By the time defeat in war and the effluxion of atrophying time had caught up with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it had been reduced to nothing more than a legal nicety with all of its constituent peoples (of which there were an enormous number: Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Ruthenians, Poles, Romanians, Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians, Slovaks, Italians and other assorted Germans) looking for a way out to individual statehood. For the most part the only common binding agent was Catholicism (though there were Protestants in Hungary and various Orthodox adherents in the Balkans and, of course, a generous leavening of Jews) and that was insufficient to save the realm of the last Emperor Charles I.



Ultimately, with so much power aggregated to the centre, the constituent nationalities had become disaffected entirely from the Empire of which they were by now unwilling citizens. They, rightly, felt that they had ceased to have any real control of their destinies and that far too much was directed at the health of the centre and not enough was being done for those nationalities which lay more at the edge.




Ironically the same fate was to befall one of the creatures spawned by the collapse of Empire. The Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Croats, Slovenes and Bosnian Muslims had sufficient of a commonality that they felt impelled to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which later became Yugoslavia. Mostly sharing the same language, Serbo-Croat (though there is today an absurd pretension that Croats speak Croat and Serbs speak Serbian: my client in one of the trials at the ICTY was once berated by a notable but deeply unpleasant Croat lawyer of Fascist Ustaše inclinations for failing to speak ‘Croat’ properly, simply for using the ‘Serbian’ form of nomenclature for the months of the year) they were sharply divided by religion and outlook.

The Croats and Slovenes were Catholic and highly Westernized (and the former deeply deeply snobbish about anyone else in the former Yugoslavia), the Serbs and Montenegrins Orthodox with the Bosnian Muslims stuck in the middle. The Slovenes and Macedonians were, in addition, linguisitically distinct. This veritable melange was one the lid of which often started to rumble atop the boiling pot, a pot that only the late Josip Broz Tito, himself a Croat, managed successfully to keep on. In due course, just as had the nations of the Empire of which many had formerly been members, the nations of Yugoslavia spun around for a while on the old cranky centrifuge and then spun off bloodily into a series of small states.



So an article in the current edition of the journal of the Euro-sceptic European Foundation attracts attention. Written by Struan Stevenson, the senior of two Scottish Tory MEPs, it argues that the rise in Europe of nationalism is attributable to the ever-greater accretion of power to the centre, to the EuroNabobery of Brussels. Citing the examples of Scotland, Catalonia, Bavaria, Corsica, Wallonia and the Basque country, he identifies a strand of identical demands which seek to put these small entities on a par with, say Luxembourg, Denmark, Slovenia or Estonia, small nations which have a clout far greater than, say, Scotland, despite their diminutive size. Hence the recent fuss from the SNP bleating about the loss of one of the MEPs in which jealous parallels were drawn with smaller countries with a bigger clout.



Mr. Stevenson makes the point that Brussels has as yet to notice the rise and rise of such nationalism, which is, one may think, an almost inevitable consequence of the centralism of unelected and unaccountable power in Brussels:



“Nationalist movements threaten to break up Spain, France, Belgium and Germany, joining Scotland in the headlong rush to independence. But no-one in the ivory towers of Brussels has yet noticed this unhappy ripple-effect of the integration process………Put the brakes on European integration and we will put the brakes on rampant nationalism.”





What would be amusing, if it was not so deadly serious, is that any ‘independence’ these soi-disant proto-states might achieve within the EU is simply illusory. If they think they are going to be in control of their own destinies when they are no more than a minor region of the realm of Emperor José I, governed as they will be by a Brussels-appointed Gauleiter, then I have to tell them that they have a very big shock coming.



Brussels, on the other hand, has also missed a trick. It may yet in the short term be content to foster such nationalism on the basis that it will weaken the former nation States within the Empire and thus make their suppression all the easier. But they forget their history. For, if they think that Scottish or Bavarian nationalism is a force to be reckoned with, they ain’t seen nothing yet: we here in England are not used to being made to kow-tow to being in thrall to a bunch of anti-democratic and unelected foreigners and our reaction to loss of power will be of an altogether different stripe.