Testo d'approfondimento parte della "Guida Minoranze"
Autonomy is particularly attractive in this respect, because it gives the minority the control over a segment of the State and can thus counter-balance
the control that the majority has over the State as a whole. Etymologically, the term autonomy derives from two Greek words: auto, meaning self, and
nomos, law or rule. It thus essentially refers to the right to make one's own laws, to act upon one's own discretion. When applied to minorities,
this term refers to the transfer of a number of powers from the central government to an authority representing the minority, so that the minority
can achieve a high level of control over its own affairs, within the overall framework of the State. Autonomy is one particular form of institutional
arrangement for the diffusion of authority, like federalism and decentralisation. It differs from decentralisation, in that it assumes a transfer of powers,
rather than a mere delegation of powers, which usually cannot be revoked unilaterally. It differs from federalism, on the other hand, as it is
usually established only in certain regions and the autonomous entities, as such, do not participate in the activities of the central authorities,
whereas in a federal system the federal structure applies to the entire territory of the country and the federated entities, as such, participate
in the legislative function of the central authorities.
The powers of the autonomous entity usually include legislation, adjudication and administration in those spheres of responsibility that have been transferred.
But there are of course different degrees of autonomy, according to the extent of powers transferred. There are two fundamental forms of autonomy.
The first is territorial autonomy, whereby certain powers are granted to the population of a specific geographical area. This model is to be
found for instance in South Tyrol, the Crimea, and the Faroe Islands. Vojvodina and Kosovo enjoyed a wide autonomy within the Republic of Serbia
until 1990. The second is personal or cultural autonomy, which applies to all the members of a certain group within the State, regardless of
their place of their residence. This model was often applied to religious minorities, as with the millet system in the Ottoman empire.
Territorial and personal autonomy are not mutually exclusive. The same
minority group may for instance enjoy territorial autonomy in a region where it constitutes the majority and personal autonomy in the other regions.
The Slovenian Status for the Italian and Hungarian communities can also be seen as a specific combination of territorial and personal autonomy.
Today, personal autonomy is not widespread and usually minorities are
striving for territorial autonomy. Territorial autonomy has the advantage that it can apply to a wide range of social and economic affairs. On the
other hand, it applies to all inhabitants of a certain region and may thus include members of other groups who resent it, while leaving out
members of the group for which it was intended. It can also foster fears (e.g. of separatism) among the majority population. Personal autonomy,
on the contrary, may apply only to people who opt to be members of the group for which it is established and to all members of this group, regardless
of where they live. The range of possible powers is however limited to those that are not closely related to territory, usually matters of language,
culture, religion and education.
There is no general model that is applicable everywhere. Autonomy solutions have been effective in some cases but have failed in others. In most situations,
they are being resisted by the majority population and are thus being left untested. This is particularly so in the Balkans, because autonomy
as a solution for inter-ethnic was often in the past the first step towards full independence (Bulgaria and Serbia, for instance, first became autonomous
entities within the Ottoman empire before becoming independent States).
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