New Evolving Nationalism Research Briefs Series

EvoNat Research Brief No.1_Gillespie_thumbWe are pleased to launch a new series of Evolving Nationalism (EvoNat) Research Briefs, to be made available through this website ( The Research Briefs will examine a range of issues surrounding the rise in sovereignty-based demands among movements based in the stateless nations and regions of western Europe. They are aimed at government bodies, political parties, business, international organisations, media professionals, NGOs and think tanks.

The first two research briefs, authored by series editors Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray (University of Liverpool), are now available here:

No. 1 (Richard Gillespie): Pro-European nationalist parties and EU negativity: The place of Europe in Basque and Catalan sovereignty politics

No. 2 (Caroline Gray): The EU and substate fiscal autonomy, obstacle or opportunity? Lessons from the Basque region of Spain

Further contributions to the series by invited authors on a range of nations and regions will be published in the coming months.

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’

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.

Project Update: Interviews in the Basque Country and Catalonia

Richard Gillespie and Caroline Gray are pleased to report widespread participation in their project by experts and practitioners identified with the Catalan and Basque political processes, and would like to thank all contributors for their willingness and time.

Richard and Caroline’s ongoing fieldwork activities have so far resulted in dozens of interviews with parliamentarians, party representatives and veterans, civil society activists, and economic and financial experts.

With former lehendakari José Antonio Ardanza

With former lehendakari José Antonio Ardanza

While most political participants to date have been from nationalist parties and coalitions (the PNV, EA and Bildu in the Basque Country; CiU, ERC, CUP and Reagrupament in Catalonia), interviews have also taken place with a wider range of party representatives, including parties on the right (PP) and on the left (PSC-PSOE, ICV). It is hoped to gain access eventually to all parties that have played influential roles in Basque and Catalan political life over the last quarter-century to reflect the broad spectrum across the party systems.

With former lehendakari Juan José Ibarretxe

With former lehendakari Juan José Ibarretxe

Some of those who have kindly agreed to take part in the project thus far have been involved in political life at the highest levels. They have included the former Catalan presidents Jordi Pujol and José Montilla, former Catalan vice-president Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira and former Basque presidents José Antonio Ardanza and Juan José Ibarretxe. Other participants have included prominent civil society actors in Catalonia, such as Miriam Casals (president of Òmnium Cultural) and Carme Forcadell (president of the Catalan National Assembly).

With Pedro Luis Uriarte and  the official Concierto agreement of 1980 (approved by law in 1981)

With Pedro Luis Uriarte and the official Concierto agreement of 1980 (approved by law in 1981)

In addition to the focus on political processes, the project is looking at how different financing arrangements in Catalonia and the Basque Country have influenced debates about their relationships with Spain. While Catalonia forms part of a central-regional revenue-sharing system in Spain, the Basque region has a longstanding tradition of fiscal autonomy (as does Navarre). Under the Concierto Económico, the three Basque provincial authorities are responsible for tax collection in the autonomous community of Euskadi. Caroline has had the privilege of discussing the system with current representatives of the Treasury and Finance Department of the provincial government of Bizkaia as well as with Pedro Luis Uriarte, former CEO of BBVA and previously Basque Treasury Minister under the first Basque government (1980-1984) following Spain’s transition to democracy. Uriarte headed the Basque delegation that successfully negotiated with Madrid to restore the Concierto in 1981 to the provinces of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa (after General Franco had abolished it in both in 1937 during the Spanish civil war) and update it for the province of Alaba.