13.       It is necessary to emphasise the integrative potential of autonomy. Recent examples of its introduction, such as in Spain, Italy, Russia (e.g. the Republic of Tatarstan, Azerbaijan (the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan) or Moldova (the special status of Gagauzia), show that, as a system guaranteeing both respect for the cultural diversity of minorities and the preservation of territorial integrity, autonomy can represent a constructive solution to any real or latent conflict.

14.       Moreover, as calls for autonomy have become more frequent and are having a greater impact on the international legal order this issue needs to be examined in greater detail.

Portuguese island territories of the Azores and Madeira, which have political and administrative statutes drawn up by the regional legislative assemblies and approved by the Assembly of the Republic.

cultural identity, it incorporates more detailed provisions concerning the right of domicile and the use of Swedish in education. This right of domicile8 entitles the citizen to participate in provincial and municipal elections (including the right to stand as a candidate), engage in commercial activities and acquire real estate. It also gives exemption from military service.

minorities are dispersed throughout the territory, it is only possible to envisage cultural autonomy. When one group is dominant in a region but is dispersed over other regions, a mixed approach combining political and cultural territorial autonomy may be implemented.


1 I would like to thank the authorities and experts who gave me the benefit of their experience in the course of my research, which began in December 1999 and took me to the Åland Islands, Alto-Adige / South Tyrol, the Faeroes, Copenhagen, ā Cagliari (Sardinia), the Azores and Madeira (Portugal), Madrid and Barcelona. I apologise in advance for any errors in, or omissions from, this document and would be grateful for any suggestions.

2 Nordquist Kjell-Åke. The Second Åland Islands Question. Mariehamn 2002, Jansson Salminen (ed).

3 “Autonomy as a Conflict-Solving Mechanism”, in Suksi Markku (ed.), Autonomy, Applications and Implications, Kluwer Law, Dordrecht, Netherlands, 1998.

4 “Ruth Lapidoth, Autonomy: Flexible Solutions to Ethnic Conflicts, United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997.

5 Hannum, Hurst and Lillich, R.B., The concept of autonomy in International law, 1980.

6 Local self-government, territorial integrity and protection of minorities, Lausanne 25-27 April 1996, Proceedings of the European Commission for Democracy through Law, contribution by Asbjorn Eide, Director of the Norwegian Institute of Human Rights, Oslo.

7 I would like to thank Elisabeth Naucler for her help in writing this chapter and for giving me the book Jansson/Salminen (ed), The Second Åland Islands Question, Autonomy or Independence?, Mariehamn, 2002.

8 According to section 7 of the Autonomy Act, the right of domicle in the islands is granted on request to any Finnish citizen who has settled in the province, lived there continuosly for at least five years and has a sufficient command of Swedish.

9 There is a group of German speakers in the province of Bolzano, French speakers in Valle d’Aosta, and Slovenian speakers in the eastern part of Friuli-Venezia Guiliana as well as a small group of Ladin speakers in the provinces of Bolzano and Trento.

10 The Singhalese make up 74% of the population, the Sri Lankan Tamils 12%, the indian Tamils 5.5% and the Muslims 8%.

11 Buddhistes 70%, Hindus 15.5 %, Muslims 7.5% and Christians 7.7%.

12 Markku Suksi, Mechanisms of Decision-Making in the Creation of States, 1996.

13 Opened for signature on 1 November 1995.

14 Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe: Federalism, Regionalism, Local Autonomy and Minorities. 1996

15 Recommendation 1201 (1993) on an additional protocol on the rights of minorities to the European Convention on Human Rights, Assembly debate on 1 February 1993. See Doc. 6742, report by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteur: Mr Worms, and Doc. 6749, opinion of the Legal Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Mr de Puig.

16 Autonomy: Flexible Solutions to Ethnic Conflicts”, United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997.

17 See Jean-Marie Woehrling, Droits locaux comme instrument de renforcement de l’autonomie territoriale et de gestion des spécificités sociales et culturelles propres ā certains territoires. CPLRE. CG/GT/CIV (5) 3

18 Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, Recommendation 43 (1998) on “territorial autonomy and national minorities”.

19 CDL-AD (2003) 2, Opinion on the draft constitution of the Chechen Republic.

20 Declaration presented at the 13th session of the Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Local and Regional Government, meeting in Helsinki on 27-28 June 2002.

21        SOC: Socialist Group