Year XXXII, 1990, Number 2 - Page 103
Europe and the First Forms of International Democracy
There are many politicians and observers today who, desirous of giving themselves a Europeanist image, but disoriented by the headlong rush of events, insist on formulating the question of European security in the traditional terms of strengthening the Community’s powers in the area of defence, or even of creating a revised version of the EDC. Yet the truth is that the changes which have taken place in the European balance of power and political climate demand a radical rethinking of the problem.
We need only to consider the question which in the short term is so crucial to the fate of detente: how a unified Germany is going to fit into the current system of alliances. The problem clearly worries the Soviet Union, which finds itself facing the break-up of the Warsaw Pact. The best guarantee available to it today is certainly not a new European military power, of which unified Germany would be part, springing up near its borders, but rather the idea that Germany should be incorporated into an Atlantic alliance which would be increasingly political and less and less military in character, and in which Europeans would maintain an attitude of openness and collaboration towards the Soviet Union. After all, if there is one thing about which there is not a shadow of doubt, it is that the fate of détente – the consolidation of which is crucial to the often conjured-up “new era” – is linked to the success of Gorbachev’s perestroika. Faced with this, the question we must ask ourselves is simply this: would the prospect of a militarily united Europe – whose armaments could only be pointed eastwards – be a help or a hindrance to the success of perestroika? The answer is clear: this prospect would provide Gorbachev’s enemies with a decisive argument to accuse him of weakness and to strengthen the greater-Russian nationalism and militarist tendency which is still alive in the Soviet army. If we started on this downward spiral, the new era would be finished before it even began.
Moreover, every time that the problem of security is posed in these terms in the Community, it sounds as if it is a pretext. The fact is that a radical transformation of Europe’s strategic situation, such as would arise from the creation of a European Defence Community, could only be seriously conceived of as a response to a concrete and serious threat and such a threat does not exist today. Nostalgic attempts to recreate the climate of the Cold War by renewed warnings against a continued Soviet military threat do not stand up to the evidence of facts. This insistence on the idea of security as being part and parcel of the European Union seems rather the result of trying to confuse the issue, interpreting political union as a generic strengthening of community powers in foreign policy and defence (still, moreover, in a strictly intergovernmental context) instead of the creation of a real federal European government, albeit with powers limited to the economic and monetary areas.
It is important to remember that maintaining the current alliances and transforming them into instruments of political collaboration is very much a transitory problem. Security has become a pan-European affair, and it is in the framework of the Helsinki conference that the idea of mutual security must take shape for the first time in institutionally defined forms. In this perspective it would be once more utterly irresponsible – besides being unrealistic – to put the Soviet Union in front of the threat of a future European military superpower. It is certainly true that we are not yet at the brink of the World Federation, and that raison d’état remains, today as in the past, the criterion regulating international relations. But it is equally true that, between the states taking part in the Helsinki conference, a convergence of raisons d’état is appearing which, if supported by the birth of an embryonic federal state in the context of the Community and oriented by a grand historic design for world unity, could become permanent, as with that convergence of raisons d’état which made the process of European integration possible.
It should be noted that this is the only international setting capable of actively fostering peace and development in the Third World. Beyond all doubt in the historical epoch which is now beginning the most pressing problem of all will be the Third World, both as regards its survival – threatened by overpopulation, foreign debt and soil devastation – and as regards the threat that the persistence of these problems constitutes for the industrialised world itself. It is because of this that in many poor countries the new climate of co-operation in Europe is regarded with concern, and with fear that the concomitant mobilisation of resources to help Eastern Europe might be to the detriment of the Third World. And it is for this reason too that there are some in Europe who warn against the risk that a militarily weak Europe would run in its relations with countries in which poverty feeds fanaticism and aggressivity.
But in both cases the concern is unfounded. This does not mean that the threat of an explosion of the Third World’s problems is not a very real threat. Rather, it means that it cannot be neutralised by the industrialised nations’ building up their military capacity, or even by merely maintaining it at its present level. On the contrary, détente offers an extraordinary opportunity in this regard. The end of East-West confrontation is freeing an enormous quantity of resources which were previously dissipated in the folly of the arms race. These resources will without doubt be overwhelmingly used in the first instance for the economic reconversion of Eastern Europe. But this will be a relatively short period, since the countries of Eastern Europe are endowed with material and cultural infrastructures sufficient to enable them to rapidly become active poles in world development. As soon as they have reached this stage, the resources available for Third World development would increase sufficiently to make it concretely possible for Third World countries to pull themselves out of the downward spiral of underdevelopment.
However that may be, the struggle against the threat emanating from the disinherited peoples of the earth can only be conducted with economic policies in a global context of detente, and not with military instruments. It should not be forgotten that the irresponsible regimes of the Third World which have bloodied the planet in the last few decades with their wars, were armed by the superpowers and by European countries, in the attempt to win them over as allies in the East-West confrontation. It is not by chance that most of these conflicts ceased with the cessation of this confrontation, and the tendency is destined to be accentuated if detente is consolidated.
All this does not mean that in future we can exclude the need to carry out international policing operations which involve the use of force. It only means that the dangers which can be imagined today are not such as to require a European army and a European security policy entrusted to a federal authority. Federal Europe has to be born as a factor of peace and development, and pool only the resources necessary for this purpose. The responsibility of managing violence should be left to nation-states, as representatives of the old order.
It should be noted that this renunciation of violence constitutes the real strength of the Federal European Union. Events in Eastern Europe have highlighted the nature of the confrontation on whose outcome over the next few decades the destiny of mankind depends: that between nationalism and federalism. At the same time they have clearly shown the fact that, while it remains very much the case that the battle for federalism can become a real political battle and not a sheer ideal testimony only if it achieves realisation in the limited context of the European Community, it is equally true that the final theatre of the confrontation is the world, and that federalism can win the day in Europe only if is able to present itself not just as the definitive solution of a regional problem, but as the beginning of the solution of a world problem.
The federalists who have been publishing this journal for more than thirty years, and those who have gradually come round to the same way of thinking, have always declared that federalism can only be fully achieved at world level. But the degree of interdependence that the world has reached should lead us to be more precise about what this really means, and to stress the fact that openness to the world dimension should be explicitly present in federalism from its very first regional manifestations. In particular it should be there in the Federal Union which will be formed within the Community (or at least among those of its members who will be ready to adhere to the Union from its inception).
This means that pluralism within a government area is no longer a sufficient condition to define federal society. History has given us some examples of states with federal institutions and founded on pluralistic societies (such as the United States and Switzerland) which over the years have created within their borders a feeling of exclusive belonging, in other words they have become veritable nation-states, even if to a greater or lesser extent (Switzerland less so than the United States). In others, initial pluralism degenerated into the setting up against each other of regional nationalisms, which have demonstrated greater strength than central nationalism, to the point of endangering the very foundations of the state (Belgium, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Canada). In both cases, however, the state, even if formally federal, has always sought to legitimise itself by stressing its coincidence with a particular people (however pluralistic it may be), in other words with a closed and well-defined group, and for this very reason unlike all others and ready to turn against them whenever the international balance of power created the conditions for conflict.
If then today the only thing that can give real meaning to the widespread sensation that a new era is beginning is the realisation of federalism in one part of the world, it has to be a federalism that presents itself as the institutional expression of a social and cultural reality which is not only pluralistic, but is also open to the rest of the world. The European Federation must then not be born as the state of the (however pluralistic) people of the Community, nor of the European people as a whole, since this would simply bring about the birth of a European nationalism, but as the state of the world people in progress. For this reason its rapid spread to countries which are not only geographically but also culturally non-European, such as Turkey and Morocco (whenever this should happen in the context of new forms of co-operation with other regional groups of countries), and its total openness towards a democratised Soviet Union would be of great symbolic importance.
Moreover, the institutional form of this dynamic and open reality should be visibly incomplete, i.e. emerge as a state-in-progress, in which incompleteness would be at the same time a symbol of openness and an instrument for its progressive enlargement. The manifestation of this incompleteness, in its turn, could only be the absence of that attribute of sovereignty which is at the same time the essential instrument and the symbol of the closure of the state, namely the control of the army.
The history of the decades which followed the Second World War has shown, with a persuasive force that has increased notably in the last few years, that the European Community – despite its serious institutional limits – has assumed a central position on the world scene and has exerted a magnetic force on the rest of the world which is much stronger than that exerted by the two superpowers. And this it has achieved by means of economic co-operation – and in particular by the institutional instruments of joining and association; while the United States and the Soviet Union, using the traditional instruments of power politics, have not been able to put together anything more than fragile imperial constructions, whose insubstantial nature is already being shown up by events. If Europe can give itself a federal structure with powers limited to the areas defined by the Treaty of Rome and by the Single Act – leaving to old intergovernmental mechanisms the areas of security and foreign policy in its traditional sense, and to France and Great Britain the responsibility of administering their absurd nuclear mini-deterrents – its potential for expansion and the effectiveness of the relevant instruments would benefit enormously. This would inaugurate a new foreign policy whose strength would reside in what is only apparently a paradox, i.e. in the renunciation of force, and which would tend to blur the edges between it and economic, environmental and social policy.
In the global village into which the world is transforming itself, people – including the peoples of the less developed countries – no longer agree to play a passive role as pawns in the game of power politics and objects of ideological manipulation. They are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that mankind will have no future at all unless it is a common future. Much time will pass and many difficult obstacles are yet to be overcome, before this new awareness can be deepened to the point of bringing the project of World federation to political maturity. But today the first decisive step can be made in the right direction. It would be tragic if the countries of the Community, where the time for the albeit partial realisation of federalism is fully ripe, should fail to live up to their historic responsibilities and should show themselves incapable of providing the rest of the world with an organisational model of social and political co-existence, such as might constitute an ideal point of reference for the world people in the making.