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Federalism and Foreign Affairs in Canada and the European Union: The Search for Equal Autonomy

Thomas Verellen

Keywords: Comparative federalism; Foreign relations law; External action; European Union; Canada

This paper examines how two federal-type polities, Canada and the European Union, have addressed the tension between international law's fundamental value of State sovereignty and the constitutional value of federalism as it is professed in domestic settings. The paper argues that in both polities, federalism is still, to a large extent, put ‘on hold’ in the area of foreign affairs. Despite an increase in international activities by Canadian provinces since the 1960s, and despite the emergence of the European Union as a foreign policy actor of significance, in constitutional terms the authority to act internationally is still to a significant extent held or controlled by the order of government recognised as a sovereign State. In contrast to Canada, however, the dominance of the sovereign State in the area of EU foreign affairs is liable to spill over into the EU's domestic constitution. This observation calls for a recalibration of the federal balance in Europe's foreign affairs constitution. Such a recalibration, it is suggested, should start by critically reappraising the use of the technique of mixity.

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