German separatism: potential and opportunities
In Germany separatism never was really strong due to the historically federalist structure of the German „Bund”. That means: There was never a strong centralist order to uprise against (just during national socialism and communism in East-Germany). The attempts of contemporary separatism associated with the regional opposition to the pro-American policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as with the conflict of regional cultural identity and unifying united civil nation European project.
Since 1945 only three more or less “serious” separatist movements existed in Germany:
- Bavarian separatism
- Saarland separatism
- “Sorb” separatism
The Bavarian separatism has a long history and exists due to the long term Bavarian statehood tradition. Also the traditional conflict between the catholic south of historical Germany (including Austria) and the protestant North (represented by historical Prussia) plays an important role. Until today the mistrust towards Berlin (not just the German capital but also the historical Prussian capital) is present. For Bavarian separatists Berlin not just represents Prussia and the “German North” but also liberalism – while Bavaria has a very conservative identity. Bavarian separatists feel much closer to Austria (cultural, religious) then to North Germany. Bavarian separatism had a short success in the early 1950s when the Bayernpartei (BP) had more then 20 percent. Today the BP plays a little political role in regional parliaments mostly in upper Bavaria.
The Saarland separatism was fueled in the last 100 years mainly by France. The idea was to split of the Saarland and to unite it either with France or to make it an “independent state” – a French proxy. In 1935 and in 1955 referendums took place about this topic. But in both referendums the Saarland population voted clearly for Germany. Today there is not so much separatist energy in the Saarland visible anymore.
The separatism of the Sorbs was very active right after 1945. The Slavic minority lives in today´s federal countries Brandenburg and Saxony. After 1945 there were the plans of a Sorb state (with support of Czechoslovakia), but the new government of East Germany and the Soviet occupation forces immediately oppressed those activities. Today the Sorbs lost almost all of their separatist sentiments due to integration. The prime minister of Saxony is a Sorb himself. The Sorbs have today cultural autonomy, their culture and language is supported by the state.
Other separatisms in Germany:
- “Saxonian separatism”: Came by a speaker at a PEGIDA protest. But Saxonian separatism is now not a serious thing, there is no political or even just cultural representation for an independent Saxony right now. The separatism-claim at PEGIDA was more or less an ironic remark against Berlin.
- “Fun-Separatisms” as Franconian, Allgäu separatism. No political influence, just “cultural fun”.
- “New separatisms”: Migrant communities in bigger cities demand more independence and cultural-religious self organization. Might play a role in future, when more migrants especially from Muslim countries come to Germany.
Related basic information:
The Bavaria Party was founded in 1946 and describes itself as patriotic Bavarian, advocating Bavarian independence within the European Union. Together with the Christian Social Union it can be seen as an heir to the Bavarian People's Party which existed prior to World War II.
The party had some successes at the polls in the late 1940s and 1950s: 20.9% of the vote in 1949 and 17 seats in the German Bundestag and, in 1950, 17.9% and 39 seats in the Bavarian state parliament where in 1954 it formed a coalition with the Bavarian branches of the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the Free Democratic Party. This forced the Christian Social Union out of power for three years. Later, the Bavaria Party rapidly lost voters. It still exists but was last elected to the Bavarian state parliament in 1962.
In the 2008 local elections however, the party won 50 seats (compared to 32 in 2002), mostly in Upper Bavaria, including one of the 80 seats in the City Council of Munich, the 1.3 million capital of Bavaria, after 42 years of absence there. The Bavaria Party won one seat in the District Parliament of Upper Bavaria. In the autumn of 2013, the elections for the Bavarian Parliament brought the best result for the Bavaria Party since 1966. It increased its share of the vote. In Bavaria, the BP reached 2.1% (2008: 1.1%)
Alemannic Separatism is a historical movement of separatism of the Alemannic-German-speaking areas of Germany, France and Austria (viz., South Baden, Swabia, aiming at a unification with the Swiss Confederacy (later Switzerland). The historic origins of the movement lay in the Napoleonic era and it was briefly revived both after the end of World War I and after the end of World War II.
After the end of World War II, there was a political movement in southern Alsace and South Baden, originating from resistance movements against the Nazi regime, which aimed for the creation of a separate Alemannic state together with the Swiss canton of Basel. Otto Feger (1946) suggested a decentral organization of a "Swabian-Alemannic democracy" inspired by the Swiss model of direct democracy, while Bernhard Dietrich, mayor of Singen, aimed at a larger "Alpine union" which was to include also Bavarian speaking territories (e.g. Bavaria and Austria) and the German-speaking parts of the Swiss Confederation. Feger's 1946 Schwäbisch-Alemannische Demokratie with 240,000 copies was the most-printed book in French-administered Germany (1945–1949). The organisational backbone of Alemannic separatism was the Schwäbisch-Alemannischer Heimatbund, but the French administration was unsympathetic and refused the permission required for the foundation of a political party with the aim of such an Alemannic state. The current Bundesland Baden-Württemberg within the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in 1952, effectively ending any serious political scenarios of Alemannic separatism, although the concept remains alive as a nostalgic sentiment rather than a political program. This is particularly true in South Baden which, interestingly, was the only region where the majority of people voted against unification with Württemberg in the 1951 plebiscite that was held to authorize the unification in accordance with Article 29 of the new West German constitution, the Grundgesetz. The overall vote was however in favour of the creation of the new Südweststaat (Southwest Land).
The South Schleswig Voters' Association is a regional political party in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany. The party represents the Danish and Frisian minorities of the state. In the 2012 state election, the SSW gained 4.6% of all votes and three seats in the state diet. A coalition of SPD, Green Party and SSW was concluded in June 2012, and the former parliamentary leader, Anke Spoorendonk, was appointed Minister for Culture, Justice and European Affairs. This is the first time in German history that a minority party is part of a state government. The new coalition government has plenty of nicknames, for instance "Dänen-Ampel" , "Schleswig-Holstein-Ampel", "rot-grün-blaue Koaltion" or "rød-grøn-blå koalitionsregering" (red–green–blue alliance), "Küstenampel" (Coastal traffic light) and "Nord-Ampel" (North traffic light).
The Lusatian Alliance (German: Lausitzer Allianz, Upper Sorbian language: Łužiska Alianca, Lower Sorbian language: Łužyska Alianca), formerly the Wendish People's Party (Serbska Ludowa Strona, SLS) is a political party founded on 26 March 2005 in Cottbus to represent the Sorb/Wendish ethnic and linguistic minority (around 60,000 people) in the German states of Saxony and Brandenburg in the region of Lusatia. At its third party congress of 26 April 2010 in Cottbus, the party changed its name to the Lusatian Alliance. The party is a full member of the European Free Alliance.
The party arose to take part in the 2008 municipal and district elections, the 2009 regional elections in Brandenburg and the 2009 municipal and regional elections in Saxony. The Wendish Popular Party has been criticised by many Sorbs, for example the Domowina, as it is felt that the group could be better represented by the existing German parties.