UK, Spain, and now Italy have regions that have held referendums on independence or autonomy after the leaders of Italy's two wealthiest northern regions have claimed victory in a non-binding referendum, seeking greater autonomy from the central government in Rome. Autonomy and devolution can be a step toward full independence.

What European countries are considered to have regions that are reasonably likely attempt to gain independence?

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    Wanting autonomy isn't the same as wanting independence. There is a economic similarity between this and the Catalan case: wealthy part of the country doesn't want their money to support the poor parts. But the Catalan also largely identify themselves as Catalan and not Spanish. Is there a pressure for independence in northern Italy?
    – Communisty
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 8:26
  • @Communisty en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Padanian_nationalism
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 8:55
  • 1
    In Italy there is no real pressure for independence by any region. A few years ago Lega Nord was a party that was vocally for independence of the northern regions of Italy, but they never actually did something to gain independence. They were content with publicity stunts, like making a football team or a beauty pageant contest. Nowadays independence is no more part of their platform. In fact, the organizers of the autonomy referendums were explicitly pointing out the difference between autonomy and independence in the previous days, to avoid alienating voters.
    – gabriele
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 9:08
  • @Communisty yes. note that i dont claim Wanting autonomy is the same as wanting independence; i only say this can be a step toward what we see now in Catalonia.
    – user 1
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 9:31
  • 3
    This makes me wonder if there are any (serious) reverse independence movements: Large country wanting to get rid of a smaller part.
    – pipe
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 17:50

6 Answers 6


The current vitality of independent movements is greatly exaggerated. You cannot assume that opinion polls and speaking about independence are the same thing as actually trying to get independence. Gaining independence is hard.

There are a few countries, or regions, that are already de facto independent such as Transnistria or Kosovo, but do not have official recognition.

There are a few regions that have historically tried to get independence, even with terrorism, but do not currently have a serious movement for independence, such as Corsica or South Tyrol.

There are a few regions that could probably create a serious independence movement, because they have strong regional identities and parties. These are regions such as Bavaria or Flanders. However, they are not currently doing that.

There are a few regions that have expressed the desire to get independence and actually done something about it:

  • Basque Country. Although there has a been a move toward more autonomy instead of independence. For instance, the end of terrorism attacks.
  • Scotland. They had a referendum and independence lost. Brexit might have caused some regrets and declarations by politicians, but nothing will happen in the next few years until Brexit is finalized.
  • Northern Ireland. Just like the Basque ones, the Northern Ireland independentists have abandoned terrorism. They also moved toward autonomy[1]. Independentists movements have not nominally abandoned the quest for independence from United Kingdom and reunification with Ireland[2], however they have not made real initiatives for it. Overall, it seems that the Good Friday Agreement has satisified most people. If Brexit is managed really horrendously they could reignite a movement for independence. Normally the chance would be very slim, but given the current track record of the Conservatives it may actually happen.

Finally, there is a region that is de facto independent, but is trying to get back with the rest of the country: Northern Cyprus.

[1] That is not to say that there are only two possibilities: terrorism/violent rebellion or autonomy. It just happened that both groups did the same things together. Thanks to @inappropriateCode for having pointed out the bad phrasing.

[2] Thanks to @pjc50 for having pointed this out.

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    "Just like for the Basques, the Northern Ireland independentists have abandoned terrorism and moved toward autonomy." I don't think this is correct, and it presents a false dichotomy between either terrorism or settling for autonomy. Especially since there's various iterations of the IRA knocking about, and some of them are still engaged in violence. From what I understand of it Sinn Fein believe they'll win reunification of Ireland peacefully in time. They've not "moved towards autonomy". As the saying goes... Tiocfaidh ár lá.
    – user8398
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 12:20
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    Yes, Northern Ireland is not an "independence" movement in the strict sense in that there's no desire for an independent Northern Ireland but instead re-unification with the south. It's more of a de-colonisation. Autonomy was present but the "power sharing agreement" critical to democratic governance has collapsed. Perhaps after or as part of the resolution of Brexit this will be resolved.
    – pjc50
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 12:55
  • 1
    For the UK don't forget Cornwall, plus I bet if you ask the Welsh they'd be quite happy without the English. London wants to split off too. The UK is one big happy family really.
    – icc97
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 15:28
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    Transnistria is not de facto independent, but de facto occupied by Russia. (Also, spelled with only two ‘i’s.) Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 17:07
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    @Lan Northern Cyprus is the official name and the one used in English communication. I am not stating any political statement by using it. I did pointed out the difference between the Cyprus situation and the others.
    – gabriele
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 17:19

Quite a few European countries have separatist movements. Countries with notable ones include:

  • Spain (Catalonia, Basque country - and others)
  • The UK (Scotland - and others)
  • Russia (Chechenia - and others)
  • Belgium (Flanders)

A few movements achieved de facto independence, though with limited recognition. Countries with such separatists movements include:

  • Serbia (Kosovo)
  • Georgia (Abkhazia, South Ossetia)

Depending on where you draw the line (amount of popular support, how active they are, etc.), you could continue listing quite a few other European countries, including:

  • 3
    Most of them are incorrect info. Kosovo is already independent. Chechnia's separatism is almost nonexistent after 2nd Chechen War. Question asks about items other than UK, Spain and Italy. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are de facto independent regions.
    – user17569
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 9:08
  • For what it's worth approximate order that they are taken seriously, there are also UK separatist movements in Northern Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and London. The first one is definitely notable.
    – origimbo
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 10:06
  • Having lived for a couple of years in Flanders I can positively say that the news of Flanders separatism is greatly exaggerated. Sure, there is one party fighting for this and they scored... 6% in the last Flemish election. yeah... (copied from other answer) Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 10:49
  • What's the source for a Walloon separatist movement? Wallonia has no separatist movement. They have a marginal "join-France" movement (marginal meaning here < 0.1%) Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 13:48
  • @OlivierGrégoire: I've stripped it out. I actually meant it to read like Flanders vs Walloon. Though the last link, which I threw in to the top of good measure, actually does mention Walloon separatisms that I wasn't aware of. Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 14:40

enter image description here

Belgium is under threat of being partitioned.

Germany has Bavaria problem.

Looks like Europe is going back to the Nation Statism of Greek civilization.


  • 5
    Having lived for a couple of years in Flanders I can positively say that the news of Flanders separatism is greatly exaggerated. Sure, there is one party fighting for this and they scored... 6% in the last Flemish election. yeah... Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 10:05
  • 1
    @DavidMulder Then support for independant Wallonia is probably 100 times less than support for independants Flanders... that amounts to practically zero. Saying "Belgium is under thread of being partitioned" is greatly exaggerated, at least for now.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 10:27
  • 8
    With respect to that "Bavarian problem" in Germany I'd say this is highly exaggerated. There is a regional party in Bavaria (Bayernpartei) that is for separation. In the last Bavarian election (Landtagswahl) they got 0.6 % (no typo: less than one percent) of the votes - and advertise this success (they more than doubled their votes) as the best election result they got for almost 40 years... Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 12:28
  • 2
    Why is the text "Flanders (Belgium)" in the picture pointing towards the Netherlands on map? Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 13:43
  • 2
    @OlivierGrégoire: The US media - from the left and right - can't seem to get their head around geography. :D Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 17:39

Quite a few people have indeed already mentioned regions that wish to become independent from their current internationally recognised mother-country.

Besides the common suspects (Catalonia (Spain); Flanders (Belgium); Frisia (The Netherlands); Scotland (UK); Basque (Spain/France); Bavaria (Germany); Corsica (France);...) - There is also Székely Land in Romania, and of course in Ukraine, you have Donetsk.

What is interesting however is the creation of the Committee of Regions, a body of the European Union that allows these regions to be heard and have their own political influence. In its footsteps, various organisations working together with these regions have sprung up (AER or Fedra for example).

All these regions that have very definite identities make use of this portal to work from their respective regions. Some even have said - or least voiced their hope - that Europe is growing towards a federation of regions.

The problem is that with a continent were history has spilled so much blood, and contemporary history has abused identities (whether it be religious, linguistic, ethnicity, culture, or simply aesthetic (the colour of your skin)) so often, it will be decades before people can see past these divides (if ever).

  • 1
    -1: This seems to contain only tangential touch to answering the question; the rest is about how these territories unite in their struggle for independence. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 13:25

One movement missing from the above lists is the movement of Hungarians of Transylvania (they are also called Szeklers or Szekelys): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sz%C3%A9kely_independence_movement


Aside of the 124 movements mentioned in a list in one of the posts, among those countries with more active of those movements mentioned in an October 2017 Guardian article pro-independence movements in Europe, and which werent mentioned here in other posts are ,

  • Croatia and Slovenia (Istria Country)
  • Czech Republic (Moravia, Czech Silesia and Upper Silesia)

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