Seeking just federalism in the EU

Turning the European Union into a just federal state might be in the interests of small member countries. This possibility is discussed in an editorial in Helsingin Sanomat (22 October 2000). The paper thinks that this "heretic idea" is partly inspired by the efforts of large countries to secure their position before EU enlargement.

Helsingin Sanomat writes that in the debate about the EU's future, the concept of federalism plays an important role. However, the debate has become confusing because people don't define accurately what they are talking about, the leading article points out.

"A federal state can take its model from Germany or Spain where power is devolved from central government to regional administrations. The same kind of model has become a reality in the United Sates, Canada and Australia, to mention a few. In these countries power has been shared from the start between central power and states.

"An opposite model is a centralised federal state which aims to gather all possible power in its own hands and grants states only illusionary power. The best example was the Soviet Union. One reason for its collapse was its centralised structure: every effort was made to keep power in one centre -- Moscow. This centralised model is used by most Europeans who paint alarmist pictures of federalist horrors."

Helsingin Sanomat notes that most Europeans don't want a centralised federal state. The multiple nature of the continent's experience and history guarantees that nation-states don't want in the foreseeable future to give up vital interests like national security to distant supranational institutions, even if common currency strengthens the feeling of togetherness, the paper writes.

"Moving towards a devolved federal state requires just rules. In co-operation between nation-states the member countries' consensus principle must be retained in the most important issues. Common institutions must be open and effective and the interests of small members must be upheld in the Parliament, for instance by a second chambre like the United States Senate. The common part of the justice system must be honest and democratic. The principle of subsidiarity is also very important. This means that decisions will be taken at regional and local level wherever possible.

"A country like Finland must carry the debate in the spirit of the future, not the past. We are a full member of the EU and amongst ourselves we must think without preconceived notions what kind of solution best secures Finland's interests, peace, welfare and democracy."

See also:

From our archive:

"EU needs new philosophy to help enlargement"

11 August 2000

Schröder: No exclusive clubs within EU

17 July 2000

"EU hard core membership important for security"

31 May 2000

Citizens' rights emphasised as part of EU reform

26 October 1999

Changing EU voting rules would be undemocratic by Hannu Reime

October 1999

Power of big EU countries raises questions

October 1999





[home] [archive] [focus]