A senior European Union official has warned that the spread of small nations across Europe is a serious threat to the bloc’s integrity, saying that Brussels should fear issues such as Catalonia’s potential independence from Spain.
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said on Sunday that the escalating political situation in Spain, where the northeastern region of Catalonia is seeking independence from Madrid, could reverberate across the entire European Union countries.
“It is not by degrading nationhood that we reinforce Europe,” said Tajani in an interview, adding that Europe must “of course fear” the proliferation of small nations.
Tajani, an Italian, made the remarks as two Italian regions of Lombardy and Veneto voted in referendums on greater autonomy on Sunday. A quarter of Italy’s population resides in the two territories and they account for nearly a third of the country’s economic output. Voters were asked to decide whether the regions should gain “additional forms and particular conditions of autonomy.”
Tajani said small regions should not be allowed to threaten the integrity of their respective countries solely because they have different languages and cultures.
“Spain is by its history a unified state, with many autonomous regions, with diverse populations who also speak different languages but who are part of a unified state,” the EU official said.
The Italian politician said the referendums in Lombardy and Veneto, which include important cities of Milan and Venice, respectively, were legal, which something he said was not the case in Catalonia, where people voted in a referendum earlier this month. Madrid said the vote was against the Spanish constitution.
“First of all these two referendums are legitimate, that was not the case in Catalonia,” he said, adding, “In Spain, it is not about autonomy, but a proclamation of independence in defiance of the rule of law and against the Spanish constitution.”
Like Catalonia in Spain, Lombardi and Veneto want to reduce the amount of their financial contribution to the central government in Italy while they seek more powers over infrastructure, the environment, health and education.