federal studies

Joint-decision Making: An Alternative to Centralisation / Decentralisation

Joint-decision Making: An Alternative to Centralisation / Decentralisation


The text presents the concept of joint-decision making as an idea and alternative to the already established concepts of centralisation and decentralisation in federal studies. Whereas the notions of centralisation and decentralisation seem to be well established in federal studies, the idea of joint-decision making seems to count only as a German speciality or a German feature of federal studies. This paper further explores this idea and concept, drawing upon the German case as well as suggesting it is worth expanding beyond it.


It is an open question, if a clear and long-lasting location of competences (or powers in North-American parlance) on the central or decentral territorial level of decision making is needed in any political system. In other words, from time to time an adjustment of the location of competences may be required in order to preserve a stable democratic political system. At the same time, competences also need to be fixed for preserving a stable political system. This paradoxical situation of change and stability exists for all political systems, no matter if competences are fixed in constitutions or not. This also means that political system without written constitutions, like the United Kingdom and Israel, face similar challenges particularly when compared to federal systems. Therefore, the question if decisions about change and stability in politics are taken on a territorially defined central or decentral level is at the heart of all political systems (Benz et al. 2016b). Even if a permanent solution should be found as to where to locate competences (on a central or decentral political level), the question remains: What competences should be placed on a central or decentral territorial level? At this point arguments vary. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages that occur when locating competences on a (de)central territorially defined level.

Another possibility beyond centralisation and decentralisation of competences exists. At least in the German and European Union (EU) realm the idea of joint-decision making is apparent in many instances. A growing number of other political systems have also recently begun to discover the idea of joint-decision making. The additional concept of joint-decision making stands beside the concepts of centralisation and decentralisation. Hence (de)centralisation and joint-decision making are by no means mutually exclusive or an antinomy, but interrelated and can co-exist beside each other. The suggestion of establishing a political system of joint-decision making seems to be a way out of the zero-sum game between (de)centralisation.

In classical texts about joint-decision making (Scharpf et al. 1976), the concept is often presented as an alternative to the issue of the centralisation and decentralisation of competences. Indeed, joint-decision making contradicts the general idea of transparency with the clear location of competences because all territorial levels are involved in the financing and execution of policies. Whereas in the classical example of the work about joint-decision making the financing was or is the task of the central (upper) territorial level, the execution of policies or policy making was or is the task of the decentral (lower) territorial level. This situation, for instance, is the case in German federalism as well as the EU. Indeed, joint-decision making combines a certain amount of autonomy and community for the solution of different problems. In the German context, Fritz Scharpf and colleagues argued that joint-decision making engenders better efficiency in dealing with problems about common goods, joint products and external effects (costs). Whereas finding solutions to those problems requires the cooperation of federal and federated entities, federal and federated entities also need to preserve their autonomy in other contexts. The question, therefore, remains: What mix is needed to ensure they are effective and legitimate? All political systems thus need to determine on their own in what contexts autonomous solutions and in what contexts common solutions are needed or wanted for achieving efficient and legitimate solutions for problems at stake. Throughout time, the mix of autonomy and community needs to balanced anew

Terminological Clarification

The core definition of joint-decision making (Politikverflechtung) can be found in German language in publications many years ago from Fritz Scharpf et al. in 1976:

“…bei dem zwar einerseits die Entscheidungsautonomie der dezentralen Entscheidungseinheiten eingeschränkt wird, bei dem jedoch andererseits die umfassenden Entscheidungseinheiten (Bund, Länder, Europäische Gemeinschaft) nicht gesamte Aufgabenkomplexe an sich zogen,…” (Scharpf et al. 1976: 29)

In a corresponding translation, this means that embracing decision units (like the federal government in Germany, Länder or the European Community / Union) did not attract every embracing competence. The autonomy of decentral political units was restricted to those competences the central and decentral level could agree on. This therefore means that there are no exit strategies or opting out solutions in a joint-decision making system. For none of the governments, be it a central government, decentral governments or any other governmental actor would be able to pursue its own policies.

Starting from this definition the concept of joint-decision making was adjusted into horizontal, vertical or compound decision-making structures (Benz et al 1992). The compound structures were the initial idea for developing the concept of joint-decision making and the horizontal and vertical structures of decision making were added later to the initial concept.

Moreover, the concept of the joint-decision trap gained prominence in public and academic discourse with the definition that a factual joint-decision trap has an elaborated meaning that “systematically (…) inefficient and inadequate problem-solving” takes place. At the same time, the federal system is unable to “change the institutional conditions of its decision-making logic” (Scharpf, 1988: 271). Hence the absence of the joint-decision trap. This is because the political system is unitary (and not federal), but does not mean that political performance is per se better. The quality of political output does not directly relate to the fact that a system of joint-decision making works or does not work (for the case of the joint-decision trap).

Joint-Decision Making and Federal Studies

The concept of joint-decision making is closely related to federal studies because it relates to different levels of decision- and policy-making. Furthermore, testable hypotheses can be derived from the general concept of joint-decision making. The concept was latter made more specific by Fritz Scharpf himself, but also by other scholars, with a particular focus on why joint-decision making is prone to being unable to produce suitable solutions for political problems ending in the joint-decision trap (Politikverflechtungs-Falle) (Scharpf 1988). In reality, there indeed exists a joint-decision trap, but Fritz Scharpf himself laid down that this is only one possibility among several possibilities. Political actors circumvent the joint-decision trap regularly, and are thus rarely caught in the joint decision trap.

Sharpening Focus

Discussions about joint-decision making (Politikverflechtung) started in 1976 with the book of Fritz Scharpf, Bernd Reissert and Fritz Schnabel. Later the concept was narrowed down to the joint decision trap (Scharpf 1988). But the concept was also broadened and a horizontal dimension was analysed in greater depth (Benz et al. 1992). Case studies about Germany (Scheller / Schmid 2008) and the EU (Falkner 2011) gather in edited volumes, so that many policies are covered for Germany and the EU. A case study about school policy deals with party politics and joint-decision making in Germany (Heinz 2015). Also, the concept of joint-decision making is applied in the Literature to Canada (Painter 1991), the EU (Peters 1997) and Scandinavia (Blom-Hansen 1999). Usually main discussions with regards to joint-decision making are related to exploring whether a policy, an institutional system or an institution itself is trapped in joint decision making or not. Few examples, however, are known and acknowledged to show that political actors are indeed trapped in joint-decision making. In addition, the focus of the academic literature lies more on the joint-decision trap and not in joint-decision making, although the trap only rarely occurs.

Contemporary Debates

The topic of joint-decision making is a middle range theory as Fritz Scharpf himself declared many times, because it covers the German case and the case of the European Union / Community. The application of the concept of joint-decision making has been relatively rare in scholarship limited to Germany, Canada (Painter 1991) and Scandinavia (Blom-Hansen 1999). It seems worthwhile, therefore, to widen this research agenda and apply the concept of joint-decision making to other federal states. For the German case, the concept is still of practical relevance, although many forms of coordination have changed over time, but no formal or institutional reforms took place. For example, joint tasks were heavily debated in the past, but they still are also of practical importance at least for German politics.

Concluding Reflections

To conclude, it can be said that Joint-decision making is a characteristic of the German and European federal political system. It enables also a way out of the enduring question of the European Union / Community if there should be more or less centralisation or decentralisation. An answer in favour of Joint-decision making would be that the mix of centralization and decentralisation would be dynamic so that negative aspects would be diminished and positive aspects of (de)centralisation would be increased. But against this statement, the concept of joint-decision making had to face demand for abolishment in the forefront of the first federal reform in Germany.

At least in the cases of Germany and the EU the situation seems to be far away in terms of abolishing joint-decision making, because that was publicly postulated in the past. Obviously joint-decision making proved to be more robust than expected beforehand. Hence, future research would need to discover joint-decision making also in other institutional contexts that is to say in other federal systems.



Benz, Arthur / Jessica Detemple / Dominic Heinz (2016a) Varianten und Dynamiken der Politikverflechtung im deutschen Bundesstaat (Nomos: Baden-Baden).

Benz, Arthur / Dominic Heinz / Eike-Christian Horning / Bettina Petersohn / Andrea Fischer-Hotzel and Jörg Kemmerzell (2016b) Constitutional Policy in Multilevel-Systems. The Art of Keeping the balance (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Benz, Arthur / Jörg Broschek (Eds.) (2013) Federal Dynamics Continuity, Change, and the Varieties of Federalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Benz, Arthur / Fritz W. Scharpf / Reinhard Zintl (1992) Horizontale Politikverflechtung: Zur Theorie von Verhandlungssystemen (Frankfurt/Main: Campus Verlag).

Blom-Hansen, Jens (1999) Avoiding the joint-decision trap: Lessons from intergovernmental relations in Scandinavia, in: European Journal of Political Research (35) 35-67.

Heinz, Dominic (2015) Politikverflechtung in der Schulpolitik: Koordination im Wandel, in: Politische Vierteljahresschrift 56 (4) 626-647.

Painter, Martin (1991) Intergovernmental Relations in Canada: An Institutional Analysis, in: Canadian Journal of Political Science, 24 (2) 269-288.

Peters, B. Guy (1997) Escaping the joint-decision trap: Repetition and sectoral politics in the EU, in: West European Politics 20 (2) 22-36.

Scharpf, Fritz W. (1988) The Joint-Decision Trap: Lessons from German Federalism and European Integration, in: Public Administration, 66 (3) 239-278.

Scharpf, Fritz / Bernd Reissert / Fritz Schnabel (1976) Politikverflechtung: Theorie und Empirie des kooperativen Föderalismus in der Bundesrepublik (Scriptor: Kronberg).

Scheller, Henrik / Josef Schmid (2008) Föderale Politikgestaltung im deutschen Bundesstaat: Variable Verflechtungsmuster in Politikfeldern. (Nomos: Baden-Baden).


Further Reading

Scharpf, Fritz / Bernd Reissert / Fritz Schnabel (1976) Politikverflechtung: Theorie und Empirie des kooperativen Föderalismus in der Bundesrepublik (Scriptor: Kronberg).

Benz, Arthur / Jessica Detemple / Dominic Heinz (2016a) Varianten und Dynamiken der Politikverflechtung im deutschen Bundesstaat (Nomos: Baden-Baden).

Benz, Arthur / Jörg Broschek (Eds.) (2013) Federal Dynamics Continuity, Change, and the Varieties of Federalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Scharpf, Fritz (1988) The Joint-decision trap: Lessons from German federalism and European integration, in: Public Administration 66 (3) 239–278.

Falkner, Gerda (2011) The EUs Decision Traps. Comparing Policies (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Posted by Dominic Heinz in Policies, Theory, 0 comments
Dynamic Federalism

Dynamic Federalism


Traditional federal theory seems no longer apt to grasp recent evolutions in state structures. By delimiting federal states in terms of defining institutional features, federalism scholars put themselves at the margin rather than the centre of where the action is: fragmenting dynamics in multinational states, secession movements, as well as centralist and decentralist tendencies within the European Union. In a dynamic approach to federalism, all multi-tiered systems are assembled with a common denominator being how they manage tensions between autonomy claims of territorial entities on the one hand, and the need for cohesion or efficiency of the central government on the other. In this approach, qualifying criteria to categorise state structures become mere indicators to rank multi-tiered systems on a gliding scale from the most central to the loosest systems. The ranking is based on three sets of indicators, one measuring autonomy, another measuring cohesion and a third, linking both, measuring participation. The core question examined in this contribution is: which mechanisms in the constitutional system have a centralising or decentralising effect?



It is an exciting era for scholars in federalism studies, with a succession of events that keep the world captive, from secession referendums in Scotland and Catalonia, the tiny Walloon Region in Belgium holding some 780 million persons hostage by vetoing a trade agreement between the EU and Canada, to the most pressing concern in the European Union: Brexit. That is – if the UK, Spain, Belgium and the EU are defined as federalist systems, worthy of study by federalism scholars. Books have been written about this question. Traditional federalists would argue that they are not, measured by criteria that have to be fulfilled and that are based on model states of past centuries, such as the USA or Germany. According to the traditional model, states are either unitary, federal or confederal, and systems that do not meet the defining criteria are called ‘regional states’, which, at best, are considered ‘immature federations’, implying that they aspire to become federal. However, excluding these systems leaves federalism scholars at the margin rather than the centre of activity.

At the same time, scholars realise that the federal/unitary distinction ‘is too crude to capture the complexity of contemporary governance’ (Loughlin, 2008: 473). In a new standard book on comparative federalism (Palermo and Kössler 2017), the authors list various definitions of federalism, one leading to a list of 23 federal states world-wide, the other to no less than 180 federal states. ‘The central question’, according to these authors, ‘is whether the question itself is meaningful’. I tend to agree. Whether Spain is a federal or a regional state is, frankly, a purely academic question, such as discussing the sex of angels. In the end, what matters, is to capture the essence of federal systems. The essence is not whether a given state has a bicameral system and a court to solve allocation of power disputes, or whether sub-units have their own constitution. What is at stake, was already defined by Friedrich (1968): the tension between autonomy of territorial entities on the one hand, and cohesion or efficiency of the central government on the other.

This brings us to a dynamic approach to federalism. In such an approach, qualifying criteria to categorise state structures become mere indicators, and the core question is: which mechanisms in the constitutional system have a centralising or decentralising effect?

The Use of Indicators to Define Federal Systems

In a dynamic approach, political systems are situated on a gliding scale, with unitary systems on the left side of the spectrum, and the loosest cooperative associations on the right. Systems are placed on this scale as soon as there is some tension between the central authorities and territorial sub-groups. While we could label these systems ‘federal’ in a broad sense, a more distinctive name that avoids confusion with ‘traditional’ federal systems, is ‘multi-tiered systems’, or simply MTS.

Political systems are situated on this gliding scale on the basis of a general score that relies on three axes: one measuring the autonomy of sub-national units, a second measuring the cohesiveness of the entire system, and a linking third focusing on participation. Political scientists have a longer tradition of scaling political systems on the basis of indicators. However, they are mostly interested in autonomy and they tend to ignore the role of courts (see, e.g., Hooghe et al. 2016). Indicative for the autonomy of sub-units is, amongst others, the entrenchment of subnational entities and competences in rigid acts, subnational representative bodies, financial autonomy, sets of competences and allocations techniques, and whether the entities are (directly or indirectly) involved in decision-making at the EU or the international level. In the literature, much less attention has been given to a second set of indicators that measure cohesion or integration. Indicators are, amongst others, free movement and a monetary and economic union within the legal system, mechanisms to deal with transboundary problems, instruments to prevent or solve conflicts of competences and conflicts of interests, or to prevent subnational entities from undermining central (national of international) policy. The third set of indicators is focused on mechanisms that ensure both autonomy and cohesion, with the subnational entities participating at the central level to ensure central legislative, administrative as well as judicial decision-making while paying attention to subnational specificities.

On this large scale of MTS, we can identify core ‘federal systems’. Federal systems in this narrow sense, find a balance between autonomy/differentiation and cohesion/integration. These systems will score moderate to high on all three axes. On the left side of the scale are those political systems that solve the tension by accentuating centralism. Such systems will score low on the autonomy axis but high on the cohesion axis. On the right side of the scale are those political systems that solve the tension by accentuating autonomy: more effort is made to preserving the autonomy of the subnational units rather than integrative mechanisms.

Within the sub-set of autonomy indicators, a political system can score low on one indicator and high on the other. While under the traditional approach the system should meet certain institutional requirements to be qualified as a federal system, under the dynamic approach other features can compensate for this.

While we preserve labels such as unitary states, decentralised states, regional systems, federal systems and confederations, a neatly cut categorisation of states is not always possible, and not even necessary. Spain, for example, would probably end up somewhere between regional states and federal states, but the exact label is not really important. Moreover, a categorisation of states is just a snap-shot. States evolve. Nowadays, in the centre of our attention are disintegrative states that move from the left side of the scale to the right. However, traditional integrative federal systems have their own, centralising, dynamics, bringing them from the right side of the scale to the left side, and sometimes leaving some doubt as to whether, in the end, highly centralised systems such as Austria can still be called ‘federal’ if defined as a system that upholds an equal balance between autonomy and cohesion.


Methodological Advantages

The methodological advantages of a dynamic approach are manifold.

First of all, it facilitates comparative research since we can easily group MTS with similar scores on one or more of the three axes. If we are mainly interested in the dynamics of state structures, we have a larger population than the twenty-something pure, traditional federal systems. We can look for factors that explain the position of specific types of states on the gliding scale. In addition, we can test whether the level of integration or disintegration is an explanatory factor for other things – for example the behaviour of courts in federal disputes, or the stability of the political system.

Secondly, we can examine phenomena that are not easily captured under traditional federal theory. An example is asymmetry. While traditional federal theory promotes symmetry for the sake of equality and stability, asymmetry is a growing trend in contemporary MTS. In a dynamic approach, we can measure the different sub-national entities on the autonomy-axis, so that we can give an exact score to the differences in status and competences between the most and the least autonomies subnational entities. This might instruct as to how asymmetric a system can be before it risks becoming unstable.

Thirdly, we can examine the impact of the international level on the relations between central authority and subnational units. This is especially important for MTS that are part of the European Union, as the impact of the European integration process upon the constitutional structure of the member states is more intense than that of any other supra-national organisation.


The Core Question: Which Mechanisms Have a Centralising or Decentralising Impact?

As mentioned, the core question in a dynamic approach to federalism concerns the process of integration or disintegration. In this approach, we examine the mechanisms that have a centralising or decentralising effect on the political system. For example, there is a common agreement that courts generally have a centralising effect when deciding on federalism disputes; yet some courts – mostly in multinational systems – take a more balanced approach (Popelier 2017). Political parties can have such effects as well. For instance, in Belgium, the break-up of national parties into regional parties had a disintegrative effect. Techniques to allocate powers may also have some impact: we can hypothesise that the predominance of concurrent powers has a centralising effect, whereas the predominance of exclusive powers has a decentralising effect.

If we have more insight into the conditions under which these mechanisms have a centralising or decentralising effect, we might be able to answer the question whether the dynamics of a specific political system can be turned through constitutional engineering. This is a topical question in the light of secessionist movements in countries such as Belgium, Canada, Spain and the UK as well as developments in, for example, Sri Lanka, where a devolutionary trend institutionalised at the end of the 1980s a form of multinational conflict management (Oberst 1988) but constitutional guarantees of national sovereignty and indivisibility are relied upon to break secessionist tendencies.


An Example: The Belgian Case

The Belgian case demonstrates the need for a dynamic approach to federalism. In the last five decades, it evolved from a unitary state into a federal state with confederal traits. Up until now, this has taken the shape of six state reforms, resulting, in 1993 in a constitutional provision that labelled Belgium as a federal state.

The Belgian federation, however, does not meet several of the criteria that defines federal states under the Hamilton approach. For example, in 1993, discussions on the use of a second chamber did not result in the abolition of the Senate. Instead the federalism argument was used to maintain an institution that did not fulfil a federalist function: The Senate was reformed, but in the new constellation a minority represented the federated entities and they were appointed on the basis of the federal, not the regional, elections. Since the sixth state reform in 2012-2013, the Senate has been reformed into an actual Chamber of the sub-states, but is left with only few competences. On the other hand, the subnational entities can directly interfere, with a suspensory vote, in the federal decision-making process. Moreover, while not represented as such, they have a dominant say through the linguistic groups that structure the federal parliament, the federal government, as well as the administration and the courts. The federal government consists of an equal number of French- and Dutch speaking ministers; these ministers are nominated by regional parties that represent the interests of their language groups. Besides, the two language groups in Parliament have a suspensory veto right.

The federalism argument was also used in the Flemish fight for subnational constitutional autonomy, although the (little) constitutional autonomy that was acquired has not been used in a way that is substantially different from what was regulated at the federal level. On the other hand, the subnational entities do enjoy substantial autonomy when it comes to concluding international agreements or involvement at the EU level.

This demonstrates that the traditional criteria to qualify federations are not always functional: The Senate did not fulfil the function of involving the federated entities in central decision-making, but they got their say through other means, to the point that the system even acquired confederal traits, as no federal decision can be made without the consent of both language groups. It also shows how a low score on one indicator (subnational constitutional autonomy) can be compensated for by a high score for another indicator (international affairs).

The devolving dynamics in Belgium are based upon the allocation of exclusive powers, equality of federal and federated entities, regionalised political parties, and a general ambiance of distrust and conflict typical of dyadic federalism. The dominant political party, N-VA, is a Flemish-nationalist party that supports Flemish independence. According to surveys, Flemings support autonomy though not secessionism, the N-VA’s strategy is to ‘naturally’ end up at independence through confederalism. Legal scholars and political scientists are eager to point out that confederalism, according to traditional theory, means the association of independent, sovereign states, implying that technically confederalism cannot precede secession. This shows, once more, how traditional theory is unable to capture political reality. In a dynamic approach, the N-VA’s strategy makes perfect sense, and the core question for those who support the continuation of the Belgian system, is whether through constitutional engineering – be it federal districts, shared competences, or otherwise – we can turn the tide.



Friedrich, K. 1968. Trends of Federalism in Theory and Practice. Frederick A. Praeger.

Hooghe, L. et al. 2016. Measuring Regional Authority. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Loughlin, 2008. ‘Federalism, regionalism and local government: comparative perspectives on transforming the nation-state’, 7 European Political Science, 472-482.

Oberst, R.C. 1988. ‘Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka. 18 Publius 175-194.

Palermo, F. and Kössler, K. 2017. Comparative Federalism. Constitutional Arrangements and Case Law. Oxford and Portland: Hart.

Popelier, P. 2017. ‘Federalism disputes and the behavior of courts: explaining variation in federal courts support for centralization. 47 Publius, 27-48.


Further Reading

Aubert, J.F. 1963. ‘Essai sur le fédéralisme.’ 80 Revue du droit public et de la science politique. 401-452.

Popelier, P. 2015. ‘Secessionist and autonomy movements in Flanders: the disintegration of Belgium as the chronicle of a death foretold?’ in Belser, E.M. et al. (eds), States Falling Apart? Secessionist and Autonomy Movements in Europe. Bern: Stämpfli Verlag, 215-246.

Popelier, P. 2014. ‘Subnational multilevel constitutionalism.’ 6 Perspectives on Federalism, 1-23.

Popelier, P. 2012. ‘The need for sub-national constitutions in federal theory and practice.’ 4 Perspectives on Federalism 36-58.

Popelier, P. and Lemmens, K. 2015. The Constitution of Belgium. A Contextual Analysis. Oxford: Hart.



Posted by Patricia Popelier, 0 comments
Condominiums and Shared Sovereignty

Condominiums and Shared Sovereignty


As the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU), the future of Gibraltar, appears to be in peril. Like Northern Ireland, Gibraltar borders with EU territory and strongly relies on its ties with Spain for its economic stability, transports and energy supplies. Although the Gibraltarian government is struggling to preserve both its autonomy with British sovereignty and accession to the European Union, the Spanish government states that only a form of joint-sovereignty would save Gibraltar from the same destiny as the rest of UK in case of complete withdrawal from the EU, without any accession to the European Economic Area (Hard Brexit). The purpose of this paper is to present the concept of Condominium as a federal political system based on joint-sovereignty and, by presenting the existing case of Condominiums (i.e. Andorra). The paper will assess if there are margins for applying a Condominium solution to Gibraltar.


Condominium in History and Political Theory

The Latin word condominium comes from the union of the Latin prefix con (from cum, with) and the word dominium (rule). Watts (2008: 11) mentioned condominiums among one of the forms of federal political systems. As the word suggests, it is a form of shared sovereignty involving two or more external parts exercising a joint form of sovereignty over the same area, sometimes in the form of direct control, and sometimes while conceding or maintaining forms of self-government on the subject area, occasionally in a relationship of suzerainty (Shepheard, 1899).

Condominiums date back to the Middle Ages as an ancient form to settle rivalries and conflicts between states vying for supremacy over the same territories. According to historical reports, the condominium was a Byzantine invention. In the seventh century, Emperor Justinian II proposed a new form of shared sovereignty to Caliph Muawiyah I over Cyprus and its tax revenues (Zavagno, 2011). This arrangement lasted for almost three centuries, before the Byzantines won the island back.

In British colonial history, the case of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan is one of the clearest examples of a condominium between a colonial power and a regional territory, with the latter under the influence of the former. This agreement provided mutual assistance over a disputed territory, and shared responsibilities on security over an extended territory. Although called a condominium, which implies a form of equality of parts, in this form of [imposed] agreement, the British played a hegemonic role by frustrating the Egyptians’ demands in the area, as well as indigenous Sudanese demands for independence and self-rule. The Vanuatu Islands and Togoland (1916-1922) are other examples, whereby both were colonial condominiums under shared sovereignty between France and Great Britain.

Because of their nature, Condominiums are a fragile form of federal political system. Their success as a peaceful solution to inter-state conflicts relies on the agreement and good will of the parts to respect such an arrangement. With the sole exception of Andorra, which has lasted for centuries and still exists (see below), condominiums are not permanent arrangements. Although condominiums are often created because of immediate peace-making circumstances, most of the time they have been superseded by new settlements favouring one of the external parts or determining the full independence of the condominium. The partition of Togoland between France and Great Britain in 1922, the partition of Samoa between Germany and the USA in 1899 and the transfer of Krakow under full Austrian sovereignty in 1846, are cases in point.

Andorra: A Quintessential Condominium

Andorra is a microstate which conserves some elements of ancient political systems that have managed to survive and adapt to new and evolving circumstances. Whereby San Marino is the last surviving example of a medieval Italian comune, and Liechtenstein the last surviving principality from the Holy Roman Empire, Andorra is the last surviving example of a feudal agreement (Fernsworth, 1934).

Andorra represents a condominium which has been established since the Middle Ages. Legends report that Charlemagne himself, because of the area’s imperviousness and strategic position, founded the settlement after securing the Pyrenean Mountains from the Moors. Louis the Pious, Charlemagne’s son and successor, gave control of the settlement to the counts of Urgell and their successors. The status of Co-principality, i.e. having two heads of states sharing the same role over Andorra, is a consequence of this decision. Much conflict ensued between the Counts of Foix, heirs of the local secular lords in charge of Andorra military control and security and the Bishops of Urgell, in charge of its civil and religious administration. This conflict was solved through the so called Andorran Paréage. ‘Contracts of Paréage’ (literally: agreements between peers) (Delcambre & Gallet, 1937) represented a way to settle territorial disputes between two parts by sharing sovereignty over a contested territory. With the Andorran Pareage, in a framework of mutual recognition and parity, the Counts of Foix and the Bishops of Urgell both became sovereign over Andorra. At the same time, they continued developing some form of self-rule.

The Parishes (small towns organised around a church) emerged as political units, in which the wealthiest family was the main political player as representatives of their own Parish. With the end of Francoist regime in Spain and its transition to democracy, Andorra also underwent a long phase of political reforms and modernisation during the 1970s and the 1980s, when the co-princes agreed on the necessity of new democratic governance for the Pyrenean condominium. This was agreed through mediation with the Council of Europe, which demanded a formal modernisation of the Andorran system according to liberal-democratic standards. An executive branch, with a head of government and a council of ministers, was first established in 1981 and, after several years of constitutional wrangling and negotiations as well as public consultations, Andorra ratified its new constitution in 1993 (Butletí Oficial del Principat d’Andorra, 1993). Under the new constitution, the role of the two Head of States (co-princes, namely the president of France and the Bishop of Urgell) is mainly ceremonial, but nonetheless, they retain a veto-power in the case that one of them does not ratify laws. In all the other features, Andorra is an independent country, with its own system of government and specificities.

A Condominium Solution for Gibraltar?

Gibraltar has been and remains a contentious issue in relations between the United Kingdom (UK) and Spain since the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), which forced Spain to accept British sovereignty over Gibraltar and Menorca as a result of the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). While Spain managed to reconquer Menorca in subsequent wars in the 18th century, it failed in reconquer ‘the Rock’.  Despite the evolution of good relations between post-Franco Spain and the UK, in addition to the involvement of both countries in the wider European integration project, Spain has never completely abandoned its claim over Gibraltar.

In the early 2000s, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs Ana Palacio proposed a form of joint sovereignty and condominium status for Gibraltar. Although the negotiations were supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Gibraltar Parliament unilaterally called a referendum to stop any option involving joint sovereignty. Voters unanimously rejected the negotiations (98.48% voted against, with a turnout of 87.9%) and any plan for joint sovereignty. Gibraltarian hostility towards this project was linked to Spanish proposals that the condominium would not be permanent, but a preliminary phase before being placed under full Spanish sovereignty.

In light of the referendum, the Spanish and the British governments started, along with the Gibraltarian government, a tripartite forum of dialogue. Established in 2006, the forum sought to manage many concrete issues, but did not provide a framework for resolving the issue of Gibraltar’s sovereignty (Gold, 2009). That forum, supported by the Spanish Zapatero government, faced harsh opposition from the subsequent Rajoy led administration, which essentially boycotted it. This ‘boycott’, in place since 2011 led to a de facto dismissal of the forum. The reason for this disagreement can be found in the Spanish attitude towards Gibraltar’s status; while Spain would support a condominium solution and shared sovereignty with the UK, it concomitantly refuses to accept Gibraltar as an autonomous or semi-sovereign counterpart in the negotiation.

The results of the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU has caused a further rift between Spain and the UK. On the 23rd of June, Gibraltar almost unanimously rejected leaving the EU (96% on a turnout of 83.7%). Although its status could to some extent be compared to Scotland and Northern Ireland, which both voted for remain, both the overwhelming percentage in favour of remaining and the high turnout in the referendum represent a strong case for Gibraltar to remain part of the EU. As a British oversea territory and Special Member State Territory with the EU, Gibraltar is outside the Common External Tariff and the obligation to levy Value Added Tax but, more importantly it has its own autonomy in complying with EU directives. Despite this status, the UK is legally responsible for Gibraltar’s external relations and consequently for Gibraltar’s EU membership. Thus, Gibraltar, alongside the rest of the UK (Scotland and Northern Ireland included), is expected to leave the EU. Under these circumstances, could a form of joint sovereignty with Spain be a solution to this puzzle?

Although Gibraltar is strongly opposed to joint sovereignty, such an agreement could embed Gibraltar in the EU. Gibraltar would become a co-principality (by having two heads of states like Andorra), and would retain its self-government, while being linked to both the EU and the UK after the latter’s withdrawal. The Spanish government stated immediately after the referendum that Gibraltar was a step closer to joining Spain.  Nonetheless, Gibraltarians have remained very sceptical about this solution; Gibraltarian Chief Minister Mr. Fabian Picardo dismissed any Spanish demand for joint sovereignty and stated that Gibraltar would find other ways to preserve its status in the EU.  The fear of Spanish centralism and the will to maintain the political and fiscal autonomy granted by being a British overseas territory remains a major issue between Spain and Gibraltar. Just after the referendum, Mr. Picardo stated that joint-sovereignty is a price that Gibraltar is not willing to pay.

A solution to the status of Gibraltar relies partly on the will of Spain and the UK to negotiate the status of condominium and partly on the citizens of Gibraltar. In the case of Hard Brexit and a negative outcome of the negotiations between the EU and the UK, Gibraltar would have to look for a solution that does not imply separation from the Single Market and the economic cooperation with Spain. Additionally, despite Mr. Picardo’s hostility, it is not clear how a possible “joint-sovereignty solution” could affect Gibraltar’s autonomy so significantly. In fact, should the UK and Spain negotiate an “Andorra solution” for Gibraltar, with the monarchs of the two countries acting as co-monarchs, Spanish sovereignty over Gibraltar would be mainly ceremonial and would not actually affect Gibraltar’s autonomy. Other solutions involving a more consistent role for the Spanish government, as much as for the British government, would represent a model of condominium with more limited self-rule for Gibraltar, but currently this appears unpopular amongst inhabitants of the Rock. Should Gibraltar keep refusing this option, the only path it can follow is to lobby the UK government for a soft Brexit ot a possible special status for Gibraltar.


While it remains unclear how the future of Gibraltar will develop as the negotiations between the EU and UK unfold, condominiums represent a model for federal political systems that has the advantage to mitigate conflicts and accommodate more actors. It has the advantage to be a flexible model, which has been applicable in colonial and post-colonial realities, as well as in very different cases. Andorra, for instance, remains the prototypical example of a condominium. In this case, an Andorra-style condominium solution for Gibraltar could provide some possibilities to accommodate the demands of all parties in the future of the Rock, yet until a solution is found, the future of Gibraltar remains at stake.



Butletí Oficial del Principat d’Andorra (1993). Constitució del Principat d’Andorra. Available at https://www.bopa.ad/bopa/005024/Pagines/7586.aspx.

Etienne, D., Gallet, L. (1937). Les traités de paréage dans la France féodale. Paris, librairie du Recueil Sirey, 1936. Gr. in-8°, 233 pages. Bibliothèque de l’école des chartes, 98(1), pp.153-155.

Daly, M.W. (2002). Imperial Sudan: The Anglo-Egyptian Condominium 1934-1956. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fernsworth, L. (1934). Andorra: The Passing of Europe’s Last Feudal State. Foreign Affairs, 12(2), 335-338. doi:10.2307/20030590

Gold, P. (2009). The Tripartite Forum of Dialogue: Is this the Solution to the ‘Problem’ of Gibraltar? Mediterranean Politics, 14(1), pp 79-97. Doi: 10.1080/13629390902747475

Perkins, T.C., 2014. Edification from the Andorran model: a brief exploration into the condominium solution on the international stage and its potential application to current land disputes. Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, 21(2), pp.643-665.

Shepheard, W.P., (1899). Suzerainty. Journal of the Society of Comparative Legislation, pp.432-438.

Watts, R. (2008). Comparing Federal Systems. Kingston: Queen’s University Press.

Zavagno, L. (2011). At the Edge of Two Empires: The Economy of Cyprus between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (650s-800s CE). Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 67, pp. 121-56.


Further Reading

Elazar, D.J. (1987). Exploring federalism. University of Alabama Press.

Mickoleit, A. (2010). April. Andorra. In Elections in Europe (pp. 149-168). Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG.

Samuels, J.H., 2007. Condominium arrangements in international practice: reviving an abandoned concept of boundary dispute resolution. Mich. J. Int’l L., 29, p.727.

Watts, R. (2008). Comparing Federal Systems. Kingston: Queen’s University Press.


Posted by Francesco Violi in Case studies, Theory, 0 comments
Nigeria: A Federation in Search of Federalism

Nigeria: A Federation in Search of Federalism


This article argues that the Nigerian federation epitomises an incomplete federal arrangement. The feelings of marginalisation, which had been suppressed during the military era are fully expressed by ethno-regional groups in the post-military era and these feelings finds expression in the potent agitation for a more functional federal system. The Nigerian political elites have at different times attempted to grapple with the imperfections inherent in the country’s federal system by putting in place a range of distributive and structural mechanisms but the increasing agitation for “true federalism” indicates that the governmental system is defective and in serious need of some bold political reform.



The increasing agitation for a functional federal system or what is referred to as ‘true federalism’ in the Nigerian parlance, after the democratic transition that culminated in civil rule in 1999 is an indication that all is not well with the existing practice of federalism in Nigeria. The apparent defects in the federal system, no doubt, provide the basis for this agitation. Nigeria is a federation operating a federal constitution but in practice the country works as a unitary state, a fallout of the centralising tendencies that have come to characterise the governmental system. However, there seems to be a consensus, especially in the southern part of the country that the operation of federalism in Nigeria does not conform to the fundamental principles of federalism. As Wheare (1963: 20) argues, ‘a country may have a federal constitution, but in practice it may work that constitution in such a way that its government is not federal’. Also, as Erk (2004: 3) suggests, ‘the presence of a federation should not blind us to the absence of federalism’. In other words, there may be a federation without federalism. The Nigerian model is argued to be a reflection of such an incomplete federal arrangement.

This article seeks to depict Nigeria as a federation without federalism.  It further seeks to examine the quest of the Nigerian people for an authentic federal system. The starting point, therefore, is to make a conceptual clarification between federalism and federation. This helps to avoid the danger of misapplication and also put the article in a proper theoretical perspective.


Federalism and Federation: Conceptual Clarifications

Federalism, like most Social Science concepts, has no standard definition as it ‘may mean all things to all men’ (Duchacek, 1970: 189). However, the difficulty in defining this concept has not stopped earlier writers from bequeathing to us some valuable definitions. Federalism has been defined variously as a political philosophy and an ideological position (King, 1982: 75); a ‘political principle’ involving ‘the constitutional diffusion of power’ between the central and the constituent governments to achieve ‘self-rule and shared rule’ (Elazar, 1987: 5–6); and a ‘value concept’ that informs federation (Burgess, 1993: 3).

Federalism may mean different things to different people, but what appears to be constant about this political system is the intrinsic principle that distinguishes it from other systems. This principle, which Wheare (1963: 10) called the federal principle, has been defined as the ‘method of dividing powers so that the general and regional governments are each, within a sphere, co-ordinate and independent’. What is meant by ‘independent’ here is that each tier of government has its own independent functions and neither has supreme authority over the other. However, this view poses a problem of applicability because some measures of interdependence and cooperation are necessary for the successful operation of any given federal system. Therefore, federalism refers to a system of government in which powers are shared between the central (federal) government and the federating/constituent/component units (or states as used in Nigeria).

Federation, on the other hand, is a state in which both the central government and the constituent governments ‘rule over the same territory and people and each has the authority to make some decisions independently of the other’ (Riker, 1964: 5).  Also, as King (1982: 77) posits, a federation is a sovereign state in which the central government incorporates governments of regional units into its decision-making procedure on some constitutionally entrenched basis. Thus federation is a state with two or more tiers of government in which there is a constitutional division of power between the central government which is in charge of the whole territory and the constituent units. Given these definitions, therefore, Nigeria is a federation. An average citizen in Nigeria is subjected to at least two main levels of authority: that of the state and the country, but does the federation practice federalism?

The country’s constitution entrenches a clear division of competences between the federal government and the 36 states that make up the federation. There are basically two legislative lists – the exclusive and concurrent lists. Functions not specified in these two are assigned to the state governments as residual functions, and as we know, ‘whoever has the residue, neither general nor regional government is subordinate to the other’ (Wheare, 1963: 12). With this constitutional arrangement, it is not difficult to see the dominance of the federal government or put differently, the subordination of the states to the centre.


Federalism in Nigeria

Nigeria, a previously unitary state, became a federation in 1954. Nigeria’s founding fathers desired a federal political framework, believing that federal states have the structural capacity to accommodate diversity. Besides this desire, there was also the presence of certain socio-economic conditions (Babalola, 2013; Suberu, 2001). Although Riker (1964) had earlier argued against the relevance of these conditions, Babalola (2013) has convincingly argued that Riker’s rejection of social and economic conditions in the creation of the Nigerian Federation is unsustainable. The presence of these factors evidently explains why the initial three-region federation that emerged in 1954 reflected the cultural, political and economic differences among the three largest ethnic groups in the country – the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo – which dominated the then Northern, Western and Eastern Regions respectively.

The role of the country’s military in shaping the character of the Nigerian federation cannot be overemphasised. Before 1966 when the military intervened in the politics of the country through a coup d’état, the constituent units enjoyed substantial political and economic powers. However, the civil war (1967-1970) brought about a number of political and economic measures, which in turn resulted in the federal government assuming a central role, particularly in economic activities. Throughout the war years, the states were subordinated to the centre, ostensibly for the effective control of the various divisions of the military. The central government took over revenue sources previously controlled by the states, thereby contributing to a fall in the states’ revenues. Thus, the concentration of economic powers at the centre resulted in the supremacy of the federal centre as well as the over-centralisation of the federal system.

The oil boom of 1973, which coincided with the era of military rule also increased the economic centrality of the federal government. With the federal government enjoying enormous revenue, particularly from oil sales, the centre became the sole distributor of oil rents, dictating which state got what share of the national oil wealth. The states, in turn, became extensions of the federal government rather than independent tiers of government. By 1999 when Nigeria returned to civilian rule, the character of its federal system had significantly changed from ‘bottom-heavy’, that it used to be at inception to ‘top-heavy’. What exists today is a federation in which the states are fiscally dependent on the centre. This is a negation of the federal principle that enjoins independence among the governments of a federation.

The effect of excessive concentration of revenue at the centre began to manifest in 2015 when state governments started finding it increasingly difficult to balance their budgets. This problem arose when the states began to experience a drop in federal allocations, which is a result of the drop in the price of oil in the international market because public finance is mainly dependent on oil revenue. It is, therefore, not surprising that Nigerians, especially from the south, began to clamour for the practise of ‘true federalism’.


The Clamour for ‘True Federalism’

In Nigeria, true federalism means different things to different people. The newfound  phrase could be better understood using a geo-political lens. Let us begin with the south-west, which is dominated by the Yoruba.

The agitation for true federalism started in the south-west immediately after the annulment of the 1993 presidential election, believed to have been won by a Yoruba man. The Yoruba elite had argued that the election was annulled simply because their northern counterparts were not willing to concede political power to the south. Hence, their vigorous campaign for a ‘power shift’ to the south. By power shift, they meant an end to the northern elites’ stranglehold on political power and, by extension, economic power. However, with a Yoruba man, Olusegun Obasanjo, emerging as the president in 1999, the clamour for power shift became moribund and was replaced with that of ‘true federalism’. By true federalism, the Yoruba elite mean a federal system with a weak centre; a system in which the constituent units are independent of the centre, especially in the fiscal sphere.

The cry of marginalisation has been loud in the south-east, home to the Igbo ethnic group. The Igbo’s position as regards the Nigeria’s federal system is that the system is characterised by lopsidedness, particularly in the allocation of national resources. Another ground of Igbo agitation for true federalism is their perception of non-integration into mainstream politics since the end of the civil war in 1970, citing  lack of federal presence in the region. This sense of lack of belonging informs the views of some pro-self-determination groups like the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) that the Igbo people are no longer interested in being part of Nigeria and should be allowed to secede and form an independent state of Biafra. It is, however, doubtful if the campaign for the resurgence of Biafra is popular among the elite of south-east whose political and business interests cut across the country. By true federalism, therefore, the Igbos of the south-east mean a federal practice that accommodates every ethnic group in the multinational federation.

Similarly, a sense of political and economic marginalisation forms the basis upon which the  minorities in the Niger Delta (or the south-south geo-political zone), where the bulk of Nigeria’s oil is located, persistently demand their own exclusive political space using the euphemism of ‘resource control’ and true federalism. In the Nigerian context, the term resource control means the right of a federating unit to have absolute control over the mineral resources found within its jurisdiction and make contributions to the central government to fund federal responsibilities. The perceived injustice in resource distribution is the main driving force for the struggle for resource control. The oil-producing states have repeatedly argued that Nigeria’s fiscal federalism, which encourages lopsided distributive politics, has been unfair to them. For the people of the Niger Delta, therefore, resource control is a solution to marginalisation. Thus, for the people of this region, true federalism means a federal practice whereby the federating units are allowed to own and manage their resources as they desire.

Seemingly, the northern elite wants the status-quo to remain based on the belief in some quarters that the present system favours its interest. These include the federal character principle, majority representation at the federal level and quota system.



We have been able to demonstrate in this article that central to the agitations for true federalism in Nigeria is about struggle for access to national resources. Oil rents and their distribution have shaped the operation of Nigeria’s federal system and have also contributed largely to the failure of federalism in Nigeria. Nigeria’s history of revenue distribution is about each ethnic group or geo-political region seeking to maximise its share of national resources. One reason for the acrimonious revenue allocation system is that Nigeria’s component units lack viable sources of revenue of their own. Also, the economic disparity that has given rise to unequal development among them is another source of contention. Therefore, any future political reform must ensure the accommodation of the country’s ethnic diversity because this is one of the many ways national unity could be achieved.

As a way out of the over-centralisation of the system, the country’s fiscal federalism should emphasise revenue generation rather than revenue distribution, as this would ensure fiscal viability of the states. Any future reform should be tailored towards the states generating their own revenue and those not endowed with resources should devise strategies to generate revenue from other sources. Internally-generated revenue should only complement a state’s share of federally collected revenue. Moreover, with decentralisation of economic resources, the states would be in relative control of their resources and be less dependent on the centre.

A weakening of the federal centre may not be a bad idea but Nigeria needs a federal system that would ensure the relative supremacy of the central government vis-à-vis the state governments. The size of the federation, as well as its ethnic diversity and economic disparity, requires a relatively strong federal government that would be able to regulate the competition for national resources.

It may be concluded at this juncture that Nigerian federalism is defective and reforms are inescapable. The unending quest for true federalism, political restructuring, and self-determination within the context of the ethnically heterogeneous Nigerian federation will disappear until the political leaders reform the institutions and structures of the federal system to give a semblance of genuine federalism.



Babalola, Dele (2013), “The Origins of Nigerian Federalism: The Rikerian Theory and Beyond”, Federal Governance, Vol. 8, No. 3, 43-54.

Burgess, Michael (1993), “Federalism and Federation: A Reappraisal” in Burgess, M and Gagnon, Alain-G (eds.), Comparative Federalism and Federation: Competing Traditions and Future Directions, New York; London: Harvester Wheatcheaf.

Duchacek, Ivo (1970), Comparative Federalism: The Territorial Dimension of Politics, Lanham; London: University Press of America Inc.

Elazar, Daniel (1987), Exploring Federalism, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press.

Erk, Jan (2004), ‘Austria: A Federation without Federalism’, Publius, The Journal of Federalism, 34: 1, 1-20.

King, Preston (1982), Federalism and Federation, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Riker, William (1964), Federalism: Origin, Operation, Significance, Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

Suberu, Rotimi (2001), Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria, Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press.

Wheare, Kenneth (1963), Federal Government, 4th ed., London: Oxford University Press.


Further Reading

Amuwo, K. et. al., (eds.), (1998), Federalism and Political Restructuring in Nigeria, Ibadan, Nigeria: Spectrum Books Limited and IFRA, 1998

Burgess, M. (2006), Comparative Federalism: Theory and Practice, London, New York: Routledge.

Elaigwu, J.I. (2007), The Politics of Federalism in Nigeria, London: Adonis & Abbey Publisher Ltd.


Posted by Dele Babalola in Case studies, 0 comments
Non-Territorial Cultural Autonomy

Non-Territorial Cultural Autonomy


Non-Territorial Cultural Autonomy (NTCA) advocates the creation of minority rights regimes in societies that are culturally diverse, but which for a variety of reasons are not wholly suited to federal solutions. In this contribution, I examine the long history of NCTA, drawing upon a number of empirical examples to substantiate the claims made by both is supporters and detractors. In the final section, I turn to the contemporary relevance of NCTA, concluding that while assessments on the efficacy of NTCA tend to be rather gloomy, it is a solution that should not be readily dismissed, particularly in a world replete with dysfunctional and failed states.

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Posted by Karl Cordell in Diversity management, Theory, 0 comments
Self-Rule and Shared Rule

Self-Rule and Shared Rule


‘Self-rule’ and ‘shared rule’ are two widely used notions to define, describe and classify federal political systems. In this contribution, I define what these two concepts mean, particularly in the context of federal studies, as well as discuss the different understandings and practices of them. Drawing upon the Regional Authority Index (Hooghe et al. 2016), I present a number of variables that can be used to measure the self-rule and shared rule dimensions of federal political systems.

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Posted by Sean Mueller in Theory, 0 comments
Federalism and Federation: Putting the Record Straight

Federalism and Federation: Putting the Record Straight


The terms ‘federalism’ and ‘federation’ are well entrenched concepts in the political science literature, yet remain contested because in practice people have different understandings of the terms federal, federalism and federation. In this short piece I set out the importance of definitional clarity when discussing the abovementioned terms. Secondly, I discuss the relationship between liberal democracy and federalism, noting that a number of values that undergird federal political systems equally fit with democratic principles. In the final section, I focus on the some of the misunderstood aspects of federalism, using the British case as an empirical example.

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Posted by Michael Burgess in Theory, 0 comments
Linguistic Diversity in Plurinational States

Linguistic Diversity in Plurinational States


This article examines the politics of language in plurinational states. First, I argue that the relationship between language and nationhood is politically constructed through two broad processes: state nation-building and ‘peripheral’ activism. Second, I present three broad strategies of territorial management to accommodate the normative and practical issues derived from the politicisation of languages: self-rule, shared rule, and symbolic recognition. Third, I illustrate the discussion drawing on the paradigmatic cases of Catalonia and Flanders.

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Posted by Daniel Cetrà in Policies, 0 comments
Belgium: The Short Story of a Long History of (In)Stability

Belgium: The Short Story of a Long History of (In)Stability


The history of Belgium since 1830 shows the progressive transformation of a linguistic dynamic in an identity dynamic through the territorialisation of political tensions and then the federalisation of the State, originally a unitary State. This contribution tells the short story of a long history of stability and instability in Belgium.

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Posted by Min Reuchamps in Case studies, 0 comments