January 27, 2009 (the date of publication in Russian)

Ruslan Kostyuk, Anna Varakina


Breakaway regions seek broader representation in the Europarliament

In the array of transnational political parties intending to join the Europarliament race, the European Free Alliance is somewhat extraordinary. This association of European political movements, founded as far back as in 1981, acquired the status of a transnational party only five years ago.

Unlike other political associations, EFA is based rather on the common ideal of autonomization than on articulated ideology. The party, unifying 33 political entities from 13 European states, advocates the objective of "a European Union of free peoples based on the principle of subsidiarity who believe in solidarity with each other and other peoples of the world". Its members include movements advocating secession of Aland Isles from Finland, Corsica and Bretagne from France, Bavaria from Germany, Venice from Italy, Frisian territories from the Netherlands, and Catalonia and the Basque Country from Spain.

It is noteworthy that the alliance has assembled mostly from leftist organizations. Such well known rightist-populist parties as Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) and Lega Nord (North League) are unwelcome.

At the last congress in Bilbao, EFA declared its commitment to confront racism, xenophobia, and particularly Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Displaying ethnic tolerance, EFA activists believe that regions, representing ethnic minorities, encounter common problems within the EU.

Member parties vary in number. The most influential are the Republican Party of Catalonia, the Galician nationalist Bloc, as well as the Scottish National Party (which forms the region's minority government) and the Welsh National Party.

Today, EFA is represented in the Europarliament by seven MPs, teaming up with environmentalists in a joint faction. Tatiana Zhdanok, the only Latvian MP representing the interests of the Russian minority in the Baltic States, has joined the faction on an individual basis. EFA is currently chaired by Flemish liberal socialist Nelly Maes.

Though not having yet elaborated a political program, EFA advocates a number of political principles which its members have promised to advocate. First of all, EFA insists on recognition of the right of peoples for self-determination and development of parliamentary democracy, rejecting any kind of extremism in political activities. EFA's proclaimed mission is "to provide democratic nationalism and regionalism with a political structure that allows scope for practical initiatives at the European level".

The objectives and values declared by secessionists in the Europarliament include protection of human and peoples' rights, social cohesion and equal opportunities, protection of environment and sustainable development. At the same time, EFA stands for a more just society, confronting centralism, monopolization, and privatization in the interests of oligarchy. Quite naturally, leftist secessionists advocate use of alternative forms of energy.

EFA's political demands include a legally recognized right of regions of EU states to participate in ministerial summits on issues regarding regional affairs. EFA also advocates "recognition of historical nations and regions" in Europe and their direct access to the European Court of Justice. Pursuing democratization of all the EU institutions, EFA demands elevation of the status of the Committee of Regions that today enjoys only consultative capacity.

Though many of the member parties are politically insignificant in their nations, the EU bureaucracy, as well as national governments, should realize that the increasing popularity of the secessionist alliance reflects lack of harmony in the "EU – states – regions" triangle.

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