Interview

Party or tank

Issue 86 - spring 2020

Ryan Griffiths, American secession researcher, dares to predict which new states we will welcome in the future.

Ryan Griffiths, Syracuse University
You have studied hundreds of independence movements: Overall, is it a good idea to fight for your own state?

Griffiths: You almost always see good reasons on both sides: the need for the state to maintain order and the desire of certain groups to determine their political life more strongly. Since the middle of the 20th century there has been a clear trend towards an increase in states, even if most separatists fail. I call it the "Age of Secession". 

On the one hand, the more autocratic the state becomes, the more likely secessionism becomes. On the other hand, the chances of peaceful separation in a democracy are better. To what extent do the chances of success depend on
Regime type from?

Griffiths: Democracy does not make the government more likely to allow independence. In a democracy, however, the separatists are much more likely to found a political party and use the state apparatus, as the Scottish nationalists did. If you stand up for independence and have the choice of either attacking the British army or founding a party, the decision is clear. In an autocratic regime in which a group campaigns for independence, violence is much more likely because there is no access to democratic instruments.

Which new states could or will emerge in the 2020s?

Griffiths: Bougainville will be the newest state. After that, Scotland should become independent in the course of Brexit. When this happens, the UK and Northern Ireland are likely to break up. Then there are some regions that have the opportunity to become independent when the local population, which is still rather skeptical at the moment, changes their minds: Puerto Rico from the United States, the Cook Islands from New Zealand or Greenland from Denmark. And if Flanders wanted to become independent, the Belgian state would disintegrate and split into two. Spain, on the other hand, is a much more difficult case: I do not believe that Catalonia will become independent in the near future, even if almost everything is possible in the area of ​​secession policy.

Vielen Dank für das Gespräch!

Photo: Griffiths

To the main story

Separate paths

We live in an age of secession, since the end of the Second World War the United Nations has gained 133 new members. What are the success factors for new states? And: will the political world map continue to disintegrate in the coming years?