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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Debating an ideal federal arrangement for the European Union : a comparative analysis of Switzerland, Canada and the European Union Babczak, Robert


There are few who would deny the overwhelming and already existing federal elements in the European Union (EU). The EU's growing responsibilities supported by the Treaty of Maastricht and the newly proposed EU Constitutional Treaty are clear evidence of this. The challenges of managing an enlarged and a more diverse EU will require new arrangements to achieve the 'ever-closer union'. These arrangements will need a federal model in order to maintain the already existing quasi-federal EU. The federal model, as distinct from the unitary nation-state, can offer possible solutions to remedying such EU dilemmas as: the legitimacy of the EU institutions, the capacity for decision-making, the democratic deficit and the accommodation of territorial and cultural distinctiveness of member states. The research focuses on comparative analysis and works toward explaining the rationale behind the federal model for the European Union. The study presents the historical background and the theory behind ideas of federalism in Europe. It evaluates existing federal arrangements showcasing the examples of Canada and Switzerland. On the basis of a five point federal test, which serves as a comparative tool, this study suggests that federalism is the relevant model for the European Union. Moreover, the paper proposes that the federal model, due to its strict definition, can benefit the EU's multi-level governance and reinforce the legitimacy of already existing EU treaties. The process of EU integration, though an ongoing political and economic experiment, must look for viable sources of reliable and valuable past experiences. In search for the most suitable federal model for the EU, the comparative experience of Swiss and Canadian federations allow us to identify similarities and differences, successes and failures, as well as provide mechanisms and processes which may help to deal with any future problems of EU integration.

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