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Why National Minorities Claim and Why States Grant Self-Government. A Comparative Analysis of Autonomy Building in Western Europe

European Politics
Federalism
Nationalism
Regionalism
Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Christoph Niessen
Université catholique de Louvain
Christoph Niessen
Université catholique de Louvain

Abstract

Most Western European states have a heterogeneous national population and face the challenge of finding the appropriate level of institutional accommodation for their historic national minorities. While multi-level arrangements vary greatly in practice, three overall scenarios can be observed: (1) national minorities claim and obtain self-government, (2) national minorities claim but do not obtain self-government, and (3) national minorities do not even claim self-government. Existing studies focus especially on the first scenario, fewer on the two others and those who do are mostly individual case studies. However, to fully understand what the drivers of autonomy claims are and how states deal with them, a systematic counterfactual cross-case comparison is needed. This paper picks up on this and studies with a Qualitative Comparative Analysis of 51 national minorities in Western Europe (i) which factors led (i) national minorities to claim self-government (resp. not to claim it) and (ii) which factors led states to confer the claimed self-government (resp. not to confer it). Thereby, the research provides important empirical insights on the autonomy dynamics and territorial politics in multi-national states.