all towns are one, all men our kin.
|Home||Whats New||Trans State Nation||One World||Unfolding Consciousness||Comments||Search|
Home > Tamils - A Trans State Nation > Nations & Nationalism > The Strength of an Idea > Self Determination > Nations & Nationalism > Fourth World - Nations without States - Stateless Nations >Paradiplomacy and stateless nations: a reference to the Basque Country
FOURTH WORLD - NATIONS WITHOUT A STATE
Paradiplomacy and stateless nations:
Unidad de Políticas Comparadas (CSIC)
One of the less often discussed features of multinational societies is the effort of their constituent segments to become active internationally. Regional governments developing a foreign policy and conducting international relations, a phenomenon sometimes called ‘paradiplomacy’, is not unique to multinational societies; however, it is in this type of societies that the international activity of regions is most intense. This article argues that this is because paradiplomacy is primarily a function of stateless nationalism.
It suggests that the processes of nationalism (identity construction, interest definition/articulation and political-territorial mobilization) logically lead to regional governments seeking the development of an international personality, and specifies the theoretical links.
It argues that paradiplomacy serves as a means for identity- and nation-building; that it sustains and promotes specific interest definitions such as cultural preservation; and that the inter-governments conflicts it involves provides opportunities for political-territorial mobilization.
The article also suggests that the link between nationalism and paradiplomacy is conditioned by domestic and international opportunity structures: institutional and constitutional contexts; national representational arrangements and foreign policy agenda; continental regimes; the structure of the international system; and so on.
In other words, structural contexts can provide opportunity for action for, and impose constraints on, regions, and therefore shape the ability of segments of multinational societies to operate on the international scene. These theoretical arguments will be highlighted using the case study of the Basque Country. The empirical analysis draws from statements about international relations contained in the programmes of Basque nationalist parties.
It has more recently become a striking characteristic of the Belgian political system as the Flemish and Walloon governments have, since the formal federalization of 1993, developed their own foreign policy and conducted their own international relations.
In Spain, Catalonia and the Basque Country have been developing, according to the provisions of their own Statutes of Autonomy, a significant international presence. These developments have not gone unnoticed per se; rather, they have been associated with seemingly similar outcomes in other decentralized countries such as Australia, Germany and the United States and treated under the wider rubric of paradiplomacy, that is, the foreign policy/international relations of regional governments.
There is nothing inherently flawed in considering the international activity of Québec, Flanders or Catalonia in relation to that of Queensland, Baden-Wurtemberg, and California, nor is it necessarily problematic to view all of those cases as instances of paradiplomacy.
It marginalizes the importance of nationalism in explaining the breadth, scope and intensity of regions international activity in the former and its absence, or lesser prominence in the latter. Consequently, paradiplomacy, at least in its most developed form, needs to be re-conceptualized through a theoretical linkage with sub-state or stateless nationalism.
Domestic and international structural contexts play an important role in conditioning the consequences of nationalism for regions operating internationally, and also in determining the likelihood of paradiplomatic activity in the absence of nationalism. This section suggests that regional autonomy, constitutional frameworks and the national foreign policy agenda are the crucial elements of this domestic context while political and/or economic continental regimes and the behaviour of foreign states and regions represent key elements of the international environment shaping paradiplomacy.
The third section examines the case of the Basque Country. It begins by discussing Basque nationalism and then shows how it is at the core of historical as well as contemporary Basque paradiplomacy. In addition to linking nationalism in the Basque Country to paradiplomacy, this section highlights the importance of such elements of the institutional environment as the EU, the French Pays Basque, the Basque Centres, the Autonomous Community system, and the Spanish foreign policy agenda in explaining and shaping Basque international relations.
and the International Agency of Regions
The first, and most straightforward, is to include variables such as global economic/technological change and supranational integration into an explanation for the presence and nature of nationalist/regionalist movements in Western societies.
This angle of analysis has been the most popular as scholars are increasingly recognizing the importance of establishing causal relationships between external variables and domestic outcomes. It generally leads to suggestions that contemporary territorial politics is transformed by the international context, and therefore qualitatively different from earlier regionalist and nationalist movements (Keating, 1998; Moreno, 1999, Loughlin et al, 2001).
Regional governments operating beyond national borders is not a new phenomenon. Many American states from the South developed an international presence as early as the late 1950s to stimulate export and attract foreign investment while their Northern counterparts followed in the mid-1970s for similar reasons (Kincaid, 1999).
Québec became internationally active in the wake of the 1960s Quiet Revolution; other Canadian provinces, most importantly Ontario and Alberta, did the same, albeit in a much more limited fashion, in the 1970s (Bélanger, 1994; Bernier and Thérien, 1994).
Nevertheless, the international activity of regional governments, often called paradiplomacy, has acquired new prominence in the 1990s. In all of the cases previously mentioned, and others such as Australian states (Ravenhill, 1999), the scope and intensity of paradiplomacy has greatly increased in the last few years.
Regions open offices and conduct ‘trade missions’ abroad;
become involved in regional/international organizations; participate in
regional/international conferences; establish bilateral relationships with
states and other regions; and so on. This new prominence is the result of both
domestic and international change: domestically, crucial processes include a
surge in territorial politics and institutional transformations towards
de-centralization, while internationally they correspond to economic
globalization and the construction of supra-national institutions. Of foremost
importance is the fact that these processes feed off each other to put pressure
on central states and empower regions.
This linkage probably derives from the fact that scholars of federalism were the first to write on paradiplomacy, and that international relations specialists who have also taken interest in the topic tend to have as their central research question the role of constituent units in the foreign policy-making of federal states (Michelmann and Soldatos, 1990; Hocking, 1993).
While there is most certainly a connection between federalism
and paradiplomacy, the idea that the former can essentially explain the latter
is questionable. Constituent units of federal (or decentralized) states may
conduct paradiplomacy, but not all regions of a same state develop international
personalities. Furthermore, those regional governments which have been most
active internationally (Québec, Flanders, Wallonia, Catalonia, the Basque
Country) share one common feature: nationalism.
The first process is identity construction and consolidation. Nationalism is a form of identity politics. It involves establishing boundaries between groups by providing objective markers such as language with subjective meaning. Identities are constructed and consolidated through a variety of mechanisms whose relative importance vary from one situation to another: cultural change, institutional development, socio-economic transformations, or political context/competition.
However, above and beyond these structural variables, the
articulation, and therefore construction, of the identities underlying
nationalism is ultimately the product of discursive practices. Creating and
shaping national identities necessitates ‘speaking the nation’, that is,
promoting the idea of a national community. These claims have most impact when
put forward by political leaders since, in the context of liberal-democracies,
they combine popular legitimacy with policy-making powers.
There are forms of paradiplomacy which are more significant than others with respect to identity construction and consolidation, namely those involving most specifically, albeit implicitly, a recognition by one or more sovereign states of the legitimacy of a region as an international actor. Bilateral relationships with states, as the closest thing to traditional diplomacy, are particularly important symbolically. So is participation in regional and international organizations/conferences.
The relevance for identities of these acts of paradiplomacy is not limited to the acts themselves; as important is the fact that these highly visible paradiplomatic activities give nationalist leaders the opportunity to play to their domestic audience. They provide a scene from which nationhood can be proclaimed most forcefully, as foreign, regional or even international focus offers legitimacy and discursive/communication opportunities.
The second process of nationalism is the definition and articulation of regional/group interests. Indeed, the development of subjective communities associated with the erection of boundaries between groups involves not only identities but also a specific conception of the common good, or at least the identification of certain elements which should be promoted and/or defended. In turn, the regional/group interest definition is linked to, and becomes an integral part of, the collective identity.
There are generally two dimensions to this definition. The
first is centred on culture. In building and shaping identities, nationalist
movements emphasize and politicize cultural distinctiveness; consequently, they
tend to define the ‘national interest’ primarily in terms of cultural
protection/preservation. The second dimension is more clearly ideological. The
emergence of nationalist movements tends to be associated with, and supported
by, ideologically-specific political forces. This has been the case in Flanders,
where the Flemish Movement is strongly associated with the Christian-Democracy,
and in Québec where nationalism is close to trade-unions and left-leaning
organizations. As a result of these linkages, nationalist movements, and the
regions they seek to represent, although never monolithic, often have an
These preferences may be ideological in nature, and therefore lead regional governments to take stand on such issues as free-trade or the social nature of the European Union. In such cases, the issues put forward by paradiplomacy may be understood in terms of domestic dynamics surrounding nationalism. Paradiplomacy preferences may also follow the cultural aspect of interest definition. In fact, cultural defence and promotion tend to be the most important issues of paradiplomacy because they are central to its underlying force, nationalism.
The Québec government, for example, expresses concerns over the
linguistic nature and consequences of such international processes as
globalization and the liberalization of trade, a preoccupation stemming from its
domestic struggle for the prominence of French in Québec society. Culture
therefore shapes the foreign policy agenda of regional governments, including
targeted interlocutors. Flanders’ paradiplomacy focuses on countries such as the
Netherlands, Surinam and South Africa where there exists a cultural kinship
In liberal-democracies where political legitimacy ultimately emanates from civil society, nationalist leaders seek popular support, in the form of political mobilization, to substantiate their various claims (representation, policy, institutional arrangements, and so on).
Political-territorial mobilization, although generally sporadic
and fluctuating in intensity, is necessarily a feature of nationalism because it
underlies both claims for power and for policy/institutional change.
The power of nationalist leaders rests on the prominence, even the hegemony,
of nationalism as a form of politics. In turn, this state of affair is
itself conditional to popular support, as is the ability of these leaders to
bring about policy and institutional change corresponding to their specific
claims, usually formal recognition/distinct status, autonomy, federalization or
Consequently, paradiplomatic activity, particularly in its most
visible forms (regional-international conferences, bilateral relationships with
states, and so on), present nationalist leaders with opportunities to stimulate
political-territorial mobilization because it pits the region against the
centre, and sometimes regional nationalist forces against non-nationalist ones.
Since foreign policy is one of the last reserved domain of the state,
paradiplomacy represents, in the context of domestic politics, a statement about
power. It can therefore be understood not only as the emergence of new actors on
the international scene, but also as the most recent dimension of historical
territorial conflicts whose most prominent and acute manifestation is
nationalism and nationalist mobilization.
In fact, a region which is very active internationally projects the notions of distinctiveness and autonomy in a way that may lower the degree of contention surrounding certain regional claims and demands. In the special cases where institutional change sought by a regional government is independence, international activity becomes a functional necessity. Secessionist forces need to establish an international network and present their project to foreign states in the hope of obtaining formal recognition following an eventual declaration of independence.
Paradiplomacy and Opportunity Structures
Federations, and some other decentralized systems such as
Spain’s Autonomous Communities and devolution in the United Kingdom, create
regional agents. In turn, this agency is susceptible to developing an
international dimension, and the greater the regional autonomy, the better the
opportunity for paradiplomatic activity. This means that the active
paradiplomacy of Québec and Flanders, while primarily explained by nationalism,
is also shaped by the decentralized structures of the Canadian and Belgian
federations. Similarly, the weaker international presence of American and
Mexican states, while primarily the result of the absence of nationalist
movements, is partially attributable to the more centralized federalism in the
United States and Mexico.
Some constitutional frameworks are particularly austere in this respect and, as a consequence, make paradiplomatic activity quite difficult.
Mexico’s constitution, for example, explicitly forbids regions to sign agreements with foreign powers. The stranglehold of the federal government on international relations stemming from this original 1917 provision was further reinforced in 1988 when the constitution was modified to give the president power over ‘foreign policy’ rather than the narrower ‘diplomatic negotiations’ (Julián Durazo-Hermann, 2000).
These constitutional frameworks remove a crucial obstacle for
regions to access the international sphere and, as a result make paradiplomacy
more likely. The 1993 reform of the Belgian constitution, which included a
transfer of power to the constituent units with respect to international
affairs, triggered a flurry of international activity from governments in
Flanders, Wallonia and the French-speaking Community.
There is more room for regions to find their way onto the
international scene if cultural and economic issues are more prominent, as
regional governments often have, in virtue of the domestic distribution of
power, an initial interest and some degree of empowerment with respect to these
matters. It is no coincidence that paradiplomacy has become more important since
the end of the Cold War; indeed, the breakdown of the conceptual categories of
‘high’ and ‘low politics’ has rendered national foreign policy agendas less
hierarchical and therefore more likely to attract the attention of regions.
Second, EU policies such as structural adjustment programs
which make regions their central units build regional governments as potential
international actors by establishing a conceptual and political link with the
‘outside’. Third, the EU, through the Committee of Regions, offers immediate
channels for regional governments to become international actors (Hooghe and
Marks, 1996). Not only does the Committee present regions with a concrete
opportunity to operate beyond national borders, but it also draws regions which
might not have the means or motivations to actively seek an international role.
In other words, the EU can be seen not merely as an opportunity structure, but
indeed as a force behind the very international agency of some West European
Consequently, states losing power to market forces is a
particularly significant development for regions (Courchene, 1998). In response
to this weakened leadership of central states in governing the economy, many
regional governments have taken upon themselves to actively seek to attract
foreign investment and promote exports. These are core objective of most, if not
all paradiplomacies, and they involve some international network/action: offices
abroad, trade missions, and so on. Economic integration and liberalization of
trade, because they come with a set of norms and rules, also involve challenges
to forms of socio-political and cultural organizations that may be specific to
some regions. Consequently, some regional governments (Québec for example) have
viewed the development of an international voice as a necessary condition for
dealing effectively with these processes.
Some states have in fact developed particularly significant relationships with foreign regions. France, for example, treats the Québec premier very much like a head of state, and deals with the province in a fashion approximating its traditional bilateral relations. These opportunities for regional governments to enter into formal relationships with states give them new legitimacy and enhances their international personality. Finally, bilateralism in paradiplomacy is not limited to state-region relations; in fact, the bulk of paradiplomatic activity occurs between regional governments, that is, in the form of inter-regional and trans-border/transnational relationships.
The Four Motors of Europe, an organization composed of the regions of Rhône-Alpes, Lombardy, Catalonia and Baden-Whrttemberg which seeks closer economic, social and cultural cooperation, is a well-documented instance of this type of paradiplomacy. Bilateral relationships between regions trigger a dynamic process which is central in developing the international activity of regions: indeed, because these relationships are not contingent on foreign states recognizing regions as international actors, they offer great potential for the autonomous development of regional governments’ international legitimacy, an outcome which in turn fosters these same transnational relationships.
Subsequently, they transfer a previously agreed quota to the Spanish central treasury. These transfers represent compensation for Spanish common expenditure, and to cover the costs of running those state administrative bodies. Consequently, the per capita level of public expenditure in the Basque Country is much higher as compared to the Spanish mean. Compared with the autonomous public spending in Catalonia, the Basque per capita expenditure is 1,8 higher (NB. According to 1995 data, the mean non-financial per capita spending carried out by Catalonia and Galicia was 228,378 Ptas., which compared to 417,256 Ptas. in the Basque Country).
During this period of home-rule-all-round (1978-2000), the situation in the Basque Country has been highly conditioned by political violence and, in particular, by an intensification of the terrorist strategy carried out by ETA. A third of all the assassinations by ETA occurred during the critical period of transition to democracy (1978-80).
A second wave of terrorism coincided with the formation of a nationalist/non-nationalist coalition government by PNV-EAJ and PSE/PSOE. Such a course of action has followed the action-repression-action spiral first deployed by ETA during late Francoism, and which aimed at consolidating a counter-state and counter-society --the latter of some numerical significance-- operating with their own laws and code of conduct (Letamendía, 1994).
As a reaction to this strategy of violence, a Basque democratic
inter-party platform in search for consociational solutions to achieve peace was
articulated. During the period 1988-98, all major democratic parties operating
in the Basque Country set up the Pacto de Ajuria Enea with the aim of
co-ordinating their policies against terrorism. This Pact was in line with the
societal reaction against ETA’s terrorism (Llera, 2000).