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  A confederation (Latin, ‘those who league together’) is a political structure which consists of independent states or entities joined by agreement into a union of equals. The main distinction between a confederation and a federation is that the power of the central authority is delegated in a confederation but is autonomous in a federation; or, to put matters another way, in a confederation sovereignty rests with the constituent states, whereas in a federation it is shared between the federal government and the states (or provinces). This distinction is much clearer in the German language in which a Staatenbund is a confederation while a Bundesstaat is a federation.

Another way of distinguishing a confederation from a federation is that the former is usually a union for specific purposes (for example free trade or defence), whereas a federation is all-purpose. In its current form, the European Community is mostly confederal in character. For instance, the executive authority of the Community is shared collectively among the member-states in the form of the Council of Ministers in which each state\'s minister is formally equal. Moreover, the European Community does not have a mandatory common defence or foreign policy. Yet many argue that the legal institutions of the Community have acquired federal characteristics, and that (albeit qualified) majority voting in the Council of Ministers suggests incipient federalism; and some even claim that the Maastricht Treaty has established a federal European Union. BO\'L

Further reading M. Forsyth, Unions of States: the Theory and Practice of Confederation.



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