Towards a federal Europe

By Richard Laming

Federalism is widely misunderstood as a concept and so needs to be explained. It issometimes complicated and it also has opponents who seem to have an interest in muddyingthe waters. It is therefore important to be clear on what it means if an intelligent debate is tobe had about its role and its future.

The simplest way to describe federalism is as a system of multilevel government where eachlevel of government has a direct relationship with the citizen. It is therefore distinct both fromsystems of government where all executive authority rests with a single institution (unitarygovernment) and also from those systems where the decisions of one level of government arebinding only on other levels and not on the citizen directly (confederal government). Theimportance of this latter distinction will become apparent.

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