Institut du fédéralisme
Faculté de droit


Why Centralisation and Decentralisation in Federations?

The Cologne workshop looking at «The Experience of Germany and Switzerland», Germany, 13-14 October 2016

Nicolas Schmitt took part to a workshop in Cologne devoted to the European side (also Germany and Switzerland) of a large project funded by The Leverhulme Trust and co-sponsored by The Forum of Federations The project seeks to conceptualise dynamic de/centralisation, map it across 22 policy areas and five fiscal areas in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Switzerland, and the United States, and reach comparative conclusions on its patterns and causes. These findings should have important empirical, conceptual, methodological, and theoretical implications for the study of federalism.

Before the integration of the remarks made by the participants of the three continental workshaps, the research highlighted temporarily six main conclusions.
First, dynamic de/centralisation is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon, hence analysis needs to be sensitive to this complexity. Fiscal data alone do not capture it.
Second, while the dominant trend has been one of centralisation, there are significant exceptions.
Third, contrary to widespread expectations in the 1950s and 1960s, centralisation has taken place primarily in the legislative, rather than the fiscal, sphere.
Fourth, centralisation is not only a mid-20th century phenomenon, significant change has occurred both before and after.
Fifth, its single most powerful determinant is whether a federation is mono- or multinational whereas multilingualism per se does not matter much.
Sixth, institutional properties influence the instruments of dynamic de/centralisation but do not significantly affect its direction or magnitude.