Theory

Intergovernmental Councils and the Stability of Federal Systems

Intergovernmental Councils and the Stability of Federal Systems

Abstract

Intergovernmental councils not only increase the effectiveness and efficiency of public policy-making, they can also contribute to federal stability. Regular meetings of members of governments shape the way federal systems deal with the increasingly interdependent relationship between the governments of a federation. When policy problems cut across jurisdictions, governments’ autonomy is at stake. Looking at examples of major reforms of fiscal policy in Australia, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland, this article identifies the conditions under which intergovernmental councils protect governments’ authority, discretion, and resources so as to avoid federal tensions. Federal governments, in particular, have been eager to get involved in many policy areas for which the constituent units are responsible. Hence, the extent to which intergovernmental councils contribute to the stability of today’s federations ultimately depends on their ability to make the federal government agree on joint solutions with the federated entities.

 

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Posted by Johanna Schnabel in Theory, 0 comments
Measuring Federalism and Decentralisation

Measuring Federalism and Decentralisation

Abstract

In this article I argue that federal scholars are well-advised to think of federalism as a continuum whereby subnational units can have more or less autonomy rather than allocating countries into federal and non-federal categories. The Regional Authority Index (RAI) measures the extent of self-rule and shared rule of regional government on an annual basis since 1950 and it reveals that regional autonomy arrangements in federal countries are more likely to be affected by reform than non-federal countries. In addition, self-rule appears to be the object of decentralization in non-federal countries whereas decentralization in federal countries has mostly affected shared rule. These are surprising results which come to the fore only when one escapes categorical thinking. The RAI also changes the way in which we think about the impacts of regional governance and thereby a whole new research agenda is being opened up.

 

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Posted by Arjan H. Schakel in Theory, 0 comments
What Does the EU tell us about Federalism?

What Does the EU tell us about Federalism?

Abstract

 

The link between federalism and the EU has been widely explored from the perspective of structural, definitional elements. Rather than looking at the impact of federalism on the EU, this paper looks at what the EU tells us about contemporary federalism. It is contended that the most significant contribution of the EU to the theory and practice of federalism is the key role of asymmetry. In the EU, like in other contemporary manifestations of federalism, asymmetry is the backbone of the functioning of the relations between the tiers of government, a structural rather than an accidental element of today’s federalism.

 

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Posted by Francesco Palermo in Case Studies, Theory, 0 comments
Intergovernmental Relations in Federal Systems: Ubiquitous, Idiosyncratic, Opaque and Essential

Intergovernmental Relations in Federal Systems: Ubiquitous, Idiosyncratic, Opaque and Essential

Abstract

Regardless of institutional design, all federal systems imply substantial degrees of interaction between federal partners. “Intergovernmental relations” (IGR) refer to the many modalities through which this interaction takes place. IGR take many shapes and forms. They fluctuate with time and according to policy areas. In this sense, they are idiosyncratic. They are, however, the essential “oil in the machinery” of every federal system, and as such may be rather ubiquitous. Following a short incursion in the terminological challenges relating to intergovernmental relations (and its companion: “comparative federalism”), this article explores the actors in the IGR game as well as the rich catalogue of legislative – and mostly executive-techniques on which these actors rely to structure their relations. IGR waltz between institutionalization and informality, often in an opaque fashion which tends to reinforce the executive branch of each federal partner.
This brief overview of IGR from a comparative perspective suggests that federations grounded in the “continental civil law tradition” are more likely to structure IGR through legal mechanisms and norms than their more pragmatic “common law” counterparts. Though this is a significant simplification, the latter tend to consider IGR primarily (if not exclusively) through a political lens. Yet – somewhat paradoxically – regardless of informality and legal status, IGR play similar functions in various federal systems. Coordination functions, of course. But also para-constitutional engineering ones, through which federal actors (generally the various executives) implicitly alter the official federal architecture.

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Posted by Johanne Poirier in Theory, 0 comments
Political Parties: Driving Federal Dynamics, adapting to Federal Structures

Political Parties: Driving Federal Dynamics, adapting to Federal Structures

Abstract

Liberal thinkers and supporters of majoritarian democracy are at odds with each other on the proper role of political parties in federal systems. Parties are seen either as guardians of the federal division of powers or as instruments to transcend federal barriers for the pursuit of uniform public policies. In analytical accounts, scholars have looked at two dimensions of territorial party politics: the level of symmetry in party competition and the degree of vertical integration within party organisations. There are many different ways, in which parties have responded to a multi-level political environment. In a complex two-way mutual interaction, parties have adapted to federal structures while at the same time driving federal dynamics.

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Posted by Klaus Detterbeck in Theory, 0 comments
Perspectives on Comparative Federalism

Perspectives on Comparative Federalism

Abstract

The number of countries embracing federalism is rocketing and research on federalism is booming. Federal studies are eventually abandoning the vain search for definitional clarity, and increasingly look at the potential of federalism to provide solutions to some of the most pressing challenges to contemporary constitutionalism. Federalism is indeed the oldest institutional mechanism to regulate pluralism, and has therefore a lot to offer in solving contemporary challenges originating from the quest for more pluralism, both institutional and societal.

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Posted by Francesco Palermo in Theory, 0 comments
Multiple Territorial Identities and Social Cohesion

Multiple Territorial Identities and Social Cohesion

Abstract

Multiple territorial identities reflect the sedimentation of shared loyalties and political aspirations through the various levels of government. The ‘Moreno question’ was set according to a scale of five categories, which provide data on levels of identity belonging, intensity and sharing in contexts of political duality. After briefly discussing the ‘Moreno question’, this contribution analyses the implications of sub-state identity polarization concerning secession in the case of Catalonia and Spain. It concludes by noting that social cohesion is regarded as a desirable aim to be achieved depending not only on the politics of recognition but also on government institutions as facilitators of social trust.

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Posted by Luis Moreno in Theory, 0 comments
Joint-decision Making: An Alternative to Centralisation / Decentralisation

Joint-decision Making: An Alternative to Centralisation / Decentralisation

Abstract

The text presents the concept of joint-decision making as an idea and alternative to the already established concepts of centralisation and decentralisation in federal studies. Whereas the notions of centralisation and decentralisation seem to be well established in federal studies, the idea of joint-decision making seems to count only as a German speciality or a German feature of federal studies. This paper further explores this idea and concept, drawing upon the German case as well as suggesting it is worth expanding beyond it.

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Posted by Dominic Heinz in Theory, 0 comments
Dynamic Federalism

Dynamic Federalism

Abstract

Traditional federal theory seems no longer apt to grasp recent evolutions in state structures. By delimiting federal states in terms of defining institutional features, federalism scholars put themselves at the margin rather than the centre of where the action is: fragmenting dynamics in multinational states, secession movements, as well as centralist and decentralist tendencies within the European Union. In a dynamic approach to federalism, all multi-tiered systems are assembled with a common denominator being how they manage tensions between autonomy claims of territorial entities on the one hand, and the need for cohesion or efficiency of the central government on the other. In this approach, qualifying criteria to categorise state structures become mere indicators to rank multi-tiered systems on a gliding scale from the most central to the loosest systems. The ranking is based on three sets of indicators, one measuring autonomy, another measuring cohesion and a third, linking both, measuring participation. The core question examined in this contribution is: which mechanisms in the constitutional system have a centralising or decentralising effect?

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Posted by Patricia Popelier in Theory, 0 comments
Condominiums and Shared Sovereignty

Condominiums and Shared Sovereignty

Abstract

As the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU), the future of Gibraltar, appears to be in peril. Like Northern Ireland, Gibraltar borders with EU territory and strongly relies on its ties with Spain for its economic stability, transports and energy supplies. Although the Gibraltarian government is struggling to preserve both its autonomy with British sovereignty and accession to the European Union, the Spanish government states that only a form of joint-sovereignty would save Gibraltar from the same destiny as the rest of UK in case of complete withdrawal from the EU, without any accession to the European Economic Area (Hard Brexit). The purpose of this paper is to present the concept of Condominium as a federal political system based on joint-sovereignty and, by presenting the existing case of Condominiums (i.e. Andorra). The paper will assess if there are margins for applying a Condominium solution to Gibraltar.

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Posted by Francesco Violi in Theory, 0 comments