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Debates Forum

  1. 22 May '11 21:11 / 1 edit
    I was thinking about the Northern Ireland thread (to which I didn't dare contribute) and about the discussion of whether NI is an "artificially created exclave" or words to that effect. Similar accusations of artificiality are also sometimes levelled at Israel, with the implication that an "artificial state" has no right to exist. In general, there's an assumption that traditional or historic boundaries are and ought to be sacrosanct. Even when territories do secede, they tend to break up along the lines of traditional borders: for instance, as No1 rightly pointed out in a different thread, when Yugoslavia felt apart, it broke up into its traditional provinces, not into areas of Serb, Croat and Muslim majority settlement.

    But I wondered if this stress on “natural” boundaries does more harm than good. Isn’t it just a recipe for ethnic tension? Should we stop getting so hung up on traditional borders, accept that ethnic populations, national loyalties and political positions are fluid, and make it easier for borders to be redrawn? Should it be accepted in international law that the constituent parts of a nation should be free to secede or to merge with their neighbours?

    I'd propose the following system:

    Any eligible territory (to be defined below) would be permitted to hold a referendum on secession or on union with a neighbour (the latter might be desired if the two regions shared ethnic, linguistic or religious ties). If the referendum passed, the territory would be entitled to secede or to unite after a reasonable transition period. Territories would be considered eligible under the following conditions:

    1) Any province or constituent state should be permitted to secede from the country of which it is part, either in order to become independent or to merge with a neighbouring country subject to the approval of the current citizens of that country.
    2) Any smaller area of a country, down to the size of a municipality, could not claim independence (on the grounds that it would be impractical), but would be permitted to secede and merge with a neighbouring country subject to the approval of that country’s current citizens. Territorial contiguity would be a condition of this (it would be impractical if isolated towns decided to merge with distant countries).

    Of course, no territory meeting the criteria would be obliged to hold a referendum; but a referendum would be triggered after a fixed number of signatures were gathered.

    Any thoughts?
  2. 22 May '11 21:12 / 2 edits
    Possible examples:

    1) Former-Yugoslavia: Serb entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina could unite with neighbouring Serbia; Kosovo could remain independent or, if it chose, unite with Albania, but the Serb-dominated municipalities of North Kosovo would be entitled to unite with Serbia; Macedonia could remain independent or unite with Bulgaria.
    2) Israel: Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza could be incorporated officially into Israel. Israel's Arab-majority Northern Territory would be permitted to secede and join Palestine or Syria, but Jewish-majority municipalities contiguous with the rest of Israel cound remain in the Jewish state (in passing, it might be observed that while the proposal would reduce Israel's territory significantly, it would essentially ensure its continuing status as a Jewish-majority state for the foreseeable future).
    3) Northern Ireland: Would be entitled to determine its status by referendum. Potentially, however, each of Northern Ireland's six counties could vote separately on union with the Republic (likely outcome: four counties would unite with the Republic, leaving a unionist rump consisting of counties Antrim and Down).
    4) Spain: Constituent regions such as the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia would be eligible to secede (Galicia could even unite with Portugal, if Palynka will have them).
  3. 22 May '11 21:13
    Seems I can't edit the thread title! I meant, of course, "redraw"!
  4. 26 May '11 13:54
    Well since sh76 has just shifted his unattended thread back to the top, I'll do the same!

    Surely someone must have some response to this! I mean, it's about Israel, and Northern Ireland, and whether countries are artificial or natural entities... all things that crop out quite frequently and furiously on this forum!
  5. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    26 May '11 14:01 / 2 edits
    I'm not sure this is a recipe against ethnic tension or one that will make it reappear in places that are now relatively calm. Also, immigration would become the easiest way to invade a country, unless we went back to extremely strict immigration laws and deportations. I can see borders becoming more important, rather than less.
  6. 26 May '11 14:11
    I am not sure this would have the effects you necessarily desire.
    It might cause countries to be reluctant to build infrastructure in areas that might wish to leave. Or it might cause wealthy areas to leave to form their own country and leave the poor areas behind. Or it might just cause segreagation when people should learn to live together.
  7. 26 May '11 14:31
    Originally posted by Palynka
    I'm not sure this is a recipe against ethnic tension or one that will make it reappear in places that are now relatively calm. Also, immigration would become the easiest way to invade a country, unless we went back to extremely strict immigration laws and deportations. I can see borders becoming more important, rather than less.
    It's surely unlikely that mass immigration could be choreographed in order to achieve this! After all, in order to vote in a referendum, the relevant populations would have to have citizenship in the first place, and that would be granted, as it is now, at the discretion of the country currently in charge.

    Also, if a group of people really did decide to move into a particular territory to establish an ethnic majority there, then citizens of the original country could do the same to counter it. Since this competition would likely result in stalemate, it would probably be futile to attempt it.

    Thus, border change would only be likely in cases where there's a long-standing ethnic minority, already holding citizenship, in a particular region, ie, where historic territorial boundaries don't coincide with ethnic, linguistic or religious ones.
  8. 26 May '11 14:44
    Originally posted by quackquack
    I am not sure this would have the effects you necessarily desire.
    It might cause countries to be reluctant to build infrastructure in areas that might wish to leave. Or it might cause wealthy areas to leave to form their own country and leave the poor areas behind. Or it might just cause segreagation when people should learn to live together.
    These are valid objections. Especially the comment about wealthy areas seeking to secede - we already see hints of this in the outlook of Italy's Northern League.

    The question about infrastructure is interesting - but then, there have been complaints already that central governments tend to neglect regions populated by ethnic minorities of resources (examples include Russian-populated Narva in Estonia and Daugavpils in Latvia, which often protest that they are left relative underresourced by governments in Tallinn and Riga). Indeed, it could be argued that if the central government feared that regions populated by ethnic minorities would secede, there would be more reason to divert resources to those regions in order to retain them.
  9. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    26 May '11 15:03
    Originally posted by Teinosuke
    It's surely unlikely that mass immigration could be choreographed in order to achieve this! After all, in order to vote in a referendum, the relevant populations would have to have citizenship in the first place, and that would be granted, as it is now, at the discretion of the country currently in charge.

    Also, if a group of people really did decide to ...[text shortened]... ere historic territorial boundaries don't coincide with ethnic, linguistic or religious ones.
    Well, governments have paid citizens to move to occupied areas. It's not a big stretch that they should do the same when a mechanism like this is put in place. There are already accusations that countries do push immigration to achieve independence, if a mechanism like this were in place the accusations would certainly not be smaller and neither would ethnic tensions. There are also many places where there's no clear ethnic majority and I can only see conflict coming out of this.

    As for the rest, it confirms what I said. Countries would be much less willing to grant citizenship (even generations born in the territory) and so integration would suffer.
  10. 26 May '11 15:35
    If there is a (large) majority in a certain region who wants to be independent or join up with some other sovereign nation then they should be able to.

    "Historic" borders are a recipe for conflict and under no condition should some group of people be able to claim some territory based on previous borders, unless the first condition is satisfied.
  11. 26 May '11 15:52
    Originally posted by KazetNagorra
    If there is a (large) majority in a certain region who wants to be independent or join up with some other sovereign nation then they should be able to.

    "Historic" borders are a recipe for conflict and under no condition should some group of people be able to claim some territory based on previous borders, unless the first condition is satisfied.
    Is there any protection for the minority who wants the status quo?
  12. 26 May '11 16:34
    Originally posted by quackquack
    Is there any protection for the minority who wants the status quo?
    Yes, obviously I prefer a stable democracy to a tyrannical regime, but that's not really the point.
  13. 26 May '11 17:05
    Originally posted by KazetNagorra
    Yes, obviously I prefer a stable democracy to a tyrannical regime, but that's not really the point.
    All national - states rights disputes are not about tyranies; they could simply be about taxation or social issues like abortion and immigration. Staten Island wanted to withdraw from New York City over taxation issues. I don't think they were claiming to be oppressed in the strictest sense.
  14. 26 May '11 17:11
    Originally posted by quackquack
    All national - states rights disputes are not about tyranies; they could simply be about taxation or social issues like abortion and immigration. Staten Island wanted to withdraw from New York City over taxation issues. I don't think they were claiming to be oppressed in the strictest sense.
    I don't think there is a large majority in Staten Island who wants to secede from the USA.
  15. 26 May '11 17:17
    Originally posted by KazetNagorra
    I don't think there is a large majority in Staten Island who wants to secede from the USA.
    Not after being part of the country for 200+ years. But I could see them wanting to leave New York City. For newer countries issues that would lead to seceding would be much smaller. There is damages from threats even if they ultimately are not carried through.