Following the visit of Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont in Denmark, one thing is clear: the camaraderie in the European ‘club of nation-states’ remains as strong as ever. Even in Denmark, sometimes seen as a beacon of peaceful conflict-resolution and a model state in terms of respect for regional autonomy and subsidiarity, international law is arbitrarily applied and democratic rights give way to political opportunism.
In 1998, politics in the Faroe Islands were turned upside down. Tjóðveldi, the independence party, who for a long time had been a minor party, won a landslide victory and doubled their numbers of MPs in the Løgting. Høgni Hoydal, who steered the party to victory only months after being elected chairman of the party, formed a government with the People’s Party and the Self-government Party.
The political project was clear: to seek independence from Denmark.
Høgni Hoydal opted to forgo the position of Prime Minister and instead became Minister of Independence and Justice, overseeing the preparation of a white paper on Faroese independence and the negotiations with the Danish government, that would follow. The plan was to strike a deal with the Danish government on a structured and gradual transition to full independence. This deal would then be put to the people in a referendum to approve.
Entire shelves of books have been written on the notorious ‘Independence Coalition of 1998”, but to make a long story short: the government never succeeded in organising such a referendum on independence. In-fighting in the government and the coalition parties, as well as a changing political climate, eventually forced the government to resign.
But one thing became clear. If the Faroese people wanted independence, and on a referendum voted to leave the Danish Kingdom, the Danish government would accept the will of the Faroese people.
So, when Carles Puigdemont, the rightful president of the Catalan government, visited the Danish Folketing, one could hope that Danish politicians would be more open to hearing him out, considering the similarities between the situation in Catalunya and in the Faroes.
This was not the case. Out of 179 Members of the Folketing, only around 10 chose to come to the meeting. Magni Arge, who invited Puigdemont to speak in the Folketing, was branded a ‘subversive’ and a ‘threat to national security’ by Danish MPs, and Puigdemont was accused of having committed ‘high treason’.
Danish politicians evidently also take marching orders from Mariano Rajoy.
I don’t think, however, that this something we should be disappointed by. If anything, this goes to show the pressure that is mounting on the European nation-states. When even progressive states, who in the past have shown willingness to respect peoples’ right to decide, now choose to go against this foundational democratic principle – and even turn a blind eye to police brutality and anti-democratic sentiment – I find it is perhaps the best indicator of them all, that the vision of a Europe of the peoples is gathering momentum and that the nation-states are fighting back with full force.
So, let us continue our fight. Let us build on the momentum and send a message, loud and clear, to the unitary states: your time is coming to an end.
It is time for self-determination for all the peoples of Europe.
Tór Marni Weihe / Vice-president for Empowerment and Participation of EFAy