The question of the future structure of Europe has played an important role since the beginning of the European integration process. A crucial aspect of this is to find the federal balance between centralised and decentralised elements in order to meet Europe's future challenges. The Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon, as well as the European Constitutional Treaty have contributed decisively to the revival of this discussion. In this context, the public debate is gaining in explosive force above all due to the growing role of the Länder, regions and autonomous communities as well as the municipalities as European political actors, whose number continues to increase due to the ongoing regionalisation and federalisation tendencies in many European states.
This is the context of the activities of the European Centre for Research on Federalism (ECRF) at the University of Tübingen. It has been accompanying this development since 1993 and researching its background. The ECRF is a multidisciplinary institution that deals with questions of federalism, the position and role of regions and sub-national levels in Europe in an academic and policy advisory capacity. At present, the ECRF has the following thematic priorities:
- Federalism as a structural and organisational principle for states (primarily in Europe) and the EU, understood as a multi-level system (e.g. efficiency and democracy in decentralised and federal systems, distribution of tasks and subsidiarity principle in the European Union after the Constitutional Treaty and EU enlargement to the East, development perspectives of the Committee of the Regions);
- Regions as actors and regional policy (e.g. cross-border and interregional cooperation within the European Union, regional and structural policy after 2007);
- Decentralisation, regionalisation and federalisation processes in the member states of the enlarged European Union.
The ECRF carries out transnational research projects, regularly organises international conferences at home and abroad (e.g. Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary and Sweden) and accepts commissions for individual expert reports. The ECFF's advisory activities for politics, administration and business are on an equal footing with its academic work.
The ECRF issues various publications in which, among other things, research and conference results are published:
In its work, the ECRF places particular emphasis on linking theory and practice, transnational cooperation and the interdisciplinary orientation of its activities. The ECRF oversees a Europe-wide network of federalism researchers and practitioners working on federalism issues. The ECRF is a member of the International Association of Centres for Federal Studies (IACFS), a scientific association that brings together academic institutes from all over the world that focus on federalism research issues.
The ECRF is led by several professors from the University of Tübingen who belong to different faculties. The ongoing work is supervised by the Scientific Coordinator.