Monday, September 1, 2014

Splitting states: Donbas and Scotland

I am often not happy that "territorial integrity" and "sovereignty" are considered valid arguments against separatism.  I think that regions should have an option to separate from the country they are part of, and eventually merge with another country. This also applies to Crimea and Donetsk.  But such a separation must fulfill a number of criteria.

First, the decision must be democratic.  Democratic decision is not a hasty referendum.  It is a long open process where the idea of independence is brought up, pros and cons discussed, and more-or-less stable opinion formed.  I don't know what might be a relevant time scale here but I suggest a few years at minimum.  It is definitely more than a few weeks.

The democratic decision also means the media is free to report, and all people are free to express their opinion.  If some parties cannot do it because of threats, abductions and killings, the process is not democratic and the results of the related referendums questionable.  Potential separatists should be very much interested in demonstrating to the outside world that the support they claim does not "grow out from the gun barrel".  Unfortunately, in Eastern Ukraine they rather demonstrate the opposite.

Gunmen at Simferopol airport
A bad example of separatism.  "Little green men" at Simferopol airport, 2014-02-28.  Crimea was literally taken at gunpoint, no negotiations with Ukraine were conducted.

Third, separation must be negotiated with the former mother country. In general, a region that strives to independence is eligible to a share of the national assets (including the military ones) but should also inherit a part of the national debt.  On top of that, one has to agree on thousands of everyday details like cellphone rates, bank transfers, public pensions and education certificates.  All this must be ironed out, preferably some of it already before the independence referendum, to give the voters a better picture what they are choosing between.

None of these criteria were followed in Crimea and in Donetsk. That's why I am against separatists there—not because of the Ukrainian territorial integrity.

English-Scottish border
A road to another region with raging separatism.  No checkpoints, no gunmen here. 
But we also have good examples of separatism.  Scotland will vote on independence on Sept 18, 2014.  This date has been put forward one-and-a-half years in advance after a debate that has lasted for decades.  All pro-independence politicians realize that eventual separation goes hand-in-hand with long negotiations with the (rest of the) UK, and no-one is proposing to set up checkpoints at Tweed river.