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Justifying state creation within federations: a comparative study of internal secession in India, Canada and Switzerland

Anthony Gilliland
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Anthony Gilliland
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Open Panel

Abstract

Secessions within federations have occurred in some of today’s liberal democratic federal states. Furthermore demands for new constituent states in liberal democracies, such as India, continue. In addition, in the context of growing European integration claims for independence within Europe, that is independence from a state but not form the EU, are gaining strength (at least at a rhetorical level) among minority nationalist parties in some of the larger European multinational states (such as the SNP in Scotland and Esquerra in Catalonia). Yet to date, theories of secession have restricted secession to the creation of new states in the global international community not considering the possibility of the existence of shared sovereignty be it in a federation or other federal arrangement. Hence no adequate theory to provide a framework in which the legitimacy of internal secession claims can be examined exists. Where a federal pact exists, the moral grounds for justifying secession which occurs within the pact must necessarily be somewhat different to those that have been provided by existing theory on secession (focused on secession from the pact). This paper addresses, from a political theory point of view, what are the grounds that can justify internal secession in liberal democratic federations. The paper addresses this by examining the clearest cases of internal secession that have occurred in the liberal democratic federal states: those in India, Canada and Switzerland in comparative perspective. It examines the process, the debates and the solution proposed seeking to identify the underlying principles that have provided the moral justification for secession. Having done that it raises the need for further discussion on whether such principles can be extracted to provide useful insights into claims for constituent unit status within other federal arrangements and not just federations.