Year XLIII, 2001, Number 2, Page 140
EUROPE NEEDS A NEW “SCHUMAN INITIATIVE”
Leaving aside here my own criticisms of the strategy and very concept of “official” federalism, I wish to dwell briefly upon the question of the constituent objective. How can this objective be put into action?
Sergio Pistone recently got to the crux of the matter when he highlighted the remarkable topicality of the example of Robert Schuman (see S. Pistone, “The Federal Prospect of Federalism in the Schuman Declaration,” in The Federalist, XLII (2000), page 113 onwards). In order to launch his “plan”, which was later to become the European Coal and Steel Community, Schuman appealed directly to the governments of the part of the continent that was free, saying, substantially, “if you agree you can join”. Great Britain, averse to supranational solutions, refused, and thus the first European Community (and later Euratom and the EEC) started out with six founding members.
To appreciate the novelty of this gesture, it is necessary to recall that, until several years earlier, federalists, including Spinelli, had hoped (a sentiment that influenced their actions) that an initial Union — if not federal, then at least pre-federal in nature — might be negotiated, and take shape, within and through the Council of Europe (a body rightly ignored by Schuman). Also founded on this initial federalist illusion were, to mention but some, the Conseil de Vigilance (a congress convened in Strasbourg with the precise aim of bringing pressure to bear on what was at the time known as the “Consultative Assembly”) and the Calamandrei report delivered before the Rome meeting of the Union of European Federalists (UEF) in November 1948.
However, with that particular illusion out of the way, even federalists lost all interest in the Council of Europe (barely referred to since, even incidentally, in federalist issues), a body that continued to lead a life of its own — a life that has perhaps been useful and certainly positive in less crucial settings and sectors, where it has not implied any drastic restriction of sovereignty. But it has been totally excluded from the battle for a federal Union — a battle with which, since that time, it has not been concerned, since the Council of Europe is, and must continue to be, a different thing altogether.
So, if the constituent objective, which now forms the very heart of the strategy of the Movimento federalista europeo (MFE), is to be given a meaning and a chance to succeed, then Pistone’s valid suggestion must, in the way indicated above, be acted upon.
The EU itself has become today’s “Council of Europe” (in other words a subject to be ignored and set aside): the EU as it is at the moment, and certainly the EU as it will be after enlargement. It must therefore be allowed to drift, following its own confederal and purely economic path, which for the moment there can be no modifying. I mean, in other words, that what is needed is a “Schuman Plan” entirely extraneous to the EU, because the EU does not have, and for the time being cannot have, any federal vocation.
However — and it is here that my perplexities begin — it remains to be asked, first of all (and this is the fundamental question), who the “new” Schuman might be and, second, which might be the states willing to form this first “hard core”, open to the subsequent membership of others, but nevertheless committed to forging ahead immediately and on its own.
Perhaps we already have the answer to the first of these questions: the present prime minister of Belgium, provided adequate pressure is brought to bear on him by federalists — although given the current forces, any pressure exerted looks unlikely to be adequate — could become the new Schuman (even though Belgium cannot, of course, be equated with France).
The second question is far more difficult to answer, because Germany and France (in whose absence the proposal loses all meaning) do not seem truly determined to move in that direction.
But, however impracticable and unlikely it may appear, I feel that it is the only that direction current federalist strategy can follow.
I might add that a radicalisation of this kind of strategy — this, as I said earlier, must exclude the EU in the same way as Schuman and federalists themselves ignored, and continue to ignore, the Council of Europe, once the first illusions had been swept away — seems to me to be crucial in order to fight the rampant euroscepticism (and worse still, the growing indifference) of public opinion, politicians and the press towards the EU (which are sometimes understandable, given that the latter has totally forgotten the ideals that inspired its founding fathers, remaining purely an economic enterprise, and a very flawed one at that).
The first thing to do, in order to refute, in a credible manner, this euroscepticism is, as I have said, to criticise roundly and, to constituent ends, to turn our backs on the EU entirely — which, like the Council of Europe — “is a different thing”, qualitatively incomparable with our objective and, let me repeat, for the time being beyond reform — and to start all over again.
In other words, a constituent strategy, if it is to have the slightest credibility, must begin by accentuating what the MFE has, on many occasions in recent times, quite rightly asserted: that the era of “small steps” is over: either Europe makes the ultimate qualitative leap, or it faces decline.
But to accentuate truly this watershed, and give full meaning to this idea of a qualitative leap — an advance in relation to the recent past and the strategy so far followed — we must recover the spirit of the “Congress of the European People” as expressed by Spinelli in his second Manifesto, edited by Guanda in 1957 and, in my view, far more significant than the first: a document that, until now forgotten by federalists, today needs to be re-evaluated, as do the analogous radical positions followed and affirmed at that time, also in The Federalist, by Mario Albertini.
But is there really a) the necessary will, b) the necessary strength, and c) a structure of organised federalism outside Italy that is worthy of this name, and as resolute as that which exists in Italy? Is there truly enough of all this to give rise to an action that has all the necessary determination, tenacity and perseverance?
This, of all the questions, is the truly decisive one: hic Rhodus…
It is a question that I am not able to answer; or, rather, to answer it I would have to set out in detail all my perplexities, those that I alluded to at the beginning and have expressed on a number of occasions in other settings, but which it is not my intention, here, to examine.