​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Autonomy is a matter of interest not only for academics, but equally for practitioners involved in negotiations about institutional design (politicians, civil servants, their advisors and third party facilitators from international organizations). Bearing this in mind, the research conducted for this project also has a decidedly practical purpose, i.e. to make precisely such people aware of the wealth of options provided by existing autonomy arrangements. Even though it is not possible to transplant one arrangement in its entirety from one context to another, such awareness may facilitate the work of practitioners because it prevents them from having to re-invent every single aspect of the wheel. This has two main implications for our research. First, in order to demonstrate the real wealth of options at hand, we do not limit ourselves to the analysis of the widely acclaimed standard cases, but also cover lesser-known and so far understudied arrangements of autonomy. Secondly, the practical approach compels us to focus on information that is really useful for practitioners and to present it in a user-friendly manner.

Another characteristic of research within this project is its effort to link insights gained by previous studies from different academic disciplines. In concrete terms, we aim in our analysis to bridge comparative politics and comparative constitutional law. The project team is well suited for such an endeavor because it is composed of experienced researchers from both disciplines. Moreover, external experts contributing case studies to the webpage are required to equally consider both law and political science aspects of the respective autonomy arrangements.

Furthermore, our research is inspired by the aim to bridge studies on territorial and non-territorial autonomy. While territorial arrangements are on a global scale clearly more numerous and better covered by academic analysis, there has been since the 1990s a trend towards very diverse non-territorial arrangements. The fact that our research also scrutinizes and presents numerous cases of this latter form of autonomy constitutes an important added value. This puts people interested in the webpage in a position to keep track of the enormous variety, which autonomy arrangements stand for today.



Latest Ne​​ws

Latest Publications & Further Readings

New Center for Autonomy Experience of Eurac Research launched its online platform and e-learning course on "The Autonomy of South Tyrol"

20 October 2020 (Bolzano/Bozen, Italy)

Eurac Research launched its new Center for Autonomy Experience which focuses on activities and initiatives related to South Tyrolean autonomy and minority protection. The Center aims to share South Tyrol's experience and knowledge related to the autonomy, creating networks with international and local stakeholders. It produced an open access e-learning course on "The Autonomy of South Tyrol"​, which explains the history, the design and the most important legal aspects of the autonomy of South Tyrol through videos, short texts, charts quizzes, and supplementary reading material.

New Caledonia rejects independence from France for second time​

4 October 2020 (Nouméa​, France)

People in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia have narrowly rejected independence from France in a second referendum. New Caledonia enjoys a large degree of autonomy but depends on financial support from mainland France. Following bouts of violence in the 1980s over the issue of independence, the 1998 Noumea Accord set out a roadmap for greater autonomy for the territory. Under this agreement, New Caledonia is allowed up to three referendums on independence. The first took place in November 2018, where voters rejected independence from France by 56.4% to 43.6%, with a turnout of about 81%. Most indigenous Kanaks voted in favour of independence, while non-Kanaks - a majority of those descended from French settlers - voted against. Read more...​

Applications open for the e-course "Territorial Autonomy as a Tool for Diversity Management – Lessons from the Åland Example" 

10 September (Mariehamn, Finland)

Are you interested in conflict resolution, multilevel governance and diversity questions? Do you want to know how the autonomy of the Åland Islands works and how the "Åland Example" and other cases are used as possible tool for conflict resolution? The Åland Islands Peace Institute together with the Open University on Åland offers since 2015 a university-level e-course on territorial autonomy, with the Åland Example as a main case study. The course has been renewed and updated, and a new round of the course will be given autumn 2020. Read more....​

TERRGO - a new dataset on territorial self-governance in democracies, semi-democracies, and autocracies

24 July 2020 (Heidelberg, Germany)

The Territorial Self-Governance Dataset (TERRGO) dataset was developed by Christoph Trinn and Felix Schulte from the Institute of Political Science, Heidelberg University. It takes a fresh look at territorial self-governance in more than 2,900 second-level regions in 96 Western and non-Western democracies, semi-democracies and autocracies; provides information on each generic category of self-governance units; makes available data for each individual unit; builds on a parsimonious conceptualization of territorial self-governance; allows to untangle country-specific profiles. See all details…​

New report: "The Åland Example in Use 1990-2019: Where, When, How, Why and by Whom?"

2 July 2020 (Mariehamn, Finland)

In the 1920s, a dispute between Finland and Sweden over the Åland Islands was peacefully resolved through a compromise which included autonomy, minority protection, as well as demilitarisation and neutralisation for the islands. This new report by Susann Simolin (Åland Islands Peace Institute) maps 25 conflicts in which the Åland example has been used and analyses eight of them in more depth. It discusses the questions of where, when, how, who, and why the Åland example has been used in conflict resolution efforts around the world as well as what has been of interest. Read more…​

New report: "Non-Territorial Autonomy in Theory and Practice: A 2020 Report"

28 May 2020 (Skopje, North Macedonia)

This report edited by Marina Andeva is the result of the first year of operation of ENTAN - European Non-Territorial Autonomy NetworkThe main objective of ENTAN is to investigate the existing NTA mechanisms and policies and to develop new modalities for the accommodation of differences in the context of growing challenges stemming from globalisation, regionalisation and European supranational integration. This report presents an overview of research ideas and multi- and interdisciplinary findings related to the concept of non-territorial autonomy both in theory and as a practice. Read more…​

Webinar on "Minorities, territorial governance and inter-state relations in pandemic times"

27 May 2020 (Bolzanio/Bozen, Italy)

The Institute for Minority Rights of Eurac Research organized a webinar series investigating the challenges minorities worldwide are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this webinar, Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark, Francesco Palermo and Sergiu Constantin discussed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on minority communities, on dynamics between centres and peripheries, and on inter-state relations. The immediate reactions to the pandemic included a "war rhetoric" with an explicit or tacit requirement of loyalty and obedience, closure of borders, and centralization from the territories to the centre and from parliaments to executives. The pandemic shows time and again that there is no one-size-fit-all solution for cultural and territorial governance. Watch the webinar video or read the webinar brief​.

Romanian parliament rejects draft law on the autonomy of Szeklerland 

29 April 2020 (Bucharest, Romania)

Romania's Senate rejected a plan to establish an autonomous region for ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania. Under the proposal, Hungarian would have become a second official language in state institutions in the area known as Szeklerland. The region would have flown its own flag and had the right to pass its own laws and manage its own finances. Romanian President accused the Social Democrats, Romania's largest party which is currently in opposition, of striking a secret deal with Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban and plotting to give "Transylvania to the Hungarians". Read more… 

Tove H. Malloy and Levente Salat (eds.), Non-Territorial Autonomy and Decentralization Ethno-Cultural Diversity Governance, Routledge, 2020

This volume describes and analyzes alternative and emerging models of non-territorial autonomy (NTA), particularly in relation to decentralization. The authors push the NTA debate in new directions by offering a re-conceptualization based on ethno-cultural bottom-up decentralized action that redefines autonomy into its true sense of autonomous action. The authors explore two approaches to political decentralization which add to the theoretical debate on NTA – network governance, which focuses on new dynamics in policy processes, and normative pluralism, which focuses on accommodating the distinctness of the groups through the subsidiarity principle with regard to their own affairs. The book explores the potential ramifications of ethno-cultural NTA institutions acting within the wider framework of state institutions and assesses the functions of these institutions as another dimension of decentralization and thus another 'layer' of democracy. Read more…​

Journal of Autonomy and Security Studies (JASS), Volume 4, Issue 1, September 2020

The Journal of Autonomy and Security Studies is a peer-reviewed, open access e-journal published by the Åland Islands Peace Institute. The journal addresses its overarching theme of peace and security from the perspectives of autonomy, demilitarization, and minority protection. Each issue of JASS includes scholarly articles that in some way deal with the subjects mentioned above. JASS issues may also include other types of material such as project notes, book reviews, and information on pending conferences. Read more...

Special issue "Federalism as a Tool of Conflict Resolution". Guest Editors: Soeren Keil and Elisabeth Alber, Ethnopolitics, Vol. 19, Issue 4, July 2020

Paul Anderson discusses how the end of Spain's decentralization process as a result of the Spanish Constitutional Court's decision on the new Catalan autonomy statute was a watershed moment in which Catalan autonomy demands began to transform into independence demands. Francesco Palermo discusses how decentralization is an element of conflict resolution in Ukraine, but one which is politically charged. Eva Maria Belser argues that the absence, not the failure, of functioning federalism explains some of the shortcomings of political stability and internal peace in Iraq. Johann Wolfschwenger and Kirsten Saxinger compare the autonomy of Gagauzia and the Transnistrian settlement process in Moldova's experience with decentralization as a tool of conflict resolution. Karl Kössler highlights the complicated relationship between conflict, autonomy and secession requests in Bougainville. Joseph Marko discusses the theoretical and methodological difficulties in the conceptualization of multinational federalism at the interface of law and political science. He offers a new approach called "multiple diversity governance". Read more…

​Felix Schulte, Peace through Self-Determination. Success and Failure of Territorial Autonomy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020

Bringing together comparative politics, conflict research and social psychology, this book presents a novel theory to explain the consolidation outcomes of post-conflict autonomy arrangements. The author concludes that elites accept autonomy reforms if they promise a high degree of self-determination and, at the same time, ethnic recognition is not hindered by horizontal inequalities. Bargaining efforts succeed within inclusive institutions involving non-nationalist parties and international organizations. Autonomy reforms fail if the degree of self-rule offered is too low and strong inequalities generate new grievances. Autocratic rule, nationalist parties, and a lack of international attention provide a breeding ground for further centrifugal activities. Read more...​

Natascha S. Neudorfer, Ulrike G. Theuerkauf and Stefan Wolff, "Territorial self-governance and proportional representation: reducing the risk of territory-centred intrastate violence", Territory, Politics, Governance, June 2020

This article argues that the effectiveness of territorial self-governance as a tool of territory-centred conflict management increases when combined with a proportional representation (PR) electoral system for the national legislature in basically open political regimes, but not when combined with a parliamentary form of government at the centre. The authors propose that the combination of territorial self-governance and PR in at least minimally democratic regimes has most conflict-reducing potential, as both institutions follow a logic of widening the input side of representative politics. Their findings highlight the need to consider not just the number but, more importantly, the type of power-sharing institutions that are combined with each other when looking for ways to reduce the risk of territory-centred intrastate violence. Read more...​

Special Issue "National Cultural Autonomy in Diverse Political Communities: Practices, Challenges, and Perspectives", Nationalities Papers, Vol. 48, Special Issue 2, March 2020

David J. Smith discusses the politics of nonterritorial autonomy in present-day Estonia. Judit Molnar Sansum and Balázs Dobos reflect upon how domestic and international factors intersected to shape Hungary's legislation on national-cultural autonomy. Katinka Beretka focuses on Serbia's National Minority Councils. Balázs Dobos offers a systematic analysis of election procedures for nonterritorial autonomy institutions in Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia. Federica Prina discusses the operation of nonterritorial autonomy in the case of the Russian Federation. Stéphanie Marsal outlines the experience of nonterritorial autonomy as seen from the standpoint of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. Cengiz Gunes's article on approaches to Kurdish autonomy in the Middle East deals with Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Ephraim Nimni argues for a shift towards a single, binational state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict based on principles of shared sovereignty, national cultural autonomy, and collective rightsRead more…

Olgun Akbulut and Elçin Aktoprak (eds.), Minority Self-Government in Europe and the Middle East: From Theory to Practice, Brill Nijhoff, 2019

This volume combines theory with facts on the ground, going beyond legal perspectives without neglecting existing laws and their implementation. Theoretical discussions transcend examining existing autonomy models in certain regions. It offers new models in the field, discussing such critical themes as environmentalism. Traditional concepts such as self-determination and well-known successful autonomy examples are examined from different perspectives. Some chapters in this volume focus on certain regions (including Turkey, Syria, and Iraq) which have only recently received scholarly attention. Chapters complement one another in terms of their theoretical inputs and outputs from the field. Read more...

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