The Clash of Perspectives? the EU and Russian Views on Federalism/LE CHOC DES PERSPECTIVES? L'UE ET LES PERSPECTIVES RUSSES SUR LE FÉDÉRALISME

By Mitin, Dmitri | Cross - Cultural Communication, December 31, 2009 | Go to article overview

The Clash of Perspectives? the EU and Russian Views on Federalism/LE CHOC DES PERSPECTIVES? L'UE ET LES PERSPECTIVES RUSSES SUR LE FÉDÉRALISME


Mitin, Dmitri, Cross - Cultural Communication


Abstract:

This article examines a conspicuous disconnect between the prevalent Russian and European narratives on the costs and benefits of federalism. The observed variation in dominant discursive frameworks can be attributed to distinct historical experiences, especially in the area of centralization and power-sharing. Attitudes toward federalism have also been affected by the trajectory of institutional development. In the EU case, federalism implies a qualitative institutional transformation, entailing political unification and the surrender of national sovereignty to an external, supra-national formation. To individual member-states, federalism is a challenge from above, which may make the government less responsive and exacerbate the already existing democratic deficit. In contrast, Russian federalism has been a question of dividing power and autonomy between the central and regional governments, rather than an external challenge to national sovereignty. Correspondingly, post-communist federalization has become associated with ad hoc bargaining, fragmentation, abuse of power, and encroachments on the national jurisdiction - all emanating from below.

The contrasting nature of prior and ongoing federalist projects in the EU and Russia matters: the Western perspective is less sympathetic to the priorities of Russia's centralization reforms, because they are viewed as amplifying democratic deficit in the regions without enhancing democracy at the national level.

Key words: federalism; decentralization; democracy; Russia; European Union

Résumé: Cet article examine un décalage apparent entre les récits répandus russes et européens sur les coûts et les avantages du fédéralisme. La variation observée dans les cadres discursifs dominants peut être attribuée à des expériences historiques distinctes, en particulier dans le domaine de la centralisation et du partage du pouvoir. Les attitudes à l'égard du fédéralisme ont également été affectées par la trajectoire du développement institutionnel. Dans le cas de l'UE, le fédéralisme implique une transformation institutionnelle qualitative, en imposant l'unification politique et l'abandon de la souveraineté nationale à un organisme supra-national extérieur. Pour chaque état membre, le fédéralisme est une défi venat du haut, qui pourrait rendre le gouvernement moins réactif et exacerbe le déficit démocratique qui existe déjà. En revanche, le fédéralisme russe a été une question du partage de pouvoir et d'autonomie entre les gouvernements centraux et régionaux, plutôt qu' un défit externe à l'égard de la souveraineté nationale. De même, la fédéralisation post-communiste est devenue associée à la négociation ad hoc, à la fragmentation, à l'abus de pouvoir, ainsi qu'aux empiétements sur la juridiction nationale - tout émanant de dessous.

La nature contrastée des projets fédéralistes antérieurs et actuels dans l'UE et en Russie contraste: les perspectives occidentales sont moins sensibles aux priorités des réformes de la centralisation de la Russie, parce qu'elles sont considérées comme une ampliation du déficit démocratique dans les régions sans renforcer la démocratie au niveau national.

Mots-clés : fédéralisme; décentalisation; démocratie; Russie;Union européenne

1. INTRODUCTION

The desirability and shortcomings of a federal institutional structure have been subject to intense debate in the European Union and post-communist Russia. The Europeans2 are yet to agree on the prospects and ramifications of their common political institutions being "upgraded" to a full-blown federal state. Russian federalism, too, is still a project - as attested by more than a decade of roller-coaster center-periphery bargaining and renegotiating - that has so far failed to settle down into a stable political arrangement. 3 Across the board, the critics of federalization have brought up a familiar list of grievances against the surrender of national (in the case of Europe) or central (in the case of Russia) authority. …

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