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Federation of Nation States

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As Gaëtane Ricard-Nihoul points out in her  founding work, Jacques Delors has used the term “Federation of Nation States” since 1994: “The federal structure is the only one capable of increasing our external weight, without in so doing weakening the national state and democracy within states. It stipulates clearly who is responsible for doing what.”


The European Union already displays certain features of a “Federation of Nation States”, be it incomplete:

· primacy of community law, qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers, bicameralism and the emergence of a European citizenship are all elements of a federal structure;

· state exercise of constituent power, a state’s right to withdraw from the EU, the practice of unanimity and the splitting of governmental functions between European Council, Council of Ministers and Commission are all elements of a confederal structure.


It is possible however to escape this dichotomy between “federal state” and “confederation” by means of the concept of “federation” – to be understood as “a process by which political units aggregate which does not result in the constituent units merging in the newly created one” (Olivier Baud).

“Federalism as a method” must be seen in this light, as explained by Jacques Delors in a speech at Bruges in 1989: “I often have the opportunity to use federalism as a method, including in it the principle of subsidiarity. I see it as inspiration for reconciling what seems to many irreconcilable – the emergence of united Europe and loyalty to one’s nation and homeland; the need for European-level political action equal to the problems of our time, and the vital imperative to preserve our nations and regions as the places of our roots.”


This reconciliation of diversity and plurality within unity represents the political basis of federalism and informs the work undertaken by the Jacques Delors Institute, work that concentrates on:

· analysing the features and specificities of countries belonging to the European Union or becoming members of it, with particular attention given to countries holding the rotating presidency of the Council; and also thoroughgoing research on Germany and its relations with France;

· analysing the three main legal and political issues at the heart of the debate on the deepening of the “European Federal of Nation States”: competences sharing between “federal” and “federated” authorities; the mode of European government, relating to the EU’s decision-making capacity, including via recourse to “differenciation”; and European democracy, which affects the legitimacy of the European project.

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