Year XXVI, 1984, Number 2 - Page 95
The Problem of Peace and the European Parliament
Peace is closely linked with the evolution of power forms. Wars are waged because the power to make them exists (in the shape of the absolute sovereignty of nation-states). We will achieve peace when, and obviously if, mankind succeeds in creating a power capable of preventing all states from waging war. But the big question is the following: does the historical process, at least in germ, already contain within itself such possibilities? And through what type of action can such possibilities be actualized?
With «The Federalist» we would like to show that European unification is a good place to look for the answers to these questions, for the following reasons: firstly, European unification is a great historical work of pacification between proud states, which have always fought each other; secondly, unification is in fact a process implying the creation of an international democratic power and a profound transformation of the old absolute national powers; thirdly, on this basis, it can be reasonably argued that, with unification, some, at least, of the problems of power which will arise in the future on a World scale are in process of being tackled on the European scale (assuming, as men should fervently will, action is undertaken in the future to create a world power capable of ensuring a lasting and universal peace). It follows – and this is the fourth reason – that studying the power aspects of European unification we can already work out patterns of action which will also be valid for world unification; and it goes without saying that in this way it will also be possible to ascertain the possibility of such unification, which can be established precisely by assessing whether and how such patterns are applicable, i.e. are appropriate means of struggle.
We believe, therefore, that Europe is a great laboratory, a seat for experiment decisive for the future of mankind (in the wide meaning of the term ‘experiment’, as experience with some possibility of theoretical control). Precisely in the same way that Europe has diffused modern science and the great political ideologies throughout the world, Europe will make a serious contribution to the development of a positive theory of peace, if she is able to solve the problem of her unification. Nowadays peace, at least for those who believe in the identity between peace and world government, is thought of as a typology (as an Idealtypus in Weber’s sense) but not yet as concrete knowledge of the real historical process of its creation. And from this point of view science remains mute (there is no science of historical contingency). And so it will remain until the time when it becomes precisely a science of what can be ascertained because it is happening, i.e. history. Hence the importance of Europe as a laboratory. Europe is permitting the first empirical observations of the aspects of the problem of peace which, as they have the character of new historical facts, can be studied only if they occur; and, of course, only if they are studied from this angle, viz. as aspects of a trend really transforming power and evolving towards international democracy.
There are essentially two aspects which can be studied with this method: firstly, the characteristics of the European political process – as a succession of situations in progress, conditioning political behaviour and thus counting, from the political point of view, as de facto powers, and secondly, institutional transformation, directly concerning human will, inasmuch as it corresponds to the possibility of taking new decisions in new fields of action. In this respect the fact to focus on is that in all unification processes – from the institutional state of affairs existing at the beginning of the process (a system of States with absolute sovereignty) to the final one (federal system) – intermediate and transitional institutions take shape which cannot be deduced from the typology, as they are new as historical occurrences, but must be studied and understood, lest the new possibilities of action they determine be lost.
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There are some facts which demonstrate that the European Parliament can take on the role of «federator» (we may recall that de Gaulle argued it was impossible to go beyond the stage of l’Europe des Etats due to the lack of a fédérateur). But, before recalling such facts, we must remove some misunderstandings, which seem to crop up abundantly when the question is about the European Parliament. There were, and still are, many uncertainties as to its role, which can, however, be easily explained. Europe is not a perfected political system, like the U.K., or France, etc. Europe is a political system in the making, and nobody is in a position to say a priori what will be the function of a Parliament which is still in the making, just like the political system to which it belongs; so much the more so if, as in the case of Europe, the system does not yet possess an independent government. What is certain, is that the European Parliament cannot carry out now the function it will have in the future, i.e. once the Community becomes the Union and, later the Federation. But this is precisely the aspect which is habitually overlooked when its achievements are judged on the basis of the idea of what it will be able to do only when Europe’s construction is completed, or when at least it is farther advanced than now.
It is worthwhile elucidating as clearly as possible this curious demand. It is often asserted that the Community, and/or the European Parliament, should transform the Common Market into an internal market in the true sense of the word and at the same time ensure economic recovery, get rid of unemployment, make up for the ground lost to the U.S. and Japan in the field of new technologies, lessen regional imbalances, or draw up a common foreign policy, organize a common defence, etc. Then everybody notices that none of those goals is attained, nor even really pursued: so funeral songs are struck up, lack of European political will is complained about and the conclusion is drawn that Europe is a dream.
This type of reasoning makes about as much sense as wishing to live in a half-built house. It is self-evident that one cannot govern without a governing power; it is self-evident that normal political will cannot take shape where a will to govern cannot develop itself, etc. The problem lies elsewhere: Europe is in the making, the question is what stage in the process have we reached today? What possibilities for action are emerging? Only in this way is it possible to exorcize the verbal ghosts arising from poor use of language, and to replace them by real facts, i.e. the current degree of unity in Europe.
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The European Parliament has taken on the role of a «federator» thanks to the «Spinelli draft». We are speaking about the widely known Draft Treaty establishing, a European Union, which defines the first forms of a real European government, though provided with powers which are much more limited than we might wish. At any rate, it is clear that, if such a Treaty is ratified by the states, this should enable the Community to overcome her crisis, by giving her a limited, yet real, European capacity for government and raising her up to the status of an effective political Union. But there is more than this. The reactions to the Draft Treaty show that the European Parliament can play an important role, when pursuing advanced, yet realistic institutional goals (‘realistic’ when seen from the standpoint of common sense, and not from the viewpoint of many observers, experts, etc.). Now, by studying this we can ascertain how strong the power of the European Parliament is in a phase when it is directly elected by the citizens – and this cannot fail to have consequences – but when it does not yet possess the powers normally possessed by a Parliament.
It is interesting to note, firstly, that the events which have demonstrated the real role of the European Parliament were entirely unexpected, like all historical novelties, and, secondly, that these events have been unreasonably underestimated. Briefly, the sequence of these events and the attempts to brand and minimise them is as follows. When Altiero Spinelli suggested the European Parliament work out a Draft Treaty establishing the Union, to be submitted to the States for ratification, everybody said that it would not even have got a majority inside the European Parliament. When, a majority was won and the Draft Treaty was approved (February 14th, 1984, 229 for, 31 against, 42 abstensions), everybody said that no government would ever have given it the slightest consideration. When the Italian Cabinet and Parliament let it be known that they were in favour of ratification) everybody said that it was unthinkable that the other governments, particularly the French and German governments (let alone the British government) would adopt the same attitude. But when Mitterrand stated he was in favour on May 24th (a «divine surprise» for Spinelli, as a journalist wrote in «Le Monde») and when Kohl made equally committing observations (on the occasion of the French-German talks which followed Mitterrand’s declarations to the European Parliament) and when, finally, the leaders of other Community countries gave their consent, everybody was forced to admit that the majority of governments had taken up the European Parliament’s proposal right away.
We are, therefore, entitled to assert that the European Parliament has succeeded in eliminating both obstacles which have been hindering the process of unification for more than ten years. The French a priori refusal of any institutional reform has fallen. The road to Union, hitherto pursued in vain by governments, not even able to draw up a plan, has been re-opened. Without the intervention of the European Parliament, it would still be blocked. Both are results of very great moment since they show that the European Parliament has succeeded in assuming the role which rightly belongs to it in the current phase of European construction: namely the role of «federator ». The intuition of the very few people who were saying that thanks to direct elections the European Parliament would have been able to exercise the function of a permanent European constituent assembly – an expression used by Willy Brandt who unfortunately failed to turn it into personal commitment – has therefore been proved correct. Also proved correct is thinking about the work of governments as necessary in this respect, albeit insufficient by itself, because, by acting alone, they remain prisoners of the sterility of the intergovernmental (confederal) method, right from the phase when decisions and projects for action are first contemplated (now a power practically lost by the Commission).
The significance of these facts is clear. The European Parliament, as has been pointed out, so far has neither real governmental power nor the power to check the government (which insofar as it manifests itself) is autocratic because it is made up of national ministers not responsible either to the European Parliament or to the national Parliaments). It does, however, have a power which is much more important by far, so long as the construction of Europe is at stake: the power to be the sole effective partner for the national governments when, by means of the constituent power, new phases in the construction of Europe are about to be initiated.
So far those who see these events in this light are few. So both the events and their underestimation go hand in hand at the same time. Whereas we have the progress made with the appointment of personal representatives of heads of states and governments to the Special Committee, at the very same time we have renewed scepticism. It has to be said, however, that to wait for this struggle to come to an end in order to assess its consistency would be senseless, because all political enterprises may fail, which does not mean they are unreal. In political actions, good fortune still counts, as in Machiavelli’s age, for fifty per cent. We do believe, however, that one may lose all the battles but win the war all the same, just as we believe that, in any case, what has already happened is enough to ascertain the consistency of the European Parliament’s power, provided one is not blinded either by the fear that Europe will not succeed in uniting or by the desire that she should not succeed.
One matter remains to be clarified. Some people believe that this success is not due to the European Parliament, but rather to an exceptional personality, like that of Altiero Spinelli. Now although we are convinced that Spinelli is an exceptional man, we must also bear in mind that Spinelli’s plan has existed in his thinking and goals for about thirty-five years but that it only became a plan which governments accepted once the European Parliament adopted it, i.e. once Spinelli could exploit the power of the European Parliament with a view to implementing it.
We would like to draw two conclusions. The first is of a practical nature and concerns Europe. The conclusion is the following. Only if the European Parliament has effective power and this power is known, can Euro MP’s either be appreciated when they exercise power well or criticised when they do not exercise it or exercise it badly. And only in this case do the citizens of Europe have the democratic possibility to strengthen its power even when they criticise the European Parliament’s members, precisely as they criticise national Parliaments’ members. The second conclusion is of a theoretical nature and concerns peace, and more precisely one institutional aspect of the transition from the world of war to the world of peace. The conclusion is the following. The vicissitudes of the European Parliament have allowed us to establish that, even inside an association of States still with no independent government (like the UN) and thus with no real governmental powers, a Parliament directly elected by the citizens – in this case of the entire world – can have a de facto constituent power, even though it can exercise this power only jointly with the governments and parliaments of the associated states. If we bear in mind, however, that constituent power comes from the people and can be effectively exercised by its representatives only with its consensus, we can also appreciate the fact that the consensus of all the people in the world would strengthen the action of the World Parliament (or partial World Parliament, in Einstein’s sense), thus making possible what would otherwise be impossible: states spontaneously giving up part of their sovereignty.
A worldwide election is a distant goal. But this is far from being a good reason for not beginning to study it henceforth, also with a view to shaping the future and offering an object for moral will. In this respect, knowing that this election would be useful (in a world already progressing towards continental federations and the strengthening of the UN), even before a World Governmnent is established, is something which is not without significance.