Regional empowerment, secessionism and European integration: the cases of Catalonia and Scotland
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One of the main challenges facing multicultural states in today's globalised world is accommodating the various diverse groups living within them. Especially complex are the claims of minority sub-state nations, which demand greater autonomy and in extreme cases want to separate. Recently several regionalist or nationalist movements have become more assertive, and there has emerged a new dimension to the matter – the movements envision independence within the European Union (EU). If a constituent region of an EU member state were to become independent, it would set a precedent. Thus, the aim of this thesis is to analyse the relationship between European integration and secessionism in multicultural states. Building on theoretical insights from multilevel governance, new regionalism and rational choice institutionalism, the thesis analyses the international environment created by European integration, the political and economic empowerment of regions in the EU since the Single European Act, as well as the mobilisation of subnational actors, which pursue their regional interests and demand more powers (including independence). The study is conducted using two cases, Catalonia and Scotland, and finds that they have rationally responded to their changed opportunity structures. Thus, the main result of the analysis is that European integration has strengthened secessionism in multinational states with sizeable geographically concentrated indigenous minority groups, by creating a favourable international environment for small states, and strengthening regions and subnational actors economically and politically.
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