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Balkanisation (British English), or Balkanization (American English), is a geopolitical term for the process of fragmentation or division of a region or state into smaller regions or states that are often hostile or uncooperative with one another.
Nations and societies
The term refers to the division of the Balkan peninsula, formerly ruled almost entirely by the Ottoman Empire, into a number of smaller states between 1817 and 1912. It was coined in the early 19th century and has a strong negative connotation. The term however came into common use in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, with reference to the numerous new states that arose from the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire.
The larger countries within Europe, often being the result of the union of several historical regions or nations, have faced the perceived issue of Balkanisation. The Iberian Peninsula and Spain especially has from the time of Al-Andalus had to come to terms with Balkanisation, with several separatist movements existing today including the Basque Country and Catalan independentism.
Canada is a stable country but does harbor separatist movements, the strongest of which is the Quebec sovereignty movement which seeks to create a nation-state that would encompass the majority of Canada's French-Canadian population. Two referendums have been held to decide this question, one in 1980 and the last one in 1995 being lost by the separatist side by a small margin. Less mainstream, smaller movements also exist in the western provinces, namely Alberta, to protest what is seen as a domination by Quebec and Ontario of Canadian politics. Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow had also considered separation from Canada if the 1995 Quebec independence referendum had succeeded; which would have led to the balkanisation of Canada.
Quebec has been the scene of a small but vociferous partition movement from the part of anglophone activist groups opposed to the idea of Independence of Quebec, as such a country would be dominated by francophones on the order of 80%. One such project is the Proposal for the Province of Montreal, which wishes for the establishment of a separate province from Quebec from Montreal's strongly anglophone and immigrant communities.
In January 2007, regarding the growing support for Scottish independence, the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, and later Prime Minister, Gordon Brown talked of a "Balkanisation of Britain". Independence movements within Great Britain also exist in England, Wales, Cornwall, and Northern Ireland.
Balkanisation in Africa
As Bates, Coatsworth & Williamson would argue, Balkanisation was observed to a great extent in Africa. During the 1960s, countries in the Communauté Financière Africaine started to opt for "autonomy within the French community" in this post-colonial era.
Countries within the CFA zone were allowed to impose tariffs, regulate trade and manage transport services. Zambia, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania achieved independence in the post-colonial era. This period also saw the break down of the Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland as well as the East African High Commission. Balkanisation was a result of the movement towards a closed economy. Countries were adopting antitrade and anti-market policies. Tariff rates were 15% higher than OECD countries during the 1970s and 1980s. Furthermore, countries took approaches to subsidise their own local industries yet the market within the country was small-scale. Transport networks were fragmented; regulations on labor and capital flow were more regulated; prices were under control. Between 1960 and 1990, Balkanisation led to disastrous results. The GDP of these regions were one-tenth of OECD countries. Balkanisation also resulted in what van de Valle called "typically fairly overvalued exchanged rates" in Africa. Balkanisation contributed to what Bates, Coatsworth & Williamson claimed to be a lost decade in Africa.
Economic situations only took a turn during the mid-1990s. Countries within the region started to input more stabilization policies. What was originally a high exchange rate eventually fell to a more reasonable exchange rate after devaluations in 1994. Eighteen countries had an exchange rate 50% higher than the official exchange rate, by 1994, the number of countries that had such exchange rate was decreased to four. However, there is still limited progress in improving trade policies within the region according to van de Walle. In addition, the post-independent countries still rely heavily on donors for development plans. Balkanisation still has an impact on today's Africa.
Balkanisation in Levant
Balkanisation has been claimed to apply to Lebanon's political division between Muslims and Christians and to the Syrian civil war, as an attempt to create buffer states based on ethnic backgrounds in the Levant near Israel for its protection.
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- Van de Walle, Nicolas (2004). "Economic Reform: Patterns and Constraints". In Gyimah-Boadi, E. (ed.). Democratic Reform in Africa: The Quality of Progress. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers. pp. 29–63. ISBN 978-1-58826-246-2.
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- The dictionary definition of Balkanization at Wiktionary