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Is The Eu A Federal State?

3188 words - 13 pages

The main objectives of this paper is, by looking at other federations to find out what makes a federation and compare the position of the European Union in regard to these concepts. But first, I will start with an introduction on the integration of Europe, in which federalists had an important say.

Federation - the ultimate peace treaty

Proposals for a federalist unification of Europe came already in the 18th century. For Immanuel Kant, the federation was a means of achieving a perpetual peace. He saw the solution to trouble not in treaties but in a federation of peoples. This federation, he argued 'has no aim to acquire any power like that of a state, but merely to preserve ...view middle of the document...

Most of the West European states, who had just regained their status as sovereign nation states after World War II, were unwilling to lose such a significant account of their sovereignty in favour of a federal Europe. The only supranational institution formed was the High Authority. However the pro-federalist had to face a number of distinct politicians who did not believe that a federal Europe was the solution. Two of these were General Charles de Gaulle and Margaret Thathcer. De Gaulle argued that 'at present there is and can be no Europe other than a Europe of the States'

Thatcher's arguments revolved around the concept of 'family of nations'; she promoted co-operation between independent sovereign states and explained that efforts and centralization have been unsuccessful elsewhere, citing the Soviet Union as an example.

Therefore fifty years of European construction have been characterized by this battles. What is Europe today? To analyze how a federal state should be I will consider three federal systems principally, namely the United States, Germany and Switzerland. The European Union's members are definitely sovereign states very different from the provinces and states which form traditional federation such as the US and Germany. States like Great Britain and France have a long history of independence with a strong role in the world political arena. On the other hand there is no state in the US or Germany with such a history.

To understand whether the EU is federal or not I will look at two principle systems: the political and the judicial systems. I will tackle first the political system.

Federalism and the Political System

According to Douglas V. Verney, federalism proper involves three fundamental principles:

- A constitutional distribution of powers.

- The separation of the executive and legislative branches of governments.

- A division of the legislature into two roughly equal chambers.

It is only in the first of these criteria that the European Union does seem to conform. There is no Constitution of Europe in which the powers are distributed between the Commission and the States but there are different treaties which do have this role.

As regards the separation of the branches, in theory this exists, but not in practice. This system is severely unbalanced with three institutions making up the executive (Commission, Council of Ministers and European Council) and then one much weaker institution representing the legislative branch (European Parliament).

Regarding the third federal principle, there is no division of the legislature. Actually, there is no upper house representing the Member States. True, there is the Council of Ministers, but that is an executive body which meets in private and thus it cannot be compared to a legislative body which engages in public debates. It has what many observers called a "democratic deficit"

In the United States the Senate has always...

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