Conflicts and claims

Numerous demonstrations are regularly organised by the members of minority communities to claim more rights, notably language. When they gather 10,000 people, as is often the case in Brittany, they are ignored by the mainstream media.

However, how can we forget the tens of thousands of Catalans marching through the streets of Barcelona at the start of 2006 in order to urge their leaders to reform the statute of autonomy of the Autonomous Community and thus register Catalonia as a nation? They marched under the banner som una nació (We are a nation). These peaceful demonstrations of cultural or political players often have a positive impact but the changes are slow to be put in place.

There are three main types of claims ranging from seeking more recognition to the desire to self-administer, or to benefit from an autonomous status, be that by seceding. It largely depends on the capacity of the state to respect differences and to assign individual powers to minorities. When the attitude of the central state is highly sectarian, irritations arise and this creates tensions leading to conflicts, latent or totally open.

Armed struggle

Forms of radical actions emerge regularly in territories populated with minorities. The most significant examples are the armed conflicts which were particularly prevalent in Ireland or in the Basque Country, where two clandestine organisations operate. Since the War of Independence in Ireland (1919–21), the IRA (Irish Republican Army) was opposed to British power and particularly the Ulster Unionists. In the Basque Country, ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna) led a national liberation struggle against the Franco dictatorship until its end (1959), but soon drifted into the organisation of attacks individually targeting civilians. Other territories are or have been marked over the last fifty years by the actions of clandestine armed struggles, such as Corsica, Brittany, South Tyrol or Wales. Finally, Kosovo had to face this type of conflict before the unilateral declaration of independence. In 1997, the Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK) led an organised guerilla war against the Serbian army. This led to the suppression of autonomous status which existed there a few years previously. These “paramilitary” actions, classified as “terrorists”, opposing members of the local organisations of the central power, are most often brutal and reflect a complex situation, the result of misunderstanding, a lack of dialogue and systematic blockages to all claims.

Political struggle

The struggle on “peaceful” political ground is certainly the most used means of expression. These benefits are less profiled than violent actions but enable significant progress. The majority of people fighting in Europe, disapproving of terrorism elsewhere, use this democratic path when the means is given to them. Moreover, in consultation with the central states, the stateless nations may decide upon their status, decentralised, autonomous or independent. Most world conflicts could be resolved if the states accepted the right to self-management and to self-determination.