Year XLIX, 2007, Number 2, Page 75
The Legacy of Mario Albertini
Fifteen years after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, the European Union is plagued by uncertainties and contradictions. The text signed in the Dutch city a decade and a half ago not only made provision for the creation of the single currency, but also pointed out the need for a common foreign and security policy and for the creation of European citizenship as the final seal on the process of unification that had restored peace and prosperity to the western part of the continent. To give the citizens of the fifteen countries a concrete sign of the progress achieved, the heads of state and of government decided to rechristen the European Community the “European Union”, a more solemn name with echoes of the federation created in North America more than two centuries earlier.
As we all know, of the programme outlined in Maastricht only the single currency, which came into circulation on January 1, 2002, has survived. The matter of a common foreign and security policy and the plan for European citizenship seem to have been forgotten. It cannot be denied that the euro was a major triumph for the Europeans, but on its own it is not enough to avert the threat of disintegration which hangs so heavily over today’s increasingly divided and impotent European Union. It really needed the other parts of the Treaty, too, to be promptly realised, so as to transform the Union into a federal state capable of taking, completely autonomously, the decisions relating to its own defence, foreign policy, security and economic and monetary policy. Instead, the governments moved in the opposite direction, starting work on increasingly muddled agreements and ultimately entrusting the “Convention on the Future of Europe” with the task of drawing up an umpteenth treaty that, in spite of being named, deceptively, the “Treaty adopting a Constitution for Europe”, has failed to give rise to the fundamental charter that should be the basis of the life of any state.
Even the European leaders most inclined to get the process of European unification re-started continue to be trapped by this manifestly inadequate Treaty; they may talk of the need for alternative routes in order to overcome the bedlam of twenty-seven countries that speak very different languages, but they are incapable of putting concrete proposals and projects on the table.
It is in difficult times such as these that the ideas of those men and women who have devoted their entire lives to the battle for European federation regain all their force and relevance. In 2006, we commemorated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Altiero Spinelli by gathering together, for our readers, some of his key writings, which marked the start of what he himself called the “European adventure”. Now, it is the turn of Mario Albertini as, ten years after his death, we have decided to recall the man and his work in a text that pieces together the significance of his political militancy and theoretical reflections, and in an essay in which he himself illustrates the historical and cultural roots of European federalism.
Federalism, according to Albertini, is the only model through which we can gain an understanding of the concept of the supranational phase of history. But to become a driving force in the current historical phase, and to establish itself as a principle of action, it will have to become real: embodied in an event that brings out its full significance. This event can only be the creation of a European federation, since this will negate, in fact, Europe’s division into sovereign states; furthermore, it will be history’s first negation of the great nations that have encouraged the political division of mankind — an ill-fated culture that has lent justification and legitimacy to the duty to kill. Moreover, only the European federal state can reverse Europe’s current slide into ruin, and preserve the cultural and political heritage that has been built through the iron will of those for whom the battle for European unity and for the affirmation of federalism has been a raison d’être.