multinational federalism

Secession and Federalism: A Chiaroscuro

Secession and Federalism: A Chiaroscuro


The relationship between federalism and secession might be regarded as antithetical but is an unavoidable fact in multinational political communities. Integration and disintegration are both possible trends in a federation. Recent political events in Catalonia show the salience of independence claims, a political phenomenon already experienced by other countries such as Scotland or Quebec. Liberal democracies evolve and debates on self-government and self-determination cannot be discussed as they were decades ago. Constitutional right to secede is extremely rare, however we can find good reasons both in constitutional and normative analysis supporting democratic self-determination. Minority nations, as permanent minorities, claim for liberal guarantees to protect them from majorities, but also democratic rights to express their views on their constitutional future. Pacts are the basis of any political agreement and any federal arrangement requires individual and collective compromises to be respected.



Wo viel Licht ist, ist starker Schatten

[Where the light is brightest, the shadows are deepest]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If federalism has fifty shades, secession is certainly one of them. The long shadow of disintegration hangs over (almost) every current or past federation in the world. The emergence of independent States out of former federal units has been a common outcome of collapsed federations. Perhaps due to these historical precedents, federalism and secessionism are generally seen as antithetical trends since they are considered to be pushing in different directions.

Federal political systems are “shared rule plus self-rule” (Elazar 1987) institutional designs aiming at either “holding together” (India or Belgium) or at “coming together” (Switzerland, US, EU) (Stepan 2005). Some of them are plurinational, although a majority claim to be mononational[2] (Requejo 2005). Conversely, secession implies a breaking up of the status quo. That is, creating a new State on a piece of territory formerly belonging to another State (or federation of States). Therefore, it entails a transfer of sovereignty from a parent State to a new political unit (Pavkovic and Radan 2007), which is the reverse of any “coming together” federation and the undesired outcome of a system that is “holding together”.

In spite of these contradictions, pro-independence movements (and secessions) are an inescapable part of plurinational federal political systems. First, federalism has often been used to accommodate diversity, with minority nations typically living in federal regimes or at least in States with a certain degree of political decentralisation. Second, centripetal and centrifugal forces are part of any plurinational federation’s political life. Third, debates on secession and national pluralism are always mediated by local understandings of what federalism really means. Burgess (2006) makes a distinction between Anglo-American traditions and Continental traditions of federal thought. Some European countries seem closer to the Catholic notion of “subsidiarity” and Bodinian unique sovereignty; while the Anglo-American tradition would certainly seem to be influenced by the Protestant “covenant” tradition, which would give certain flexibility to sovereignty negotiations. The language of federalism is not only varied but is also constantly evolving and being renewed from a historical perspective (Norman and Karmis 2005).

The Right to Secede in a Federation

Regulations on the right to secede are extremely rare[3], but if they do exist, it is normally in a federal context. Ethiopia and St. Kitts and Nevis have regulations on the right to secede, and the EU Treaty of Lisbon includes Article 50 that contemplates withdrawal from the Union. Apart from these cases, recent regulations on self-determination and secession demands include the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1998 Opinion on the secession of Quebec[4] and the 2000 Clarity Act in Canada. [5]  Another is the 2012 Edinburgh agreement on the 2014 Scottish independence referendum in the context of Scotland’s devolution scheme. [6] Former federations, such as the USSR, also included the right of constituent units to secede.[7]

Instances such as the dissolution of the USSR or the passing of the Canadian and UK legislation raise one crucial question (although there are others): does the right to secede foster secessionism in a federation? Broadly speaking, there are two answers to this question.

Bauböck (2000) argues that the virtue of federalism is precisely to replace self-determination by self-government for minority nations; therefore federalism must exclude secession rights and strengthen self-government. From a more legal perspective, Sunstein (1991, 2001) has famously argued against “secession clauses” in federal constitutions since, in his view, such clauses would lead to strategic behaviours (blackmail) and would undermine the constituent units’ commitment to the constitutional pact from the very beginning.

However, these arguments have been refuted by other authors, who claim the contrary. Kymlicka (2001: 224) stresses the virtues of self-government and federal agreements and affirms that:

the goal shouldn’t be to provide iron-clad guarantees of existing state borders (which cannot be done in a free and democratic society), but rather on providing firm guarantees that the rights of internal minorities will be protected in the event that state borders change, and that the majority group will survive as a nation even if it loses some minority territory.

Moreover, a “secession clause” can actually help to keep talk of secession out of the political debate and to provide actual commitment to the Constitution by defining a clear “way out”, thus preventing potential blackmail (Weinstock 2001; Norman 2006). These views in favour of “constitutionalising” secession seem to be more consistent with some moral approaches formulated by political philosophers. Approaches based on Kantian moral individualism tend to be more reluctant to accommodate these policies than Hegelian approaches that include a commitment to the politics of recognition (Requejo 2013).


Normative Accounts on the Right to Secede in Federations

The moral ground for the right to secede is generally presented as a conditioning factor. Buchanan (2004) justifies a right to unilateral secession when an existing intrastate agreement has been breached by the Central/Federal government, thus endangering the rights of the self-governing minority. Similarly, Seymour (2007) equates the right to secede with external self-determination. While internal self-determination should be a primary right of minority nations, external self-determination would only be justified in the context of an absence of internal self-determination. Equal recognition, proposed by Patten (2014) is another moral foundation of minority rights. When equal recognition is not fulfilled, there will potentially be more ground for claiming a right to secede.

In my opinion, these theories use a common positive intuition by placing fairness at the centre of any justification of secession rights in a federation (Sanjaume-Calvet 2016). However, defining the right as a “remedy” to injustice, clearly a Lockean approach, has some important problems.

Aside from domestic legislation, justice can be defined by international standards; however, the parent State, or the majoritarian nation within the federation, will always be the one that defines the terms of a “just” accommodation in times of conflict with a minority. That is, the parent State has the last word on “what is just”. Moreover, the only legitimate actor in the international arena is the State, not the minority. Therefore, given the fact that secession demands, especially peaceful ones, are often regarded as domestic affairs, minorities tend to be at the mercy of their own parent state. This has important implications since in the eyes of the parent State or the majority group, these kinds of demands are easily labelled as an unfair claim or even a “vanity secession”.[8]

Furthermore, in the absence of a clear “just” ground to claim external self-determination (i.e. human right violations, forceful annexation, breach of self-government agreements, absence of internal self-determination…) this kind of approach might be undemocratic when taken at face value. In a hypothetical case in which a territorial minority in a given federal unit has 90% support for secession but the parent State refuses to grant any legal path or agreement regarding this demand, there would be no legitimacy to unilaterally secede, since there is an absence of a “just cause”. Democratic support in itself cannot be claimed as a ground for unilateral secession in this approach. How can consent be a criterion that is absent from a theory of self-determination?

Real world cases, however, are more complicated. Normally the “just cause” is contested at parent State level and at the minority internal level; while in the international arena, such conflicts can remain a domestic issue for a long time (Coggins 2014). Moreover, there is (obviously) a correlation between injustice or perceived injustice and support for secessionism. In liberal democracies, support for secession rarely achieves overwhelming majorities (Griffiths 2016), but if it exists for a sustained period of time it can be a proxy for malfunctions (and at least perceived/real injustices) in a political system[9].


Catalan Self-determination

Recent events in Catalonia are an example of these political tensions (Cuadras-Morató, 2016). The 2010 Constitutional Court decision on the Catalan Statute of Autonomy and the recentralisation policies led by the conservative (PP) Government resulted in Catalan political forces developing plans for external self-determination (referendum) and secession (an independent Catalan Republic). Between 2012 and 2015, the central Government, Parliament and courts repeatedly rejected laws and legislative initiatives calling for a referendum on independence or self-government (Gagnon and Sanjaume-Calvet 2016).

In the Catalan regional elections on September 27, 2015, the pro-secession parties achieved 47.74% of the vote. On 1 October 2017, the Catalan authorities organised a unilateral secession referendum. The turnout was around 43% and the Yes vote obtained 90% support. The Catalan Government claimed a secessionist victory and declared independence in two sessions in the Catalan Parliament on 10 and 27 October. The parties that were against independence had called on their supporters to boycott the referendum and did not take part in it. In addition, the Spanish police forces forcefully cracked down on it, causing more than a thousand injuries. Criminal courts and prosecutors charged the entire Catalan Government, several independence leaders, 700 mayors and members of civil society with accusations of sedition and rebellion (these are criminal charges). Two civil society leaders, the Catalan Vice-president and the Catalan Home Affairs Minister remain in pre-trial detention, while the Catalan President and four regional ministers are currently exiled in Brussels. The Spanish Government imposed direct rule over the Catalan region and called for new regional elections. These repressive strategies, far from demobilising secessionism, seem to have had a “double” boomerang effect against the Spanish Government. First, the elections showed solid support for the secessionist forces in Catalonia. In spite of repressive measures and having its leaders imprisoned (or in Brussels), pro-independence parties obtained 47.5% of the vote share and 70 out of 135 seats in the parliament. Second, the most voted party was Ciudadanos (Citizens Party), an anti-secessionist party that obtained 36 seats and a 25.4% vote share, while the ruling party in Central Government and currently the majoritarian force in the rest of Spain, the PP, only won 4 seats and 4.2% of the vote share.

The events in Catalonia show the difficulties faced both by federal governments and by legal or moral theories on secessionism and federalism. The Spanish executive led by Mariano Rajoy, and the main state-wide parties (PP, PSOE, Cs) reject both the right to hold a referendum in Catalonia and/or the existence of a “just cause”. On the one hand, their discourse is based on the Constitutional Court’s interpretation of the 1978 Constitution, stating the existence of a unique sovereignty and framing a self-determination referendum as unconstitutional. On the other hand, the fact is that state-wide parties appoint the central State institutions (including judges) and hold a qualified majority both in Congress and the Senate, effectively blocking any constitutional reform[10].

The Spanish authorities’ reaction to Catalan demands can be defined as a “prohibitionist regime” that can easily turn into a trap in a liberal democracy. Pro-independence candidates are allowed to stand in elections, but cannot promise the execution of their political objectives.



All in all, plurinational federalism and secession seem to exist together in marriage, albeit an unhappy one. Federal relationships are based on pacts. In plurinational contexts, these pacts call for individual but also collective compromises in which a Bodinian conception of sovereignty (as unique and indivisible) has little room. These kinds of conflicts cannot be dealt with in the way that they were 20 or 50 years ago. Minority nations now demand liberal guarantees to safeguard their self-government and insist on the democratic right to express their constitutional views.

It seems urgent that we find both legal and moral paths in order to frame and understand otherness within a given demos (or demoi)[11]. Complex institutional settings must accept their contingency and avoid domination by national groups. However, this does not mean falling into eternal instability. On the contrary, fair mechanisms of power sharing and autonomy can be constructed to prevent break-ups; however, their absence cannot be replaced by the censorship of democratic and liberal rights.


[1] I am grateful to Andrea Romano (Universitat de Barcelona) and Prof. Ferran Requejo (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) for their comments on a first draft of this post.

[2] In this post the words “plurinational” and “multinational” are used as synonymous meaning the existence of multiple nations.

[3] The US Supreme Court famously rejected the right to secede of a State in its ruling Texas vs. White (1869). See: 74 U.S. 700 [accessed on 6th December 2017]

[4] See: Reference re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217. [accessed on 6th December 2017]

[5] See: An Act to give effect to the requirement for clarity as set out in the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference S.C. 2000, c. 26. [accessed on 6th December 2017]

[6] See: [accessed on 6th December 2017]

[7] Article 72 of the USSR constitution affirmed the right of Union republics to feely leave the federation, but in practice there was no law establishing a secession procedure.

[8] This critique has been defined as the “absence of an impartial referee” in these cases. The ICJ has been proposed as a possible candidate to internationally solve this problem since its 2010 opinion on the secession of Kosovo.

[9] The Canadian Supreme Court Opinion on the secession of Quebec in 1998 provided a Solomonic survival guide. A combination of principles was proposed: “democracy, rule of law, federalism and minorities protection” that later on led to the Clarity Act in 2000. Nonetheless, Quebec responded by reaffirming its right to self-determination through the Bill 99, and the French-speaking province has not formally signed the 1982 Constitutional repatriation. In the UK, the 2014 referendum (inspired by the Canadian Clarity Act) returned a clear unionist majority (55%), but instead of defeating the movement for Scottish independence, it fueled the movement (which is strongly pro-EU), which is now reinforced by the UK withdrawal negotiations after the 2016 vote to leave the EU.

[10] See professor Ferran Requejo’s contribution to this project , regarding the Spanish case:

[11] Gagnon (2011) has proposed federalism based on hospitality and habilitation.



Bauböck, Rainer. 2000. «”Why Stay Together? A Pluralist Approach to Secession and Federation”. In Citizenship in Diverse Societies, edited by Will Kymlicka & Rainer Bauböck, 366-94.

Buchanan, Allen E. 2004. Justice, legitimacy, and self-determination: moral foundations for international law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Burgess, Michael. 2006. Comparative Federalism: Theory and Practice. New York: Routledge.

Coggins, Bridget. 2014. Power Politics and State Formation in the Twentieth Century: The Dynamics of Recognition. Cambridge University Press.

Cuadras-Morató, Xavier, ed. 2016. Catalonia: A New Independent State in Europe? A Debate on Secession Within the European Union. Routledge.

Elazar, Daniel J. 1987. Exploring federalism. Tuscaloosa (Ala.): University of Alabama Press.

Gagnon, Alain-G. 2011. L’âge des incertitudes: essais sur le fédéralisme et la diversité nationale. Auteurs UQAM. Collection Prisme. S.l.]: Les Presses de l’Université Laval.

Gagnon, Alain-G., and Marc Sanjaume-Calvet. 2016. «Trois grands scénarios pour la Catalogne au XXIe siècle: autonomie, fédéralisme et sécession». En Repenser l’autodétermination interne, Edited by Michel Seymour, 135-74. Editions Themis.

Griffiths, Ryan D. 2016. Age of Secession. Cambridge University Press.

Kymlicka, Will. 2001. «Federalism and Secession: At Home and Abroad». SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 258439. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.

Norman, Wayne 2006. Negotiating nationalism: nation-building, federalism, and secession in the multinational state. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Norman, Wayne, & Dimitrios Karmis. 2005. Theories of Federalism: A Reader. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Patten, Alan. 2014. Equal Recognition: The Moral Foundations of Minority Rights. Princeton University Press.

Pavkovic, Aleksandar, & Peter Radan. 2007. Creating new states: theory and practice of secession. Aldershot, Hampshire, England ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Requejo, Ferran. 2005. Multinational Federalism and Value Pluralism: The Spanish Case. Routledge.

———. 2013. «Plurinational Federalism and Political Theory». in Routledge Handbook of Regionalism & Federalism, Edited by John Loughlin, John Kincaid, and Wilfred Swenden, 1 edition, 34-44. London: Routledge.

Sanjaume-Calvet, Marc. 2016. «The morality of secession: Secessionist and antisecessionist arguments in the Catalan case», In Cuadras-Morató, Xavier, ed. Catalonia: A New Independent State in Europe? A Debate on Secession Within the European Union. Routledge. 82-106.

Seymour, Michel. 2007. «Secession as a Remedial Right». Inquiry 50 (4):395-423.

Stepan, Alfred. 2005. «Federalism and Democracy: Beyond the U.S. Model». En Theories of Federalism: A Reader, Edited by Wayne J. Norman and Dimitrios Karmis, 255-68. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Sunstein, Cass. 1991. «Constitutionalism and Secession». University of Chicago Law Review 58 (2).

Sunstein, Cass R. 2001. «Should Constitutions Protect the Right to Secede? A Reply to Weinstock». Journal of Political Philosophy 9 (3):350-55.

Weinstock, Daniel. 2001. «Constitutionalizing the Right to Secede». Journal of Political Philosophy 9 (2):182-203.


Further Reading

Cuadras-Morató, Xavier, ed. 2016. Catalonia: A New Independent State in Europe? A Debate on Secession Within the European Union. Routledge.

Kraus, Peter and Joan Verges Gifra (ed.) The Catalan Process: Sovereignty, Self-Determination and Democracy in the 21st Century. Barcelona: Institut d’Estudis de l’Autogovern.

Norman, Wayne 2006. Negotiating nationalism: nation-building, federalism, and secession in the multinational state. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pavkovic, Aleksandar, & Peter Radan. 2007. Creating new states: theory and practice of secession. Aldershot, Hampshire, England ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Posted by Marc Sanjaume-Calvet in Diversity management, Federalism and conflict, 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
Multinational Federalism: How to Measure A ‘Federal Deficit’?

Multinational Federalism: How to Measure A ‘Federal Deficit’?


Multinational (quasi)federations are polities that hold together at least two constituent national partners. Unlike sovereign or majoritarian nations, minority nations that evolve in such federations usually cannot fully empower their societal cultures exclusively with their own autonomous will and institutions. We argue that such inability can lead to a more or less prominent multinational federalism deficit. Indeed, the less a multinational (quasi)federation enables its minority nation(s) to develop and consolidate their respective societal culture, the more likely it is to display such deficit, and vice-versa. But how can we measure such a deficit? We identify six legally oriented pillars that are central for a minority nation to sustain its societal culture. Those pillars, which we operationalise through twelve indicators, form the building blocks of the Societal Culture Index. The Index allows measuring and comparing minority nations by combining normative studies and empirical research.


Multinational (quasi)federations[1] are polities that hold together at least two constituent national partners. In such context, minority nations usually cannot fully empower their societal cultures exclusively with their own autonomous institutions, and the state in which they evolve may thus suffer from a more or less prominent multinational federalism deficit. In this contribution, we first define multinational federalism and consider what are the key normative principles driving it. In a nutshell, we argue that a multinational conception of federalism aims at providing every constituent national partner of the political association with the necessary constitutional powers to develop and consolidate their respective societal culture. Second, we identify six legally oriented pillars that are central for a minority nation to sustain its societal culture. Those pillars, and the twelve indicators that operationalise them, form the building blocks of the Societal Culture Index, which allows measuring and comparing minority nations with regards to their capacity to develop and strengthen their respective societal culture. Third, we briefly introduce the multiple cases that may fit this analytical framework, and discuss of the relevance of the Index.

Multinational Federalism and Minority Nations’ Societal Culture

Just like majoritarian nations, minority nations possess their own “societal culture” (Kymlicka 1995: 53), i.e. they usually have access to legal, political, cultural, and economic institutions making it possible for a given political community to emancipate itself both politically and culturally. A societal culture is usually bound by a specific language and confined within a delimited territory. As Kymlicka (1995) articulates it, a societal culture offers citizens a “context of choice” in order for them to enjoy individual autonomy and liberty. However, contrary to majoritarian nations governing sovereign states, minority nations living within multinational (quasi)federations usually cannot fully empower their societal cultures exclusively by their own will because they are evolving within a larger political state and a more comprehensive legal order.

Majoritarian nations evolving within a sovereign state, if and when they feel threatened or concerned by a given political force – whether it is related to immigration, language or cultural issues, self-determination, etc. – may strengthen and consolidate their societal culture so they can (try to) manage and overcome the identified threat. However, minority nations may only have limited, or even no real legal authority to develop and consolidate their societal culture when confronted with similar struggles. Minority nations living within a multinational state thus tend to express a greater sense of “fragility” or “insecurity” (Gagnon 2014). In turn, if the (minority) partners in such a political association are not considered as equals and cannot develop their respective societal culture, this may lead to a serious deficit in matters of multinational federalism.

To be clear, a federation refers to a political organisation where at least two orders of government “combine elements of shared-rule through common institutions and regional self-rule for the governments of the constituent units” (Watts, 1996: 7). As for federalism, it refers expressly to the normative and theoretical account that justifies the desirability of federations over unitary political systems. As a complex set of ideas underpinning a network of specific institutions and principles, federalism is about finding a balance between centripetal and centrifugal political forces to ensure the fair coexistence of multiple and sometimes conflicting loyalties and (national) identities. Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that federalism is not the same as (political) decentralisation, nor the same as devolution. Indeed, decentralisation and devolution are ways to distribute power in a given state, whereas federalism is a universal and normative principle justifying how such distribution should be done.

Consequently, federalism suggests that a polity must be understood as a form of political association made of multiple partners, in which none shall rule them all. When applied to multinational federalism, we suggest this specifically means that every national partner must enjoy the necessary constitutional abilities to develop and strengthen its societal culture. Otherwise, the federation develops a more or less prominent deficit with regards to the core principles that drive multinational federalism. But how can we measure and compare such a deficit?

A Societal Culture Index for the Study of Multinational Federations

We propose a standardised composite Index for the study and comparison of minority nations’ legal capacity to institutionalise their societal culture within multinational (quasi)federations. In particular, we identify six legally oriented pillars and twelve indicators that are central for a minority nation to exercise a significant degree of autonomy through self-governance by sustaining a dynamic societal culture. Thus, the higher a minority nation scores on the Societal Culture Index, the less the (quasi)federation within which it evolves expresses a multinational federalism deficit, and vice-versa.

On a methodological scale, every institutional pillar – which are of absolute equal value – is combined with two specific indicators to empirically observe its value within the constitutional order (Mathieu and Guénette 2017). Those twelve indicators represent conditions that, if adopted, would greatly contribute to the deepening of the democratic life and the federal ideal in multinational states (Gagnon, 2010: 6), where tensions between the majority and the minorities – as equal partners – would be managed in a constructive manner. Below, we briefly present those six pillars and twelve indicators:

a. National recognition

Following Taylor (1992: 33), we argue that the expression of national identity critically depends on dialogical relations, and that the absence of formal recognition by a “significant other” constitutes a serious moral and political wrong. Within the constitutional order, we focus on:

  1. Mention of recognition
  2. Presence of constitutional asymmetries

b. Linguistic rights

In a neo-Herderian fashion, we argue that language must be understood as a formal “mind-set” that reflects and empowers specific cultural identities. If every partner within the (quasi)federation is to be equal, then the polity should make it possible for multiple cultural identities to flourish. Within the constitutional order, we focus on:

  1. Capacity to declare an official language
  2. Capacity to select the predominant language of its educational system

c. Immigration and integration powers

It is of primary importance for a minority nation to exercise a certain control over immigration rates within its territory, so the national community can provide fair integration for all (Kymlicka, 1995: 285). Within the constitutional order, we focus on:

  1. Capacity to establish its own immigration policy
  2. Capacity to enforce its own selection and integration criteria

d. Fiscal autonomy

For a minority nation “to be autonomous, it is not sufficient to enjoy self-government. The federated state must be fiscally and politically autonomous” (Seymour and Gagnon 2012: 4). Within the constitutional order, we focus on:

  1. Power to raise taxes
  2. Presence of an internal wealth redistribution system within the encompassing state

e. Internal self-determination

If the minority nation is to be considered an equal partner within a multinational (quasi)federation, it must be empowered with the capacity to initiate negotiations and discussions regarding the current constitutional order. The minority nation must also be empowered with the capacity to block a revision that would be against its interests. Within the constitutional order, we focus on:

  1. Capacity to initiate a constitutional revision
  2. Possession of a veto right

f. External self-determination

Within the logic of the right to self-determination (Gagnon 2014, 6), we argue that a minority nation should have the right to initiate a democratic process that may lead to secession, when it lacks formal recognition and if it legally cannot empower nor consolidate its societal culture. Within the constitutional order, we focus on:

  1. Capacity to organise a referendum on its territory
  2. Right to secede

Conclusion: The Societal Culture Index and its Application

The scope of the analytical framework presented here is limited to democratic multinational (quasi)federations in the Western world. Nonetheless, one of its benefits for further research is that comparing the legal capacity of various minority nations to develop their societal culture within the context of a multinational (quasi)federation “may help to identify options that might otherwise be overlooked [and] allow us to foresee more clearly the consequences of particular arrangements advocated” (Watts, 1996: 2).

Consequently, many (quasi)federations and minority nations can be analysed using the Societal Culture Index, such as Québec in Canada, Scotland or Wales in the United Kingdom, Catalonia, Basque Country, Galicia or Navarra in Spain, Alsace, Brittany or Corsica in France, Flanders in Belgium, Jura in Switzerland, Puerto Rico in the United States, South Tyrol or Sardinia in Italy, etc. Indeed, we have already used the Index to study the cases of Catalonia, Québec and South Tyrol. The results we obtained – i.e. Catalonia 4/12, Québec 9.5/12 and South Tyrol 6/12 (see Mathieu and Guénette 2017) – then enabled us to formulate some normative conclusions.

Thus, considering and comparing how minority nations can legally develop their societal culture – so they get to stress less their relative feeling of fragility or insecurity – may precisely help to find and promote better cohabitation frameworks for the prosperity of hospitable multinational (quasi)federations. Therefore, one clear benefit of putting forward a constitutional order that helps minority nations to score as high as possible on the Index, is that governance and democracy would be globally improved in multinational (quasi)federations (Mathieu and Guénette 2017).

Given the fact that a multinational (quasi)federation is made of multiple national partners, pursuing the federal ideal is a wise choice “for achieving the principle of equality in a highly diverse state” (Burgess and Gagnon, 2010: 17). Indeed, for such political associations, being comfortable with the expression of diversity must mean that “the equality of the constituent member states does not necessarily imply sameness of treatment, because this could conceivably contribute to the maintenance of an unjust predicament for a given community in a federal setting” (Ibid: 18). Hence, we argue that a multinational (quasi)federation’s commitment to democracy and federalism is strengthened to the extent that its internal minority nation(s) maximise their score on the Societal Culture Index. As a result, the democratic expression of the political association would emerge both from the central state and the constituent member states.



Burgess, M. and A.-G. Gagnon (2010), ‘Introduction: Federalism and Democracy’, in M. Burgess and A.-G. Gagnon (eds.). Federal Democracies. New York: Routledge, pp. 1-26.

Gagnon, A.-G. (2010), The Case for Multinational Federalism. Beyond the All-Encompassing Nation. New York: Routledge.

Gagnon, A.-G. (2014), Minority nations in the age of uncertainty: new paths to national emancipation and empowerment. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Kymlicka, W. (1995), Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mathieu, F. and D. Guénette (2017), ‘Introducing a Societal Culture Index to Compare Minority Nations’, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, DOI:

Seymour, M. and A.-G. Gagnon (2012), ‘Introduction. Multinational Federalism: Questions and Queries’, in M. Seymour and A.-G. Gagnon (eds.). Multinational Federalism. Problems and Prospects. New York: Palgrave macmillan, pp. 1-22.

Taylor, C. (1992), ‘The Politics of Recognition’, in A. Gutmann (ed.). Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition”. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 25-74

Watts, R. (1996), Comparing Federal Systems in the 1990s. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.


Further Reading

Gagnon, A.-G. and J. Tully (eds.), 2001, Multinational Democracies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Grégoire, J-F. & Jewkes M. (eds.), 2015, Recognition and Redistribution in Multinational Federations, Leuven, Leuven University Press.

Laforest, G. (2014), Interpreting Quebec’s Exile Within the Federation. Selected Political Essays. Bruxelles: Peter Lang.

Mathieu, F. (2017), Les défis du pluralisme à l’ère des sociétés complexes. Montréal: Presses de l’Université du Québec.

Norman, W. (2006), Negotiating Nationalism: Nation-Building, Federalism, and Secession in the Multinational State. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[1] By quasi-federations, we refer broadly to states that, although they might not formally be federations in their political and legal order, have introduced in their constitutional architecture some significant elements of regional self-rule, and sometimes shared-rule (cf. Watts, 1996: 8). The U.K., Spain, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Indonesia, etc., are few examples of such quasi-federations.

Posted by Félix Mathieu and Dave Guénette in Diversity management, 0 comments
‘The whole is other than the sum of its parts’: Cases of Centrifugal Citizenship

‘The whole is other than the sum of its parts’: Cases of Centrifugal Citizenship


This piece looks at what happens to citizenship when multilevel polities fall apart. Introducing the notion of ‘centrifugal citizenship’ to describe such cases, it uses the experience of the former Yugoslav republics to show all the possible consequences for individuals from the loss of status and the associated rights. The last section of the piece briefly contextualises such centrifugal citizenship in the debates related to the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.



Citizenship is a structured relationship between an individual and their polity, be it a city, sub-state entity, state, or a supranational organisation (Miller 2000).  It entails reciprocity of rights and obligations. Citizens ensure the legitimacy and intergenerational continuity of the polity. They also sustain its day-to-day functioning by paying taxes and deciding on its political future. In return, they receive protection inside and outside of its borders and a bundle of socio-political

rights, including the right to vote and welfare protection. Against this background, the objective of this contribution is to look at how citizenship issues play out in disintegrating multilevel polities. The experience of the former Yugoslav republics offers insights helpful for understanding the debates related to the United Kingdom’s (UK) departure from the European Union (EU). Both in the domain of the status and of the rights of citizenship, the relationship between the polities that were once in a ‘citizenship constellation’ defines the rules for inclusion and exclusion.

Citizenship in Multilevel Polities

Citizenship is particularly complex in multilevel polities as it regulates the position of individuals in two or more overlapping political communities. Rainer Bauböck (2010: 848) has described such a circumstance as a ‘citizenship constellation’. A ‘citizenship constellation’, can either be horizontal (individuals linked to two or more polities through migration) or vertical  (in states formed by subnational polities, such as federations, confederations, unions of states; or in supranational polities established by states, including the European Union, the Union of South American Nations). In vertical ‘citizenship constellations’, matters of status and rights are determined by the relationship between the encompassing polity (e.g., the EU) and its constituent parts (e.g., Member States).

This structure opens up avenues for the individual to navigate in the new political space crafted out of rights and obligations beyond the borders of his or her ‘original’ polity. That is, while ‘the whole’ exists, it is ‘other than the sum of its parts’. Not greater, but different in nature. As the Gestalt psychologists from whom this phrase originates argued, the relationship between the ‘whole’ and its ‘parts’ is binary and concentric. On the one hand, the composition of the parts determines how we will see and experience the whole; on the other hand, the way in which the whole is seen will determine the interpretation of its constituent parts. As a consequence, individuals are at the centre of political structures containing several layers of legal statuses that determine rights within and beyond their borders. If their core polity (i.e. the polity that determines all of their other statuses) detaches from the nested polity, or the latter falls apart completely, the questions of status and rights become highly salient. Hence I refer to ‘centrifugal citizenship’ as processes of attribution of status and determination of rights in cases of secession or disintegration of multilevel polities.

Individuals confined to the borders of their core polity at the time of its departure from ‘the whole’ continue to exercise their rights in the core polity and commonly have a secure a status after secession. Their position is reasonably straightforward. By contrast, individuals who have established themselves outside the borders of their core polity owing to the rights of multilevel citizenship are in a more complex position. As will be illustrated by the case of the former Yugoslavia, status and rights of these people are commonly malleable and determined by the relationship between the rump and the seceded polity.

Centrifugal Citizenship in the Former Yugoslavia

The former Yugoslavia had two-tiered citizenship, consisting of the federal and republican levels. As in most federal states, the republican citizenship was derived from the federal level, which had primacy in the hierarchy of citizenships. This had two practical implications. First, a simultaneous acquisition of the status of citizenship at both levels was necessary and automatic. That is, any holder of the federal Yugoslav citizenship would at the same time be a citizen of one of its republics. In many cases, but not always, the republican citizenship would be linked to the place where the person had settled. Dual citizenship among republics was not allowed. Second, the rights of citizenship originated from the federal level, but their implementation depended on the republics. This implies that the two levels of citizenship were tightly coupled.

As a consequence, experiences and legacies of the ‘citizenship constellation’ of the former Yugoslavia have shaped the citizenship of its successor states. This ‘centripetal citizenship’ was most manifest during the Yugoslav break-up in the early 1990s, when the initial determination of the status depended on the republican citizenship (Stiks 2006). This approach differentiated the post-Yugoslav states from the countries carved out of the Soviet Union, since the latter applied the ‘zero option’ for citizenship. The ‘zero option’ for citizenship meant that all persons legally residing in a country at the time of its independence would automatically receive its citizenship. Yet driven by nationalism that underpinned the Yugoslav break-up, the first wave of the post-Yugoslav states (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) granted citizenship automatically to those who were registered as citizens of the respective republics, but not to those who were residents. For example, a person who was a registered citizen of Macedonia but resided in Croatia would be granted a Macedonian citizenship. This approach proved to be highly exclusionary, due to high intra-republican migration in the socialist Yugoslavia, which was not adequately recorded by the republics’ authorities. Thus, those people most at risk were those who spent decades in a republic other than that of their citizenship but never registered residency there, or changed their republican citizenship. In fact, registration was not key to the exercise of individual rights in cases of free movement among republics, as many rights could be enforced in the space covered by the ‘citizenship constellation’.

Perhaps the most famous such case was that of the ‘Erased’ in Slovenia. These were citizens of the other former Yugoslav republics who had long term factual residence in Slovenia and another republic’s citizenship at the time of independence. Under Article 40 of the 1991 Citizenship Act of Slovenia, they were granted six months to apply for Slovenian citizenship. If they failed to do so, they were removed from the Register of Permanent Residents with long-term consequences on the exercise of their rights, including the franchise, welfare, and education.[1]

Citizenship issues also featured prominently in the disintegration of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro (successor to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between 2003 and 2006). Unlike in the former Yugoslavia, multilevel citizenship in this state was not federal. The State Union of Serbia and Montenegro never formally established its second tier of citizenship, but relied on citizenship regimes of the constituent states (Article 7 of the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro). That is, each of the two constituent states had its own citizenship legislation, and decided on its membership. As noted by Dzankic (2010) and Rava (2010), the citizenship laws of Serbia and Montenegro diverged significantly (e.g., while Serbia is open to dual citizenship, Montenegro is not). This is similar to the structure of the nested EU citizenship, whereby membership in the encompassing polity is conditional upon membership in the differently regulated national polities.

The 2006 independence of Montenegro resulted in difficult circumstances for a number of people who lived in Montenegro with the citizenship of Serbia. To gain citizenship in the newly established state, most were required to renounce their Serbian citizenship, or re-register as permanent residents. In some cases, such as the Roma or refugees from Kosovo, this registration process was cumbersome. Having sought refuge in Montenegro in the late 1990s, these people did not possess the documents necessary to cross the (newly international) border between Montenegro and Serbia. As they were unable to obtain physical evidence of citizenship renunciation, they could not register as citizens and access the related rights.

EU Citizenship and the Departure of the UK

Citizenship of the European Union (EU Citizenship) is a multilevel citizenship. It was established in 1992 through provisions of the Maastricht Treaty which codified the rights of citizens of the Member States across the Union. These rights include, among others, the freedom of movement and residence, the right to non-discrimination on grounds of nationality, voting rights in municipal and European Parliament elections, consular protection by another EU country, etc. They are exclusive to individuals possessing the nationality of one of the Member States. That is, EU Citizenship is additional to and dependent on national citizenship (Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, TFEU).

In June 2016, a majority of citizens in the UK voted in favour of the UK withdrawing from the EU. Given the dependence of the status of EU Citizenship on the country’s membership of the Union, the departure of the UK inevitably raises the question of what will happen to individuals who have exercised their freedom of movement to or from the UK while the country was still a Member State. According to the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2015), there are 3.3 million EU citizens living in the UK and 1.2 million UK citizens living in other EU Member States. Negotiating what status and rights these 4.5 million people will have after the decoupling of national and EU Citizenship, therefore, will be an important aspect of the two-year negotiations foreseen under Article 50 of the TFEU.

As in other cases of centrifugal citizenship, it is unlikely that the negotiated statuses will apply to those who decide to exercise freedom of movement past a certain date (presumably the day when the UK ceases to be an EU Member State). While there have been initiatives and petitions to secure a personal associate EU Citizen status for all UK nationals, such a motion would require a proportionate action by the UK government. Hence the transitory provisions that will be negotiated are most likely to apply to individuals who have acquired rights in the UK or in the EU through free movement of persons. These will include rights related to the prospect of residence or citizenship rights, as well as participation in local and European political processes.

In Lieu of a Conclusion

Secession and state disintegration raise a number of conceptual and legal questions. Citizenship is the core one, not the least because it is at the heart of a democratic polity, but also because it affects lives of individuals. The experience of the disintegration and secession in the post-Yugoslav space provides a valuable lesson in this respect. That is, that centrifugal citizenship might result in marginalisation or exposure to statelessness. Therefore, avoiding adverse consequences for UK citizens in the EU, and EU citizens in the UK, needs to be an important concern (rather than a bargaining chip) for both UK and EU policymakers negotiating the former’s exit from the Union.



Bauböck, R. (2010). Studying citizenship constellations. Journal of ethnic and migration studies, 36(5), 847-859.

Džankic, J. A. (2010). Transformations of Citizenship in Montenegro: a context-generated evolution of citizenship policies. CITSEE Working Paper 2010/03. University of Edinburgh.

Miller, D. (2000). ‘Citizenship and national identity’. In Democracy: A Reader edited by Ricardo Blaug, John Schwarzmantel. Polity Press: Cambridge.

Rava, N. (2010). Serbia: elusive citizenship in an elusive nation-state. CITSEE Working Paper 2010/08. University of Edinburgh.

Stiks, I. (2006). Nationality and citizenship in the Former Yugoslavia: from disintegration to European integration. Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 6(4), 483-500.

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2015). Trends in International Migrant Stock: Migrants by Destination and Origin,

Further reading

Henderson, A., Jeffery, C., & Wincott, D. (eds.). (2013). Citizenship after the nation state: Regionalism, nationalism and public attitudes in Europe. Springer.

Maas, W. (ed.). (2013). Multilevel citizenship. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Shaw, J., & Štiks, I. (2012). Citizenship in the new states of South Eastern Europe. Citizenship studies, 16(3-4), 309-321.




[1] In the 2010 judgment Kuric and others v. Slovenia (26828/06), the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the removal of applicants from the register constituted a violation of the right to private and family life and the right to an effective remedy (articles 8 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms).

Posted by Jelena Dzankic in Policies, 0 comments
Is Spain a Federal Country?

Is Spain a Federal Country?


In this contribution we examine the federal characteristics of the Spanish case. Having initiated a process of political decentralisation as an integral pillar of the democratic transition, it is often posited that Spain is a federation, or quasi-federal country. Employing a comparative perspective this article argues that while Spain shares some federal features, many core elements are absent in the Spanish case.

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Posted by Ferran Requejo in Case studies, 0 comments