A confederation is a union between independent states in which each state retains its sovereignty and is considered equal to each of the others.

A federation is a union in which member states subordinate themselves to a higher federal level, while retaining certain powers for themselves.


- Switzerland calls itself a confederation, but it has in reality developed into a federation. There are few historical examples of confederations, but federations are quite common.

- When established, the EU had more of the character of a confederation than today, but it has become more federal due to successive treaties shifting powers from the national to the supranational level and extensive judgments from the European Court of Justice.


See also federalism.