Fœderation

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A fœderation, also known as a supranational Union, is a type of multinational political Union where negotiated Power is delegated to an Authority by governments of member States. The term “supranational” is sometimes used in a loose, undefined sense in other contexts, sometimes as a substitute for international, transnational or global. Another method of decision-making in international organisations is intergovernmentalism, in which State governments play a more prominent role.

The German equivalent is the Staatenverbund, which roughly translates as “Association of sovereign States”.

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Origin as a legal concept[edit]

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Distinguishing features of a fœderation[edit]

A fœderation is a supranational body politic and corporate which lies somewhere between a confederation that is an association of States and a federation which is a state in its own right. The United States are described as midway between confederalism which recognises the complete independence of States in an association and federalism which seeks to consolidate them in a super-state.

The United States have supranational competences, but the Union possesses these competences only to the extent that they are conferred on it by the member States (Kompetenz-Kompetenz). Within the scope of these competences, the Union exercises its powers in a sovereign manner, having its own legislative, executive, and judicial authorities.

Unlike states in a federal super-state, member States retain ultimate sovereignty, although some sovereignty is shared with, or delegated to, the supranational body. Supranational agreements encourage stability and trust, because governments cannot break international accords at a whim. The supranational action may be time-limited. This was the case with the European Coal and Steel Community, which was agreed for 50 years with the possibility of renewal. Supranational accords may be permanent, such as an agreement to outlaw war between the partners. Full sovereignty can be reclaimed by withdrawing from the supranational arrangements but the member state would also lose the great advantages offered by mutualities, economies of scale, common external tariffs and other commonly agreed standards such as improved international trust and democracy and common external positions.

A fœderation, because it is an agreement between sovereign States, is based on international treaties. The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for the United States in general is different from classical treaties as it is a constitutionalizing treaty, that is, it provides the basis for a Federal rule of law. It has something in the nature of a constitution. It is based on a Treaty between its member governments but has normally to undergo a closer democratic scrutiny than other treaties because it is more far-ranging, affecting many areas of citizens’ lives and livelihoods.

A supranational authority can have some independence from member state governments in specific areas, although not as much independence as with a federal government. Supranational institutions, like federal governments, imply the possibility of pursuing agendas in ways that the delegating States did not initially envision. Democratic supranational Communities, however, are defined by treaty and by law. Their activity is controlled by a Court, democratic institutions and the rule of law.

The Union has legal supremacy over its member States (only) to the extent that its member State governments have expressly conferred competences on the Union. It is up to the individual governments to assure that they have full democratic backing in each of the member states. The citizens of the member States, though retaining their nationality and national citizenship, additionally become citizens of the Union.

Use in the European Community[edit]

In the European Community, the legal term, Staatenverbund is used as a local equivalent for “supranational Union”, in which the Community is neither a Confederation of States or a Federal State, but something in-between; Staatenverbund, while having no direct English equivalent, roughly translates as “Association of sovereign States”.

Supranationalism in the United States[edit]

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See also[edit]