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Self-determination and sovereignty.

The historical itinerary of eastern Europe from past legacies and socialist federations to state dissolution and the external role of the EU.

On Monday, January 23rd, 2012, Sapienza University of Rome hosted a seminar as part of the 2008 PRIN (Progetti di Rilevante Interesse Nazionali – Projects of Relevant National Interest) project, coordinated by Stefano Bianchini and attended by professors, scholars and PhD students from the universities of Rome Sapienza, Bologna, Siena and Pescara-Chieti. The meeting was organized as a seminar in which all participants submitted their works and presented their research. These works will be part of the above-mentioned project and will be collected in a book to be edited over the next few months. On June 28-29, 2012 the University of Bologna will host another conference in which the contributions already presented at the meeting in Rome will be further supplemented and completed with the participation of many professors and researchers from Italian and foreign universities.

The seminar in Rome was thus a first important step toward defining the activities of the PRIN Project, which focuses on the historical legacy left in Central-Eastern Europe by the concepts of self-determination and sovereignty. These two ideas deeply marked the evolution of Europe throughout the 20th century and still place limits on the integration of this part of Europe into the European Union. The project aims to improve the study of this subject, analysing it from a longer term perspective, along a line of continuity from the end of the First World War up to the contemporary scenario. The focus is on the expression of self-determination and national sovereignty, which constituted the basic principles upon which the European geo-political map was redrawn at the 1919 Peace Conference of Versailles. On that occasion the birth of many new nation states created the question of minorities, that is, those ethnic groups who were not part of the dominant nations and could not exercise their right of self-determination, but were destined to fall under the sovereignty of another state.

The first part of the project (Motta, Barbieri) aimed to re-examine the two ways chosen to deal with this problem: the minority treaties signed by many states and the idea of national-cultural autonomy, as developed by Austro-Marxism and re-adapted, for a very short time, in revolutionary Russia. In other words, the multicultural and multiethnic situation in Central-Eastern Europe required certain instruments in order to be balanced. While international diplomacy sought to address this problem with special regulations and the intervention of the League of Nations, socialism instead proposed the model of federalism. Indeed, a federal state structure functioned for several decades in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, countries which had very troublesome and complex ethnic situations in the interwar period; these countries are studied in this second phase (Caccamo, Privitera, Mameli) .

This set of issues are the legacy that Central-Eastern Europe left to contemporary Europe after 1989, when the fall of socialism and integration into the European Union characterized the complicated process of transition. This process once again presented many problems connected with the multicultural and multiethnic situation in the region. Another aspect of the research focuses on certain traditional multi-ethnic disputes such as those in Vojvodina, Kosovo and the Caucasus, which resurfaced after 1989. Here the focus is on newly proposed national-cultural autonomy as a means of governing these issues (Tolvaisis, Barbieri, Comai) .

Contact between this area and European institutions generated a new state of affairs, since the concepts of national sovereignty and self-determination were repeatedly questioned in the new scenario. In the post-1989 context, in fact, adhesion to supranational and international institutions placed new limitations on recently re-acquired national-sovereignty, after decades of Soviet control, and created a sort of "conditionality" between the international and national levels (Bitumi, Grazi, Schichilone, Di Sarcina) .

All these contributions reflect the numerous ideas generated by the topic, as well as the need for a work of synthesis which combines the historical re-evaluation of the 20th century and the new steps Europe has taken towards creating a supranational structure. In this sense, the last papers presented in Rome were to be considered the proper conclusion to a work which tries to analyse from a new perspective, a process which began in 1918-1919 and is still not complete (Laschi, Landuyt, Bianchini) .


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