BalkanBlog

Cantonisation – a middle course for separatist movements

This year trend in international politics seems to be different separatist movements around the globe. Kosovo’s unilateral proclamation of independence from Serbia last February played a key role in these developments, which we already have seen in Bolivia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia and probably many more waiting to spark. This trend has big potential, because it is estimated that there is about five thousand ethnic groups on globe. I think now it is time and worth to speculate some variations between independent state and occupied territory.

Last week the ethnic Albanian movement ANDI led by Nevzat Haliti made demand that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia rename itself into “Macedonia-Ilirida” in order to reflect ethnic Albanian demands for a formation of their own entity inside the country. The outcome of this has been described also dual-state, which is one more definition of some sort of self-governance.

Definition problem

Most common aim of secessionist movements is state. The general definition of state is, that it is a political association with effective sovereignty over a geographic area and representing a population. The states can be nation states, sub-national or multinational states. In Max Weber’s definition, state is that organization that “claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory”. Status as a state often depends in part on being recognized by a number of other states as having internal and external sovereignty over it.

States wishing to retain territorial integrity in opposition to ethnic or indigenous demands for self-determination or independence sometimes offer or impose limited territorial autonomy. Some +30 states have about 70 territorial autonomies with definitions of autonomous region or island, republic, principality, territorial autonomous unit, Kingdom, autonomous republic, special autonomous province, territorial collectivity, autonomous Monastic state etc. There exist also about 40 non-incorporated territorial autonomies.

Cantonisation

A canton is an administrative division of a country, e.g., a region or state. The most internationally well-known cantons – the Swiss cantons – are theoretically partially sovereign states. Because cantons are generally relatively small in terms of area and population this kind of administrative form could be he best middle way between independent states and occupied territory or tribe-/village-level societies. Of course there is exceptions like Kurdistan which covers area nearly as big as France and has population over 25 million and could claim to be a sovereign state as well than any other one.

Canton or region is a quite good unit in relation to self-governance combining both possibility to local participatory democracy and global activities. Also it is called EU as Union of Regions. Today’s EU Aid does not necessary need state as partner or facilitator. Aid and cooperation can be e.g.

  • Between regions according their living conditions like high mountain regions or periphery regions
  • Between sectors like culture, health etc
  • Between field of activities like agriculture
  • Between private and public institutions like in science
  • Between NGOs of special interest

Canton can have many variations suitable to present day’s complex situations. It can be nation or sub-national unit as well than part of multinational state. If circumstances favor, it can also cover a region with many ethnic groups.

Question about size?

How to estimate the size needed for canton? One aspect is to define population which can carry on some basic services. In Finland there is ongoing reorganization of municipalities because some smaller units can not anymore give social and health services to their inhabitants. From central level is guidelines that for delivering one kind of health services +20.000 inhabitants is needed, for more specialized health services +100.000 is needed. To apply this kind of approach one should first define the level and content of services in particular region and these needs can vary in different part of world.

Bottom line

From point of local self-governance a canton with widest possible autonomy could maybe be solution to manage different separatist activities at international level. The role of state would reduce itself only as one cooperation forum and maybe guarantor of basic minority/civil rights. The most important aspect anyway is that this kind of arrangements can offer a peaceful way out from current and coming conflicts.


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