Year XXXII, 1990, Number 1 - Page 64
ITALIANS AND GERMANS IN THE EUROPEAN MOVEMENT
The June 1989 European elections were accompanied in Italy by a referendum on the question of granting the European Parliament a constituent mandate. About 80 per cent of the Italian electorate voted “yes”. This result is a demonstration of the positive attitude towards European integration which has for years characterized the debate on developments in European politics in Italy. How this referendum was arrived at is significant: as indeed is the result, which beyond all doubt has to be considered extremely positive.
The initiative was launched by the Movimento Federalista Europeo, which, with the support of the political and social forces organized in the Italian Council of the European Movement, mobilized a large number of deputies and senators to present the relevant bill to Parliament. The initiative was carried forward through a lengthy legislative procedure, accompanied by continual pressure on the parties and their groups, and even on each individual deputy. The subsequent campaign of information did the rest. In the end the law sanctioning the referendum was approved by an enormous majority and the date was fixed to coincide with that of the European elections.
It was a great success for the Italian forces of European and federalist inspiration. In no other country have such initiatives met with success. It has to be recognized however that in other countries the political, cultural and constitutional prerequisites, as well as those having to do with national tradition were much less favourable to such an action. But it is also true that nowhere else are the federalists and Europeanists so politically active, so flexible in organization and so intellectually lively as in Italy. This deserves to be recognized, particularly by the Germans.
After all, along with the Italians, the Germans represent the strongest group in the European Union of Federalists (UEF) and in the International European Movement, and are therefore the predominant group.
Within the UEF, Europa Union Deutschland is the partner of the Italian Movimento Federalista Europeo; just as the Italian Council of the European Movement has the German Council as its partner. In both cases they are complementary in their diversity. For years they have found themselves together in the struggle to pursue common goals, despite the difficulties which arise as a result of their differences. Their collaboration, like the rivalry between them and consequent conflicts, are dynamic elements for progress and renewal in both the European Union of Federalists and the International European Movement.
Competition appears above all when strategic or conceptual questions are at stake, where naturally different historical experiences and political culture come out. This may be observed in the very structure of the federalist and European associations: what in Italy is called a “movement,” and consequently acts in an activist, movementalist way, is called an “organization” in Germany, and acts in a systematic and schematic manner.
If the Italian associations have been recognized as having greater flexibility in organizational respects compared to federalist and European associations in other countries, in Italy it is recognized that no other association in the UEF is so well and rationally organized as the Europa Union, and that the German Council represents an unequalled example of well-thought out organization. And where the Italians distinguish themselves by intelligent political activism, the Germans shine at the institutional level. What in Italy is achieved by liveliness and intelligence, in Germany is compensated for by scientific activity.
It is understandable that these differences in talent, outlook, vision, thought and expression give rise to differences in choice of priorities and the path to follow. These are discussed together, obviously bearing in mind the common goal of unity, which also defines the style of relations. And it is thus that mutual understanding grows, which in turn allows each side to learn from the other.
But it is not merely in methodology that the competition between Italians and Germans in the European Movement can be fruitful, for even the content of the federalist aims is involved in a conflict destined, to be sure, to be resolved in understanding and agreement.
Federalism for example is taken for granted by the Germans, who live and work politically in a federal state, as part of their own experience, a consolidated and practical system, whose functioning is unquestionable. It thus does not constitute a problem, and therefore rarely – all too rarely – is it thought about on the theoretical plane.
The Italians, on the other hand, for the moment only know federalism on the theoretical level; this theory appears to them attractive, and rightly so, from the intellectual point of view; it gives them many convincing answers to the variety of problems posed by their state system, like the prospect of creating a European and international state system. Their experiences as political militants go back, however, to the centralized constitutional system in which they move. And naturally this experience also influences federalist theory, by accentuating the unitary aspect over that of multiplicity, which the Germans consider fundamental.
Consequently the Italians support a top-down model of federalism, represented by depriving the individual components making up the federation and concentrating power in the central organs of government, whose federative order is based on theoretical principles according to which parts of power can easily be restored to the components. The Germans, on the contrary, are in favour of bottom-up federalism: the various components maintain their autonomy, together forming the federation, so that the areas of power which they entrust to the federation can be administered only with their participation.
It is not by chance that the governing body of the Movimento Federalista Europeo in Italy consists of people elected by the Congress (from above), and is called the Central Committee; while, in contrast, the corresponding organ (Hauptausschuss) of the Europa Union is formed of delegates sent by the regional associations (from below).
Perhaps all these differences have been pushed to the limit here. Not all Italian federalists, and not all German federalists after all will recognize themselves in these general observations. Basically however, things are as I have said. It is for this reason that the Italo-German dialogue is of such importance.
The International European Movement and the European Union of Federalists have both drawn advantage on the level of ideas from the fruitful competition between Germans and Italians and from their sincere and passionate co-operation. The successes in favour of European integration and the prestige which these associations have won for themselves as initiators, promoters and stimulators in the various positive and negative phases of the process of integration, are based largely on this Italo-German dialectic which, naturally, has never excluded friends and partners from other nations and their own important individual contributions.