Articles

The Federalist: A Political Review

Editor: Giulia Rossolillo, 1959-today

The Federalist was founded in 1959 by Mario Albertini. The review theoretical foundation is based on the principles of federalism, the refusal of the exclusive concept of nation and the hypothesis that the supranational era of human history has begun. At the level of values The Federalist intends to serve the cause of peace.

Federalist Debate

2001-Today

The Federalist Debate is a four-monthly review born to stimulate and feed the circulation of ideas and information among the various federalist organisations, and among these and the movements in the global civil society that are growing impetuously in all the regions of the world.

Hannah Arendt's Case for Federalism

Douglas Klusmeyer, 2010

Hannah Arendt developed an acute defence of Republican Federalism as an alternative to the prevailing model of state sovereignty. However, the literature on the history of federalist ideas has long neglected her contributions, despite her continuing reputation as one of post-World War ll’s premier political theorists. One reason for this neglect is that her contributions are scattered across a broad array of different works. This article seeks to encourage a redress of this neglect by providing a guide to her critique of sovereignty and her arguments for the federal principle. Arendt’s approach poses a fundamental challenge to the realist dismissal of world federalism as an exemplar of the naive utopianism they attributed to their idealist opponents.

The article uses insights from comparative federalism to reflect upon the structure and functioning of the European Union. The analysis shows that the EU corresponds rather closely to the model of cooperative federalism. The EU’s structural deficiencies are revealed by comparison with German federal experience, which helps explain why the EU has manoeuvred itself into a double legitimacy trap in which declining problem-solving capacity (output legitimacy) can no longer compensate for the lack of democratic participation and accountability (input legitimacy). The article then assesses whether the Constitutional Treaty will be able to provide an escape route from the double legitimacy trap.

As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, we again confront the question of whether the EU is on its last legs. Are today’s dire predictions any more credible than those made twenty-five years ago? Are the EU’s institutional arrangements fragile? Are they in danger of collapsing under the weight of enlargement, as today’s reports of ‘crisis’ suggest? Or instead, as Andrew Moravcsik (2005b) has suggested, is the EU’s current ‘constitutional settlement’ actually quite stable? In short, is today’s EU a fragile house of cards, or is it built to last?

Federalism has always been a point of reference and a source of inspiration for European construction. Many European politicians, from Robert Schuman to Joschka Fischer, have called for the development of a federal form of organisation for Europe. However, rarely has a concept been so little known: in old nation states like Great Britain or France, federalism often evokes the threat of extreme centralisation even though this form of political organisation is based on a desire to preserve the autonomy and the diversity of the federated entities. In order to fuel the debate on the future of Europe, following the provisions of the Treaty of Nice, it was deemed appropriate to clarify the contribution of federalist thinking on European construction. Dusan Sidjanski’s work has the great merit of bringing up to date the multiple facets of this concept. It justifiably highlights how numerous aspects of the European institutional edifice belong to federalist systems, whether through the adherence to community rules or via the quest for a balance between large and small states. It also highlights the range of these systems, which try to respond to relatively diverse functional necessities. At the risk of exaggeration, one is almost tempted to say that there are as many federalisms, as there are federal systems. It appears to me, that from this arises an important lesson for everyone who thinks or ponders about the future of Europe. A political undertaking without precedent, European construction calls for innovation: it cannot fit into any pre-existing mould, nor can it reproduce former ones. On the other hand, reflection can only benefit from a close analysis of the structures that have sought a synthesis between unity and diversity. At the time when the long awaited reunification of the European continent is on the horizon, the necessity of this reflection seems incontestable. May the pages that follow help to enrich the forthcoming debates.

As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, we again confront the question of whether the EU is on its last legs. Are today’s dire predictions any more credible than those made twenty-five years ago? Are the EU’s institutional arrangements fragile? Are they in danger of collapsing under the weight of enlargement, as today’s reports of ‘crisis’ suggest? Or instead, as Andrew Moravcsik (2005b) has suggested, is the EU’s current ‘constitutional settlement’ actually quite stable? In short, is today’s EU a fragile house of cards, or is it built to last?

Federalism has always been a point of reference and a source of inspiration for European construction. Many European politicians, from Robert Schuman to Joschka Fischer, have called for the development of a federal form of organisation for Europe. However, rarely has a concept been so little known: in old nation states like Great Britain or France, federalism often evokes the threat of extreme centralisation even though this form of political organisation is based on a desire to preserve the autonomy and the diversity of the federated entities. In order to fuel the debate on the future of Europe, following the provisions of the Treaty of Nice, it was deemed appropriate to clarify the contribution of federalist thinking on European construction. Dusan Sidjanski’s work has the great merit of bringing up to date the multiple facets of this concept. It justifiably highlights how numerous aspects of the European institutional edifice belong to federalist systems, whether through the adherence to community rules or via the quest for a balance between large and small states. It also highlights the range of these systems, which try to respond to relatively diverse functional necessities. At the risk of exaggeration, one is almost tempted to say that there are as many federalisms, as there are federal systems. It appears to me, that from this arises an important lesson for everyone who thinks or ponders about the future of Europe. A political undertaking without precedent, European construction calls for innovation: it cannot fit into any pre-existing mould, nor can it reproduce former ones. On the other hand, reflection can only benefit from a close analysis of the structures that have sought a synthesis between unity and diversity. At the time when the long awaited reunification of the European continent is on the horizon, the necessity of this reflection seems incontestable. May the pages that follow help to enrich the forthcoming debates.

Contours of a European Federation

Heidrun Abromeit, 2002

Many observers feel – or fear – that the European Union is going to end up in a Federation. But what kind of federation? This article contributes to a better understanding of federalism and federation in listing a number of ‘federalist essentials’. It sketches the various steps the European ‘polity in the making’ has already taken on the path towards federation. The main object of the article, however, is to submit a proposal: What should a future European federation look like if it is to fit the extreme heterogeneity of European societies and the multidimensionality of European politics, as well as to meet both the federalist essentials and democratic requirements? The centrepiece of this proposal is a new procedural model of competence allocation.

This paper endeavors to take up the neglected aspects of federalism and direct democracy. It emphasizes the mutual dependence of the two for reaching the goals of efficiency and trust. Direct democracy is seen to preserve federalism, but even more importantly, federalism is taken to enable and to preserve effective direct democracy. Empirical evidence is adduced showing in particular that direct democracy leads to higher efficiency in the sense of lowering transaction costs. A proposal for a novel combination of federalism and direct democracy—which is called FOCJ (the acronym for “Functional Overlapping Competing Jurisdictions”)—is suggested for Europe.

Since the end of World War II and most particularly since the late 1970s, the world has been in the midst of a paradigm shift from a world of states modeled after the idea of the nation-state developed in the seventeenth century to a world of diminished state sovereignty and increasingly constitutionalized interstate linkages of a federal character. This paradigm shift has been noted by students of both federalism and international relations. It has been most strongly manifested in the economic sphere. Worldwide and regional economic arrangements have become essential to the peace and prosperity of the world and while formally voluntary, no state can remain outside the increasingly more demanding economic networks. Thus, those networks have acquired an increasingly confederal dimension. Foremost among them is that of Western Europe which, since the Maastricht Treaty, has been transformed into a confederation in fact if not in name. Other arrangements approach the EU in varying degrees. In this new paradigm, existing states will not disappear; rather they will be overlaid by a variety of federal arrangements of a confederal character that will tie them ever closer to each other.

We map the pattern and extent of the European integration of core state powers (coercive force, public finance and public administration) and analyse causes and consequences. We highlight two findings: First, in contrast to historical examples of federal state-building, where the nationalization of core state powers precipitated the institutional, territorial and political consolidation of the emerging state, the European integration of core state powers is associated with the institutional, territorial and political fragmentation of the European Union. Second, in contrast to European market integration, state élites and mass publics, not organized business interests, are the prime drivers of integration.

Why a World State Is Inevitable

Alexander Wendt, 2003

Long dismissed as unscientific, teleological explanation has been undergoing something of a revival as a result of the emergence of self-organization theory, which combines micro-level dynamics with macro-level boundary conditions to explain the tendency of systems to develop toward stable end-states. On that methodological basis this article argues that a global monopoly on the legitimate use of organized violence — a world state — is inevitable. At the micro-level world state formation is driven by the struggle of individuals and groups for recognition of their subjectivity. At the macro-level this struggle is channelled toward a world state by the logic of anarchy, which generates a tendency for military technology and war to become increasingly destructive. The process moves through five stages, each responding to the instabilities of the one before — a system of states, a society of states, world society, collective security, and the world state. Human agency matters all along the way, but is increasingly constrained and enabled by the requirements of universal recognition.

In the current debate on the future European order, the European Union (EU) is often described as an “emerging federation.” This article claims that federalism is not exclusively useful in deliberating about the future of the EU. Non-statecentric conceptions of federalism provide a better understanding of the current structure and functioning of the European system of multilevel governance than most theories of European integration and international relations do. We combine political and economic perspectives of federalism to analyze the “balancing act” between effective political representation and efficient policy-making in the EU. Drawing on the examples of Germany and Switzerland in particular, we argue that the increasing delegation of powers to the central EU level needs to be paralleled by strengthened patterns of fiscal federalism and an empowered representation of functional interests at the European level. Without such “rebalancing,” the current legitimacy problems of the EU are likely to intensify.

Federalism consists of a specific combination of self-rule (autonomy), of limited rule (superposition) and of shared rule (participation), implying the coexistence of two independent levels of government acting simultaneously on the citizens. Federal constitutions regularly accomplish specific functions, like defining the constituent units, distributing powers between the latter and the central unit, and providing for a conflict resolution scheme. This contribution argues that the EU meets every one of these conditions for being considered, in legal terms, as a multinational federal type construction.

Constructivist approaches emerging in the field of international relations may be used to develop better federal theories for EU analysis by refocusing attention on political practices, intersubjective meanings and informal norms. Conversely, the detailed analysis of the EU which has been generated by using federalism as a theoretical prism, the rich theoretical tradition of federalism and policy-makers’ common understanding of the EU in federal terms provide international relations scholars with a productive medium for gaining a better understanding of the emerging European polity.

The effects of COVID-19 on EU federalism

Juan Carlos Martín Hernández, Concepción Román García, 2021

This article analyses how COVID-19 is affecting the EU federalism position in 21 Member States. The analysis is based on an ordered probit econometric model that explains the citizens’ support to a major involvement of the EU institutions to control the corona virus pandemic. The dataset is the product of a survey administered to 21804 European citizens about a number of issues about the pandemic in 21 EU countries. The empirical analysis provides conclusive evidence on the determinants that affect the individual shift position of European citizens to a major involvement of the European institutions in the control of the pandemic. Our results show that Portuguese, Greeks, Bulgarians, Italians and Spaniards and males are those more in favour of the EU federalist solution to control the COVID-19 crisis. Years of education and social class are among the variables that do not have any significant effect. Meanwhile, the political support to the national government, the priority given to health vs. economy and, being in favour of limiting individual rights to control the pandemic seem to have a positive effect on EU federalism. Moreover, concerns about being infected by the pandemic, need of the help of others, altruism (helping others), economic loss, and social interaction with others also play a determinant role. Thus, the article contributes to the debate of the attitudes and behaviour that affect the individual position of the citizens who want a shift in authority from the national governments to the federal EU as a link to create more resilient regions during COVID-19.

The emergence of the United States of America in the eighteenth-century triggered a semantic revolution in the federal principle. Federalism became identified with a mixed structure between international and national organisation. However, when this American tradition crossed the Atlantic in the nineteenth century, Europe’s obsession with indivisible sovereignty pressed the novel idea into a national format. This article analyses the European Community and European Union in light of the American and European federal tradition. It explores the analytical potential of American federal thought in examining the European Union along three dimensions: a foundational, an institutional and a functional dimension. The question of Kompetenz-Kompetenz arises. This inductive approach is contrasted with the deductive approach of European thought. Europe’s “statist” tradition insists on the indivisibility of sovereignty. This leads to three constitutional denials: the European Union is said to have no constitution, nor a people (demos), nor a constitutionalism. The very existence of the European Union, often labelled sui generis, has challenged this tradition and, today, European federal thought has gradually come to acknowledge the idea of federalism beyond the State.

This article analyses European Union (EU) politics through the lens of comparative federalism. The article assesses the contributions that rationalist and constructivist approaches can make to the analysis of EU federalism, focusing on two broad questions. First, what explains shifts in authority from the state (i.e., member states) to the federal (i.e., EU) level? Second, what explains the degree to which the federal government constrains state discretion? This article develops testable hypotheses based on the rationalist and constructivist perspectives and presents a set of initial plausibility probes. The article shows that there is considerable room for dialogue between rationalist and constructivist perspectives and together they can provide a more comprehensive explanation for the dynamics of EU federalism.

Few dispute that one of the most pressing issues for the future of Europe is the question of constitutional design. To what extent will unanimity voting in the Council of Ministers be replaced by qualified majority voting and how should these votes be distributed by country? Should the European Parliament assume a meaningful policy making role? How should the Commission be reformed? Generally this debate uses the existing and past experience of the European Union as a basis for future reform. Comparisons with other political systems, and in particular with those systems that devolve power to states, provinces, and regions are rarely attempted. Yet with EMU in place and further deepening of EU responsibilities scheduled, much can be learnt from the experience of other systems and especially established federations. This book shows how in five cases — the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, and Switzerland — the rules established in founding constitutions greatly influenced the ways in which federal-state relations evolved. In some cases, for example Canada, these rules proved inappropriate for the balance of provincial and central power, while in others, such as Switzerland, more favourable institutional rules prevailed. In all cases, political parties have played a major role in brokering this balance of central and regional power. And in all cases, intergovernmental fiscal relations have been central to the debate. This book concludes that because, like Switzerland, the EU is both highly decentralized and heterogeneous, super-majoritarian decision rules should apply to EU decision making. In addition, further checks on central power should be provided through a carefully coded constitution which could only be amended via popular approval in member states.