Confederation - Union of Sovereign States

Only a limited number of issues are administered by the union of sovereign states, while all its members retain state sovereignty. Such unions are created, as a rule, to solve certain problems and achieve specific goals and are rarely stable in the historical perspective, but there are exceptions.

founding fathers

What is a confederation?

The Union of Sovereign States is called such a form of government in which all decisions of the central government are not direct force, but are mediated by the authorities of the member states of the union. The criteria for determining a confederal union are so vague that many political scientists are even inclined not to consider the confederation a full-fledged state.

All decisions taken by the confederal government must be approved by the authorities of the states in the union. However, the most important feature of the confederation is the right of any of its members to leave of their own free will, without coordinating such a decision with other members and the central government.

However, it is worth considering that a significant variety of forms of state-legal unions of states does not make it possible to set constant and unchanging criteria for defining a confederation. In this case, it makes sense to turn to historical examples and the practice of state government.

USA congress

Historical Forms of Confederation

The history of statehood knows examples of both confederations with fairly strong centralization and clear powers of the central government, and quite amorphous state formations in which the center performed exclusively nominal functions.

A vivid example of the instability of a confederation as a union of sovereign states is the United States, by the example of which one can track the evolution of a confederation from an education with an extremely weak center into a typical federation with strong power of the head of state.

The first Declaration indicated that the states conclude separate agreements between themselves for joint defense and infrastructure improvement, however, the "Articles of the Confederation", in which the action plan for unification was indicated, were more of a recommendatory nature. Later, โ€œArticlesโ€ were fiercely criticized by the founding fathers and the political system of the United States of America underwent a significant transformation.

Map of Europe with EU flag

History of Switzerland

Switzerland is considered to be the most striking example of the ability of the confederation to long-term sustainable existence. In its current form, such a state-legal union of sovereign states took shape on August 1, 1291, when three Swiss cantons signed the so-called union letter.

Later, in 1798, Napoleonic France abolished the confederal system of Switzerland, establishing the unitary Helvetic Republic. However, after five years, this decision had to be canceled, returning the Alpine state to its natural state.

A confederation is a permanent union of sovereign states, but even in the case of a confederation, there are a number of issues that the central government deals with. For example, in modern Switzerland such issues are money issue and defense policy.

However, the main way to ensure state security in the case of Switzerland is political neutrality, which guarantees the country's non-interference in any international conflicts. This position of the state in the world political arena provides it with a stable economic position and security on the part of leading world players, since each of them is interested in the existence of a neutral arbiter or mediator.

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Prospects for a Confederate Device

Despite the fact that historically the confederation appeared simultaneously with the federation, this form of union of sovereign states received much less distribution.

Throughout the late Middle Ages and throughout modern times, there was a tendency towards centralization and strong state control in all areas in state building.

Today, however, lawyers and state experts consider the confederal form of the device the most promising and agree that it will become increasingly popular.

Modern Confederations

Such expectations are connected with the fact that in international practice there has been an obvious tendency to partially renounce sovereignty in favor of supranational structures, which some political scientists are inclined to consider as prototypes of future large confederations.

A striking example of a permanent union of states is the European Union, whose members have a common currency, a common border and are subject to many decisions of central authorities, although they are advisory.


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