The debate on the future of Europe is a legacy of the Nice Treaty. It is now all the more important as the deadline of IGC 2004, discussing the future of Europe, is getting closer.

Two years ago, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer forcefully re-launched the idea of a European federation, what he called a “federation of nation-states”. The notion of a “federation of nation-states” was inspired of J.Delors proposal.

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Indeed, eleven years before, Jacques Delors, then President of the Commission, while speaking at the College of Europe in Bruges, had floated the idea of a European federation based on subsidiarity, and most importantly on the autonomy and identity of its constituent states.1

Going back to the origins, Over 50 years have passed since the Schuman Declaration launched the first European Community as “the first assize of a European Federation”. At that time, Robert Schuman presented his vision of a “European Federation” for the preservation of peace. But today Europe is still weak and divided.

I. Ins and Outs of European future

The EU continues to be ruled by people elected to run their national governments according to their national interests and not by people elected to run Europe according to the European interest. European democracy and European citizenship remain only slogans as the European citizens still don’t have the right to directly decide, with their vote, the government and the policies of Europe. Europe’s independence and sovereignty on the global stage are still only distant aspirations. (Nations are divided during international summits)

The global challenges of the new millennium are far from being met. Moreover, the Enlargement of the European Union to new countries should become the joint venture of West and East in a solid and democratic political community, not only the extension of a market with a single currency. This event has triggered EU institutional reform, as the institutional framework that is working now has been designed for the 6 EU founding countries. Europe should become a united and independent actor in global politics, able to promote a secure world order based on the values of democracy and common prosperity, rule of law and human rights, and protection of the environment. Europe needs an act of will: A constitution ? It’s time for the European Federation, some analysts say.

II. A Federation of Nation-States

Specialists argue that the question at stake is whether the EU members would be together and strong in the European Federation or divided and weak in the era of globalisation? First, let’s have a look at the concept of Federation : Federation: A system of governance in which several states form a unity but remain independent in internal affairs. (Oxford English Dictionary).

Then, 2 points can be distinguished in the description of these concepts: Unity: a political entity recognised world-wide, and Diversity : a relative independence in internal matters.

A. European Federation

Jacques Delors, Helmut Schmidt and Val�ry Giscard d’Estaing have recently tried to find new answers to this dilemma of the integration of new member countries in the constituional project. Delors’ idea is that a “federation of nation-states”, comprising the six founding states of the European Community, should conclude a “treaty within the treaty” with a view to making far-reaching reforms in the European institutions.

Schmidt and Giscard’s ideas are similar, but they place the Euro-11 states at the centre, rather than just the six founding states. Joschka Fisher argues that the last step of integration is a European Federation. However, enhanced co-operation means nothing more than increased intergovernmentalization.

B. Proposals

The Federalists argue that a “federation of nation states” would not be enough, if in reality the power of last instance were left in the hands of national governments, each maintaining a veto right. – They reject intergovernmentalism! There should be a democratic supranational European Government, responsible to a legislative branch, with the representatives of the European citizens in one chamber and the representatives of the states, and where necessary of the legislative regions, in a second chamber. Both should act by majority in all matters.

They argue that such a federation would be exactly the opposite of a super-state and would ensure “unity in diversity”. The basic principles stand as follow:

– Clearer division of competencies

– Decentralisation of power : reason of the support of regionalist parties

– European constitution with a set of fundamental rights

– International structure with a bicameral parliament and an elected government (A EU President? … some suggest)

In principle, federal regimes should take decisions closer to their citizens thanks to the principle of subsidiarity.

1. Main necessary reforms

The main questions at stake for a reform into a federal system are the following: first, Objectives: Institutional structure taking into account the legitimacy of the EU as both a Union of States and a Union of peoples

Then, Competences, a Clear definition between the EU and the States. Democracy implies a Reflection of the Democratic principles on the supranational, national and regional levels. Efficicency through More majority voting is promoted.

Simplification is the stake of a clear constitution. Some argue that an Internal and external capacity, adopted through common solutions to common problems, as well as speaking with a single voice on the World scene are the major issues.

C. European Constitution

Further to the Speech made by Val�ry Giscard d’Estaing, President of the Convention, at the College of Europe, in Bruges, on October 2002, a series of recommendations has been elaborated for the future of Europe. Those provisions are closely referring to the principle of a Federation system. Title I of the preliminary Draft constitution designed by the Convention on the Future of Europe states the following : 2

Article 1 : European Union

1. The European Union consists of the States and peoples of Europe who in a spirit of

solidarity share a community of values and commit themselves to promoting peace, security and progress in Europe and the world.

2. The Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and for spiritual and moral values, principles which are common to the Member States.

3. On the basis of the acquis communautaire, the Union shall “closely coordinate the policies of the Member States and manage certain shared powers on a federal model”.

Article 2 : Legal personality

The Union shall have legal personality.

Article 3 : Member States

The Member States of the Union shall be:

– the Kingdom of Belgium,

– the Czech Republic,

– the Kingdom of Denmark,

– the Federal Republic of Germany,

– the Republic of Estonia,

– the Hellenic Republic,

– the Kingdom of Spain,

– the French Republic,

– Ireland,

– the Italian Republic,

– the Republic of Cyprus,

– the Republic of Latvia,

– the Republic of Lithuania,

– the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg,

– the Republic of Hungary,

– the Republic of Malta,

– the Kingdom of the Netherlands,

– the Republic of Austria,

– the Republic of Poland,

– the Portuguese Republic,

– the Republic of Slovenia,

– the Slovak Republic,

– the Republic of Finland,

– the Kingdom of Sweden,

– the United Kingdom of Great Britain

and Northern Ireland.

26 countries are included in the project, however, we can note that Turquey is not mentionned in the draft constitution

Article 4: Relations between the Union and the Member States

The Member States shall act in good faith in relation to the Union and shall support its initiatives. They shall take all appropriate measures to ensure fulfilment of the obligations of the Constitution.

In compliance with the subsidiarity principle, the Union shall act in good faith in relation to the Member States and shall preserve their identity and their national and regional diversity.

Nevertheless, the Union shall be mindful of the specific features of the Member States as regards their internal and external security and their public services. However, the law of the Union shall prevail over the law of the Member States. Such a Constitutional Convention should gather the representatives of the citizens from the European and national parliaments, as well as those of the national governments. It should also involve future members of the European Union. Organisations of civil society should be involved in a public debate around its work.

It should be open and work and make decisions by majority. It should be given the broad mandate to draft a genuine Constitution to establish a European Federation, to be proposed directly to the member states and candidate countries for adoption. The European Constitution should bring about change, not just be the rewriting of the treaties into a simpler document. The European Constitution should set out the rights and values of all European citizens, so defining our common identity.

The European Constitution should define the powers and limits on the institutions of the Federation. Nationalism, xenophobia, and fragmentation are resurgent within many of our countries. Citizens are increasingly detached and alienated from the Union that they don not understand and perceive as distant and bureaucratic. Globalisation needs a European answer. Our national sovereignties and democracies are being progressively hollowed.

The Six Founding Countries started the European project as the first step of a long march towards a European Federation. Today the time has arrived to complete that project. We call upon all European political leaders to break free from the paralysing form of the Union of today and take the initiative to define and promote a project to establish the European Federation.

III. National debates

Robert Schuman saw this quite clearly back in 1963: “We must build the united Europe not only in the interest of the free nations, but also in order to be able to admit the peoples of Eastern Europe into this community if, freed from the constraints under which they live, they want to join and seek our moral support.

In the framework of enlargement, the federal system is seen as the best alternative to achieve decision-making and international political recognition. French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin explained his, and France’s, vision for the future of the European Union, a future which, he hopes, will see a Federation of Nation-States, the old formula adopted by ex-President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors.

However, this political project, from the French point of view, is to be a Federation of Nation-States, not a Federation such as that defended by Germany, in which the States relinquish a great part of their nationhood to the central authorities in Brussels. According to Jospin, “France, like the other European nations, does not accept this concept of a classical “Federation” which would give to the member States the statute of “German Lander or federal American states”. The French Prime Minister wants a European Union based on the European Constitution, at the heart of which will be the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This Constitution will be backed by a “Convention”, which will unite the Heads of Government and of State, and representatives from the national and European Parliaments.

The latter, according to the French model, should be reinforced by altering the voting system, based on proportional representation in large political constituencies.

The French model proposes a permanent council of ministers, who would be like vice prime-ministers in their member-States. It would be their job to co-ordinate European issues with their respective governments. Other ideas are the setting up of a joint police force, Europol, another special police force to control the frontiers of the EU, an economic government in the Euro zone, harmonised business taxes, a joint “action fund” and the definition of “European social rights”.

First country to propose a federal system was Germany, with Schroeder and Fischer proclaiming a Federal State of Europe. Sweden, for a start, is relieved that the French federation model is less Federative than the German : “It is good to see Jospin saying clearly that he does not see a Federal Europe”, declared a relieved Goran Persson, the Swedish Prime Minister. The reaction from the United Kingdom, however, was, as usual, terse, with both Prime Minister Blair and Chancellor (Finance Minister) Gordon Brown rejecting Jospin’s proposals for harmonised business taxes.

“We do not agree with harmonising taxes across Europe. Unfair tax competition, though, is another matter because that prevents the single market working properly”, declared a determined Tony Blair in the middle of his election campaign.


We can say that the European Union is an original way of organising relations between sates, a system of multi-level governance where the supranational, national and regional coexist. However, the member-states are not willing to concede too much power to a federal state endowed with its own treaty-making policy and its own budgetary powers.

Alexander Stubb argues that there is no political space, which would call for a bottom-up movement pushing for a European federation. Most of the prospects are prevailing the principle of intergovernmentalism or community method. Nonetheless, this movement seems to be indispensable to achieve a completion of EU integration process. He argues the elements of federalism can be found in spite of no formal or official federalism: the examples of ECB and common currency are some evidence.

Nevertheless, many specialists argue that Federalism is a far-reaching goal in Europe, as the community allows a transfer of competencies to supra national authorities in fields that doesn’t really hamper their sovereignty. Indeed, so far the EU acts more on cheese legislation than political or defence matters.



Pace, R., (2002). The future of Europe Debate: launching the European federation or strengthening the Nation-State in Europe or trying to achieve both?

Stubb, A. (2002). Debating the Future of the European Union: From Laeken to IGC 2004.


European Federation Now! Youth Manifesto for the Future of Europe. (2002). SG-2001-08839-00-00-EN-TRA-00 (FR)


Brussels correspondant. (2002). The Tortoise is thinking of moving. The Economist.

Electronic sources

“From Confederacy to Federation – Thoughts on the finality of European integration” Speech by Joschka Fischer at the Humboldt University in Berlin, 12 May 2000 (Translation of advance text) (2000). [WWW]

1 Address by Jacques Delors the President of the European Commission at the College of Europe, Bruges, October 17th, 1989.

2 European Federation Now! Youth Manifesto for the Future of Europe. (2002). SG-2001-08839-00-00-EN-TRA-00 (FR)


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