NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Subsidiarity and the European Union

Robert P. Inman, Daniel L. Rubinfeld

NBER Working Paper No. 6556
Issued in May 1998
NBER Program(s):   IFM

The European Union is at a crossroads. At issue will be each of the three decisions which define a federal constitution: the number of participating governments, the assignment of policy responsibilities to the new EMU, and the representation of local interests in, and the decision-making rules for, the Union. Subsidiarity is to be the guiding principle. This essay reviews three alternative models of subsidiarity -- decentralized federalism, centralized federalism, and democratic federalism -- and argues the current European Economic Community has evolved from decentralized to centralized to a fully democratic federalist state. The structure of EMU governance is in place and it closely resembles that of the United States: an institutionally weak executive, a country-specific Council of Ministers and a locally representative Parliament. The remaining issues to be decided are the number of participating members and the assignment of policy responsibilities to levels of government. A large Union with significant fiscal policy responsibilities is likely to replicate U.S. economic policy performance.

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