Twenty years ago, the wall that was separating West and East Germany was opened and the Cold War came to an end. The breakdown of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism that accompanied it brought about the victory of market economy and democracy in Europe. It also engendered the emergence of new states in the East and the resurgence of nationalism across the continent. Czechoslovakia disappeared in 1992 with the creation of the Czech and Slovak republics, Yugoslavia has been torn apart by ethnic conflict and Kosovo is still fighting for its independence. Indeed, the map of Europe has experienced considerable transformations.
Over the last decades, the European Union has grown at a rapid pace and has accelerated its enlargement process gradually eroding frontiers and challenging its citizens with new forms of loyalty. While the integration process consistently expands and deepens, so does the need for more democracy which some perceived of suffering from a deficit in the Union. Since 1989, the revival of regional identity has strongly been felt and regionalist and micro-nationalist movements have gained in political strength, representation and size; they have achieved a certain notoriety. Across the community, those movements question the nature of the nation-state, which they often view as obsolete, and present challenges both to the larger state they are part of and to the European Union.
To answer the question of whether contemporary regionalist and micro-nationalist movements threaten democracy in Europe or present it with new opportunities, this essay is firstly going to define the main concepts in order to have a clear understanding of what they represent. It will then explore how those movements have
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