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The European Union: confederation, federation or association of compound states?

A Hayekian approach to the theory of constitutions

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The European Union of today is neither a confederation nor a federation, but rather an association of compound states. It is shown that this mixture of two forms of constitutional contracts implies inconsistencies prone to political deadlocks. A Buchanan/Tullock/Rawls approach to a reform suggests a clear choice between either a confederation or a federation. In this paper, however, it is proposed to follow a Hayekian approach in which issue fields are allocated to a confederation or to a federation, respectively depending on the revealed homogeneity of preferences of the citizens across the Member States. Hence both, Council and European Parliament, would remain the central decision makers but with separate tasks. Suggestions are made how to improve their election and their decision rules. The paper should contribute to the debate on reforming the European institutions which emerged after the rejection of the constitutional draft by the French and Dutch voters in 2005.

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  1. While several authors have tried to identify this problem, e.g. Blankart (2004), this paper proposes an institutional reform based on the economic theory of constitutions.


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Correspondence to Charles B. Blankart.

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The author is indebted to Dennis Mueller, Erik Fasten and Jan Peter Sasse for helpful comments.

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Blankart, C.B. The European Union: confederation, federation or association of compound states?. Constit Polit Econ 18, 99–106 (2007).

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