Frequently Asked Questions about the European Federalist Papers

3. About federalisation

Is a Federation only intended for states?

No. A Federation is a type of organization that may be applied both in the private and in the public sphere. The FIFA – the World Football Association – is an example of a private federal organization. The Association of Owners in an apartment building is also a Federation: the board of that association possesses limitative powers to take care of common interests, such as maintenance of the roof, elevators and staircases. To this end the apartment owners pay a monthly contribution. In a Federation this is called tax. A cooperation – well-known in agricultural and banking circles – also has a federal structure. See Paper 7.

Why do people create a Federation?

Because they wish to remain sovereign but prefer to have certain matters taken care of by a communal body. The impetus can thus come from the outside (threats) as well as from the inside (interests). And they are willing to pay for that: they gather financial means to pay someone else to efficiently take care of common interests – in the private sphere through financial contributions, in the public sphere through taxes. See Papers no. 9, 10, 12, 14 en 20.

What does a country lose when joining a Federation?

Nothing. It actually receives something extra, namely the certainty that those interests that cannot be efficiently taken care of (any longer) by the country itself will be taken care of by another body.

How does one create a Federation?

A private federation is established by a contract or covenant, or a different similar kind of agreement. A public federation is mostly based on a Constitution, not a treaty. Usually states use a treaty as the instrument to establish a confederation or an intergovernmental system. See Papers no. 2, 4, 5 en 7.

Do many people know what a Federation actually is?

No. Due to false information by Euro-skeptics and Euro-haters many people think that a Federation is a super state or an empire, which is absolutely not the case; on the contrary. The EU’s present intergovernmental system – in which government leaders in the European Council can decide whatever they wish and subsequently can enforce these decisions to be executed in all member states – is a super state.

Do several kinds of Federations exist?

Yes. The best thing to do is to read Paper 5.

Are some Federations better than others?

Yes. Sometimes Federations are created incorrectly, both constitutionally and institutionally. Which leads to an early death or to a deficient functioning. See for examples Papers no. 18 en 19.

Do all federalists share the same opinions about federalization?

No. Unfortunately there is not one prevailing doctrine with regard to federalization. That is to say, we think that in our European Federalist Papers we have tried in an honest manner to establish fixed contours for European federalization, based on old and new wisdoms. However, there are of course people with differing opinions – though they may not have had the time to study our Papers thoroughly.

What other opinions can we encounter?

There is a group of people, led by President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, who speak about a Federation of Nations. That is the same as talking about a ‘pregnant man’: two words that cannot be used in the same context – or a contradiction in terminis, such as a ’Constitutional Treaty’. One can only speak of a ‘Federation of Citizens’ because – whatever book on federalism one consults – the Citizens are the foundation of a Federation, not the States. Besides, there are differing opinions regarding the method of creating a European Federation. Federalists in the European Parliament want to do this by changing the existing EU-treaties. We reject this because it has been tried many times before and has always failed. And it will continue to fail in the future. See our Papers no. 11 and 12. We choose as a method for federalization the successful approach adopted by the founding fathers of the American Constitution. Thus, through organizing a federal Convention. This Convention should lead to a federal Constitution to be ratified by a majority of the Citizens of at least nine countries of the Eurozone.

For how long has Europe been busy with the creation of a Federation, and why has this not succeeded up until now?

Already for 700 years has the necessity of having a federal Europe been discussed; it began in the realm of the Habsburgs. In our modern history the 1941 Ventotene Manifest by Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi could be considered the first well-formulated concept for European federation. Thereafter, European cooperation began with the Schuman Plan or Declaration of 1950. However, the intended federalization has never been achieved because this Schuman Plan contains a severe systemic error which has been propagated throughout all following EU-treaties. We explain this error in Papers no. 11 en 12.

Don’t you need one homogeneous people and one homogeneous language in order to create a Federation?

No, this is a popular misconception which has been spread around without any foundation. Even in the USA not everyone spoke or speaks English. Millions of immigrants continue to speak their native language. Moreover, the difference between citizens of Vermont and Texas are as large, or maybe larger, than the differences between inhabitants of Finland and Greece. And did you know that federal Switzerland acknowledges four different government languages as official languages? And that federal India acknowledges no less than 22 languages? The EU acknowledges 23 languages. See Papers no. 15 en 20.

What makes a Federation stronger than any other state system?

The answer to this question will be clear if you look at Federations such as Canada, the United States of America, Brazil, Australia, India, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. These are very strong countries. Within Europe you may look at the difference between federal Germany and centralized France: despite the economic crisis Germany still has economic growth – France not at all. This is not a flaw of President François Hollande, but of the centralized governing system. If you like to know more you should read Paragraph 1.5 of the Annual Report 2012 by The Netherlands Bank. This explains why the federal American system could cope faster and more effectively with the banking and economic crisis. What is more: since 1787 there has been only one interior war in America. How many wars did we have in Europe since 1787? See Papers no. 15-17, 20 en 21.

Can the Benelux play a role with regard to European federalization?

Yes. The Benelux has been the initiator of European cooperation, even prior to World War II. Also at present we see that the Benelux is able to play an important role in making the turnaround towards a real European Federation. See Paper 13.

How does a country become member of a Federation?

In two ways: either immediately at the moment of ratifying the Constitution (from that moment on there are no conditions to meet other than to comply with the rules of the Constitution), or one can join at a later stage. In that case the Constitution requires a heavy decision-making procedure. Not only the Citizens and Parliament of the joining country need to agree upon that, also the Citizens and Parliaments of the other member states, as well as the two Houses of the federal Parliament. See Papers no. 5-8, 21 en 24.

Is it possible for a member state to leave the Federation unilaterally?

No, not unilaterally. Here the same procedure applies as in the case of joining after the Constitution’s ratification: everyone needs to agree for a member state to leave the Federation (Paper no. 24). This subject has been the cause of the one and only American internal war, from 1861-1865: about ten states unilaterally left the Federation because they feared that Abraham Lincoln, as soon as he was to take office as the new President, would abolish slavery. He declared war on them, exclusively because of their leaving the Federation. That was a breach of the Constitution, which he wanted to uphold. Not because of slavery. Only in 1863 did he manage to push through Congress a law on the abolishment of slavery.

What is the part of the federal budget in the GNP?

In the USA this is 24%, in the European Union this is hardly 1%. This is one of the reasons why the EU has so much trouble absorbing the debts of its member states. Again and again debt-free or low-debt member states need to achieve a mutual agreement on the way in which they will help member states with a heavy debt-burden. This is splitting up the EU. See Papers no. 1-5 en 21-22.

Do taxes of member states remain the same when introducing a federal tax?

No, of course not. When introducing a federal tax, the taxes of member states will be lowered or abolished. Citizens should profit from federalization, not lose from it. It is a constitutional matter and a matter of policy choices which taxes become federal and which remain with the member states and their component parts. See Paper 22.

Will there be a better balance between income and expense if we would have a federal tax?

Yes. Let’s see an example in the field of defense-expenses. The USA spends twice as much on defense as the EU-countries. But they have a more balanced ratio between investments (25%), personnel (50%) and exploitation (25%). Belgium, Italy and Greece spend more than 70% of their budget on personnel. This implies few investments. Moreover, there is a lot of fragmentation. There are more than twenty different combat vehicles in Europe and decisions on defense are taken on the basis of national interests, without looking at surpluses or shortages within the NATO and the EU. The EU can only make operational 70.000 troops out of almost two million European troops. That kind of financial imbalance will disappear within a Federation. See Papers no. 21 en 22.

Go to the next FAQ’s