06/20/14

The King’s speech: Spanish nation, unity in diversity, no friendly signs for Catalan sovereignists

felip-borboThe first speech by Felipe VI as new King of Spain was expected with great attention, as the Catalan sovereignty process, the discredit of the monarchy, and the demands for a referendum on a republican system were at the backdrop of the abdication of Felipe’s father King Juan Carlos I. Has the king’s speech responded to such challenges? An item-by-item summary of Felipe VI’s speech today before the Spanish Cortes:

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05/31/14

Catalan political party system: heading towards fullness? (2)

Following the 2012 Catalan Parliament election, I was explaining on this blog that, for several reasons, the Catalan political party system was clearly and evidently heading (seen from a Catalan self-centred point of view) towards fullness: for the first time ever, I then argued, the two strongest parties were strictly Catalan parties (i.e., parties not having organic ties to Spanish parties), their number of seats and share of votes was higher than ever, their left-right ideological spectrum was broader than ever… Going back to that post is appropriate after last Sunday’s European Parliament election: results show that trends in Catalonia’s electoral behaviour then identified have strengthened, even if some of them must be nuanced.

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04/30/14

The Fatah-Hamas agreement: four key points to understand the change

abbas-meshaalFatah (the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) and Hamas (the Islamist group in control of the Gaza Strip) announced an agreement to form a Palestinian national unity government within five weeks. The deal also includes calling presidential and parliamentary elections within six months. This could put an end to the existing division of the Palestinian territories since 2007, when Hamas and Fatah clashed violently, which resulted in the West Bank being left under the control of the Palestinian Authority (Fatah majority), while Gaza remained under Hamas rule.

The Israeli government has immediately reacted by cancelling a meeting with Palestinian negotiators, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saying that Fatah cannot make peace with Israel if it also makes deals with Hamas.

In order to understand the context that has led to the Fatah-Hamas deal, Nationalia has spoken to Lurdes Vidal, Head of Arab Mediterranean World Department in Barcelona-based European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed). Four key elements are selected: Continue reading

03/19/14

Crimea, Northern Cyprus and the importance of having a UN Security Council permanent seat

dp-crimeaMuch talk on similarities between Crimea and Kosovo. In fact, both the authorities of Crimea (in their unilateral declaration of independence) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (in his speech on Crimea’s annexation by Russia) mentioned the former Serbian province. However, the sequence of events brings Crimea closer to the Cyprus crisis between 1974 and 1983. In any case, from the point of view of international law a first lesson can be drawn from these developments: once again, having a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (and veto rights, subsequently) is perfect to justify one’s position. And Russia has it. Continue reading

03/2/14

Simplifying Crimea and Ukraine, renouncing complexities of maps

dp-ukraineLooking at maps and election results, being aware of geography, and taking a look at history allow us to capture multiple political and identity shades in any given country. This is what should have been done when analyzing recent developments in Ukraine since the start of Euromaidan protests, but I feel it has not been the case. Had that been done, a better understanding of the country’s many political and identity accents would have arisen, the west-east division oversimplification could have been avoided… and stupor as regards to events in Crimea might be lower.

Simplifying divisions… For weeks , if not months or even years, we have been hammered by the supposed fundamental division that Ukraine suffers: a Russian-speaking, Russophile eastern half, and a Ukrainian-speaker, pro-European (it would be more accurate to say “pro- EU”) western half. But that is a botched simplification: there is no clear boundary between one section and the other, however much maps be painted in two opposing, solid colors (one for the pro-European side, where Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko used to win elections during the 2000s, and another one for the pro-Russian side, where ousted President Viktor Yanukovych had the most votes). Those maps omit that, in many regions, the victory of either candidate could depend on 10 or 15 percentage points , not 40 or 50. Some examples do not fit the west-east clear cut divide theory: in regions where most people have Ukrainian as their mother tongue, Yanukovych was the winner; in regions located just on the border with Russia, Tymoshenko was the most voted candidate; and, vice versa, Ukrainian nationalist candidates did not enjoy great results in Transcarpathia, even though that region lies in westernmost Ukraine. Continue reading

02/27/14

Is Poland a potential patchwork of national and regional identities?

(Background note: when looking at the map of the EU, it is quite evident that all the largest states have pro-autonomy and secessionist movements inside them. This especially true for Spain and the UK, but to a lesser extent also for France and Italy. But what about Germany and Poland? Is it true that Poland is an almost monoethnic country with no relevant non-state regional or national movements? In order to approach the issue, I prepared a report on that. This is the result, which I published on Nationalia news website. People from Poland told me that the report quite made an impact there, and a Silesian newspaper even translated it into Polish.)

poloniaQuestioning the national unity of the Polish state tends rather to arouse fears related to the historical development of the country, especially to dark episodes like the partitions of Poland in the 18th century or, more recently, to the German and Soviet occupations.

Perhaps it is this background that explains the political and emotional impact that the emergence of an ever-growing Silesian nationalism over the past two decades has sparked in Poland. Just after the end of communism, some Silesians began to claim that Poland should recognize that non-Polish national identities exist within its borders. The impact of the Silesian demand made slowly its way, and in 2002 its first big realization arrived: 173,000 people declared Silesian nationality in the 2002 census. And this happened although Polish institutions hold that the Silesian nationality does not officially exist. Continue reading

01/16/14

“We are non-nationalists, in the sense of 19th century nationalisms”

murgia-onnisAn election to the Regional Council of Sardinia is scheduled to be held within a month, and it seems quite likely that the results will greatly differ from what has been common since 1999. From that year onwards, two very strong coalitions (Italian centre-right and Italian centre-left, with more or less regionalist flavour) have always fought for victory. At a very big distance, one or more pro-independence lists have tried to have a handful of members elected into th Sardinian Parliament. However, this time the scenario is set to be very different, unless opinion polls and analysts are absolutely wrong: writer Michela Murgia is very well placed to achieve remarkable success heading the three-legged coalition Possible Sardinia, made up of pro-independence Republic Project party (a splinter of a splinter: typical in Sardinia) and two independent lists. Sardinian media say that Murgia could shock everyone by winning the election of, at least, become the second largest coalition, only behind the centre-right.

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12/30/13

In Libyan state building almost everything is yet to be done, but not everything is possible

A few days ago I finished up a small report on Libyan nation building for the online news website Nationalia. This is the full text, for which I briefly interviewed Catalan expert Maria-Àngels Roque and French journalist Maryline Dumas.

libya-provinces“Libya no longer exists as a country”, Russian expert in the North African country Yevgeny Satanoski said a few days ago to RT. Indeed, since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, there has been no central authority able to exercise one of the essential duties that any state is supposed to carry out: control its own territory. A clear proof of this is the current blockade of Cyrenaican ports by Ibrahim al-Jathran led militia. A rebel commander during the revolt against Gaddafi, Al-Jathran has proclaimed himself as a Cyrenaica autonomist leader and, now for months, has been blocking exports of Libyan oil from the ports of his region. He still refuses to reopen them.

Al-Jathran is just one more among a myriad of political and military actors who are now claiming the establishment of a decentralized Libya -or it might be better said that they are already managing it their way. One model that inspires some of them is the 1951 Constitution, adopted at the time of independence, which created a federal monarchy in which Libya’s three federal provinces (Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan) shared power with the central government. Distribution of oil revenues is currently a central element of the country’s political struggle: federalists reject total control of those revenues by central government, and ask instead that it be shared with the three provinces. Federalist demands are felt most strongly in Cyrenaica, where most oil reserves are found.

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11/6/13

The French national identity, Finkielkraut version

liberte-guidant-delacroix“All identities are legitimate in France, except for the national identity”. At this point, few doubt remains about the ability by Alain Finkielkraut (1949) to spark intense debates. The Parisian philosopher, enjoying some degree of media exposure, is inspiring new passions among the French with the release of L’identité malheureuse (‘The Unfortunate Identity’), a book written in a tone that is “more pamphlet-like than ever” and that “plays with fire”, as Jean Birnbaum has written in Le Monde. It is the fire of the debate o then French identity, the fire of a “noble debate”, as Nicolas Sarkozy put it in 2009.

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10/22/13

Is it possible to be a Bosnian-Herzegovinian in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Paradoxes of first post-war census

bosnian-presidencyBosnia and Herzegovina has just finished collecting the date of its first post-war population census, which most likely will depict a quite different landscape -in terms of national identity- if compared to the last census that was held in the Balkan country. Reasons for this range from Bosnia’s independence impact in people’s minds to the effects of the 1992-1995 war -including ethnic cleansing of many regions, people who fled from the country and, of course, casualties. Continue reading