Year XXVII, 1985, Number 1, Page 21
The Institutional Response
LUIGI V. MAJOCCHI
The Community has been in crisis ever since it was forced to tackle matters of great political, economic and social momentum. Such matters are normally tackled by state authorities (energy, employment, regional development, industrial restructuring, etc.), and are problems on which the balance and power relationship between the political and social forces, the state of public opinion and the power situation itself depend. Objectives of this nature cannot be pursued – even if the appropriate State authority exists – without great commitment and precise policy decisions by the parties, without adequate propaganda, without a lively political debate and, ultimately, without the formation of majorities and minorities.
All this is plain. But it needs to be recalled when talking about the Community and its re-launching, because it is wrongly overlooked. The truth is that the Community is in a stalemate position and has been in such a position ever since the transitional period of the Common Market was concluded and the foundations of the agricultural union laid. A stalemate position has existed since the time when the Community became faced with the problem of economic and monetary union which is a vital stage on the road to the fulfilment of integration. This shows that the Community lacks capacity for action at this level, i.e. major economic policy decisions. And it is precisely this incapacity for action that explains the failure of all the attempts to re-launch the Community by means of economic and monetary union (the Werner Plan, transition to the institutional phase of the EMS). The problem, therefore, is to provide the Community with this power.
It has also to be pointed out that this incapacity for action became even more conspicuous when the Atlantic framework, the international policy structure within which European integration has historically developed in the post-war period, became less solid, both as a result of the dollar’s failure to act as the exclusive stable support of the world monetary system and as a result of the growing disquiet displayed on both sides of the Atlantic towards a form of political protection. This form of protection was indispensable for post-war reconstruction and for European security at a time when Europe was incapable of assuming this responsibility, but is now increasingly less justified, and hence unhealthy and destined to poison Atlantic relationships. It was no accident therefore if the member States of the Community jointly announced their decision to “transform the sum of their relations into a European Union by the end of the current decade”, when the objective of completing economic and monetary union by December 31, 1980 was fixed at the 1972 Paris Summit.
But here too, as with the economic and monetary union, the results were disappointing, in spite of the efforts first of Tindemans and then Genscher and Colombo.
The facts clearly showed that any action would be doomed to failure if not conceived in such a way as to generate, by its development, a change in the Community’s power and, more precisely, a growth in the power needed to implement this action successfully.
The Federalists and the European vanguard of political and social forces, i.e. the European Movement, voiced these needs and successfully campaigned for direct elections to the European Parliament. They then campaigned to ensure that it was this Parliament, itself, which took the initiative for a reform of the Community’s institutions. The Parliament elected did so. The Treaty of Union, approved on February 14, 1984, differs from previous plans, such as economic and monetary union, or the European Union, not only because it gave substance to a European point of view which is not just a sum of, or compromise between, the various national points of view, but more particularly because it was formulated by a democratic body subject to electoral control. It constitutes a major programme of action proposed by Parliament to its citizens: one that is capable, by means of the involvement of the political forces, of promoting an organic growth of the debate and hence of consensus.
This was in fact how things turned out. Faced with the second European elections, the political forces were compelled to declare their position as regards the Treaty, the press turned its attention to the matter, and governments could not ignore the Draft Treaty. Whatever its outcome, it is undeniable that the second attempt to found a European federation is now underway. The decisions taken by the European Council at Fontainebleau and Dublin attest to this, just as they attest to the fact that the dice are thrown.
We have said that the attempt now underway to found a European federation is the second to have been made in the post-war period. Not everyone is aware of this and many people are thus led to overestimate the difficulties of this undertaking. It is a convenient alibi for not acting. Yet it is true that there has already been one attempt and that it came within an ace of success. In the early months of 1950, faced by the new bipolar system of world power, the aggressiveness of Stalinism, and American calls for the reconstruction of Germany (the most forward front of Western deployment), the France of Schumann and Pleven, which feared the resurgence of German power, accepted Monnet’s proposal to renounce her sovereignty over coal and steel in favour of a Community, provided that a reconstructed Germany did the same (Schumann’s declaration of May 9, 1950: the plan for the European Coal and Steel Community - ECSC). The ECSC institutions were clearly defined by Monnet as “les premières assises de la fédération européenne”. Nor is that all. In the summer of 1950, after the outbreak of the Korean War and the consequent American involvement on the Asian front, the United States’ pressures on her European partners for the prompt rearmament of Germany became stronger. And it was in these circumstances that Monnet again proposed that France should renounce her sovereignty over her own army in favour of a supranational Community, provided that her other European partners did the same (Pleven’s declaration of October 24, 1950: the plan for the European Defence Community - EDC).
All this is generally well-known. But “That is not well-known is that, after the opening of the EDC Conference, in the summer of 1951, the Movimento Federalista Europeo, whose Secretary General was then Altiero Spinelli, sent De Gasperi a memorandum, pointing out the absurdity of forming a European army without first founding a European State and suggesting the most appropriate means of achieving it: namely, a treaty-constitution drawn up by a constituent assembly which “strictly speaking ought to be instituted by the direct vote of the citizens, but which for reasons of rapidity and convenience may be elected by the Parliaments to which the sovereignty of the people has been delegated”.
The method proposed by Spinelli was the one adopted. De Gasperi read the memorandum. He was convinced that its proposal offered the most suitable approach, and he set to work.
It is not possible here to reconstruct, blow by blow, the events which followed. Suffice it to recall that De Gasperi gave the Italian delegation, hitherto one of the most jealous in the defence of national sovereignty, precise instructions to pose the problem of the political Community to the Conference; and that, at the meeting of the ECSC’s Council of Foreign Ministers on December 11, 1951, he succeeded in gaining the acceptance of his point of view. Having obtained this first success (article 38 of the EDC Treaty which linked the formation of the European Defence Community to that of the political Community), negotiations began on how to achieve the second stage: namely, that of establishing the procedure for drafting a constitution for the political Community. Even then the tendency of governments was to entrust tasks of this nature to officials. But De Gasperi knew what had to be done and succeeded in ensuring that this task be entrusted to the (enlarged) Assembly of the ECSC, which assumed the name of ‘ad hoc Assembly’ for the occasion. This Assembly set to work on September 15, 1952 and on March 10, 1953, having approved the text of the Draft Constitution, entrusted it to the Council of Ministers and gave its institutional Commission the task of monitoring the action of governments until the constituent initiative had been fully achieved, i.e. until it had been ratified by the member States. The Council of Ministers, entrusted with the task of adopting the Draft Constitution, delegated it in turn to a diplomatic conference which immediately set about undoing what the representatives of the people had already achieved. And so it was that the Draft European Constitution, repeatedly postponed, ended up by uniting its destiny with that of the EDC which, though ratified by the Netherlands, Belgium and West Germany, eventually lapsed on August 30, 1954 in France, in part as a result of the non-ratification by Italy, even then more disposed to words than action. It is worth pointing out, moreover, that the objective meaning of this attempt, though born under the shadow of American protection, was to assert Europe’s independence even militarily and to form a real Common Market with a common currency, an adequate budget and an effective government. And it is also worth pointing out that, if the failure of the EDC spelt the end of the project for a political Community, it did not spell the end of the plan to form a Common Market, which had been provided for under the Draft Constitution and which formed the backbone of the re-launching of Europe in Messina. It equally needs to be pointed out that the attempt, though abortive, did give specific lessons to anyone who might want to tackle the foundation of a European State once more. So it was that, once the crisis of the Community had developed and faith in the mechanical transition from economic to political unification was proved to be without foundation, the federalist vanguard campaigned for the European vote and, on obtaining it, for the constituent initiative of the European Parliament, the only one capable of expressing a European viewpoint and, thanks to the consent of the people, of affirming it, though up against the claims of individual States. This is the road that the European Parliament has taken till today, thanks to the role played by Altiero Spinelli, who also drew the lesson, from the first attempt to form a European State, that the Draft Constitution must not be subjected to the scrutiny of any diplomatic conference or any intergovernmental body, but must be transmitted directly to the individual States for ratification.
This approach is clearly indicated by the first of the final provisions of the Draft Treaty, Article 82. It reads as follows: “The present Treaty is open to the ratification of all the member States of the European Communities. If the present Treaty be ratified by a majority of the member States of the Communities whose population constitutes two-thirds of the overall population of the Communities, the governments of the member States that have ratified it shall meet immediately to decide by common agreement the procedures and the date of the coming into force of present Treaty as well as relations with the member States which have not yet ratified it”.
Facts have taken a rather more tortuous course. Italy and Belgium have made their willingness to ratify known, but have not done so. Mitterrand has declared his support for the Treaty, but has not ratified it. In the other founder countries of the European Community (West Germany, the Netherlands and Luxemburg) and in Ireland a wide degree of consent to the Treaty is evident, but this has not been formalized in the respective Parliaments or Governments, still less ratified.
In this blurred situation no government has yet had the courage to ratify the Treaty without delay, thus putting the others in the disagreeable position of having to say openly yes or no before European public opinion as a whole. The European Council of Fontainebleau thus authorized the setting up of a committee made up of the personal representative of heads of State and of government to study the problem. In essence, Fontainebleau promoted an interlocutory phase which left all the options open. This was confirmed by the European Council of Dublin which invited the Committee to continue its work and draw up a final report for March, and gave a pledge that this report would be discussed in the course of the session scheduled to be held in Italy at the end of June.
The first methodological proposals to emerge from the work of this Committee (the “intérimaire” report prepared by Faure) recommend the convening of an intergovernmental conference which will have the task of negotiating the Treaty establishing the Union. This prospect certainly does not meet with the hopes of the European Movement, which is, in principle, mistrustful of diplomatic conferences. This is not only due to the lessons learnt from the experience of 1953, but also due to its awareness that such conferences tend, by their very nature, to produce compromises acceptable to everyone and thus necessarily poor in innovative content. Nonetheless, the European Movement does not lay down any rigid condition as regards the procedure. But it does do so as regards content, declaring its opposition to any institutional reform which is incapable of equipping the Community with the capacity for action it needs – one, in other words, which makes no provision for the establishment of an effective and democratic government, albeit limited to economic and monetary competences alone during an initial phase. It is essentially a question of safeguarding the “political and institutional minimum” provided for and guaranteed by the European Parliament’s Draft Treaty.
The constitutional model from which the European Parliament drew its inspiration is that of the parliamentary regime and the existing institutions have been adapted to its principles. Thus the European Council – hitherto a de facto body for which no provision was made by the Treaties establishing the Community – becomes the collegial presidency of the Union; the Commission, whose President is appointed by the European Council and has the power of constituting it (as has the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany), exercises executive power after it has obtained the Parliament’s approval (to which it is responsible); the Parliament and the Council of the Union (the present-day Council of Ministers, though it is envisaged that this should no longer hold any executive power) lastly exercise the legislative and budgetary functions. This constitutional set-up ensures the political and institutional minimum to equip the Community with effective capacity for action because it makes its government more democratic. The objective is achieved, in the first place, by establishing a direct tie between citizens, Parliament and the executive, without excluding the States, and, in the second place, by diminishing the role of the Council of Ministers which, in an aberrant manner, combines legislative with executive power, as in the age of absolutism, but is devoid of any effective decision-making capacity because it is subject, like any intergovernmental institution, to the logic of unanimity (think of the capacity for action which the Italian government would have at its disposal if it were to consist of a Council of the presidents of Italy’s regions, each armed with the right of veto!).
It should be pointed out, incidentally, that the problem of the Community’s capacity for action was, and remains, the decisive problem. There now exists wide-ranging consensus on what needs to be done to get the Community out of its current crisis. And the European Parliament has been prompt in responding to that consensus by approving the Albert-Ball Report, which recommends a series of policies aimed at boosting the Community, including the speedy transition to the second phase of the EMS and the re-launching of the ECU. The point is, however, that no reinforcement of common policies and no progress towards monetary union is possible with the current intergovernmental decision-making mechanism. The commitment of the European Parliament to institutional reform represents, therefore, not an irresponsible avoidance of its tasks, but the only adequate response by which to achieve them. Just as the campaign for the ratification of the Treaty objectively coincides with the campaign to achieve its contents, so the campaign for the contents can only contribute to the credibility of the institutional reform.
The fact that our discussion of the Community’s capacity for action has left out of account the problems of international policy and defence may perhaps cause surprise. But these problems have not been forgotten. The truth is that this democratic and effective government is established only for economic and monetary union, since foreign policy and security, although coming under the Union, will still be managed by the traditional method of intergovernmental co-operation until such time as the member States unanimously decide to defer these matters to “common action”, i.e. to delegate them to the democratic government of the Union.
For this reason the Treaty of Union may justly be called the “penultimate step” towards the foundation of the European Federation.
The establishment of the European Union has a clear political significance, but it has an even greater, albeit less immediately apparent, historical significance.
As regards the former, the Union today represents the only means by which to resume the process towards economic integration, to overcome the difficulties posed by the Community’s enlargement through the accession of Spain and Portugal, to respond to the challenge of the technologically more advanced countries, and to contribute actively to the establishment of a new international economic and monetary order. As for the prospects of development in the field of foreign policy and security, the Union also represents the only means of re-founding the Atlantic Alliance in the healthier terms of an equal partnership, promoting, with renewed detente, an orderly transition to a more peaceful multipolar equilibrium which may leave more scope for negotiation than for military confrontation, establishing new relations with Eastern European countries and the Third World, and making an effective contribution to the restoration of peace in the Middle East.
As regards the latter, it is enough to recall that the Community was established under the watchword of pacification between the greatest nations in history. For this reason, the Community, once it has reached its democratic and constitutional fulfilment, will be a great model of pacification for the whole of mankind. If the French and Germans can live together in peace under a single law democratically made and accepted, and enforced by a common democratic government, could not Palestinians and Israelis, Iraquis and Iranians, the peoples of Africa and Latin America and – in an even more distant future – the whole of mankind eventually live together in peace in the same way? The European Union will thus be a powerful peace factor. But it will also mark the first major victory of democracy in the field of international relations. It will do so by affirming that it is possible to retrieve these relations from the law of the jungle and place them under the conscious control of man. This is destined to foster the awareness that if the world is increasingly becoming one, those who govern it should also be one, and that this albeit ambitious and still remote objective is, nonetheless, historically feasible.