Who is Afraid of (Con)Federalism?
in DESCHOUWER, Kris et POIRIER, Johanne, eds, (Con)Federalism: Cure or Curse?, e-Book, Re-Bel Initiative (Re-Thinking Belgian Institutions in European Context), Brussels 2015, pp. 27-41
15 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2016 Last revised: 8 Aug 2016
Date Written: November 27, 2015
In this article, the author explores the labels applied to state structures, more specifically the distinction between federalism and confederalism. Building on John Loughlin and Jan Velaers’ work, she argues that the terms “federation” and “confederalism” have both been instrumentalized by Belgian politicians, contributing to the confusion and conceptual murkiness that surrounds these terms.
The first part of the paper stresses the importance of reassessing our conceptual vocabulary to account for the “messiness” of Belgian institutions. The author suggests a distinction between (con)federal-ISM as a political ideology and (con)federat-IONs as concrete institutional design. She also reviews the interwoven federal and confederal character of Belgium’s institutional design. The second part of the article seeks to decipher the nature of the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (FWB), a public (but not legal) entity of the French Community. The FWB combines elements of a constitutive unit of the Belgian federation with federal and confederal traits. The “re-branding” of this entity with a misleading name illustrates that Flemish parties who promote “confederal” solutions for Belgium do not hold a monopoly on strategic semantic confusion.
Keywords: federalism, confederalism, Belgium, political ideology, institutional design, Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles
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