What is federalism?

The Beginning of European federalism

European federalism is not a new idea. It is considered to have been popularized by the Ventotene manifesto during World War II. The Ventotene manifesto was written by Altiero Spinelli, an Italian activist who was detained together with other political opponents of Mussolini’s fascist party, on the island that gave the manifesto its name. The manifesto was written in 1941, smuggled out of the island and spread within the Italian resistance movement. In the manifesto, Altiero Spinelli described how a third world war was inevitable unless Europe made a major transformation from competing nations to cooperating states. He wrote that the absolute sovereignty of national states gave the nations a will to dominate others because each nation felt threatened by the strength of the others and the only way to be sure and grow as a nation was if another nation became weaker and less. When a country went to war, no European country could stand next to unaffected. If a country chose a despotic government, it was a vital interest for all other European countries. Europe’s fate touched all and Europe’s problems could not be solved by drawing artificial boundaries through Europe’s multicultural population. The rational and necessary solution for a Europe without totalitarianism and nationalism was a Europe of the United States. A federation where cooperation between the Member States was so close that a war would be unthinkable, and where all Europeans were equal citizens.

Federalism’s objectives and structure

What is federalism and what does it mean to the member nations and its inhabitants? A federation is a form of cooperation between states that may look different, but the common ground for all federations is a clear distribution of power. Power shall be based on the autonomous Member States. They have their own governments, their own laws and their own courts. Together, Member States decide which areas whose problems and solutions go beyond the boundaries or opportunities of individual Member States to resolve, and give responsibility for those areas to a common federal organization that is also self-governing. The federal organization usually consists of a separate form of government, laws and courts around its areas. For example, it may be Republican, with a president elected by the citizens of all Member States, a chamber of elected representatives for the interests of the people and a chamber of representatives of the interests of the Member States. But it can also be parliamentary, with a parliament with elected representatives from all the Member States that form a federal government. The goal of a well-functioning federation is that the relationship between Member States and federal power is not hierarchical, but it is a side-by-side relationship where responsibilities do not compete with each other. The federal power is usually clearly confined to a so-called constitution. This clarity in the division of powers and emphasis on self-government and cooperation when it is commonly considered necessary creates an organization that is the best of both worlds. Each Member State can maintain its own identity, its own culture and its splendor, while providing all the benefits of cooperation with all other Member States.

How does this differ from the European Union today?

The foundation of the European Union was laid after the Second World War, when the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was formed in 1951 by France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The direct purpose was to prevent future war by making it both unthinkable and materially impossible by neutralizing competition over natural resources. But there was also a longer term objective with the ECSC. That would mark the start of a more united Europe, for example by creating a single European market, a single European political entity, a European federation. Over time, this cooperation developed through various forms and treaties of the European Union (EU), established in 1993, and is what we know today. But it has not become the federation since Altiero Spinelli’s time was considered necessary. The European Union is today a blend of federal ideas and intergovernmental agreements. The EU is governed today by various institutions. The European Council is composed of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States. They put the Union’s political direction, goals and priorities. The European Commission is drafting legislative proposals according to the Council’s priorities and is also responsible for implementing the legislative proposals. The President of the Commission is proposed by the European Council and must be approved by the European Parliament. The chairman then works to draw up a commission consisting of one citizen from each Member State. The European Parliament is the only directly elected institution where citizens of the Member States vote for their national members. Parliament, together with the Council of Ministers, composed of representatives of each Member State at ministerial level, examines the Commission’s legislative proposals and approves or rejects the proposals. In addition, there are also the European Union Court, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors. The EU institutions mean that Europe’s common direction is set by politicians who have won national elections to pursue national policies in their homelands. The European Parliament, consisting of politicians who have won national elections for pursuing European politics in Europe, has only a scrutiny role and can neither affect Europe’s direction nor produce its own bills. The fact that national politicians control Europe’s common direction is the EU’s biggest problem in recent years. Politicians are hampered by the fear of losing national elections by making decisions that may be for Europe’s best, but considered a loss at national level. This, together with a growing nationalism in Europe, makes it even more difficult for nationally elected politicians to act for common interests. This is completely different from a federation where national politicians conduct national policies in each Member State, and Europe’s common policy is run by European politicians on a mandate from Europe’s citizens. National and common policies are clearly separated. This means a more efficient and more democratic organization. Correct decisions are made at the right level of the right people. One essential difference between the EU and a European federation is that the EU is based on treaties. Treaties are intergovernmental agreements where the signatory states undertake to comply with the treaty until the day they do not want it anymore. Treaties are written in common but it is possible for each state to withdraw if desired. In order to get all the Member States to sign the Treaties, they contain countless exceptions to the content of the Treaties at different points for different Member States. This combination of different exceptions and the possibility of withdrawing the treaties means in practice that the treaties are not binding. No one is playing the same game rules. This would be impossible in a federation based on a constitution instead of treaty. A constitution is a basis that must be approved by all the citizens of the Member States and the states themselves. Once a constitution is introduced, it applies to all without exception and conditions. A change of the constitution must go through the same approval procedure with citizens and states. This is significantly more democratic than a cooperation based on treaties.

Therefore federalism

The clear distinctions between non-competing responsibilities, between national and European policies, with the right decision in the right place, by politicians chosen to the respective level of mandate for their level, based on a democratic basis in the form of a constitution, is why one The European Federation is a better organization to solve today’s and future problems for Europe and its citizens. Problems like the environment, international crime and tax evasion. In a more global world, in competition with superpowers from all continents of the world, where freedom, democracy and all people’s equal value can not be taken for granted, Europe does not afford to let politicians with national interests make the EU ineffective, or let nationalism resume splitting Europe into small nation states in competition with each other. The only way forward is together as the Europeans we have always been, in a union created by us, working for us and making sure we have the best possible Europe for all of us. That road is in the form of a European federation.