Year XXVI, 1984, Number 3 - Page 177
A Decisive Battle
The prospect of annihilation of mankind by a nuclear war has sown the seeds of federalism in the soul of many people throughout the world. One is struck with wonder seeing how many courageous and tenacious men and women, outside Western Europe, are currently devoting their energies to the struggle for World Federation, which is doomed to remain pure ideal testimony, though of an exceedingly high value, for a very long time.
Federalism can be accomplished only at a world level, while its construction can be achieved only through a process, which must begin in a precise place, where it must create a model with the capacity to spread through the rest of the world, just like another model, the national state, which originated in Europe, did. This process will be bound to continue until the moment when the struggle for the World Federation also becomes a political project, and not only a moral ideal.
It is only in Western Europe that, since the end of the war, federalism has been transformed, from being a pure idea of reason, into a political project. It is in Western Europe that the nation-state, as a historical form, has undergone its crisis, and it is also here that the ideal of union has got across to the public, though so far only passively. It is here that the day-to-day need to collaborate across the frontiers – though hampered by the permanence of many distinct sovereignties – has brought division into the conscience of the political class, pushed by its interest and by inertia to perpetuate the sovereignty of the state, yet obliged by the inescapable reality of the European and world dimension of problems to recognize the need to overcome it.
The European parliamentary elections were made possible precisely by such a concurrence of circumstances. Thanks to the legitimacy conferred upon it by the people’s vote, the European Parliament has taken on the historical role of being the driving force of the process. By passing the Draft Treaty establishing a European Union, it has begun the courageous attempt to build the first international democracy in history.
Only a few are aware of this. As Jean Monnet said, the limelight does not fall in places where the future is prepared. Yet the problem has been posed, and the governments are now faced with the historical decision, which carries heavy historical responsibilities with it, either to make a decisive step on the road towards unity and to give an example to the world by accepting the Draft Treaty of the European Parliament, or to proceed on the road of division, and thus of decay and servitude, by rejecting it or sweeping it under the carpet.
Let us recall the essential elements of the situation. On February 14, 1984 the European Parliament approved a text which, if adopted by the member States, or by a sufficient proportion of them, though not giving Europe the structure of a federation, would at least secure the institutional tools indispensable for forging ahead on the road to unity. It is what we call the “political and institutional minimum”: the Commission transformed into an executive provided with limited, yet real powers, and subject to the European Parliament’s control; the Parliament’s participation in the law-making process, substantially on a par with the Council of Ministers; majority rule in the proceedings of the Council of Ministers.
The draft was supported by President Mitterrand of France who, in a speech in Strasburg on May 24, 1984, declared that France is ready to defend it. On many occasions Chancellor Kohl has revealed he is in favour of the European Parliament’s proposals. Something seems to emerge, that we called in other circumstances “the occasional leadership” of the process: the readiness of one or more great European leaders to take the opportunity that presents itself and to bet their own historical destiny on it. Without this readiness, political forces are not involved in the debate, media do not react, public opinion is deprived of any addressee and any reference point for a stand to be taken. The “occasional leadership” of the process of European unification surfaced for the first time with Adenauer, De Gasperi and Schuman at the time of the EDC. The same thing could happen again today, with the French Head of state and the German Head of government.
All this has already brought about one significant result. The Committee of personal representatives of the Heads of state and government (“Dooge Committee”), appointed after the European Council in Fontainebleau, has drafted a report, which was presented to the European Council in Brussels on March 29-30, and which will be discussed by the European Council in Milan on June 28-29. This report substantially preserves the “political and institutional minimum”, identified in the European Parliament’s draft, in spite of the numerous reservations advanced by the British, Danish and Greek representatives.
The procedure proposed by the Dooge Committee envisages among other things: i) the summoning in the near future of a conference of representatives of the member governments with a view to negotiating a draft treaty establishing a European Union, on the basis, among other things, of the spirit and the method marking the Draft Treaty voted by the European Parliament; ii) that the Commission of the Community take part in the negotiations; iii) that the European Parliament be closely associated with the proceedings of the conference and iv) that the final results of such proceedings be submitted to the European Parliament for approval.
In this way, the essential elements of the battle to be fought have been defined. The conditions for attempting to recruit the potentially available forces and for marshalling them on the field are there. The goal is clearly visible. The line of division between those who are for and those who are against the Parliament’s Draft is becoming more and more clear-cut as the progress of events makes the alibis of the false friends of Europe collapse. And it is certain that, as the fronts take a clear outline, many of those who seemed to be allies when there were no precise commitments to take, will take off their masks and pass over to the enemy camp. But this is unavoidable and does confirm that we are facing a decisive battle.
It is a battle whose outcome depends on three factors:
i) the determination of the governments who declare themselves in favour of the Draft Treaty to go forward, maybe at the cost of painful lacerations, even without the governments who are against, and whose tactics will certainly be to cling to the wagon of negotiations with a view to steering them down a blind alley or anyhow towards inconclusive results. For this reason one at least of the Heads of state or government must have a clear awareness of his own historical responsibility and thus acquire the strength to impose his will on those of his partners who, though being, or saying they are, in favour of the Draft Treaty, will tend to make the spirit of compromise prevail on the willingness to achieve the Union;
ii) the courage of the European Parliament to defend its project without hesitation, laying aside any polemic between the parties and giving rise within itself to that large unitary front which is part of its constituent role;
iii) the mobilization of public opinion by the federalists and by other living forces of European society. Indeed, without the active support of public opinion, a statesman could hardly find the force to put his own historical destiny at stake on a project, like that of the European Union, which is grandiose, but difficult to realize; and even the European Parliament’s legitimacy would remain purely formal.
Bringing about these conditions is not easy. But nobody has ever been deluded into thinking it would be easy to start a process through which the sovereignty of a number of centuries old nation-States will be overcome and the embryo of a new State will be created in their place, thus inaugurating the federalist phase of human history. The only thing we can affirm with certainty is that, today, any advance on the road towards the European Union will no longer be hampered by impersonal forces, escaping control by human will. We are today in one of those moments of freedom in history, when the outcome of the crucial drama depends precisely and exclusively on the will of the ‘players’ in the process.The conditions making it possible to fight are there. It is up to everyone to take on his responsibilities.