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Unformatted text preview: subsidies to or from other jurisdictions. This analysis is embodied in the concept of subsidiarity
According to these authors, the principle of decentralization or subsidiarity is a fundamental principle in the allocation of
fields of jurisdiction among a country’s orders of government. In the case of Switzerland, Bernard Daflon goes so far as
to say that the principle has doubtless been more scrupulously observed than elsewhere and that, as a result, “the
power to decide and finance the provision of public services has remained largely (and jealously) in decentralised hands,
in the cantons or in the communes” (p. 63). Sonja Wälti confirms this:
As for the division of jurisdictions, the Swiss federal Constitution stipulates a strict concept of
subsidiarity, i.e. unless the Constitution attributes a jurisdiction explicitly to the Confederation, it is
within the competence of the cantons (p. 104). [OUR TRANSLATION]
Paul Bernd Spahn points out that:
the concept of subsidiarity – cherished in the Maastricht-Treaty as protecting the sovereignty of nation
states and lower tiers of government against supranational interference – has become an attractive
guiding principle for reorganizing the relationship between the German federation and its states
Under the subsidiarity principle, centralized delivery of services is desirable only when it is more efficient. In a federal
context, there necessarily exists a tension between efficiency criteria that favour a degree of centralization in some fields
and the principles of separation, autonomy and participation, principles that are key to the operation of a federation. In
this regard, there is no ready-made solution. However, as Bernard Dafflon points out, one principle remains: the federal
government may not impose its concept of “efficiency” on the other order of government. Thus, the principles of
federalism prevail in a federation, not the subsidiarity principle.
These efficiency criteria that may be raised are, according to the authors, the presence of significant economies of scale
and the existence of substantial externalities.10 According to these criteria, it is efficient to assign exclusive jurisdiction
regarding national defence to the federal order, for instance.
While Bernard Dafflon suggests that centralized delivery may enable better coordination of policies given the presence
of externalities, he also recognizes that cooperation among governments of federated entities provides an efficient
instrument in such cases. Paul Bernd Spahn also mentions that and cites the case of the conferences of ministers of the
Länder in Germany, which act in a coordinated way to adopt common principles in various matters. Bernard Dafflon
describes the extent, in Switzerland, of so-called “horizontal” cooperation among the cantons. There are many
cooperative mechanisms going to the extent of horizontal transfers through which the cantons reciprocally compensate
each other for benefits generated by the publ...
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