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Federalism for the 21st century
by Joe Leinen (wfanca [at]
Monday Jan 15th, 2001 7:23 PM
A prescription for governing the globalization.
by Jo Leinen, President, Union of European Federalists

Federalism is able to organize freedom and democracy as well as solidarity and justice. In comparison with other ideas of order, federalism has shown itself as the most successful method in this century.

Liberalism has made great achievements and led to a worldwide development of economic strength. However, its one-sided emphasis on freedom and lack of solidarity has created vast gulfs between rich and poor, modern and backward, and developed and underdeveloped.

Communism, another phenomenon of this century, fell into another extreme. It subordinated the individual to the collective, thus preventing the free development of the people and violating democracy.

Federalism too knows the constant struggle for better solutions. Nevertheless, federalist-organized states are among the most free, democratic and prosperous.

Switzerland is an example of successfully practiced federalism. Swiss society is marked by different languages and different cultures. In other countries, this often leads to unbridgeable contrasts and even to separatist movements. Federalism, however, in Switzerland has managed to create manifold synergies out of contrasts.

European unification is the greatest success story of our continent in this century. The 1957 Treaty of Rome unleashed a process that brought peace and freedom to 350 million people in the European Union. For over 1000 years, there was war between the peoples of Europe. Now for the last 50 years, between former enemies, there is a measure of cooperation never before known.

Along with peace and freedom, the European Economic Community was to bring prosperity and stability. These goals too have been achieved. The European Union belongs to the part of the world recording the highest quality of life and the highest standard of living.

Once the European currency, the Euro, has been introduced, the diplomatic method of European politics will inevitably be superseded by a thoroughly planned democratic method. The further progress of European integration can only succeed if taken out of the hands of the governments and placed in the hands of the people and their representatives.

The internationalization of the economy has forced European unification. The globalization of the economic and financial markets provided by modern means of communication and transportation will also force the implementation of a system of global policy.

Despite the fascination exerted by this globalization, the negative sides cannot be concealed. There is no satisfactory international order reigning. Democratic, social, and ecological categories are considerably underpriviledged. It is becoming increasingly clear that the global economic market also requires a global political framework.

The chaotic and unordered process of globalization leads to fear and insecurity among many people. Flight into fundamentalism or nationalism are counter-reactions which can be observed all over the world.

There are also some positive counter-reactions. All over Europe, a process of regionalization and globalization has been apparent over some years now. Both processes have great potential for federalist development. For many people, home, or rather the more immediate regions, are gaining more meaning. For example, Russia is building on the strength of its regions while Poland has restored an old tradition of its regions in its new constitution.

Decentralization and federalization also offer a chance to defend the cultural diversity of Europe. Federalism is a recipe against separatism.

If the 19th Century was the century of liberalism, and the 20th Century the century of socialism, so the 21st Century will be the Century of federalism. The processes of both globalization and regionalization contain the seeds of federalism.

(A reproduction of this September 1997 speech commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the World Federalist Movement\'s founding in Montreux, Switzerland, appeared in the Summer 1999 Toward Democratic World Federation.)

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