The Federal Features of the EU: Lessons from Canada

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

The Federal Features of the EU: Lessons from Canada

  • Amy Verdun Department of Political Science, University of Victoria, Canada

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Abstract:  There has been a rise and fall in interest in federalism in the context of European integration. This article assesses the federal nature of the EU. It draws in particular on the work of Michael Burgess who has been one of the key thinkers on this issue. Because there are many types of ‘federalisms’ available across the globe, it is helpful to make a comparison with another political system to offer a base line. In this article I explore to what extent the EU already has federal features. With the help of the work of Burgess I seek to look beyond the specific characteristics of the EU and reflect on how a comparison with this other polity can offer us insights into what is going on within the EU political system. Drawing on the comparison with Canada, I seek to identify the characteristics of the EU that are already those of a federation. Therefore, the guiding question of this article is: compared to Canada, what particular features does the EU have that reminds us of a federation and what features is it still lacking? It finds that the EU has a considerable amount of federal features (federation), but that a federal tradition, a federal ideology and advocacy to a federal goal (federalism) are mostly absent.

Keywords:  Canada; Canada–EU comparison; European Union; federalism; federation; political system



© Amy Verdun. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.