A federacy is a form of government where one or several substate units enjoy considerably more independence than the majority of the substate units.Citation
last = Stepan
first = Alfred
author-link = Alfred Stepan
title = "Federalism and Democracy: Beyond the U.S. Model
journal = Journal of Democracy
volume = 10
issue = 4
pages = pp.19-34
date =
year = 1999
url =
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A federacy is a form of government that shares features of both a federation and unitary state. In a federacy, at least one of the constituent parts of the state is autonomous, while the majority of constituent parts are either not autonomous or comparatively less autonomous. An example of such an arrangement is Finland, where Åland, which has the status of autonomous province, has considerably more autonomy than other Finnish provinces. The autonomous constituent part enjoys independence as though it was part of federation, while the other constituent parts are as independent as subunits in a unitary state. This autonomy is guaranteed in the country's constitution. The autonomous subunits are often former colonial possessions or are home to a different ethnic group as the rest of the country. These autonomous subunits often have a special status in international relations.


Several states are federacies. The exact autonomy of the subunits differs from country to country.

Denmark, Greenland, and Faroe Islands

* See Rigsfællesskabet
Denmark has 5 regions ("regioner"). Greenland and the Faroe Islands are also part of the Kingdom, but as separate communities of the Kingdom, enjoy a high degree of autonomy. The relationship between Denmark on the one hand and Faroe and Greenland on the other, is that of federacy. Most Danish laws have a specific clause stating that the laws do not extend to Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Each of them send two representatives to "Folketinget" (the Danish parliament). Defense and diplomatic affairs are duties of Denmark, but they also participate directly in some Nordic organizations, such as the Nordic Council. Both have chosen not to participate in the European Union. Decisions by the highest courts of Greenland and the Faroe Islands can be appealed to the Danish Supreme Court. Greenland and the Faroe Islands were originally respectively a colonial possession and a dependency; later integral parts of Denmark. The Faroe Islands were granted home rule in 1948 and Greenland followed suit in 1979.

Finland and Åland

Finland is divided into six provinces. Åland, although one of the six provinces, enjoys a high degree of home rule as opposed to the five in mainland Finland. Extensive autonomy is granted in the Act on the Autonomy of Åland of 1920 (last revised 1991), and the autonomy was affirmed by a League of Nations decision in 1921. The government of Åland handles duties exercised by state provincial offices of the central government in other provinces. It sends one representative to the Finnish parliament. It is demilitarised, and is a member of the Nordic Council. Most of Åland's inhabitants speak Swedish. Åland's autonomous status was a result of disputes between Sweden and Russia, and between Finland and Sweden.

France and its overseas lands

The French Republic is divided into 26 "régions", 22 of which are in metropolitan France (Corsica, one of these, is strictly speaking not a "région", but is often counted as such). Four of the "régions" are "régions d'outre-mer" (overseas regions). France also has four "collectivités d'outre-mer", one "territoire d'outre-mer". All are integral parts of France and subject to French law, but New Caledonia (a "collectivité sui generis"), and French Polynesia (one of the four "collectivités d'outre-mer", but with the designation of "pays d'outre-mer") have considerably more autonomy. All (except the uninhabited French Southern and Antarctic Territory) are represented in the French parliament. Defence and diplomatic affairs are responsibilities of France, but they do participate in some organisations directly. Réunion, for example, is a member of the Indian Ocean Commission. In addition, France has the remote Clipperton Island in the Pacific. French overseas territories were in the past colonial possessions.

India and Kashmir

India is a democratic federation. After independence, various princely states were formally invited to join the Indian Republic, which were accepted. The Kashmir province was ruled by a Hindu king but the majority of its population was Muslim. When Pakistani militants invaded his land, the king agreed to join the Indian Republic, with an agreement for Kashmiri autonomy. [Elazar, D.J. "Federal Systems of the World: A Handbook of Federal, Confederal and Autonomy Arrangements" (1991) Essex, p.395]

Currently, Kashmir is a disputed territory, with both India and Pakistan claiming it as their own. India controls about two-thirds and Pakistan controls the remainder. The area under the control of Pakistan is generally referred to as Azad Kashmir.

Netherlands, Aruba, and Netherlands Antilles

The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of three autonomous countries, linked by the "Statute of Kingdom of the Netherlands" as constituent parts: the Netherlands an autonomous, independent country, and the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, two separate autonomous countries. The Netherlands Antilles used to be a colony of the Netherlands until 1954; Aruba split off from the Antilles, receiving a "status aparte," in 1986. The Statute links the three separate autonomous countries in a relation comparable to the free association between Cook Islands and New Zealand. All three countries have separate constitutions, governments and parliaments. The kingdom is responsible for diplomatic affairs, citizenship and defence.

The Council of Ministers of the Kingdom as a whole consists "de jure" of the Council of Ministers of the Netherlands, and two ministers plenipotentiary, nominated by the other countries each. The legislature of the kingdom consists of the parliament of the Netherlands. "De facto" the cabinet and the parliament of the Netherlands take care of kingdom matters with limited participation of politicians of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba share a Common Court of Appeals; the Dutch Hoge Raad acts as their supreme court.

Dutch nationals related to these territories are fully European citizens; however, Dutch citizens residing in Netherlands Antilles or Aruba are normally not entitled to vote in European elections. Netherlands Antilles and Aruba are "overseas countries and territories" (OCTs), listed under Annex II of the EC treaty. Hence EC law does not apply there.

A reform will be implemented on December 15, 2008: the Netherlands Antilles as such will be dissolved, Curaçao and Sint Maarten will gain autonomous country status like Aruba currently has, and the three remaining smaller islands will become special municipalities of the Netherlands itself.

Nicaragua, North Atlantic Autonomous Region, and South Atlantic Autonomous Region

Nicaragua is divided into 15 departments and two autonomous regions : North Atlantic and South Atlantic (both autonomous regions formed the department of Zelaya).

Papua New Guinea and Bougainville

Papua New Guinea is divided into 20 provinces. Among them Bougainville has an autonomous government.

Portugal, Azores, and Madeira

Portugal has two autonomous regions, namely Azores and Madeira. Together with the eighteen districts on mainland Portugal they form the Portuguese Republic. The autonomous regions possess their own political and administrative statute and have their own governments. They are represented in the Portuguese parliament, but have no international representation. They were granted autonomous status because of their distance from mainland Portugal, and their separate history as semi-colonial possessions.

ão Tomé and Príncipe and Príncipe

Príncipe has had self-government since 1995.

erbia, Vojvodina, and Kosovo-Metohija

Serbia has two 'autonomous provinces' mandated by its constitution: Vojvodina and Kosovo (formally known as 'Kosovo and Metohija'). Though a small independence movement also exists in Vojvodina, Kosovo is the subject of a long-running political and territorial dispute between the Serbian (and previously, the Yugoslav) government and Kosovo's largely ethnic-Albanian population. Kosovo decalred full independence from Serbia in February 2008 ("See Kosovo status process"), which has not been recognized by Serbia.

Tanzania and Zanzibar

Tanzania is divided in 26 regions. Five of those regions together form Zanzibar. This island is a self-governing region. It elects its own president who has control over the internal matters of the island. Zanzibar was an independent sultanate and a British protectorate, while Tanganyika was a German "Schutzgebiet" until 1919, when it became a British mandate territory. The two were united in 1964, after a popular revolt against the Zanzibari sultan.

Ukraine and Crimea

Ukraine is divided in twenty four oblasts, two municipalities with special legal status, (Kiev and Sevastopol) and one autonomous republic, Crimea. Until 1954 the peninsula of Crimea was a province of the Russian SFSR. It was transferred by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev as a gesture to mark the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav. Its population mainly consists of Russians (58%), Ukrainians (24%) and Crimean Tatars (12%). Despite attempts at Ukrainization the main language is still Russian even for the government. The peninsula also houses the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

United States and Puerto Rico

The relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is a federacy. [Elazar, D.J. "Federal Systems of the World: A Handbook of Federal, Confederal and Autonomy Arrangements" (1991) Essex, p.326] [cite journal
last = Rezvani
first = David
authorlink = David Rezvani
title = The Basis of Puerto Rico's Constitutional Status: Colony, Compact, or "Federacy"?
journal = Political Science Quarterly
volume = 122
issue = 1
pages = pp.115-140
publisher = Academy of Political Science
location =
date =
year = 2002
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate =

Puerto Rico citizens and United States citizens may freely travel between both countries. Puerto Rico's government is subject to fewer restrictions than states are, and residents of Puerto Rico are exempt from some federal taxes. Puerto Rico's autonomy is guaranteed by the constitution of Puerto Rico, that can only be changed with the consent of both the U.S. Congress and the Puerto Rico legislature. Federal taxes do not automatically apply to Puerto Rico unless the Puerto Rican government wants them to. Although the U.S. government has full say over its foreign policy, Puerto Rico does maintain direct contacts with its Caribbean neighbours. There are occasions when the U.S. federal courts have taken jurisdiction on cases having to do with Puerto Rican law.

Puerto Rico differs from the aforementioned federacies for three reasons: Puerto Rico is not mentioned in the U.S. constitution; therefore, Puerto Rico does not have voting representation in the U.S. Congress and lacks constitutional guarantees to protect it from the federal government.

Uzbekistan and Karakalpakstan

Karakalpakstan is an autonomous republic of Uzbekistan. It occupies the whole western end of Uzbekistan.

Comparison to other systems of autonomy


A federacy differs from a devolved state, such as the United Kingdom, because, in a devolved state, the central government can revoke the independence of the subunits (Scottish Parliament, Welsh National Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly in the case of the UK) without changing the constitution.

Associated States

A federacy also differs from an associated state, such as the Federated States of Micronesia (in free association with the United States) and Cook Islands and Niue (which form part of the Realm of New Zealand) since a state in free association is recognised as independent under international law.

Crown dependencies

The relation between the Crown dependencies of the Isle of Man and the bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey in the Channel Islands and the United Kingdom is very similar to a federate relation: the Islands enjoy independence from the United Kingdom, which, via The Crown, takes care of their foreign relations and defence - although the UK Parliament does have overall power to legislate for the dependencies. However, the islands are neither an incorporated part of the United Kingdom, nor are they considered to be independent or associated states. The Isle of Man does not have a monarch but Queen Elizabeth II holds the position of Lord of Mann.

Overseas territories

British overseas territories are vested with varying degrees of power; some enjoy considerable independence from the United Kingdom, which only takes care of their foreign relations and defence. However, they are neither considered to be part of the United Kingdom, nor recognised as sovereign or associated states.

Asymmetric federations

In an asymmetric federation one of the substates has more independence than the others. Examples of this are Canada where Quebec has been given political deference to craft independent language and education policies. The difference between an asymmetric federation and federacy is indistinct; a federacy is essentially an extreme case of an asymmetric federation, either due to large differences in the level of autonomy, or the rigidity of the constitutional arrangements.

pecial Administrative Regions (People's Republic of China)

The People's Republic of China has two special administrative regions, namely Hong Kong and Macau, in an arrangement some may consider as close to a federacyFact|date=February 2007. Under the principle of "One Country, Two Systems", the two territories, according to their basic laws, enjoy extensive autonomy except in diplomatic affairs and defence, and participate in international organisations as "Hong Kong, China" and "Macau, China". Both are presented by deputies in the National People's Congress (NPC), who are selected by a committee appointed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC). Each has its own court of last resort, extradition policies, immigration and border control, and currency, and forms its own customs territory. Laws of the People's Republic of China do not apply in Hong Kong or Macau unless otherwise stated in Annex III of the Basic Law of the territory concerned. Hong Kong and Macau were colonial possessions of, respectively, the United Kingdom and Portugal.


* Elazar, D.J. "Federal Systems of the World: A Handbook of Federal, Confederal and Autonomy Arrangements" (1991) Essex

ee also

* Confederacy
* Mainland
* Unincorporated territory
* Compact of Free Association

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