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Switzerland - Europe's First Federation

Dardanelli, Paolo (2013) Switzerland - Europe's First Federation. In: Loughlin, John and Kincaid, John and Swenden, Wilfried, eds. Routledge Handbook of Regionalism and Federalism. Routledge Handbooks . Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 248-258. ISBN 978-0-415-56621-6. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:33989)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.
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Switzerland is a prominent example of a federal state. It is the second oldest such state in the world

and has long been held as a model of federalism. This is particularly so in that the country has

managed to achieve political and economic success in spite of significant linguistic and religious

– though, not national – diversity. Many see the federal nature of its political system as a

key factor that has made this possible. Federalism is one of the fundamental institutional features

of the country and enjoys strong support among political actors and the wider population. At its

inception in 1848 the Swiss federal state was extremely decentralized, with federal competences

confined to a few key areas and the bulk of governing responsibilities in the hands of the cantons.

Since then, although the fundamental features of the system have been exceptionally stable,

more and more legislative competences have been transferred to the federation but responsibility

for policy implementation and delivery has remained with the cantons. The trend deepened

in the second half of the 20th century and has led to a form of federalism characterized by

complex interlocking and dense vertical cooperation. Over the last two decades concerted efforts

have been made to contain centralization through a new system of competence allocation and

the development of horizontal cooperation among the cantons. Although there has undeniably

been a significant erosion of cantonal autonomy over time, hence of the ‘federality’ of the

system, this has not gone as far as fundamentally changing the nature of the Swiss state. Indeed,

in comparative perspective, Switzerland remains among the most decentralized federal states in

the world, i.e. those furthest away from having acquired unitary features. The Swiss state thus

displays a low level of ‘hybridity’ and this is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: Switzerland, federalism, federal state, centralisation, centralization, decentralisation, decentralization, cantons
Subjects: J Political Science
J Political Science > JN Political institutions and public administration (Europe)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Paolo Dardanelli
Date Deposited: 24 May 2013 15:08 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:11 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Dardanelli, Paolo:
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