What Can Europe Tell Us About the Future of American Federalism?

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Ernest A. Young

It is humbling for an American scholar of federalism to admit that the most interesting developments in federalism are happening in Europe, not the United States. But this has been true for some time. Kicking off the European Union’s convention to draft a constitutional treaty in 2001, former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing compared the proceedings to “the famous convention of Philadelphia of 1787.” The comparison was apt, in that the fundamental relationship between Brussels and the EU’s Member States has been under renegotiation for much of the past decade and a half. Since the unsuccessful constitutional convention,  the EU has seen the world’s most significant contemporary crisis of fiscal federalism, foundational disagreements between the European Court of Justice and the constitutional courts of the Member States over judicial supremacy, and the prospect of a real live secession by a major Member State.

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