Federalisation of the European Union: All You Need to Know

Federalisation of the European Union: All You Need to Know

This article on ‘Federalisation of the European Union: All You Need to Know’ is written by Priyal an intern at Legal Upanishad.

Federalisation of the European Union: All You Need to Know
Federalisation of the European Union: All You Need to Know


The article will be covering the federalisation of the European Union focusing upon its history and the present condition of the federalisation.

When we talk about European Union, it is an exceptional political union of 27 European nations of Europe. The EU policies were formulated to provide boundless movement of peoples, services & goods as well as capital in the internal market, formulate laws for justice and govern policies upon trade, fisheries & agriculture and some regional improvement. However, there is a discussion going over the extent of the EU federation and what is yet to be achieved into a more federal union.


The EU is the union of 27 states belonging to the EU and its citizens. Although, these state members are independent and sovereign, yet they pool their sovereignty to those areas where they could work together. However, there are some institutions created by the EU to take decisions at the level of the EU which are: European Parliament, European Council, European Commission and Council. It is the function of the European Commission to make new laws and adoption of such laws is the function of the European Parliament. Hence, taking relevant decisions and making laws is the function of these two advisory bodies.


In the 1920s, due to large movement of Pan-European due to the formation of the Pan-European Union (PU) for the first time which instituted the idea of the union of states in Europe. This movement of Pan-European was headed by the Karlegi and Habsburg and was the oldest movement led for the union of states of Europe.

Scenario after World War-II

After World War II got over, the political environment of Europe created the circumstances to support the union of western states of Europe as a remedy to escape from the nationalism existing which destroyed entire Europe to a huge extent.

Thereafter, the first proposal was made to co-operate with Europe in 1951 which was successful also. A community was formed for the same name as the European Coal and Steel Community, which played a major role in gradually the community to a union. There were policies made for the members of the EU to benefit Europe by working jointly.

When we say about integration of European states, it is meant to be a process of amalgamation of powers inter governmentally and the enforcement of supranational institutions.

Multi-speed European integration

The concept of multi-speed is an alternative to the types of such integration of European nations where some members of the EU can accelerate their process and amount of integration upon their consideration. However, the others can also integrate at a slow speed or even can end their further planned integration.


At present, the EU de jure is not a federation although it has been argued that it does have some characteristics of federalism.

As per Prof. Kelemen, “Without any burden of the prejudice, for EU being a sui generis and also incomparable” the debate of federalism over EU is being used by the scholars of federalism in their studies. And as per the current analysis, the union possess a minimum attribute of federalism and they deal with various tensions that occur in a federal structure.

As per Weiler, “The state of Europe has its federalism possessing constitutional character. ECJ i.e. European Court of Justice is responsible for constructing a legal court order in the EU.”

As per Josselin, “A total shift of EU from a confederation to the federation will require the replacement of their principality as the members of the union and then both confederation and federalism will exist together under the judicial shadow”.

As per Risse and Brozel, “there are two main features of federation lacking in the EU which are: that the EU members shall be the master of the EU treaties having an exclusive power to change any EU treaties. Also, it lacks with an original capacity of taxation and spending power which remarks the absence of federalism fiscally.”

There were some other academicians also who argued that it is unlikely for the EU to evolve into a uniform and complete federal union. There have been limits to the bureaucratic capabilities of the institutions of the EU. Such as the size of the EC is small creating a barrier in the federalisation of the European Union. The budget of Europe is less to accompany the economic activities of the EU financially. Further, every member of the EU owns their global relations with foreign countries and military. Also, there happen certain cases where some of the members of the EU decide to terminate themselves from the agreement which was opposed by them.

Lastly, there might be a situation where the members of the EU decide to hold on to their sovereignty over those areas where we’re expected to be transferred to the authority under a federal structure.

It is important to note that treaties of the EU shall be agreed upon and supported by the majority of joining members of the EU. However, there can be a situation where those members will ask for surety in the form of a legal guarantee to not affect the position of such member nations under any condition.  


When we say federalisation, what does this federalisation or federalism means? Federalism is a mixture of general and regional government under a particular political scheme where the powers get divided between the two. The process of attaining federalism is known as federalisation.

The federalisation of the European Union in Europe portray the processes as well as proposals made for transforming an informal alliance of sovereign states into a formal federation. Since the period of 1950s, the integration of EU members has observed the expansion of the supranational structure of the governance, where the institutions of the EU have moved ahead to the idea of easy intergovernmental structure and led to federalism.

Although, new intergovernmental essentials were introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht, 1992, beside the additional federal structure which put the difficulty to define the EU. EU can be described as a system having a multi-level government where the rights of sovereignty are divided into three levels of institutions which are national, sub national as well as supranational.

Today, the EU possesses some powers of regulation and features of having a federal structure. These features of EU are enlisted below:

  1. The system of the EU is based upon two forms of government having their rights and controlling citizens directly.
  2. The jurisdiction on as well as the resources of these two forms of government is allocated through the treaties.
  3. There exist certain provisions upon the concept of shared government where the EU jurisdiction and members of the EU get overlapped.
  4. The law of the community is superior to the law of the nation.
  5. The legislation in Europe is made by considering the decision of the majority and also putting obligation over its members to prioritize the legislation over their priorities.
  6. However, such a composition of EU considers minority views as well to decide their composition and their procedures.
  7. The amendment of treaties involves the endorsement of both governments including the national parliament and government.
  8.  ECJ must adjudicate the matters or conflicts between the institutions and members of the EU including between citizens and their government.


The pursuit of unprecedented federalism of the EU has been founded on the principle of federalism being inspired by the federal as well as community experiences. It is constructed upon the common culture of Europe, in which political overview is incarnated in numerous forms of such union. The principle of federalism constitutes be a perfect step to increase the economic strength of the EU and blooming their national culture and identities in creating an ideal community and thus uniting the states of Europe to benefit its citizens and mankind.


  1. Albert Hayrapetyan. (n.d.). Federalism, Functionalism and the EU: The Visions of Mitrany, Monnet and Spinelli. E-International Relations. https://www.e-ir.info/2020/09/21/federalism-functionalism-and-the-eu-the-visions-of-mitrany-monnet-and-spinelli/.
  2. Tanja A. Borzel. (n.d.). What can Federalism Teach Us About the European Union?. The Royal Institute of International Affairs. https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Research/Europe/borzel.pdf.
  3. SidJanski.(n.d.). The federalisation of the European Union. Groupement D’etudes Et De Recherches. https://institutdelors.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/etud14-en-1.pdf.
  4. Dusan Sidjanski.(n.d.). The Federal Approach of European Union. Papers SSRN. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=283652.