Secession Reference and Its Intellectual Legacy: Sceptical Notes from the European Peripheries
This essay confronts the legacy of the Secession Reference from the perspective of the periphery of the European Union: its external (Kosovo and Montenegro) and its internal (Catalonia and Spain) periphery. The main gift of Secession Reference to contemporary constitutional theory is not a broader understanding of democracy, as some claim, but rather an opportunity to look at democracy, self-determination, federalism, and popular sovereignty through a more nuanced—and hopefully analytically more productive—lens of constitutional sensitivity and institutional responsiveness. From that perspective, the main domestic achievement of the Secession Reference achieved was not a more democratic, but a more selectively responsive Canada. In asking for more sensitivity towards secessionist aspirations, the Reference encourages us to approach our democratic intuitions—whatever they may be—more reflectively and systematically. That—and not the internationally influential language of clarity and remedy—is its most important, yet unfortunately still not fully recognized, intellectual legacy.
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