.
Developments involving the outer limits and the center of gravity have always been in an interactive relation with the radical changes in the inner points of action of Europe: The French Revolution, the collapse of the Austria-Hungarian, Russian and Turkish land empires, the two world wars, the Cold War, NATO and the peace and development era thanks to the EU.
This picture was believed to be endorsed with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Soviet Union by the end of 1991, as the North East corner seemed weakened and the South East corner seemed less important in the 2000s.
Something started to change this picture in the 2010s. Perhaps it was partly due to the wave of migration triggered by the revolutions, counter-revolutions and civil wars prompted in the wake of the Arab Spring, partly caused by the residual effects of the U.S.-origin economic and financial crisis that started in 2008-2009, particularly hitting Southern Europe, Spain, Italy and Greece; and partly caused by the return of Russia with its military and energy power to Eastern Europe from its weakest points, the Baltics and Ukraine, and the
Middle East, from Syria, sandwiching Turkey in between.
The first questions about the most-spoken Brexit came into the picture during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum; in the name of solidarity with London, when the EU told the Scotts that if they leave they would be considered as leaving the EU. It played a role in the Scottish rejection of independence from the U.K.
But that did not allow the British government to use the most primitive political tool ever, the referendum, and asked people whether they wanted to exit the EU. The Brits, who had approved their entry to the EU (then the European Communities) in 1975 through a referendum, opted to get out of it in 2016.
In 2017, Turkey went for a referendum to change its government system to one that would consolidate executive powers into presidential hands, following a military coup attempt in 2016, which the Turkish government suspects to have been encouraged by power centers from within the U.S. and the EU.
Turkey takes the Kurdish independence referendum in Iraq as a domestic security matter, and it seems the consequential outcomes of it could mean new steps by the government to take this South East corner of Europe closer to the North East, while the North West and
South West corners have been shaken by referendums one after another.
The center, in this case Germany, and perhaps the German-French-Italian core has to do something to avoid a dismantling which could cause the EU to lose its soft power qualities and hurt those countries more than any others, as history bitterly tells us.