The democratic and humane values of the European Union (EU) are being put to test and may even threaten the integrity of the bloc, following the referendum by people of Catalonia, who recently voted in favor of their province’s independence from Spain.
Europe faces this challenge at a time of continuing economic decline and growing influx of refugees, which in turn has fueled right-wing extremism in major countries such as in France and Germany.
These divisive ultra-right nationalist movements threaten to disintegrate the European Union, which was founded on the principles of tolerance, co-existence, and freedom.
The Catalan call for statehood and self-determination will encourage the rise of right-wing extremism and secessionist forces in other countries like France and Belgium.
Demands for independence
Taking cue from Catalan, the Basque region is expected to revive its demands for independence, which would cause concerns for both Spain and France.
The silence of the EU on Madrid’s excesses against the Catalan separatists may not bode well for its credibility among Europeans, especially among newly formed fledgling states of the future, like Catalonia.
Catalonians find a contradiction in European values when it comes to its support for the independence of Scotland and Gibraltar from UK while it avoids the demands of their region.
The EU faces critical challenges that could affect the future of its existence as a group of nations sharing modern, democratic values and in confronting radicalism.
Mohamed Berisha is political researcher, Western University, Canada.