Friday, 9 August 2013

Which are the national borders? A fragile status quo

World War Two officially ended in 1945 and national borders changed dramatically across Europe. Since then, we have seen countries virtually disappear. Czechoslovakia is no more, Yugoslavia is no more, the Soviet Union is no more and new political arrangements have been created. If we look further afield, we see changes in other continents that completely altered political geography.

Changing the status quo is a risky business and you don't know when an apparently insignificant change of the puzzle can initiate a chain reaction leading to major changes and even war.

When we think about Scotland, we think about the United Kingdom but there are many countries including Italy and Spain where there are what I would call political tectonic plates that could lead to political earthquakes in Europe.

Differences or discrepancies between countries are usually an easy way to rally public opinion and divert attention from internal problems.

In 1982, the head of the Military Junta of Argentina, General Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri, used the Falkland Islands to gather political support in Argentina leading to a conflict that had disastrous consequences.

In 2013, Spain's Mariano Rajoy heads a government that is using General Galtieri's strategy. Antagonizing other countries might seem like an attractive proposition as a way to make people forget the failings of a national administration.

Luckily for Spain and for everybody else, the status quo seems to be a bit more resilient than it was in the 1930s and 1940s. Demagogy can still be used without causing major upsets. Having said that, should the situation deteriorate across Europe, demagogy could have unwanted and unexpected consequences that all of us would have cause to regret.

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