Pluralism of pluralisms [Post 17]

Europe: natives and settlers

Europe embraces on the surface a cosmopolitan society that accepts state sovereignty. In fact and in law, the European continent seems to have settled most historical differences between nations. Curiously, despite long periods of democratic governments, social, political, legal and financial stability in comparison to most areas in the world and the existence of the most developed (legally and politically) supranational entity in the globe, the European Union, there are still several unresolved territorial disputes. A common theme to all of them is civil societies that have clearly expressed their political wishes to either be independent or be part of one of the claiming states.

The territorial disputes in Europe very briefly sketched below all involve divided societies (i.e. two ethnic or national groups living in the same or adjacent territory, neither of which wants to belong to a state dominated by the other).[1] Arguably, “cultural shared sovereignty”[2] offers all the claimants a certain degree of participation, but in fact can result in mutual exclusion. Human rights with regard to minorities are at the core of these kind of arrangements. However, territorial disputes are not only a question of human rights. The final question about sovereignty over a disputed territory, even in cases such as Gibraltar that on the surface seem to be closer to a definitive and peaceful solution, remains unanswered; and, in fact, some territorial disputes may leave aside completely questions about human rights, as when the competing parties are dictatorships. When societies are divided, national and regional leaders play a major role in the initiation and continuation of territorial disputes.

Crimea, as a territorial dispute, has many layers. It is clear there are domestic, regional and international issues at stake. Historical, sociological, ethnic and religious ties are present. Geostrategic location is key for many parties, not only Russia and Ukraine. In addition to the Crimean “local” crisis in which we may recognize three agents that is Crimea, Ukraine, and Russia, this dispute has larger repercussions geographically, politically, and culturally speaking for the region and potentially for the whole globe.[3]

Three salient issues characterize Gibraltar as a territorial dispute for the purpose of this monograph: the populations in Gibraltar and in La Línea, which form two very different collective identities with deep gaps between their economy that generate social movements; the European Union in light of Brexit; and overlapping maritime areas.

Unsurprisingly, the historical narratives are different depending on the point of reference. Turkish Cypriots center on their exclusion from government and certain areas of the islands by the Greeks.[4] Greek Cypriots highlight their removal by Turkish military.[5] Since 1974, displaced Greek Cypriots have claimed their right to return.

Northern Ireland introduces two clearly defined sectors, that of the nationalists, mainly Roman Catholics, and that of the unionists, mainly Protestants. There are two communities existing within a single state (or in the case of Northern Ireland, in a single sub-sate) which deal with their divisions by sharing the exercise of political authority.

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Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty. International Law and Politics (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020).

Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017).

Friday 07th May 2021

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @DrJorge_World

[1] Anthony Oberschall, “Preventing Genocide,” Contemporary Sociology 29 (2000): 1-13.

[2] See Jorge E. Núñez, Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue. London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017, chapter 3.

[3] Mikhail A. Molchanov, “Ukraine and the European Union: a Perennial Neighbour?” Journal of European Integration 26:4 (2004): 451-473.

[4] Ronald Fisher, “Cyprus: The Failure of Mediation and the Escalation of an Identity-Based Conflict to an Adversarial Impasse,” Journal of Peace Research 38:3 (2001): 307-326.

[5] Joseph S. Joseph, Cyprus: Ethnic Conflict and International Politics: From Independence to the Threshold of the European Union (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997); Michael A. Attalides, Cyprus: Nationalism and International Politics (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979).

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