For the purpose of this online
tool, territorial autonomy (TA) is defined as asymmetrical or symmetrical
self-government of a territorial entity within a state, which is characterized by
substantial ethno-cultural and/or territorial diversity. This working
definition derives from responses to three key questions.
self-government exercised? Territorial self-government within a state may be
exercised in the context of a symmetrical or asymmetrical overall framework of
the state. While TA in a broad sense comprises both symmetrical and
asymmetrical designs, TA is sometimes understood in a strict sense as
encompassing only the latter. Where symmetry prevails, autonomous territories have
essentially the same legal status (e.g. Kenya). Under asymmetry, bv contrast,
there is differentiation, as one or more specific territorial entities have
within their respective state, and in comparison to other entities, some sort
of special status. This means that they either are the only autonomous units
(e.g. the Åland Islands) or they enjoy a higher degree of self-government
than other entities (e.g. Jammu and
Kashmir). TA in this narrow sense is inherently
asymmetrical because it is often a solution, which is bilaterally
negotiated by representatives of the central government and of the
territory in question, and thus tailored to a specific case, in which
diversity had become politically salient.
WHY self-government? The ultimate driver for institutionalizing TA is commonly cultural and/or territorial diversity.
In the minority discourse, the emphasis is placed, quite
understandably, on the first dimension. Such a focus on cultural
diversity covers, indeed, most of the complex reality of TA arrangements
concluded as a response to politically salient diversity. In practice,
however, TA also includes cases, in which territorial diversity, most
prominently the remoteness of an area, has acted as a key driver in
conjunction with cultural diversity (e.g. Greenland) or even without it
exercises self-government? In any event, even if politically salient
cultural diversity is the raison d'être of many TA regimes, the subject
of self-government is always the entire population of a territorial entity.
This distinguishes TA fundamentally from non-territorial autonomy,
whose subject is by definition, and by its very name, defined in a
non-territorial way, i.e. according to the principle of personality or
on a functional basis, as a group of people. That TA aims at
self-government of the whole population of a territorial entity is
overlooked when this tool is perceived as a means of empowering exclusively a
culturally distinct national minority, which forms in this entity a
regional majority. This perception negates the fact that self-governing
territories are in many cases just as culturally diverse as the whole
country and themselves characterized by the presence of "internal
minorities" (e.g. Italian-speakers and Ladin-speakers in South Tyrol).
The roots of this narrow view lie in a notion of historically justified
"ownership" of the autonomous territory and, as a consequence, of
territorially-based power by the regional majority. It is challenged by
the opposite view that TA is to comprise mechanisms of sharing
autonomous power between the regional majority and minorities.