News

Scotland distances itself from Brexit, Veneto seeks further autonomy, Cameroon cracks down on independence groups

13 to 19 January 2017

Nicola Sturgeon.
Nicola Sturgeon. Author: Office of the First Minister of Scotland
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. UK Prime Minister Theresa May's announcement that leaving the EU will also mean exiting the single market prompted Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to say that a second referendum on independence is "undoubtedly" closer now. The Scottish Government insists that an alternative to independence exists if UK strikes an agreement with the EU by which Scotland remains inside the single market although the rest of the UK leaves it. Scottish Government's minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell warned the UK Government that "time is running out" to try to keep Scotland within the single market. The Scottish Parliament passed a motion in favour of the bid to keep Scotland in the single market.

After the crisis triggered by the resignation of Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Secretary of State for NI James Brokenshire called an early election to the devolved Assembly, to be held on March 2. The UK Government said it rules out a return to direct rule from London.

In the Basque Country, as usual every year, a massive demonstration calling for the repatriation of Basque prisoners was held. According to a Gara newspaper count, the march was attended by 78,000 people. Meanwhile, Basque Minister for Public Governance and Governance Josu Erkoreka (Basque Natonalist Party, PNV) insisted on the need to set a new self-government committee to draft, "with the broadest possible consensus", a new statute of autonomy. Pro-independence alliance Euskal Herria Bildu demanded a "new status" for the Basque Country to be agreed on by 2019 at the latest.

Veneto President Luca Zaia submitted a new proposal to hold a referendum on enlarged autonomy. Zaia (Venetian League-Northern League) wants Veneto citizens to vote on whether their self-government should be equated to that of South Tyrol, another self-governing territory in Italy. That would in practice mean that 90% of all taxes paid in Veneto would be retained by the Veneto Government.

The Parliament of Luxembourg began a debate on the official role that the country's own language Luxembourgish should have. Two opposite motions are being discussed: one seeking to make Luxembourgish the country's first official language —with a higher status than French and German— and the other demanding that Luxembourgish be dropped as an official language for legal and administrative purposes.

The 10th anniversary of the murder of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was commemorated January 19. In a demonstration supported by left-wing parties and groups including Armenian and Kurdish organizations, slogans like "We are all Armenians" and chants against the responsibility of the Turkish state in Dink's death have been heard.

A new round of negotiations on the Cyprus dispute concluded in Geneva. The future role of Turkish troops on Cypriot soil is emerging as one of the main sticking points. Negotiations are now expected to continue in Cyprus itself.

In his last speech as Hong Kong head of the government, Leung Chun-ying insisted that "there is no room for independence" of the former British colony from China.

The Cameroonian Government banned two Southern Cameroons' pro-independence organizations, namely the Southern Cameroons' National Council (SCNC) and the Anglophone Cameroon Civil Society Consortium (CACSC). Both groups are accused of endangering national unity and the security of the State. CACSC reported the arrest of some of its leaders and hundreds of its supporters.

In the United States, a conflict similar to that of Dakota Access pipeline could be brewing up. Over the past few weeks, a protest movement has been emerging in West Texas, again led by indigenous and environmental activists, who oppose the construction of the Trans-Pecos oil pipeline. Two activists were arrested on January 14 after locking themselves to a machine.

In another US-related development, President Barack Obama commuted a sentence that has kept for the past 36 years Oscar López Rivera in prison. In 1981, López Rivera was arrested and later given a 55-year sentence over charges of seditious conspiracy for his activities as a member of Puerto Rican pro-independence armed group FALN.

And yet one more year, murders of Indigenous and environmental activists go on in the Americas. Rarámuri (or Tarahumara) native people leader Isidro Baldenegro was killed on January 15. Baldenegro had been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2005 for his defense of forests against illegal logging. Baldenegro had been previously threatened with death.

Finally, Ken Wyatt (Liberal Party) is since January 18th Australia's first ever Indigenous minister. Wyatt's ancestors stem from three different Aboriginal Australian peoples: Yamatji, Wongi and Nyoongar.