How close is the European Union to being a federation?

There has been considerable debate over the past decade or so, regarding the EU and federalism. Whether the EU is already a federation. Whether the EU is getting closer to being a federation. Whether the EU has the intention of becoming a federation. Just what the heck it means, anyway, to be a federation.

This article is my quick take, regarding the current status of the federal-ness of the EU. Just a simple layman's opinion, on what is of course quite a complex question. Perhaps not an expert analysis; but, hopefully, a simpler and more concise run-down than experts elsewhere have provided.

EU as a federation – yes or no?

The fruit salad of modern Europe.
The fruit salad of modern Europe.

(Image courtesy of Probert Encyclopaedia).




The EU is still far from being a federated entity, in its present incarnation. It's also highly uncertain whether the EU will become more federated in the future; and it's generally accepted that at the moment, many Europeans have no desire for the EU to federate further.

Europe has achieved a great deal in its efforts towards political and economic unity. Unfortunately, however, a number of the European nations have been dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way. On account of this, there have been far too many compromises made, mainly in the form of agreeing to exceptions and exclusions. There are numerous binding treaties, but there is no constitution. There is a quasi-supreme court, but it has no supreme jurisdiction. There is a single currency and a border-free zone, apart from where there isn't. In fact, there is even a European Union, apart from where there isn't (with Switzerland and Norway being the most conspicuously absent parties).

Federalism just doesn't work like that. In all the truly federated unions in the world, all of the above issues have been resolved unequivocally – no exceptions, no special agreements. Whichever way you look at it – by comparison with international standards; by reference to formal definitions; or simply by logical reasoning and with a bit of common sense – the European Union is an oxymoron at best, and the United States of Europe remains an improbable dream.

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