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Federalism, Regional Redistribution, and Country Stability

By Enrico Spolaore


In recent decades a large number of new sovereign states has been created through secessions, decolonization and breakup of existing countries. Since 1990 the Soviet Union split into fifteen independent countries, Yugoslavia gave away to six sovereign states (not counting Kosovo), Czechoslavakia broke into two separate states, Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia, Namibia gained indepen- dence from South Africa, and Timor Leste left Indonesia. Today there are 193 internationally recognized sovereign states in the world, up from 74 in 1945 (the latest UN member is Montenegro, which joined in 2006). At the same time numerous countries, while remaining unified, have taken steps towards more regional autonomy and decentralization. Regional redistribution, decentralization and federalism have played a prominent role in political debates across Europe (e.g., in Belgium, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom) and all over the world--from Cananda to Colombia, from Nigeria to South Africa, from Iraq to India.

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