Second Workshop on the Dynamics of Nationalist Evolution

‘Sovereignty Formulas between Autonomy and Independence: Towards a Reconfiguration of Europe?’

Foresight Centre, University of Liverpool, 14-15 May 2015

IMG_1590This second ESRC-funded workshop on the ‘Dynamics of Nationalist Evolution’ went beyond the original Catalan and Basque focus of the project to include and compare other European experiences. Held at the University of Liverpool, it brought together some 20 academic experts and practitioners. Several of the papers examined or compared the proposals presented by nationalist parties aimed at attaining degrees of political sovereignty or fiscal decentralization for the territories in which their national communities are based. They analysed the drivers behind such proposals and/or considered whether there was scope for accommodating further enhancements of autonomy and home rule within member state and EU contexts.

The programme looked predominantly at the Scottish, Basque, Catalan and Italian cases but also included focuses on Belgium, constitutional changes and policy adjustments within EU member-states and the global and European contexts in which sovereignty formulas have been put forward (paper titles below).

The key points made in the workshop papers are being summarised in our new series of Evolving Nationalism Research Briefs, soon to be launched and made available through this site. Watch this space!


Peter Lynch (University of Stirling) ‘The Scottish National Party’s sovereignty formula for the 2014 independence referendum’

Anwen Elias (Aberystwyth University) ‘The credibility of stateless nationalist and regionalist parties in pursuit of constitutional change: Evidence from Catalonia and Scotland’

Eve Hepburn (University of Edinburgh) ‘The push for independence in the Italian regions: Comparing Veneto and Sardinia’

Matthias Scantamburlo and Günther Pallaver (University of Innsbruck) ‘Between secession and “full autonomy”: Party competition over self-determination in South Tyrol’

Jean-Benoit Pilet (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and Régis Dandoy (Université Catholique de Louvain) ‘A regionalist party in the capital of Europe: The policy and institutional agenda of the FDF’

César Colino (Spanish National Distance-Learning University, UNED) ‘Federal constitutional reforms under the threat of secession? Conditions and options for a renewed federalism in Spain’

Eduardo J. Ruiz Vieytez (University of Deusto, Bilbao) ‘Minorities seeking sovereignty: A proposal for the regulation of sovereigntist processes’

Richard Gillespie (University of Liverpool) ‘Pro-European nationalist parties and EU negativity: The place of Europe in Basque and Catalan sovereignty politics’

Caroline Gray (University of Liverpool) ‘The role of the EU in the development of substate fiscal autonomy, obstacle or opportunity? The case of the Basque region in Spain’

Alan Trench (Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law) ‘Obstacles to decentralisation: The practical problems of devolving tax and welfare policies in the United Kingdom’

Edward Hugh (independent economist), ‘European identity and the Euro crisis: The fiscal limitations facing federalist aspirations’

BritishSpanish Society/BBVA Scholarship Award

Caroline receiving her award from Mr Philip Paddack of BBVA at the Spanish Embassy in London

Caroline receiving her award from Mr Philip Paddack of BBVA at the Spanish Embassy in London

PhD candidate Caroline Gray has won the 2015 BBVA Scholarship from the BritishSpanish Society for her work on fiscal decentralisation and territorial politics in Spain.

The 2015 Scholarship Awards Ceremony was hosted by the Ambassador of Spain to the United Kingdom at his residence in London in May 2015, where Caroline was presented her award by Mr Philip Paddack of BBVA.

The BritishSpanish Society is a registered charity and a non-political organisation which aims to promote friendship and understanding between the people of Britain and Spain through knowledge of their respective customs, institutions, history and way of life. It runs an annual scholarship programme for postgraduate students thanks to the generous support of corporate and institutional sponsors. The scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit to British and Spanish students to pursue postgraduate studies and, in the process, foster British-Spanish understanding between individuals and institutions.

Further details of the 2015 scholars are available on the BritishSpanish Society website here.

Fiscal Sovereignty and Nationalist Politics

photo 1On Friday 17th April Caroline Gray participated in the ESRC Final Year PhD Student Conference held at the University of Oxford and presented a poster outlining her research on the impact of the regional financing models in Spain on the evolution of the territorial agendas of the Basque and Catalan nationalist parties.

Spain offers the opportunity to compare two different models of fiscal decentralisation in relation to two different nationalist movements. While Catalonia forms part of the common financing system which gives the regions relatively limited tax-raising competences and involves financial transfers from central government, the Basque CarolineGray_poster2015_thumbregion raises almost all of its own taxes under a separate system of substantial fiscal autonomy (the Concierto Económico or Economic Agreement).

The aim is to contribute to a fuller understanding of this subject in Spain itself but also to provide lessons for the UK as it begins to devolve greater fiscal powers to Scotland. What can the UK learn from the experiences of Spain in fiscal decentralisation and its consequences for both the fiscal management of the country and the evolution of nationalist movements?

Download a copy of Caroline’s poster here.

The poster is also available via the University of Liverpool’s online poster day here. To comment on Caroline’s research topic, log in using username postersonline and password postersonline and search for poster 81. All feedback is welcome. The event is open until 9th May.

Professor Richard Gillespie speaks on the UK and Scotland at Basque Parliament committee

RG in Basque Parliament 4On April 15th, Richard Gillespie appeared before Committee on Self-Government of the Basque Parliament in Vitoria. He provided Basque MPs with an analysis of the UK experience of the Scottish referendum and then responded to questions about the significance of the event for Basque and Catalan aspirations to greater autonomy or RG in Basque Parliament 5independence. Richard was followed by former Basque prime minister Juan José Ibarretxe, who had given a keynote address at the University of Liverpool on March 26th and made reference to his visit during his own presentation. The session was streamed live through the website of the Basque Parliament (video coverage available here).

New publication on Basque and Catalan nationalist dynamics

fnep20.v021.i01.coverA special issue of Nationalism and Ethnic Politics entitled ‘Contesting Spain? The Dynamics of Nationalist Movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country’ is available here. Guest-edited by Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray, the collection explores the dynamics behind contemporary shifts in the orientation of nationalist parties and movements between pragmatic accommodationism and bids to assert claims to national sovereignty.


‘Between Accommodation and Contestation: The Political Evolution of Basque and Catalan Nationalism’ Richard Gillespie

‘When do Countries Re-centralize? Ideology and Party Politics in the Age of Austerity’ Diego Muro

‘Nationalist Politics at the Crossroads: The Basque Nationalist Party and the Challenge of Sovereignty (1998-2014)’ Ludger Mees

‘A Fiscal Path to Sovereignty? The Basque Economic Agreement and Nationalist Politics’ Caroline Gray

‘Catalan Independence and the Challenge of Credibility: The Causes and Consequences of Catalan Nationalist Parties’ Strategic Behaviour’ Anwen Elias

‘Political Power and Civil Counterpower: The Complex Dynamics of the Catalan Nationalist Movement’ Kathryn Crameri

‘The Evolution of Sub-state Nationalist Parties as Statewide Parliamentary Actors: CiU and PNV in Spain’ Bonnie N. Field

A book version will follow, published by Routledge within its Europa Country Perspectives series.

The contributions are based on papers originally presented at a workshop held at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) in September 2014, organised as part of the research project at the University of Liverpool on ‘The Dynamics of Nationalist Evolution in Contemporary Spain’.

Seminar: ‘An End to the Basque Conflict?’

This one-day seminar at the University of Liverpool on Thursday, 26 March 2015 will focus on the nature of the Basque conflict and why it is still proving so difficult to resolve.

Dr Juan José Ibarretxe, former President of the Basque Autonomous Community (Agirre Center for Social and Political Studies) will provide the keynote speech. Other speakers will include Professor Xabier Irujo (Manuel Irujo Visiting Fellow, University of Liverpool 2014-15; University of Nevada, Reno); Dr Iñigo Urrutia (University of the Basque Country); Dr Kevin Bean (University of Liverpool); Professor Richard Gillespie (University of Liverpool); and Amaia Agirre (Agirre Center for Social and Political Studies).

The event is a collaborative initiative between the School of Histories, Languages and Cultures ― involving the department of Modern Languages and Cultures, the department of Politics, and the Manuel Irujo Fellowship in Basque Studies ― and two external partners which are the University of the Basque Country, and the Agirre Lehendakaria Center for Social and Political Studies.

Please click here for the full programme and event details.

All are welcome to attend. 

Pro-Sovereignty Processes Compared: Catalonia and the Basque Country

photo 1The first workshop of the Nationalisms in Spain project was held on 25th-26th September, organised by Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray of the University of Liverpool and hosted by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB).

The workshop addressed the complex dynamics affecting the nature of the Basque and Catalan nationalist movements in contemporary Spain, exploring the extent to which there has been continuity or change in these dynamics in recent decades. In this context, particular attention was paid to the behaviour of mainstream nationalist parties in relation to the wider nationalist movements. What has caused the return to prominence of national and sovereignty-based challenges to the Spanish state in recent years? What factors underlie shifts in the relationships of the Basque and Catalan nationalist parties with central government over time?

IMG_2469After a welcome address by CIDOB director Jordi Bacaria, Richard Gillespie opened the sessions with an introductory paper outlining the conceptual and analytical basis to inform the workshop. This provided a common point of departure for the series of presentations and contributions made by participants in the panels that followed over the two days. All presentations, whether they offered a case study or were comparative in nature, were designed to facilitate comparison between the Basque and Catalan cases while acknowledging significant differences in their circumstances and approaches.

Centre-periphery dynamics formed a key subject of analysis. Participants presented papers that investigated the strategic choices of nationalist parties as statewide parliamentary actors in relation to their territorial strategies in their home regions (Bonnie Field, Bentley University) and conflicts between central and regional governments over the IMG_2472evolution and conception of the regional financing models in Euskadi and Catalonia (Caroline Gray, University of Liverpool). Spanish state responses to the financial crisis in terms of recentralising dynamics perceived alternately as rationalisation were explored as part of a wider consideration of when and why decentralised countries seek to recentralise (Diego Muro, IBEI).

This focus was complemented by studies of internal dynamics within the Basque and Catalan regions themselves. Addressing party-society relations, participants explored the extent to which the choices, actions and discourse of political elites can be seen to influence societal preferences and identities in nationalist mobilisation processes (Astrid Barrio, Universidad de Valencia; Rafael Leonisio, Universidad del País Vasco; Alejandro Quiroga, Universidad de Alcalá) and examined what mobilises collective action (Meritxell Martínez, Universidad del País Vasco). The traditional reigning dichotomy in the existing literature between “top-down” and “bottom-up” dynamics was, however, also problematised to reconceive of these as processes of “co-construction” (Kathryn Crameri, University of Glasgow).

In addition to party-society relations, due consideration was given to the role and significance of party competition and relations (outbidding or reinforcing) between nationalist and pro-independence parties in determining their behavioural patterns, IMG_2473territorial strategies and degree of success (Anwen Elias, Aberystwyth University; Ludger Mees, Universidad del País Vasco; Stuart Durkin, Aberdeen University). This also involved an exploration of the relationship between the traditional left-right axis of competition and the territorial dimension in determining nationalist party strategies (Braulio Gómez, Universidad de Deusto).

A selection of papers and findings from the workshop will be published by Routledge as a special issue of the journal Nationalism and Ethnic Politics in early 2015, co-edited by Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray.

The organisers would like to express their warm thanks to CIDOB for their collaboration to ensure the smooth running of the event and to all participants and their co-authors for providing a series of insightful studies that generated stimulating debate.