is a group of empowered states or communities, usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution. Confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues, such as defense
, foreign affairs
, foreign trade
, and a common currency
, with the central government being required to provide support for all members. A confederation, in modern political terms, is usually limited to a permanent union of sovereign states for common action in relation to other states.
The nature of the relationship between the entities constituting a confederation varies considerably. Likewise, the relationship between the member states and the central government, and the distribution of powers among them, is highly variable. Some looser confederations are similar to international organizations, while tighter confederations may resemble federations.
In a non-political context, confederation is used to describe a type of organization which consolidates authority from other semi-autonomous bodies. Examples include sports confederations or confederations of Pan-European trades unions.
The noun confederation refers to the process of (or the event of) confederating; i.e., establishing a confederation (or by extension a federation). In Canada, Confederation generally refers to the British North America Act, 1867 which initially united four colonies of British North America (Province of Upper Canada, Province of Lower Canada, Province of New Brunswick and Province of Nova Scotia), and to the subsequent incorporation of other colonies and territories. Despite this use of the word "confederation", Canada is a federal state.
The Iroquois Confederacy
(also known as the "League of Peace and Power", the "Five Nations"; the "Six Nations"; or the "People of the Longhouse
") is a group of First Nations
that consist of six nations: the Mohawk
, the Oneida
, the Onondaga
, the Cayuga
, the Seneca
and the Tuscarora
. The Iroquois have a representative government known as the Grand Council. The Grand Council is the oldest governmental institution still maintaining its original form in North America. Each tribe sends chiefs to act as representatives and make decisions for the whole nation.
The EU is not de jure a confederation – but some academic observers conclude that it has elements of a confederation or a federation.
Europe has charted its own brand of constitutional federalism.(Joseph H. H. Weiler)
Those uncomfortable using the “F” word in the EU context should feel free to refer to it as a quasi-federal or federal-like system. Nevertheless, for the purposes of the analysis here, the EU has the necessary attributes of a federal system. It is striking that while many scholars of the EU continue to resist analyzing it as a federation, most contemporary students of federalism view the EU as a federal system (See for instance, Bednar, Filippov et al., McKay, Kelemen, Defigueido and Weingast).(R. Daniel Kelemen)
Many authors are now speaking of Belgium as a country with some aspects of a Confederation. C.E. Lagasse wrote it about the agreements between Belgian Regions and Communities : We are near the political system of a Confederation . Vincent de Coorebyter, Director of the CRISP wrote in Le Soir Belgian is undoubtely a federation... [but] has some aspects of a confederation Michel Quévit, Professor ath the Université Catholique de Louvain wrote also in Le Soir The Belgian political system is already in dynamics of a Confederation . The same author wrote already about this issue in 1984 with other Professors
Confederation vs federation
By definition, the difference between a confederation and a federation is that the membership of the member states in a confederation is voluntary, while the membership in a federation is not. A confederation is most likely to feature these differences over a federation: (1) No real direct powers: many confederal decisions are externalised by member-state legislation. (2) Decisions on day-to-day-matters are not taken by simple majority but by special majorities or even by consensus or unanimity (veto for every member). (3) Changes of the constitution, usually a treaty, require unanimity.
Note that historical confederations, especially those predating the 20th century, may not fit the current definition of a confederation, may be proclaimed as a federation but be confederal(or the reverce), and may not show any qualities that are today recognized as those of a federation.
Some have more the characteristics of a personal union, but they are st listed here because of their own self-styling.
- Crown of Aragon (1137–1716)
- Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (confederated personal union; 1447–1492, 1501–1569, (different governments, armies, treasuries, laws, territories with borders, citizenships; common monarch (Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland), parliament (Sejm) and currency)
- Switzerland (1291–1848), officially the Swiss Confederation
- Republic of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands (1581-1795)
- Confederate Ireland (1641-1649)
- New England Confederation (1643–1684)
- United States of America under the Articles of Confederation (1781–1789)
- Confederate States of America, (1861–1865)
- Aro Confederacy, (1690 -1902), in what is now Nigeria, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea
- Union of African States (1961–1963, Mali+Ghana+Guinea)
- Senegambia (1982–1989, Senegal+Gambia)
- Hanseatic League
- United Provinces of New Granada (1810–1816 in what is now Colombia)
- Powhatan Confederacy
- Carlist States in Spain (1872–1876)
- Serbia and Montenegro (2003–2006)
- United Arab Republic (confederation de-facto; 1958–1961, Egypt+Syria; 1963, Egypt+Syria+Iraq)
- Arab Federation (confederation de-facto; 1958, (Iraq+Jordan)
- Federation of Arab Republics (confederation de-facto; 1972, Egypt+Syria+Libya)
- Arab Islamic Republic (confederation de-facto; 1974, Libya+Tunisia)
- Peru-Bolivian Confederation (1836–1839)
- Kalmar Union (confederated personal union; 1397–1523, Denmark+Sweden+Norway)
- Denmark-Norway (confederated personal union; 1536–1814)
- Sweden-Norway (confederated personal union; 1814–1905)
- Confederation of Central America (1842–1844, El Salvador+Guatemala+Honduras+Nicaragua)
- Confederation of the Equator (1824) - located in Northeast Brazil.
- Pre-united Germany after the Holy Roman Empire
Sources and external links