Autonomy and Self-determination
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Autonomy and Self-determination

Between Legal Assertions and Utopian Aspirations

Edited by Peter Hilpold

Europe has reached a crisis point, with the call for self-determination and more autonomy stronger than it ever has been. In this book, renowned international lawyers give a detailed account of the present state of international law regarding self-determination and autonomy.
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Chapter 2: Self-determination and autonomy: between secession and internal self-determination

Peter Hilpold


This chapter gives a detailed overview of the development of the concept of self-determination in international law. While minorities do not have a right to external self-determination in the form of secession they surely have a right to internal self-determination, that is, a right to effective participation and respect for their specific needs. Although it is not possible to derive a right to autonomy from international law there can be no doubt that autonomy rules have proven to be an extremely valuable instrument for putting into effect internal self-determination. This is the prevailing viewpoint in international law. It seems to offer no legal basis for adventurous secession options. This chapter argues, however, also for the sense and the permissibility of different approaches. It is suggested that the belief in utopia may be a powerful force that eventually can also change factual situations that before seemed consolidated and irrevocable.

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