The Federal Approach to the European Union (or the Quest for an Unprecedented European Federalism)

Notre Europe Research and Policy Paper No. 14

94 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2001

See all articles by Dusan Sidjanski

Dusan Sidjanski

University of Geneva and the European Institute

Date Written: July 2001


This work highlights the many aspects of the European institutional structure that reflect federalist systems, although often in different ways. As Jacques Delors notes in his forward "one is almost tempted to say that there are as many federalisms as there are federal systems".

This operational analysis elaborates on the themes introduced in his book The Federal Future of Europe, from the European Community to the European Union (University of Michigan Press, 2000). It aims to enrich the debates about the future architecture of the European Union on the eve of its enlargement. Part One is an overview of some other federal systems, presenting German and American federalism and considering Switzerland as a pilot experience. The differences and similarities are examined along with those institutions which may be common to federal states, all of which could be helpful for the forthcoming debate.

Part Two considers the roads that the European Union has already taken towards an unprecedented and unique form of federalism. The Commission, the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council and the Court of Justice are examined. The development of the European Union, as a whole, is showing signs of evolving towards a federal union. This trend has been reinforced by the creation of the European Central Bank, the euro and the emergence of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the common intervention force.

Having outlined the institutional spillover, Part Three looks to the future by examining the idea of a European charter or constitution, the need for which is more evident every day; as is the need for coordinated action in the protection and defence of those countries within, or bordering on, the Union.

The study culminates in a series of questions. Sidjanski points out that enlargement and globalization only increase complexity and the "more complexity increases, the more the need for institutionalised leadership at the heart of the Union becomes apparent". Events at the meeting of the European Council at Nice and the difficulties of cohabitation between the intergovernmental, community and federal methods only confirm the author's initial diagnosis of a divided European Union, which is being confronted with the choice between a classic intergovernmental process and a federal constitution for Europe.

Suggested Citation

Sidjanski, Dusan, The Federal Approach to the European Union (or the Quest for an Unprecedented European Federalism) (July 2001). Notre Europe Research and Policy Paper No. 14, Available at SSRN: or

Dusan Sidjanski (Contact Author)

University of Geneva and the European Institute ( email )

40 rue Le-Corbusier
Geneva, Geneve CH-1208
+41 22 710 66 00 (Phone)
+41 22 788 04 49 (Fax)


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