In Scotland, residents will vote next September on whether their homeland should become an independent country or remain part of the United Kingdom. In Catalonia, Spain, provincial president Artur Mas has called for a referendum on whether Catalonia should become a sovereign state. And in the Belgian province of Flanders, the leader of the ruling party has called for negotiations that would “enable both Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia to look after their own affairs.”
Although the economic integration of Western Europe has proceeded at a rapid pace in recent decades, the political borders of the region have remained almost entirely unchanged since the end of World War II. And yet, “there is the real possibility of one or several national divorces being initiated in Western Europe in 2014,” notes Nicholas Siegel, senior program officer at the Transatlantic Academy, a U.S.-European think-tank based in Washington, D.C.
Secession, and the urge to secede raises several questions: Could separatist movements in three of Europe’s most historic regions — Flanders, Catalonia and Scotland — actually lead these provinces down the path to political independence? If so, what would be the impact on the economies of these regions, and on Europe as a whole? And would these three regions be more — or less — likely to thrive if they attained sovereignty?
Originally Published December 2, 2013 by Knowledge@Wharton.