What other European countries are experiencing independence movements?



UK, Spain, and now Italy have regions that have held referendums on independence or autonomy after the leaders of Italy's two wealthiest northern regions have claimed victory in a non-binding referendum, seeking greater autonomy from the central government in Rome. Autonomy and devolution can be a step toward full independence.

What European countries are considered to have regions that are reasonably likely attempt to gain independence?

user 1

Posted 2017-10-25T08:06:46.250

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For the purposes of this question, does Australia count as a European country? – Andrew Grimm – 2018-10-21T20:48:16.740

9Wanting autonomy isn't the same as wanting independence. There is a economic similarity between this and the Catalan case: wealthy part of the country doesn't want their money to support the poor parts. But the Catalan also largely identify themselves as Catalan and not Spanish. Is there a pressure for independence in northern Italy? – Communisty – 2017-10-25T08:26:01.160

@Communisty https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Padanian_nationalism

– SJuan76 – 2017-10-25T08:55:17.813

In Italy there is no real pressure for independence by any region. A few years ago Lega Nord was a party that was vocally for independence of the northern regions of Italy, but they never actually did something to gain independence. They were content with publicity stunts, like making a football team or a beauty pageant contest. Nowadays independence is no more part of their platform. In fact, the organizers of the autonomy referendums were explicitly pointing out the difference between autonomy and independence in the previous days, to avoid alienating voters. – gabriele – 2017-10-25T09:08:02.467

@Communisty yes. note that i dont claim Wanting autonomy is the same as wanting independence; i only say this can be a step toward what we see now in Catalonia. – user 1 – 2017-10-25T09:31:34.090

2This makes me wonder if there are any (serious) reverse independence movements: Large country wanting to get rid of a smaller part. – pipe – 2017-10-25T17:50:04.377

@pipe An example is decolonization. – Sjoerd – 2017-10-30T21:46:29.127



The current vitality of independent movements is greatly exaggerated. You cannot assume that opinion polls and speaking about independence are the same thing as actually trying to get independence. Gaining independence is hard.

There are a few countries, or regions, that are already de facto independent such as Transnistria or Kosovo, but do not have official recognition.

There are a few regions that have historically tried to get independence, even with terrorism, but do not currently have a serious movement for independence, such as Corsica or South Tyrol.

There are a few regions that could probably create a serious independence movement, because they have strong regional identities and parties. These are regions such as Bavaria or Flanders. However, they are not currently doing that.

There are a few regions that have expressed the desire to get independence and actually done something about it:

  • Basque Country. Although there has a been a move toward more autonomy instead of independence. For instance, the end of terrorism attacks.
  • Scotland. They had a referendum and independence lost. Brexit might have caused some regrets and declarations by politicians, but nothing will happen in the next few years until Brexit is finalized.
  • Northern Ireland. Just like the Basque ones, the Northern Ireland independentists have abandoned terrorism. They also moved toward autonomy[1]. Independentists movements have not nominally abandoned the quest for independence from United Kingdom and reunification with Ireland[2], however they have not made real initiatives for it. Overall, it seems that the Good Friday Agreement has satisified most people. If Brexit is managed really horrendously they could reignite a movement for independence. Normally the chance would be very slim, but given the current track record of the Conservatives it may actually happen.

Finally, there is a region that is de facto independent, but is trying to get back with the rest of the country: Northern Cyprus.

[1] That is not to say that there are only two possibilities: terrorism/violent rebellion or autonomy. It just happened that both groups did the same things together. Thanks to @inappropriateCode for having pointed out the bad phrasing.

[2] Thanks to @pjc50 for having pointed this out.


Posted 2017-10-25T08:06:46.250

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"Just like for the Basques, the Northern Ireland independentists have abandoned terrorism and moved toward autonomy."

I don't think this is correct, and it presents a false dichotomy between either terrorism or settling for autonomy. Especially since there's various iterations of the IRA knocking about, and some of them are still engaged in violence. From what I understand of it Sinn Fein believe they'll win reunification of Ireland peacefully in time. They've not "moved towards autonomy". As the saying goes... Tiocfaidh ár lá.

– inappropriateCode – 2017-10-25T12:20:46.873

4Yes, Northern Ireland is not an "independence" movement in the strict sense in that there's no desire for an independent Northern Ireland but instead re-unification with the south. It's more of a de-colonisation. Autonomy was present but the "power sharing agreement" critical to democratic governance has collapsed. Perhaps after or as part of the resolution of Brexit this will be resolved. – pjc50 – 2017-10-25T12:55:58.077

1For the UK don't forget Cornwall, plus I bet if you ask the Welsh they'd be quite happy without the English. London wants to split off too. The UK is one big happy family really. – icc97 – 2017-10-25T15:28:33.590

I'd be weary about mentioning the section of Cyprus under Turkish occupation (offensively referred to as 'Northern Cyprus"). An occupied territory wanting to merge back with its homeland is different than an enclave of a nation seeking independent. – Lan – 2017-10-25T16:34:26.790

@inappropriateCode you are right that I have probably not stated the fact in the best way possible. I didn't want to say that the choice is terrorism or autonomy, but that they both moved toward autonomy. It is true that independence is "always in the air" for some people in Northern Ireland, but the Good Friday Agreement seems to have satisfied the majority of people. I may be wrong, but I'm not aware of any serious move toward independence-reunification.

– gabriele – 2017-10-25T16:54:33.063

@pjc50 good points, I will amend my post – gabriele – 2017-10-25T16:55:37.463

@icc97 don't forget the fact that many English people think they are giving too much money to other parts of the UK. I am aware that some fear the possible dissolution of the UK, but it seems a bit off right now. – gabriele – 2017-10-25T16:58:34.890

1Transnistria is not de facto independent, but de facto occupied by Russia. (Also, spelled with only two ‘i’s.) – Emil Jeřábek – 2017-10-25T17:07:35.727

@EmilJeřábek thanks for having pointed out the spelling error. It is governed by Russian-affiliated groups, but they are de facto independent (basically it is like in certain regions of Ukraine). In fact their government asked for unification with Russia, but Russia rejected the request. Let me put this way: if Moldova managed to recapture Russia would not intervene. – gabriele – 2017-10-25T17:16:53.750

1@Lan Northern Cyprus is the official name and the one used in English communication. I am not stating any political statement by using it. I did pointed out the difference between the Cyprus situation and the others. – gabriele – 2017-10-25T17:19:55.740

1The only thing that keeps Transnistria independent (and that made it independent in the first place) is the presence of Russian army. Likewise, the “certain regions of Ukraine” are under attack from Russia. (The troops may use other uniforms and pretend to be “on vacation” so that Russia can officially deny the involvement of its armed forces, but it is confirmed by lots of evidence.) – Emil Jeřábek – 2017-10-25T17:42:22.873

@EmilJeřábek I am not denying that what you say is completely true, I am just saying that it does not mean what you think it means. There are plenty of countries that during the Cold War survived only because the intervention of a superpower. For example, South Korea was saved by the US intervention and would not exist otherwise. A more recent example is South Sudan, which exists because US pressure. All of this does not change the fact that they are independent. – gabriele – 2017-10-25T18:03:15.957


Quite a few European countries have separatist movements. Countries with notable ones include:

  • Spain (Catalonia, Basque country - and others)
  • The UK (Scotland - and others)
  • Russia (Chechenia - and others)
  • Belgium (Flanders)

A few movements achieved de facto independence, though with limited recognition. Countries with such separatists movements include:

  • Serbia (Kosovo)
  • Georgia (Abkhazia, South Ossetia)

Depending on where you draw the line (amount of popular support, how active they are, etc.), you could continue listing quite a few other European countries, including:

Denis de Bernardy

Posted 2017-10-25T08:06:46.250

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2Most of them are incorrect info. Kosovo is already independent. Chechnia's separatism is almost nonexistent after 2nd Chechen War. Question asks about items other than UK, Spain and Italy. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are de facto independent regions. – None – 2017-10-25T09:08:06.080

For what it's worth approximate order that they are taken seriously, there are also UK separatist movements in Northern Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and London. The first one is definitely notable. – origimbo – 2017-10-25T10:06:28.337

Having lived for a couple of years in Flanders I can positively say that the news of Flanders separatism is greatly exaggerated. Sure, there is one party fighting for this and they scored... 6% in the last Flemish election. yeah... (copied from other answer) – David Mulder – 2017-10-25T10:49:37.417

What's the source for a Walloon separatist movement? Wallonia has no separatist movement. They have a marginal "join-France" movement (marginal meaning here < 0.1%) – Olivier Grégoire – 2017-10-25T13:48:08.847

@OlivierGrégoire: I've stripped it out. I actually meant it to read like Flanders vs Walloon. Though the last link, which I threw in to the top of good measure, actually does mention Walloon separatisms that I wasn't aware of. – Denis de Bernardy – 2017-10-25T14:40:13.817

@DavidMulder: fair enough, but I'm aren't they a single issue party? (Somewhat like the Groenen in the Netherlands) – Denis de Bernardy – 2017-10-25T14:44:20.450

@DenisdeBernardy if you look at the (unique) party supporting a Walloon independence, you'll see they aren't even active anymore: they last got counted at 1.71%... in 1981. – Olivier Grégoire – 2017-10-25T15:54:30.990



Posted 2017-10-25T08:06:46.250


Bavaria, really? No way. Nothing in the public discourse suggests that. That really must be exaggerated. If this would be true, then I also would like to have my independence. – Trilarion – 2018-10-25T13:41:55.947

5Having lived for a couple of years in Flanders I can positively say that the news of Flanders separatism is greatly exaggerated. Sure, there is one party fighting for this and they scored... 6% in the last Flemish election. yeah... – David Mulder – 2017-10-25T10:05:03.860

1@DavidMulder Then support for independant Wallonia is probably 100 times less than support for independants Flanders... that amounts to practically zero. Saying "Belgium is under thread of being partitioned" is greatly exaggerated, at least for now. – Bregalad – 2017-10-25T10:27:37.080

The UK also has Welsh and Cornish independence movements and, in NI, groups that want to leave the UK and join Ireland. – Jack Aidley – 2017-10-25T11:30:50.830

There's Silesian Autonomy movement in Poland, albeit not very powerful. – el.pescado – 2017-10-25T11:55:09.057

7With respect to that "Bavarian problem" in Germany I'd say this is highly exaggerated. There is a regional party in Bavaria (Bayernpartei) that is for separation. In the last Bavarian election (Landtagswahl) they got 0.6 % (no typo: less than one percent) of the votes - and advertise this success (they more than doubled their votes) as the best election result they got for almost 40 years... – cbeleites unhappy with SX – 2017-10-25T12:28:39.617

1Beware that catalan independentism was stuck at 10% just 6 years ago... – Rekesoft – 2017-10-25T12:47:22.663

1Note also that the poll that "Bavaria problem" is based on was published by yougov - who claim that it was "representative with respect to age, sex, region". But as far as I understood their polling procedures they invite people already signed up with them. I tried to get their longer report about that "separatism poll" and found out that proceeding to a download link is only possible by signing up giving personal information and asking for email ads. (I tried a single-use email, but that didn't work). Conclusion is anyways that they are very far from the level of anonymity a poll should ... – cbeleites unhappy with SX – 2017-10-25T12:56:50.757

... provide in order to get real opinions. In fact, I found myself pushed to providing fake data as I want my privacy respected (there wasn't even an option to pay for the report in money instead of data). – cbeleites unhappy with SX – 2017-10-25T12:59:18.007

@Rekesoft: sure, governments can push people into directions they may actually not want. (We've just seen such protesting reactions with the AfD votes in the federal election a month ago.) But keep in mind that the German Länder are far more independent already than any Spanish regions or Italian autonomous regions are: the Länder formed the federal republic first place. Even though there is a constitutional court ruling against a referendum on Bavaria leaving the federal republic (the constitutional court said after the Länder formed the federal republic, they transfered the consitutional ... – cbeleites unhappy with SX – 2017-10-25T13:11:42.703

... power to the people - so a Land cannot decide to leave the federal republic) I'd say that there are possibilities. They just need rather large majorities across whole Germany. E.g. the federal republic could dissolve itself and immediately be formed again by n-1 Länder. Or the constitution could be changed so as to provide a procedure for a Land to leave (which I think would be the legal way in Spain as well). There may also be a loophole in that the constitution already provides a procedure to adjust the Länder boundaries - it may be possible to shrink Bavaria basically to nothing ... – cbeleites unhappy with SX – 2017-10-25T13:17:48.683

... without resassigning the leftover space. In fact, Frankonia may want to stay in the federal republic even if bavarian Bavaria wants to leave... But one of the main differences also the referendum in Italy is that the Länder already have their own money. And then, while there is a thicket of rules about which money is the Land's and which is the federal, the Länder do have their own taxes and directly share the big income-type taxes 50:50 with the federal republic. So they are far from relying on money the federal government hands out (like e.g. Italian regions). – cbeleites unhappy with SX – 2017-10-25T13:33:14.453

2Why is the text "Flanders (Belgium)" in the picture pointing towards the Netherlands on map? – Olivier Grégoire – 2017-10-25T13:43:33.463

Also, what's the source for the Wallonia separatist movement? – Olivier Grégoire – 2017-10-25T13:50:10.210

1@OlivierGrégoire, check the individual links for both of your queries. The image is taken from The Washington Post. – None – 2017-10-25T14:23:57.833

None of the source say that Wallonia want to be independant. Only the Express uses bad words describing the status in Wallonia: what has to be understood is that Wallonia want their own government to be independant from the federal government, not to separate the country in two. That's not separatism: that's federalism... You misinterpreted. So please correct. Side note: the WaPo image is bad geography. I suggest you either fix it by writing it's incorrect in the answer or take it down entirely. – Olivier Grégoire – 2017-10-25T15:06:38.017


@OlivierGrégoire: The US media - from the left and right - can't seem to get their head around geography. :D

– Denis de Bernardy – 2017-10-25T17:39:28.323

@DenisdeBernardy How many European media will get all 50 states of the USA correct? – Sjoerd – 2017-10-30T21:52:07.760

@Sjoerd: No idea, but I'm quite sure the geographic accuracy would be higher than that displayed by US news networks. Tocqueville didn't depict US citizens as uneducated rabble out of nowhere. – Denis de Bernardy – 2017-10-31T00:51:29.020


Quite a few people have indeed already mentioned regions that wish to become independent from their current internationally recognised mother-country.

Besides the common suspects (Catalonia (Spain); Flanders (Belgium); Frisia (The Netherlands); Scotland (UK); Basque (Spain/France); Bavaria (Germany); Corsica (France);...) - There is also Székely Land in Romania, and of course in Ukraine, you have Donetsk.

What is interesting however is the creation of the Committee of Regions, a body of the European Union that allows these regions to be heard and have their own political influence. In its footsteps, various organisations working together with these regions have sprung up (AER or Fedra for example).

All these regions that have very definite identities make use of this portal to work from their respective regions. Some even have said - or least voiced their hope - that Europe is growing towards a federation of regions.

The problem is that with a continent were history has spilled so much blood, and contemporary history has abused identities (whether it be religious, linguistic, ethnicity, culture, or simply aesthetic (the colour of your skin)) so often, it will be decades before people can see past these divides (if ever).


Posted 2017-10-25T08:06:46.250

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1-1: This seems to contain only tangential touch to answering the question; the rest is about how these territories unite in their struggle for independence. – bytebuster – 2017-10-27T13:25:09.680


One movement missing from the above lists is the movement of Hungarians of Transylvania (they are also called Szeklers or Szekelys): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sz%C3%A9kely_independence_movement

Adam Gyenge

Posted 2017-10-25T08:06:46.250

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Aside of the 124 movements mentioned in a list in one of the posts, among those countries with more active of those movements mentioned in an October 2017 Guardian article pro-independence movements in Europe, and which werent mentioned here in other posts are ,

  • Croatia and Slovenia (Istria Country)
  • Czech Republic (Moravia, Czech Silesia and Upper Silesia)


Posted 2017-10-25T08:06:46.250

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