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Since the 1950s, European integration has seen the development of a supranational system of governance, as its institutions move further from the concept of simple intergovernmentalism. However, with the Maastricht Treaty of 1993, new intergovernmental elements have been introduced alongside the more federal systems, making it more difficult to define the European Union. The European Union, which operates through a hybrid system of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism, is not officially a federation – though various academic observers regard it as having the characteristics of a federal system.[1]



One of the first to conceive of a union of European nations was Count Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi, who wrote the Pan-Europa manifesto in 1923.[2] His ideas influenced Aristide Briand, who gave a speech in favor of a European Union in the League of Nations on 8 September 1929, and in 1930, who wrote his "Memorandum on the Organization of a Regime of European Federal Union" for the Government of France.[3]

We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only, will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living.
—Winston Churchil[4]

At the end of World War II, the political climate favoured unity in Western Europe, seen by many as an escape from the extreme forms of nationalism which had devastated the continent.[5] In a speech delivered on 9 September 1946 at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, Winston Churchill postulated a United States of Europe.[6]

One of the first practical and successful proposals for European cooperation came in 1951 with the European Coal and Steel Community. Since then, the European Community has gradually evolved to Union in which a whole range of policy areas where its member states hope to benefit from working together.

The process of intergovernmentally pooling powers, harmonising national policies and creating and enforcing supranational institutions, is called European integration. Other than the vague aim of "ever closer union" in the 1983 Solemn Declaration on European Union, the Union (meaning its member governments) has no current policy to create either a federation or a confederation.

Debate on European unity is often vague as to the boundaries of 'Europe'. The word 'Europe' is widely used as a synonym for the European Union, although much of the European continent is still not in the EU.


'Multi-speed integration'

A thesis, sometimes referred to as a 'Multi-speed Europe', envisions an alternative type of European integration, where the EU countries who want a more integrated EU, can accelerate their own integration, while other countries may go at a slower pace or cease further integration altogether. Specific current examples include the euro and the Schengen Agreement which not all members have elected to join.

Present situation

The European Union (EU) is not de jure a federation but various academic observers conclude that it is one.

Here is the view of Professor R. Daniel Kelemen (Rutgers University) on how various brands of scholars approach the issue:

Unencumbered by the prejudice that the EU is sui generis and uncomparable, federalism scholars now regularly treat the EU as a case in their comparative studies (Friedman-Goldstein, 2001; Fillippov, Ordeshook, Shevtsova, 2004; Roden, 2005; Bednar, 2006). For the purposes of the present analysis, the EU has the necessary minimal attributes of a federal system and crucially the EU is riven with many of the same tensions that afflict federal systems.[1]

According to Joseph H. H. Weiler, "Europe has charted its own brand of constitutional federalism".[7] Jean-Michel Josselin and Alain Marciano see the European Court of Justice as being a primary force behind building a federal legal order in the Union[8] with Josselin stating that "A complete shift from a confederation to a federation would have required to straightforwardly replace the principalship of the member states vis-à-vis the Union by that of the European citizens. ... As a consequence, both confederate and federate features coexist in the judicial landscape."[9]

According to Thomas Risse and Tanja A. Börzel , "The EU only lacks two significant features of a federation. First, the Member States remain the `masters' of the treaties, i.e., they have the exclusive power to amend or change the constitutive treaties of the EU. Second, the EU lacks a real `tax and spend' capacity, in other words, there is no fiscal federalism."[10]

This view is not simply confined to academics, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing found opposition from the United Kingdom towards including the word "federal" in the European Constitution, and hence replaced the word with "Community".[11][12][13] It can be argued, however, that simply because one man calls something a federation does not mean it is actually so. The European Union does not have some key characteristics of a federation, some of which have been mentioned above. The European budget is very small and does not finance a lot of the economic activity of the European Union. Each member state of the European Union has its own foreign relations and has its own military if it so desires. It is often the case that European Union member states decide to opt out of agreements which they oppose. In certain areas the European Union has some control of its member states. In a lot of other cases, however, the member states have sovereignty which would never be given to members of a federation. One important fact is that treaties must be agreed by all member states even if a particular treaty has support among the vast majority of the population of the European Union. Member states may also want legally binding guarantees that a particular treaty will not affect a nation's position on certain issues.

See also


  1. ^ a b Kelemen, R. Daniel. (2007). Built to Last? The Durability of EU Federalism?PDF In Making History: State of the European Union, Vol. 8, edited by Sophie Meunier and Kate McNamara, Oxford University Press, p. 52.
  2. ^ Ben Rosamond, Theories of European Integration, Palgrave Macmillan, 2000, pp. 21-22.
  3. ^ D. Weigall and P. Stirk, editors, The Origins and Development of the European Community, Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1992, pp. 11-15.
  4. ^ Churchill, Winston. "Speech to the Academic Youth" Zürich, Switzerland (1946).
  5. ^ "The political consequences". European NAvigator. Retrieved 2007-09-05.  
  6. ^]
  7. ^ J.H.H. Weiler (2003). "Chapter 2, Federalism without Constitutionalism: Europe's Sonderweg". The federal vision: legitimacy and levels of governance in the United States and the European Union. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199245002. "Europe has charted its own brand of constitutional federalism. It works. Why fix it?"  
  8. ^ How the [ECJ] court made a federation of the EU Josselin (U de Rennes-1/CREM) and Marciano (U de Reims CA/CNRS).
  9. ^ Josselin, Jean Michel; Marciano, Alain (2006) (PDF), The political economy of European federalism, Series: Public Economics and Social Choice, Centre for Research in Economics and Management, University of Rennes 1, University of Caen, p. 12, WP 2006-07; UMR CNRS 6211,  
  10. ^ Thomas Risse and Tanja A. Börzel, The European Union as an Emerging Federal System, Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law
  11. ^ Evans-Pritchard, Ambrose (2003-07-08). "Giscard's 'federal' ruse to protect Blair". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-10-15.  
  12. ^ Thomas, Sean (2003-06-22). "Gobbledegook". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-10-15.  
  13. ^ V. G. d'Estaing (7 July 2003), The Wall Street Journal Europe: I knew the word 'federal' was ill-perceived by the British and a few others. I thought that it wasn't worth creating a negative commotion, which could prevent them supporting something that otherwise they would have supported. ... So I rewrote my text, replacing intentionally the word 'federal' with the word 'communautaire, which means exactly the same thing.

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