As our world globalize and societies become increasingly egalitarian, democratic and focused on personal self determination, collective self determination is emerging as another important aspect of modern human aspiration. The rise of separatist movements across the globe, most particularly in Europe and the Middle East, hast to be understood in this context. We will see more rather than less of it in the future.
Although self determination is recognized as a basic human right in international law, it is rarely exercised. In fact, there are two international laws that seemingly contradict themselves- the right to self determination and a nation state’s right to territorial integrity.
Whenever a region wants to break up from a nation state, different powers tend to cherry pick which of the two they prioritize depending on their strategic needs. When the Kosovo declared her independence, the US and the majority of EU countries supported the break up of the region from Serbia while Russia was against it. In the case of Crimea, Donezk and Luhansk it was the opposite.
While on a global basis self determination could only be exercised within a connected and self contained area, the EU could go a step further and enable each commune to vote on its regional and national status. As the Schengen area has no controlled boundaries, enclaves would not matter and democratic self determination could be exercised on the most local level possible.
Those who fear the EU or the European unification process would weaken as a result of local and regional self determination and the possible appearance of more states on the continent are also wrong.
Smaller entities that are closer to the people will make Europe more democratic, resolve ongoing minority problems, but also increase the need for more cooperation. In fact, they should help create the “United Europe of Regions” that the founders of the European project envisioned after the horrors of two World Wars. Maintaining the inflexible nationalist status quo will do the opposite.