Peter Singer says in an article that "The European Union has brought 28 countries into a closer political and economic union. Paradoxically, it has also made it more feasible to contemplate the breakup of some of those countries. Independence for a small state outside of a political and economic group like the EU would be risky nowadays. Within the EU, however, the barriers between states – and thus the economic and political risks of independence – are lower." He explains much better than I did how the nationalist elites of these small old nations are free-riding on the idea of Europe: "if Scotland and Catalonia ever become independent countries, it will only be because the UK and Spain permit it. All states have an interest in stability, so it is hard to imagine that, in the absence of widespread, grave, and undeniable human rights violations, other states would recognize a region that, after being part of a state for many centuries, declared itself independent without the acquiescence of the country from which it secedes. The EU is also unlikely to accept Scotland or Catalonia as a member if the UK or Spain rejects their claims to independence. Indeed, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has said that the EU may reject Scotland and Catalonia's applications, or at least delay them considerably, even if the UK and Spain do accept their independence. And, without EU membership, it is hard to imagine that a majority of people in Scotland or Catalonia would take the plunge into economic uncertainty that independence would bring. The role of a referendum in a region seeking to secede can therefore only be a form of persuasion aimed at the government of the existing state. A large turnout showing a clear majority for independence would be a way to say: See how strongly we feel about this issue. We are so dissatisfied with the status quo that most of us now favor secession. If you want us to stay, you need to address the grievances that have caused a majority of us to want to leave." I strongly agree with Singer's arguments. Given that secession cannot be justified in democratic countries where human and many other rights (including the right to self government) are widely respected, the debate we should be having is the debate that is typical in civilized societies like the USA or Canada: what kind of federalism should we have in Europe and its member states?
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