Nationalist Movements in Western Europe

April 16, 1969

Report Outline
Current wave of Nationalist Exteremism
Development of Nationalist Ideologies
Leading Nationalist Struggles in Europe
Outlook for Nationalism in West Europe

Current wave of Nationalist Exteremism

French Referendum and Breton Nationalism

Aresurgence of nationalism among minority peoples in the British Isles and on the Continent has been marked by violence or the threat of violence almost everywhere. In Wales, nine members of the “Free Wales Army” were arrested at the end of February 1969 for possessing guns and dynamite which, it was charged, they threatened to use to disrupt the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales on July 1. In Brittany, more than 50 Bretons, including four Roman Catholic priests, were taken into custody during the winter on suspicion of having participated in more than 30 attacks on prefectures, tax offices, and other government targets over the past two years. In northern Spain, nearly 20,000 workers in the port town of Bilbao were on strike during most of February to protest emergency police measures against Basque nationalists.

The pattern of nationalist fragmentation extends from Belgium, still torn by a linguistic battle which has raged for more than two decades, to such fringe areas as the Isle of Man, where the Union Jack (to be replaced by the Manx flag) will no longer fly from public buildings. Even in usually calm Switzerland, 25 youthful demonstrators brandishing flags and shouting “Free Jura” broke into a joint session of the Swiss Parliament at Berne on Dec. 11, 1968, to demand separate status for the French-speaking Jurassians in the northwest corner of that traditionally multi-lingual state. Thus the drive for strengthened supranational organizations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Common Market, and the European Free Trade Association, is being counterbalanced in Western Europe by demands for smaller national groupings.

Breton Nationalism and French Referendum

President Charles de Gaulle chose a remote corner of Brittany to announce on Feb. 2, 1969, that a referendum on administrative decentralization of France would be held this spring. De Gaulle said he understood the problems of the Bretons, promised that no part of France would be allowed to lag economically behind other parts, and emphasized that Brittany's development should properly have a Breton identity.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Regional Political Affairs: Europe