New Gains For European Separatists: After Flemish Win, Will Scotland Split From UK?
HET LAATSTE NIEUWS (Belgium), THE SCOTSMAN (UK)
After Catalonia stepped up its bid to secession, separatist parties in Belgium and the United Kingdom have made major gains amid a crisis-hit Europe.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is set to meet Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond in Edinburgh Monday to sign a historic deal that will transfer the rights to Scotland to hold a referendum on independence.
The right to referendum will be valid until the end of 2014 and will be framed as a strict "yes or no" question on Scottish independence.
Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, is also seeking to accord 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in the referendum, even though 18 is the legal voting age across the United Kingdom.
The Scotsman reported that Prime Minister David Cameron said, “This marks the beginning of an important chapter in Scotland’s story and allows the real debate to begin.
“It paves the way so that the biggest question of all can be settled: a separate Scotland or a United Kingdom? I will be making a very positive argument for our United Kingdom.”
— Kevin Pringle (@KevinJPringle) October 14, 2012
In Belgium, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) made sweeping gains throughout the wealthy, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium in Sunday's municipal elections.
The party's leader, Bart de Wever, who wants to split Flanders from the economically ailing, French-speaking Wallonia, has been elected as the next mayor of Antwerp with 37.7% of the vote, according to Flemish daily Het Laatste Nieuws.
Walloon press: Bart De Wever is now in charge of the Flemish express-train and the destination isn't #Belgium
— Thomas Moens (@TMoens) October 15, 2012
De Wever's victory is likely to have a major impact on national politics in Belgium, as his newfound power base could be key in seeking wider autonomy. He hopes to further the center-right party's popularity in the national elections in 2014.
In a victory speech, De Wever called on Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo to immediately give more self-governing rights to Flanders.
In the Flemish daily Het Laatste Nieuws's editorial Monday, Luc van der Kelen wrote: "For the largest city in Flanders, this Sunday was a key historic moment. De Wever has put an end to 70 years of having a socialist mayor, he has put an end to Filip Dewinter and the extreme-right that has shamed Antwerp for 24 years."