Shallow Federaliztion – Pillar 3

This pillar deals with internal matters of member states and therefore it is bound to be very controversial. However, I have been trying not to shy away from such matters for political correctness, difficulty or other reasons. This is an area that may affect the formation of any federation, including the future federalization of the EU.

However, it is also very relevant today. The best example is the Catalonia’s referendum on independence carried out on 1st October 2017, which had not been previously agreed with the Spanish central government. Did the Catalans have the right to carry out such a referendum without the consent of the Spanish government? The illegality of the referendum is crystal clear. That’s what Article 2 of the Spanish Constitution says. But not having a legal right does not close the problem. If Catalans do not have a legal right to organize such a referendum on the region’s independence, do they have a moral right not only to the referendum but to becoming an independent state? In my view, they definitely have such a right based on three principles:

  • The first one is the so-called Natural law (“lex naturalis” in Latin). It asserts that “certain rights are inherent by virtue of human nature. The best example of applying natural law to declaring independence is the Declaration of Independence of the United States, which says that “…it has become necessary for the people of the United States to assume the separate and equal station, to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them”.
  • The second one is individual freedom, indirectly derived from Natural Law, practiced in ancient Rome as “habeas corpus”. Individual freedom means among others a freedom of unrestricted travel or organization. Therefore, regions, as communities, have the same ‘natural laws’ that protect their rights to self-governance (or ‘freedoms’) as those that protect individuals.
  • The third argument is the Right to Secede, which is frequently used by international lawyers. It describes two types of rights to secede: Primary Right and Remedial Right. Primary Right asserts that certain groups, like nations, have the right to secede in order to have their own state. Remedial Right is a unilateral right to secede, to which a group is entitled on the grounds of injustices they may have endured from the state they are part of. Here are some examples of application of the Remedial Right: the Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (the most recent cases ) and large-scale violations of basic human rights ( Palestine, Kosovo and Chechnya).

Therefore, in the future Constitution of Humanity there must be articles on region’s secession from the member states such as:

  1. Any nation or a region has the right to secede from its current member state. It can then immediately become a state on its own, or apply to become a part of another state or a federation
  2. The process of such a secession from a member state must follow strict procedures specified in the Constitution of Humanity
  3. Any such process must be supervised by an independent international organization
  4. There is a minimum period of 5 years (just an example) for completing the secession.

The second aspect of Shallow Federalization relates to what is the necessary minimum level of decisions that must be the competence of the central government or in reverse – what is the maximum level of self-governance within a federated state. This is a political and philosophical minefield and I will only touch on this area because of the implications on the actual approach that might be taken to form a Human Federation.

To make it easier to create any federation, it seems to me it should be set up from the outset as a ‘Minimal State’. That is not just a phrase but a whole concept of a state, favoured by liberal philosophers such as Emanuel Kant who viewed freedom as ‘the absence of external constraints upon an individual’. More recently an American philosopher Robert Nozick expressed the notion that ‘a state must possess two main attributes: it must have a monopoly on the use of legitimate force in a territory, and it must provide protective services for everyone in that territory’. Henry Usborne, in his book ‘Prescription for Peace’, published in 1985, calls such a federation a MiniFed. What I believe is important in the context of the Human Federation is that living in such a state is a kind of a bargain – greater safety for less freedom.

And that is precisely why I would think a Minimal State might be the very right political structure for the Human Federation or any multi-national federation. In such a state, its duties are so minimal that they cannot be reduced any further because otherwise the state would cease to exist and would become a form of anarchy. Typical governmental institutions in a Minimal State would be the defence, foreign affairs, federal police, and the federal judicial systems. Individual nations within such a federation would have the right to keep a local police and have local laws, but would not be allowed to have their own army. It is then obvious that a Minimal State is certainly not a Welfare State. That would be a continuing prerogative of the former states or larger regions within a federation.

The exact split of powers between a federation and its former independent states would have to take into account the cost and effectiveness of services provision beyond those that will be covered by a federal government. However, it is unlikely and undesirable that there should only be one ‘acceptable’ model of self-governance for the subsidiary entities of a federal state. For it is obvious that in any proposed model there will be positive and negative features. Additionally, the same feature can be viewed as positive or negative dependent on the cultural or regional differences. Therefore, the actual level of self-governance can only be decided in very concrete geopolitical circumstances. It will most likely happen just before a federation becomes a legal entity, when the states will have to decide how much of their sovereignty they agree to shed on behalf of a federation. That’s why such a decision on accession to a federation will have to be put to voters.