Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Institutional Commitment Problems and Regional Autonomy: The Catalan Case

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Abstract:  This article examines what constitutional arrangements are more likely to facilitate the transfer of effective decision-making power to the regional level. We show that certain constitutional arrangements can result in institutional commitment problems between regional minority and national majority groups, which in turn influence levels of regional autonomy across regions. Specifically, we examine how the depth and scope of decentralization depend on the presence of federal agreements and the availability of institutional guarantees that make the federal contracts credible. Analyzing regional-level data, we show that regions where identity minority groups are majoritarian enjoy more regional autonomy when the commitment problem has resulted in a satisfactory national accommodation. Our findings highlight two important scenarios. The first occurs when the institutional commitment problem is solved, and regional minority groups are granted substantial levels of regional autonomy. The second scenario takes place when the commitment problem is not institutionally accommodated, and hence regional minority groups have systematically lower levels of autonomy. This article illustrates that both federal contracts and credible agreements are important tools to understand regional decision-making powers.

Keywords:  commitment problem; fiscal autonomy; regional autonomy; sovereignty demands; territorial conflicts


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© Francesc Amat, Toni Rodon. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.