Friday, March 7, 2014

If you don't like the word, take the substance

Some people are reluctant to use the word federalism, perhaps because it would imply recognizing that the individuals and parties that always defended it were right. But more and more people throughout Europe recognize that it provides the values and the ideas that are necessary to solve the problems of national minorities and divided loyalties that plague Europe and many other parts of the world. Now it is Ukraine, Scotland or Catalonia. Tomorrow it can be many other places. Today it is again the Financial Times, whose editorial pages have several times endorsed federalism, that includes a column by David Gardner saying exactly that: "The eventual answer to this problem does not have to be either separatism or unionism (monarchy is a secondary issue). It could as well be a creative form of federalism, even though federalism as a word, let alone a formula, sends semantic shivers up the political spine of both countries. Yet if the majority nationalists – also known as unionists – were to look more empathetically at their minority nationalists, they might detect the ambiguities and hesitancy behind much separatist discourse. Surely it has occurred to all three capitals (London, Madrid and Brussels) that these minority nations might settle for something short of secession. But there is a curious reluctance to discuss alternatives – especially to develop further the asymmetric federalism that already exists in the UK and Spain, where Scotland, Catalonia and the Basque Country already have more home rule than other regions, yet want still more.There is no reason why some regions, especially those with a deep-rooted sense of nation, should not have greater self-rule than others if that is what they want – the cost, to paraphrase the King James Bible, of sharing a house of many mansions." The title of the article is "Spain and Britain should not fear the F-word". Its author, and an increasingly number of people, certainly have no fear.

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