Eyeing independence in the EU

By AFP   September 6, 2017 | 10:00 pm PT
Eyeing independence in the EU
A man is silhouetted in front of an Estelada (Catalan separatist flag) in Ripoll town, north of Barcelona, Spain, August 20, 2017. Picture taken August 20, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Albert Gea.
Catalonia, which is expected to pass a law Wednesday opening the way for a referendum on independence from Spain, is only one of several in the European Union.

Here is a rundown of other regions with bids for more autonomy and even outright independence.

Scotland, Britain

The historic 2014 referendum on leaving the United Kingdom, which Scotland joined more than 300 years before, shook the country to the core and resulted in a narrow 55 percent vote against a split.

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon, head of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, wants a second referendum but has deferred planning for such a vote until the outlines of the deal for Britain's exit from the European Union become clear.

Scotland, home to 5.2 million people, has been semi-autonomous since 1998 with a devolved parliament that handles matters of education, health, environment and justice, while diplomacy and defence remain the domain of London.

Flanders, Belgium

Born in 1830 as an independent state to act as a buffer between France and Germany, Belgium is an uneasy mix of a Flemish-speaking, more conservative north critical of a French and left-leaning south.

Those differences have become even more pronounced in recent years, with Flemish nationalist sentiment more powerful than ever.

The separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) has emerged as the single biggest party in the country and a key partner in the coalition government.

Aiming for the eventual creation of a Flemish republic, the N-VA believes it could emerge strengthened from elections in 2019 and make a big push then for a confederation.

Basques, Spain

The separatist group ETA was founded in 1959 to promote the culture of the Basque region straddling the French-Spanish border but veered into a violent independence campaign blamed for 829 deaths.

The group carried out its last attack in 2010 and disarmed in April this year.

Some former ETA members have joined a Franco-Spanish Basques political party called Sortu that is working for "full freedom" for the region's 2.2 million people.

New Caledonia, France

The South Pacific archipelago is due to hold a referendum next year on independence from France, its government on the other side of the world.

A French possession since 1853, it reached an agreement in 1998 with Paris for greater autonomy although activists say this has yet to yield concrete results.

New Caledonia boasts a quarter of the world's known resources of nickel but wealth is not evenly spread and backers of independence want major economic reform.

Corsica, France

The Mediterranean island of 330,000 people is a part of France with its own language and a troubled history.

It suffered around four decades of attacks by the separatist National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC) but the movement ended its armed struggle in June 2014 in favour of a political process.

Corsica today has a special administrative status that grants its certain powers and retains a strong sense of autonomy rather than full independence, with nationalists the major political force.

Faroe Islands, Denmark

Denmark's Faroe Islands, home to 48,000 people and many more sheep, will hold a referendum in April 2018 on a new constitution that would grant self-determination.

The islands -- located between Norway, Scotland and Iceland -- have been autonomous from colonial master Denmark since 1948, although foreign affairs and defence are still the domain of Copenhagen.

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