Can Minority Non-Territorial Autonomy Work in Practice?

9 June 2021

Hosted by Ljubica Djordjević

Participation is one of the core pillars of minority protection. It does not only underpin preservation of minority identity, but also secures integration of a wider society. There are various channels for minority participation, with autonomy arrangements being one of them. Moreover, autonomy as a concept is perceived as a valuable tool for (internal) self-determination of minority groups that can ease sovereignty claims and prevent the risk of never-ending redrawing of state borders along ethnic lines. In the past decade(s), the concept of non-territorial minority autonomy has gained renewed attention in the academic literature, as a potentially effective means for decoupling ethnicity and territory, for addressing the need of minorities for internal self-determination, and, at the same time, preserving the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state, thus keeping the dominant paradigm of the “nation state” intact.

Although the developed theoretical models appear tempting as offering solutions for some challenging minority situations throughout Europe, the practical effects of the non-territorial arrangements available in Europe are rather limited. First, non-territorial minority autonomy is not widespread in Europe, and second, the existing non-territorial arrangements barely qualify as autonomy or provide only rudimentary autonomy powers for national minorities. Against this background, this online talk explored potentials of non-territorial autonomy, core practical challenges, and prospects for better practical outreach (both widening and deepening) of the concept. It was structured around four main topics: the nexus/tension between the territorial and personal principles in the minority protection; labeling the concept as “autonomy”; membership; and competences: NTA institutions as minority agents.

Exploring and analysing autonomy arrangements is a long-standing research focus at the ECMI. The ECMI developed this research theme mainly thanks to two projects: “Autonomy Arrangements in the World” and “ENTAN: European NonTerritorial Autonomy Network”.


Zsuzsa Csergő

Zsuzsa Csergő is Professor of Political Studies at Queen’s University, Canada. Her research focuses on nationalism, state-minority relations, and issues of democratic government in Central and Eastern Europe. She is the author of Talk of the Nation: Language and Conflict in Romania and Slovakia (Cornell UP, 2007), co-editor of Europeanization and Minority Political Agency (Routledge, 2019) and author/co-author of numerous articles in major journals, including Perspectives on PoliticsForeign PolicyPubliusNations and NationalismEurope-Asia StudiesEast European Politics and Societies, and Problems of Post-Communism. She is currently writing a book about conditions for democratic minority political agency in Central and Eastern Europe. Csergő’s European research fellowships include a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellowship at the European University Institute and a Marie-Skłodowska Curie Fellowship at the University of Graz. She was President of the Association for the Study of Nationalism (ASN) from 2013-19 and is Director of the association’s online initiative, “Virtual ASN.”

Levente Salat

Levente Salat is Professor of Political Science at the Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania and external member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His research focuses on political consequences of diversity, ethnic politics and interethnic relations. He published 4 monographs, edited (or co-edited) 15 books, and had several contributions to collective volumes and journals, mainly in Hungarian, Romanian and English. Among others, he co-edited A New Balance: Democracy and Minorities in Post-Communist Europe (2003), The Romanian-Hungarian Relations and the French-German Reconciliation (2004), Autonomy Arrangements Around the World (2014) and Non-Territorial Autonomy and Decentralization (2020)

David Smith

David Smith is Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK. He is the author of several books and articles on NTA, including Ethnic Diversity and the Nation-State (Routledge 2012, with John Hiden) and in 2020 edited a Special Issue of Nationalities Papers on National Cultural Autonomy in Diverse Political Communities: Practices, Challenges, and Perspectives.

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