6.2 Looking forward
The sovereign authority of states has not been replaced, nor is it likely to be in the foreseeable future, but it is already significantly less clear-cut than it was only some decades ago. Rather than sovereignty being based on a single territorial level, whether that of the state or a scale replica, we are more likely moving toward a situation of segmented, overlapping or shared authority, where regions are one level among several territorial and non-territorial political entities.
A fully federal ‘United States of Europe’ seems highly unlikely in the foreseeable future. The states would hardly agree to ‘sink their differences’ in a federal state, not least because of uneven regional development and the fact that the pace of cultural unification in Europe has not been at all commensurate with the moves toward economic union. All the states, and some of the regions, remain important as repositories of distinct cultures. Equally, and for similar reasons, the nation states are not about to acquiesce to a ‘post-nationalist’ and loosely federal ‘Europe of the Regions’. The comparative importance of the different territorial levels will continue to change, perhaps in unpredictable ways, and in some policy areas both the EU and the regional levels may continue to gain relative to the states. But the broad outlines of more complex multi-level governance and multiple identities are already visible in present structures and relationships. In that sense the future has already arrived.