This roundtable led by Jos Chabert from Belgium, the Vice-President of the Committee of Regions of the European Union, and Ramazan Abdulatipov, a federal Minister and Special Advisor for Nationalities Affairs in Russia, focused on the relation between federal divisions of power and democracy.
stressed that, by and large, politicians were interested in results rather than in definitions, and thus had a pragmatic approach to the subject which most often lead to agreement.He
went on to state that although federalism is by no means perfect, the federalization of Europe into the fifteen-nation European Union
must be considered a great success if for no other reason that it has spelled no more war for a region that had launched two World Wars in the first half of the twentieth century.
In terms of the specific organization of power sharing in the context of the European Union
, it is similar to that of other federations in some respects, and different in others.Like many other federations, the Union has exclusive powers as well as concurrent powers which it shares with its various member states.The exclusive powers, established in the European treaties include: the customs union; the internal market; the common agricultural policy; the common approach to anti-competitive practices; and the economic and monetary union.Within the realm of its exclusive powers, moreover, the European Union
acts through its own institutions, the Parliament, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Justice.
In the realm of concurrent powers -- which include: environmental policy, scientific research, transportation, social policy, and also, to a significant degree, culture, education, public health and increasingly judicial matters -- the European Union
cooperates with member states and even in some cases with subnational regions.
In conclusion, Mr. Chabert
emphasized that the nation-state as it emerged at the end of the nineteenth century was pretty much obsolete in the context of the European Union
.Moreover, the shift of powers from the nation-state to supra-national institutions was by no means confined to the Union, but rather has become a generalized trend since the end of the Second World War.Thus, for example, a significant part of the national-state traditional military power has been transferred by several European states, among others, to international organizations such as NATO.In general, the double movement of transfer of powers to supra-national institutions, on the one hand, and to infra-national regions, on the other hand, should be understood as promoting greater peaceful cooperation and economic integration in an age of globalization as well as enhancing local democracy over matters that remain close to the hearts of citizens, such as education and culture.In short, Mr. Chabert
suggested that the European Union
should be viewed as an ongoing pragmatic experiment designed to wed greater economic efficiency with enhanced democratic control.
These conclusions were not unanimously shared, and they generated an animated discussion.A discussant from Switzerland, for example, stated that, in his
view, the Union's move to the common currency, the Euro, was a means toward further centralization and inordinate accumulation of power in Brussels.Consistent with this view, the Union has been primarily focused on maximizing economic objectives at the cost of producing an ever wider democratic deficit.
Others disputed this last characterization, and several speakers from other regions -- and particularly from economically more disadvantaged federally-organized polities -- pointed out that whatever shortcomings European Union
federalism may have, they pale compared to those experienced in less fortunate parts of the world.By comparison at least, European Union
federalism has to be categorized therefore as highly successful on both the economic and the democratic front.