The European Union’s (EU) separatist movements have never had it so good. Faltering economic conditions, unpopular austerity measures and ‘out of touch’ governments have combined to reignite secessionism like never before. As a result, separatist fervour has never been so vocal – both in public and the national corridors of power. And there’s more to come.
“They say the next big thing is here,
that the revolution’s near,
but to me it seems quite clear
that it’s all just a little bit of history repeating”
Shirley Bassey ~ “History Repeating”
The board game Risk: The Game of Global Domination is an extreme representation of geopolitical power dynamics. It pits players against each other on a simplified map of the world controlled by soldiers, cannons and cavalry. Although simplified and exaggerated, Risk is a crude model of thousands of years of international history: the rise and fall of empires, shifting balances of power, alliances, betrayals and perhaps the most disturbing factor – that the widespread death and destruction controlled by the ‘players’ is portrayed as a normal and inevitable part of geopolitics.
Russia is invading Ukraine, again. As usual, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refuted hard evidence from journalists and international observers. Both NATO and the OSCE have confirmed that heavy weaponry and combat troops are moving to Donbas from Russia. A detailed look suggests that although the ceasefire has been seriously violated (again), what we see is mostly a tactical operation aimed at reinforcing rebel positions, not preparation for a full-fledged war.
On November 25th Catalonians headed to the polls for a snap regional election. The polls were staged just two months after a massive pro-independence rally took place in Barcelona. Voter turnout peaked at almost 70%, the highest in 30 years, and the four political parties committed to holding a referendum on self-determination (CiU-ERC-ICV-CUP) got more than twice as many seats as those defending the status quo (PSC-PP-C). Crucially, both of Catalonia’s major parties – the governing center-right CiU and socialist PSC – suffered severe setbacks.
Accordingly, it appears that Catalonia is now set to hold a referendum on its ties to the rest of Spain, and that it does not trust its major political parties to steer the process.
Fans of yodeling, dancing and schwingen got their money’s worth last Sunday at Switzerland’s biggest celebration of traditional culture, the Unspunnen festival. If the sight of men wrestling in lederhosen isn’t exciting enough for you, the festival showcases another pearl of entertainment: stone throwing. No less than 83kg of massive granite has to be shifted by each competitor, the further the better.
The first Unspunnen festival was held in 1805. Napoleon had just invaded Switzerland, and the event – and the ‘Unspunnen Stone’ with it – became a symbol of Swiss unity. But it was not until 1984 that the stone rose to international fame, when it was abducted by a group of Bélier activists – part of quiet Switzerland’s very own separatist movement.