considering(in Section 4) what theEU can learn from other federations such asCanada, with a long historicalexperience
as a poly‐cephalousfederation. Canadatransformed its federalsystem in the 1980s, greatlymodifying its poly‐cephalous
traits, resulting in, after a lengthyperiod of contestation, improvedstability and democratic legitimacy.
2|EU STUDIES: THE CENTRALISING BIAS
This section starts by pointing to some of the distortions that mar much of the EU studies literature; proceeds to
reasons for the insufficient attention paid to federalism; and thereafter points to the shortcomings of multilevel
governance and multinational federalism.
2.1 |The centralising bias in EU studies
2.1.1 |Taking centralisation largely as a given
Up until the manifold and overlapping crises struck the EU from 2007, EU studies tended to focus on developmentsat
the supranational (that is, EU) level as key drivers of the process of integration. This was largely due to the fact that the
actual theoretical ‘engine’of European integration was either taken from ‘state’legal‐dogmatic constitutional theory
(the post‐New Deal United States in the case of the makers of EU law as an autonomous discipline) or from classical
‘international relations’theories, in the form of neo‐functionalism and intergovernmentalism.
The debate centred on whether the EU was integrating or not. Both the pioneering EU law and neo‐functionalism
were imbued with a strong centralisation bias, to the extent that they focused on centre formation and consolidation.
Intergovernmentalism, on the other hand, was devised as a theory of state resistance to integration, or to put it more
precisely, centralisation of power: intergovernmentalism posited that integration proceeded as far (and as quickly) as
states permitted it.
The envisaged process dynamics were very different from those of federalisation/de‐
Finally, we could detect a general ‘integration‐cum‐centralisation bias’in EU studies, with the bias helping to pro-
duce a distorted notion of federalisation, because it was subsumed under integration.
That implied a downplaying of
the important difference between integration as centre formation/consolidation, on the one hand, and federalisation
as striking a balance between unity and diversity in substantive terms, and between shared rule and self‐rule in com-
munal and procedural terms, on the other.
See J.E. Fossum and M. Jachtenfuchs, ‘Federal challenges and challenges to federalism: Insights from the EU and federal states’,
(2017) 24 Journal of European Public Policy, 467–485.
This position has its roots in the realist tradition of international relations. A classic statement with direct bearings onthe EU is found
in S. Hoffmann, ‘Obstinate or Obsolete? The Fate of the Nation‐State and the Case of Western Europe’, (1966) 95 Daedalus, 862–915.
For the standard reference to the neo‐realist position, see K. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Addison‐Wesley, 1979). For a
sophisticated empirical assessment, see A.S. Milward, The European Rescue of the Nation‐state (Routledge, 1992). For a modified
and nuanced version,see Andrew Moravcsik's The Choice for Europe (UCL Press, 1998).
Note that this bias is mainly found in those portions of EU studies that did not work from a federal perspective. Federal scholars
have been sensitive to EU pluralism and diversity and have made important contributions to our understanding of the EU. The
problem is that they make up a small minority, only. For an overview of federal scholarship on the EU, see Fossum and
Jachtenfuchs, above, n. 2. Just to cite two of the contributors that have been particularly sensitive to EU diversity, consider for
instance how Joseph Weiler with his notion of constitutional tolerance has underlined how the EU has constantly sought to rec-
oncile a multitude of political orders and constitutional arrangements. He did not however develop these important insights into
a theory of federalism that could render explicit what kind of federation the EU constituted. See J.H.H. Weiler, The Constitution
of Europe, ‘Do the New Clothes Have an Emperor?’and other Essays on European Integration (Cambridge University Press, 1999); J.
H.H. Weiler, ‘European Democracy and the Principle of Toleration: The Soul of Europe’, in F. Cerutti and E. Rudolph, A Soul for
Europe, Vol. 1 (Leuven, 33–54). Neil MacCormick has made a major contribution to our understanding of the tangled nature of sov-
ereignty in Europe, which paved the way for a federal understanding. That he developed with explicit reference to the notion of
subsidiarity whose intellectual lineage is closely related to that of federalism. See N. MacCormick, Questioning Sovereignty (Oxford
University Press, 1999).