As Europe continues to be divvied up into smaller, ethnically homogenous nations, the burdern falls on larger countries, compromising the leverage and a united West.
PARIS — For the French, there’s nothing quite so enjoyable as teasing their age-old enemies the English and the Queen. So it should come as no surprise that the Scottish independence movement arouses a lot of sympathy over here. Long live free Scotland!, we could be tempted to say, as some recent polls show the "Yes" to independence camp ahead, just days before the Sept. 18 referendum.
Mary Stuart, who was Queen consort of France and Queen of Scotland before she was beheaded by the English in 1587, would finally be avenged. With the nationalist leader Alex Salmond, we dream of a bucolic Scotland that would live off whisky, wind energy and the Edinburgh International Festival.
Even better, the independence movement is a left-wing movement, in favor of a "social" Scotland, which is perfect for revenge against these horrible liberal-Thatcherite Englishmen. Economically, the disunited Kingdom would fall behind Italy, would lose one-third of its land, and would be forced to send its nuclear submarines to Brittany for refuge.
That would be fun for a moment, but what a disaster! The Queen is urged to speak in favor of the union while Princess Kate announces she's expecting a second child to move the hearts of the coarse Scots, and prevent a breakup.
It might already be too late, and the desperate concessions of Britain's three main parties — the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal-Democrats — risk accelerating the nationalists' victory, the same way that the rallying of French elites had strengthened the vote against the European Constitution in 2005.
And the divorce procedures would be painful indeed. How would the British debt be shared? Could Scotland keep the British pound? Would wearing a kilt be enough to become a Scottish citizen? Could Scotland immediately enter the European Union? None of these questions have been resolved.
It would have a devastating effect in England. Deprived of Scottish votes, the Labour party is not so certain to regain 10 Downing Street, while the Conservatives risk ending up in a reactionary face-off with Nigel Farage and his Europhobic party UKIP.
But the worst of all is that the Scottish earthquake would cause many aftershocks. Not so much in Belgium, where the amicable split between the Dutch-speaking and the French-speaking parts is all but official, as in Spain. On Thursday, exactly 300 years after Barcelona was taken by the Bourbons, hundreds of thousands of Catalans demonstrated in their capital.
A splintered continent
Europe didn't need all this, as it's divided up more than ever in modern history. Before World War I began in 1914, it was comprised of 19 countries. We now have more than 40, while the European Union, which counts 28 of those, has become an ungovernable monster, similar to the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Holy Roman Empire.
How did this happen? After the World War I and with the end of the European Empires, Europe applied to the letter U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's unwritten principle of self-determination, while creating multinational states such as Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia to limit the continent's crumbling.
It was smashed to pieces when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Small nationalities turned inward. The Czechs and the Slovaks amicably agreed to part ways, Yugoslavia exploded into seven small nations, and the Baltic countries freed themselves from the USSR.
Small is beautiful, the saying goes. And indeed, the current trend now favors small rich countries that believe they will be better off alone in the globalized world. And since they are incapable of having any sort of influence on that globalized world, they want to use the canoe strategy of passing the river rapids with agility, in the footsteps of successful mid-sized states such as Finland, Denmark, Singapore, Chile or New Zealand.
Small and selfish, these states are often ethnically homogeneous. They believe they can better finance their generous welfare system alone, with the protection of the EU, and refuse to pay for the others.
What explains this endless division of the continent? Well, peace and the rule of law. Small countries can act as they will without suffering their powerful neighbors' wrath. This is what Luxembourg and Ireland have done with their fiscal dumping policies, and without risk.
Interior peace might be guaranteed at the moment, but the same can't be said for the exterior, with Vladimir Putin knocking on Europe's door and the hundreds of jihadists coming back from Syria. One day, England and France might decide they've had enough of paying alone for the Old Continent's security.
This whole business is not reasonable. The Scottish referendum risks being extremely destructive. Now, we must protect big countries from small ones. Say no to a free Scotland!