The EU is helping create a crisis of identity through Europe. The Europe of nations answered the question of “Who am I?” by each person accepting they were Spanish or British or French or German, based on where they were born and where they lived. Most of us were born into the country where we made our living. We were loyal to it, and expected our country to stand by us. That was before common borders, large migrations of people, and strong regional policies throughout the EU.
It is true there were some tensions even within a Europe of nations. The Basques were not happy in Spain. Some of the Catholics were not happy in Northern Ireland, preferring the Irish Republic. Parts of countries that had been shunted around too many times as a result of wars and treaties found the issue of who they were and where they belonged more difficult than the vast majority who lived in one of the individual states of Europe with settled frontiers.
Before the UK joined the EEC and it evolved into the EU I never questioned who I was. I belonged to the UK, would answer the question as British, and believed in our independent democracy and quirky constitution. What do I say now? I am tempted now to say I am English. Who knows what country I will technically belong to if Scotland votes to leave. We do not even have a name, as you can scarcely call what remains the United Kingdom.
The EU decided to foster regional senses of identity within the major states of the EU, partly as a way of undermining their legitimacy, partly as a way of increasing its influence through direct finance and policy links to the regions. The EU encouraged different senses of identity in Scotland and Wales, treating them as regions they could do business with. They tried to drive England off the map, presumably fearing its power and capacity for independent thought. They encouraged the Catalans in Spain, the Venetians and Lombardians in Italy, the Bavarians in Germany and the Flemish in Belgium.
Once the EU had gained major power, it became less enthusiastic about splinter regions that might want to detach themselves from member states, at exactly the time when its original policy of fostering regional identities was fructifying. Today Scotland has gained the right to a vote on leaving the UK, with many Scots wanting to exercise it. The Catalans are insistent they deserve a vote, and would probably vote to leave Spain, if only the national government would allow it. In Italy the Veneto has just voted to leave Italy, but the Italian state will not recognise the referendum held nor grant a legal one. In the Ukraine the EU as an act of foreign policy is seeking to suppress all regional senses of identity, even opposing a federal devolved structure as well as setting itself against referenda for parts of the country to leave the Ukraine.
The EU was wrong to do so much to unsettle the original countries. It is even more wrong now to deny the strong emerging regional movements the right to legal and peaceful self determination. You should not hold out the hope of a new identity, only to dash it when people claim it.