Year XLV, 2003, Number 1, Page 12



The Debate over the European Constituent Assembly: A Story of Drafts, Desires and Disappointments
The earliest plans for a European Constitution date back to the second world war — in particular from quarters close to the Resistance.[1] Among the documents that can be traced to those years, the most comprehensive from the constitutional standpoint are the Progetto di costituzione federale europea e interna (Project for a Federal European and internal Constitution), written between the autumn of 1942 and 8 September 1943 by Duccio Galimberti and Antonino Repaci;[2] the Projet d’une constitution fédérale pour l’Europe (Project of a Federal Constitution for Europe), formulated between 1943 and 1944 by the Legal Commission of the Paneuropean Conference;[3] the Rough Draft of a Proposed Constitution for a Federation of Western Europe by W. Ivor Jennings;[4] the Draft Constitution for the United States of Europe, written between 1941 and 1942 by the Constitutional Committee of the Europa Union Schweitz;[5] the Schema di Costituzione dell’Unione federale europea (Scheme of a Constitution for the Federal Union of Europe) drafted by Mario Alberto Rollier in 1944.[6]
The reaction to these efforts was indifference, and they were scorned as nothing but academic exercises on the part of wishful thinkers.
The second world war, however, did spark a tidal wave of pro-union thinking: organizations and movements spread throughout Europe, resolutions in favour of European unity were presented to a number of national parliaments and adopted by several, the issue was widely debated by politicians and the general public.
Following the turning point marked by the Marshall Plan and the cautious launching of the process of unification, initiatives favouring the calling of a European Constituent Assembly became increasingly bold and, at the same time, more concrete. There was a widespread determination to voice desires for political unity above and beyond the minimal low-key progress already achieved at the level of sectoral integration.
Though pro-European sentiment had unarguably taken root, many wondered what strategy should best be adopted; what model Europe should strive towards. Federation, along American or Swiss lines? Confederation? Perhaps a form of institutionalized co-operation between states, starting from a handful of sectoral competences? It was not just a matter of what to aim for, but also how to attain it. It goes without saying that the only recognized democratic way of creating a new state was by the constituent method. However, its implementation in a Europe of sovereign states was troublesome.
As the 1950s dawned, governments opted for a functionalist approach to creating Europe, based on a theory of slow, gradual steps. The progressive integration of industrial sectors would hardly hinder the eventual success of the constituent approach, starting from the more advanced purlieus of Europe.
Indeed, a gradual process might foster even greater success, by highlighting the increasingly serious political and institutional deficiencies brought to light by broader integration and a more extensive transfer of power. Even for Jean Monnet, federation was in any case the final leg of European unification, consisting theoretically in a gradual expansion of functions to be handed over to supranational institutions. The question was: what would trigger such a process? Where and how should it be embarked upon?
The issue of the Constituent assembly was destined to come to a head with the birth of the European Community. Between autumn 1951 and winter 1952, as the ECSC came into being and negotiations on the European Defence Community wound down, there was a groundswell of support for the creation of a European political community. The newly hatched functionalist process, spreading from sector to sector, offered glimpses of deep contradictions, and supplied increasingly convincing arguments in support of a struggle for European unity.
One prime issue was how to create an effective common army — not just a mere overlap of national armies — before creating the federal state it should serve. Another was how to appoint a specialized authority to create it, since a unified army had ramifications affecting other crucial public sectors such as foreign policy and the national budget. And again: could such specialized authorities remain divided from one another and totally separate without the risk of generating confusion, and worse still, getting bogged down in inefficiency?
In other words, could the EDC precede the constitutional foundation of a European State? These are the issues that Altiero Spinelli quite rightly raised in a memorandum to Alcide De Gasperi in August 1951.[7]
Having entered into an area as sensitive as defence, functionalist integration needed to deal with the question of political unification, creating the conditions for a smooth transition towards a constitutional approach.
De Gasperi, the Italian premier, took steps to have the draft treaty of the EDC include an article — number 38 — entrusting the provisional Assembly of the EDC with the task of drafting a project for the Statute of the European political community, at the same defining the principles which should inspire the Assembly in the course of its inquiry: “l’organisation de caractère définitif qui prendra la place de la présente organisation provisoire — the article stated — devrait avoir une structure fédérale ou confédérale. Elle devra comprendre notamment une Assemblée bicamérale et un pouvoir exécutif”.[8]
Since it was expected that the process would be a lengthy one, time was of the essence, and in the spring of 1952, the forces in favour of a united Europe weighed up the possibility of bringing forward the calling of the Constituent Assembly. In May, Spaak — who had earlier reached an understanding with Jean Monnet — proposed giving the task of drafting the project for a European Constitution, pursuant to art. 38, to the ECSC Assembly (suitably enlarged to include the members of the EDC), which was soon to meet as the ratifications of the Schuman Plan were about to be completed.
The proposal to bring forward the Assembly was immediately welcomed at the highest levels, leading to a Franco-Italian government initiative that was discussed and approved on 9 September by the six ECSC Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxemburg.
On 10 September, Adenauer formally requested that the ECSC Council — at its maiden meeting — draw up a Constitution of the European political community. Three days later, the Assembly agreed to the governments’ request and went to work, naming itself the ad hoc Assembly. In the space of only a few months, the European Constituent Assembly had become a reality and Europe found itself — albeit only fleetingly — on the brink of unification.
What just months earlier had seemed a pipe dream was now not only within reach, but could not materialize fast enough. There was a need to deal promptly with new challenges, the most demanding undoubtedly being the need to create a supra-national political authority, uniting not thirteen former British colonies, or a handful of cantons, as in the case of the United States or Switzerland, but the great sovereign national states of the modern era. So as the project advanced at the government level, the Movements were taking action not just to ensure the successful fulfilment of the task at hand, but also to prepare to deal with the new challenges lying ahead, proposing themselves as a viable force driving government action.
In March 1952, Altiero Spinelli pushed for the creation of a Comité d’Etudes pour la Constitution Européenne (CECE) — Committee for the Study of a European Constitution, of which Paul-Henri Spaak became the Chairman and Fernand Dehousse the secretary. The aim of the group was to explore the problems raised by the political unification of Europe, and draw up plans for a European Constitution which — given the novelty of the subject and the little time available — would have provided valuable support to the “official” constituent assembly. The results achieved by the CECE, also aided by a group of Harvard University experts led by Karl Friedrich and Robert R. Bowie,[9] were published in the form of nine resolutions in November 1952.[10] That same month, the Travaux préparatoires were also published, which contained the minutes of the CECE proceedings.[11] There is evidence of close links between the CECE and the ad hoc Assembly: Paul-Henri Spaak chaired both bodies; Fernand Dehousse was secretary of the CECE and rapporteur for the Political Institutions subcommittee[12] of the ad hoc Assembly (chaired by Paul-Henri Teitgen), and also a member of the latter’s Groupe de Travail; Lodovico Benvenuti was a distinguished member of the CECE and a rapporteur for the Attributions subcommittee in the ad hoc Assembly chaired by the Dutchman Blaisse.
The ad hoc Assembly went straight to work under the guidance of chairman Paul-Henri Spaak, and six months later, within the deadline that had been set for 10 March 1953, the draft statute of the European Political Community had been unanimously approved, except for five abstentions.
The document was a weighty one, consisting of a preamble and 117 articles divided into six sections: the European Community (articles 1-8), its institutions (articles 9-54), attributions (articles 55-89), association (articles 90-93); temporary provisions (articles 94-99), general provisions (articles 100-117), plus two protocols: one on privileges and immunities and another on links with the Council of Europe.
Though the draft was not explicitly federalist, it nevertheless proposed very progressive solutions. The Community was supranational in nature and was declared to be indissoluble; it was a legal entity that incorporated the European Coal and Steel Community and the EDC, it exercised powers conferred to it in respect of the statute or additional acts, in close co-operation with national organizations — through the governments of the latter — and with international organizations that shared similar aims. The exercise of its duties was entrusted to five institutions: a Parliament, a European Executive Council, a Council of National Ministers, a Court of Justice, an Economic and Social Council.
The Parliament had the authority to vote on legislation and budgets, as well as to submit recommendations and proposals to the other institutions, and to exercise control functions as conferred by the statute.
The Parliament shared power to initiate and draft legislation with the executive Council. It consisted of two Houses, with equal attributions: the lower House, or House of the Peoples, whose Deputies were directly elected by the peoples of the Community, and the upper House or Senate, whose Senators represented national Parliaments. Both voted individually, without subordination to any imperative mandate. The members of Parliament were elected for a five year term by direct universal suffrage. A Community law would establish the principles of the electoral system.
The senators were also elected for a five year term by their national parliaments, following a procedure put in place by the individual member states. As to the distribution of seats in the lower House and Senate, a weighted system was envisaged. For the lower House, a minimum and maximum number of members was set (12 and 70, respectively), with equal representation for the “big three”, except for the symbolic number of 7 supplementary seats for France, so that its Overseas Territories could be represented, and an equal number of seats for the Netherlands and Belgium. The seats in the upper House were assigned as follows: France, Germany and Italy: 21; the Netherlands and Belgium: 10; Luxembourg: 4.
The Executive Council exercised functions of government. Its president, the representative of the Community abroad, was elected by the Senate by absolute majority and in turn, appointed the other Council members — never including more than two members having the same nationality.
If censured by three fifths of the lower House, or given a vote of no confidence by the Senate, the President, with the entire Council, was obliged to step down. In the latter case the “constructive” clause of the vote of confidence, obliged those who presented the motion of censure to name the new president. The Executive Council exercised the functions of government set out for the ECSC High Authority and the EDC Commissariat by their respective treaties, and all the functions of government envisaged by the statutes and laws of the Community. It could take decisions (binding), formulate recommendations (binding in terms of the aim, but not of the means for pursuing it), or issue opinions (nonbinding).
The aim of the Council of Ministers was to harmonize the action of the European Executive Council and that of the governments of the member states. It consisted of government representatives (one per State) who, in turn and for a period of three months, presided over it. It gave its opinion in conformity with a qualified majority, or in more important cases, with a unanimous vote, for all the acts of the High Authority and the Commissariat envisaged by the Treaties of the ECSC and the EDC. The Court alone, which was comprised of 15 members chosen from a dual list of the Executive Council with the approval of the Senate, appointed for a renewable term of 9 years, ensured respect of the law in the interpretation and application of the statute, the community laws and rules of enactment, and could also be invested with arbitration functions.
The economic and social Committee, lastly, whose composition, competence and operation were regulated by a community law, exercised consultative functions for the Executive Council and Parliament.
The Community institutions were given over the competences of the ECSC and the EDC, in addition to several new ones. As regards international relations, the Community could sign international treaties and accords, or comply with them insofar as their responsibilities allowed, send or receive ambassadors, and ensure that the foreign policies of the member states were coordinated. As regards finance, the Assembly decided to empower the Community to impose taxes on citizens and member states, buy and sell property and assets, and borrow money (subject to the Parliament’s approval).
The contributions of the states were fixed by the Council of ministers, by unanimous vote, on the proposal of the Executive Council. The procedures for setting the basis, rates and conditions for direct tax liability were to be set out by the Executive Council and submitted to Parliament for its approval. The Community budget, proposed by the Executive Council, was voted annually by Parliament. The Community was also given the task of gradually forging a common market, i.e. the free movement of goods, services, people and capital. The Community also had other powers, such as the power to support member states, on their request, or on its own initiative, to ensure respect of the democratic liberties; to set up its own administrative system independent of that of the member states.
The statute approved by the ad hoc Assembly then went to the attention of the national governments, but the fate of the political Community — necessarily influenced by the ups and downs of the EDC — was becoming more and more uncertain. After shuffling along for months, and staging countless Summit meetings (Strasburg, 9 March; Paris, 12 May; Paris again, 22 June; Baden Baden 7 August), the ministers handed over the project to a Conference of experts (Rome, 22 September-9 October), who had neither the competence nor the power to draft a European Constitution. The Statute was drastically amended and gradually came to lose many of its federal characteristics. By the time the Hague Summit was held on 20 November, the Ministers realized it would be impossible to achieve significant results in an historic context that was no longer pressing for unification, but they were reluctant to put a sudden end to the proceedings and did not wish to shoulder responsibility for failure, so they decided to entrust a Commission with the task of further exploring the issue. Essentially, they lacked the courage to ring the death knell for the Political Community. The Commission dragged on meeting after meeting until late June, when someone came up with the idea of adjourning the proceedings “with the maximum caution and without noise”, by simply neglecting to set a date for resuming discussions after the summer break. With the collapse of the EDC, even the plan of a Statute for the Political Community was abandoned indefinitely.
However, quite apart from the failure of the initiative, the constitutional experience of the European Political Community that stemmed from the functionalist project of the EDC, for the first time in the process of European unification, actually merged two parallel strategies for achieving European unity, functionalism and constitutionalism; on this basis the first attempt to create a federal European state took place.
In August 1954, the unification process ground to a halt. However, the expectations and real needs that had led to the venture of building a European community had not vanished. Europe’s governments could not turn a deaf ear to those pleas for long. This is largely what contributed to the “European revival” launched in Messina, in June 1955. Without the experience of the Political Community, it would be hard to explain the speed with which national governments signed the Treaties of Rome on 25 March 1957, and put them into effect on 1 January 1958. Many of the aims indicated by the Community’s founding treaty, to be implemented during a transition period of 12 years, had already been proposed and studied by the ad hoc Assembly and subsequent conferences of representatives of national Foreign Ministers. These include the gradual reduction and eventual abolition of customs duties and quotas; the setting of a uniform external customs tariff for all member states; the free movement of goods, capitals and people; the harmonization of economic and social policies.
Though the project for economic integration drafted by the ad hoc Assembly was part of a more general political design, the focus of Messina meeting was unquestionably on the former, with the latter viewed only as part of a broader historical perspective.[13] In other words, integration in the period 1952-54 was pursued both horizontally and vertically, but after the so-called “European revival”, convergence was discarded as an option, political unity set aside and all eyes were on the enlargement of European competences. Functionalism became the winning approach, on the assumption that it could eventually lead to political integration. The institution of supranational bodies was seen not as an aim or self-evident premise, but rather a need which the governments of the six countries had decided to fulfil insofar as the mechanism of the common market required it.
The return of De Gaulle to power in France in May 1958 caused another strategy for European integration to surface — confederation.[14] The early success of the Common Market, Europe’s desire to lift its dependence on the United States in the new competitive world arena, raised the issue of extending the Community’s competence to include foreign policy and defence. De Gaulle believed that economic integration could be framed in a broader political project, in which the national states would play a role and shoulder responsibilities. On 5 September 1960, at a press conference, De Gaulle launched a project for a true confederation, with institutionalized meetings of Heads of Government, and a secretariat to prepare their decisions. He also foresaw a popular referendum and took the initiative of calling a Summit meeting of the Community’s Heads of State and Government and foreign Ministers in Paris (10-11 February 1961) and Bad Godesberg (18 July of the same year), who accepted the principle of political union and appointed a Commission chaired by Christian Fouchet to draft a preliminary statute. The first draft treaty to emerge out of this initiative was announced on 2 November 1961.[15] The project immediately met with harsh criticism and eventually failed. On 18 January 1962, the Commission presented a new and revised version of the Fouchet Plan, but this too was rejected by France’s five partners, who in turn put together their own project and a series of new plans (the Segni plan, 17 April 1962; the Spaak plan, 9 September 1963; the Schroeder plan, 4 November 1963; the Saragat plan, 29 November 1963).
The political aspects of integration were fated to be placed on the back burner, even in their intergovernmental form, in the illusion, so well illustrated in the mid-Sixties by the figure and actions of the President of the European Commission — that economic integration would inevitably lead to political integration.
The unsuccessful attempts to achieve economic and monetary Union in the early ‘70s unquestionably played a major role in convincing the new French president, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, to try a different approach, which led to the declaration of the Paris Summit of 9-10 December 1974, calling for the direct election by universal suffrage of the European Parliament starting in 1978, and recognizing the principle that such a Parliament must be associated with the construction ofa European Union. The commitment went hand in hand with two decisions: to strengthen political co-operation by institutionalizing the Summit meetings (thereafter taking the name of the European Council) and a limitation in the practice of unanimous decision-making by the Council. The Belgian Premier Leo Tindemans was appointed to draft a summary report on European Union by the end of 1975, consulting “governments and institutions representing public opinion in the Community”.[16] A debate over the European Union was being opened for the very first time, involving all the relevant political and social forces.
The Tindemans Report was presented to the European Council on 29 December 1975, and made public on 6 January of the following year. It did not deal convincingly with the issue of political integration, let alone fuel a rebirth of the constituent process. Though it acknowledged that the direct election of the European Parliament would have implied a strengthening of the Community’s powers, the Report still failed to take a definite stance on the Parliament’s competences, especially in the legislative arena, and merely expressed the hope that small steps would be taken in a general context characterized by extreme caution.
Most of the small steps take by governments to overcome the crisis were within the framework of the traditional intergovernmental approach. However, the direct election of the European Parliament, which some regarded to be of little account since it would be virtually powerless, was seen by others as a promising way out of the impasse. An elected parliament — buoyed by a legitimacy that only the vote can afford — might even dare to propose bold new actions. The notion that an elected European Parliament could speed up the unification process was widespread among the Movements and the politicians. In his speech to the congress organized by the European Movement in Brussels in 1976, Willy Brandt invited the European Parliament to come out into the open and commit to a trial of strength, since the national governments were presumably not going to serve up Europe on a silver platter. “The Parliament”, he stated, “must be ‘the voice of Europe’… It must therefore consider itself as Europe’s permanent constituent assembly.”[17]
Again with the helping hand of Altiero Spinelli, the Parliament would promote initiatives of major significance for the construction of the European Community, becoming a backdrop for possible convergence between governments and Movements.
Despite the virtual failure of the Tindemans initiative, once elected the European Parliament immediately displayed a certain verve, wielding to the full what limited powers it had been conferred. For instance, rejecting by a large majority the Community budget in December 1979; regularly expressing its opinion on proposals for regulations and directives that the Commission submitted to the Council; tackling the major community and international policy issues; putting forward proposals for the functioning of Community institutions. However, these actions were all destined to be in vain, since they were unable to modify the situation from the institutional standpoint, manifestly revealing the Parliament to be subordinate to the other supranational bodies.
The focal point were the institutions. Europe needed to be united on issues such as defence and security, free international trade, monetary stability, North-South relations and so on. Yet her institutions were bleakly inadequate, serving only to adopt initiatives that individual member states put forward claiming to express the common view of all the others, and intergovernmental agreements hammered out with great effort in the areas of political and monetary co-operation.
The Community continued to lack an adequate and effective capacity for action, the reason being that its decision-making process, unsupported by democratic consensus, was inadequate and ineffective. Spinelli and the Movements for European unity responded to the problem of the democratic transformation of the Community with a new initiative.
Whilst the government initiative to “relaunch” the Community promoted by the Germany’s Genscher and Italy’s Colombo turned out to be “pie in the sky”,[18] Altiero Spinelli realized the institutional limitations paralyzing the Community and preventing Parliament from performing its day to day control activities, and decided to ask the members of the European Parliament to support a constituent assembly, which he actually mentioned for the first time on 21 May 1980 in an important address in Strasburg.
On 25 June, in a well documented move, Spinelli followed up that first insight by addressing a letter to his colleagues proposing to join forces and bring about a reform of the Community institutions, embarking on the action that in the space of a few months, would lead to the official constitution in Strasburg of the “Crocodile Club”. What followed thereafter, in a chain reaction, was the creation at the European Parliament in June 1982, of an Institutional Affairs Commission chaired by Mauro Ferri, and with Spinelli as the Rapporteur, with the task of preparing a draft reform of the Treaties;[19] the draft Treaty instituting the European Union; the approval of the draft by the majority of the European Parliament in the session dated 14 February 1984.
The project transformed the European Council into a joint Presidency of the Union, and the Commission of the Community into a real political Executive, but in defining and limiting it, gave the European Parliament true legislative and budgetary power, to be shared with the Council. The project gave the Union the full spectrum of economic competences and the power to gradually create monetary union; it envisaged a confederate management of European foreign and security policy until a new treaty devolved full competence to the Union. The project thus recognized the existence of an array of issues that would be handled by the European Council with the co-operation method, but on the one hand prevented the intergovernmental method from entering into the arena of common action, and on the other paved the way for co-operation to escalate into to common action.
Once the approval of the European Parliament had been reached, a mechanism was triggered that would soon cause the breakdown of the project. In June 1984, at the Fontainebleau meeting of Heads of Government, the European Council decided to appoint a committee of their personal representatives to draft proposals for institutional reforms with a view to the eventual creation of the European Union; the chairman was the Irishman James Dooge.
The Report of the Dooge Committee was presented to the European Council in Brussels in March 1985. It proposed calling an intergovernmental conference to draft a project for a Treaty of the European Union “inspired” by the European Parliament project. The latter was thus to all effects and purposes placed on the sidelines. At the Milan Council meeting of 1985, the Heads of State and Government decided to call a Conference of representatives of the Community governments to formulate institutional reform proposals aimed at improving institutional efficiency, creating an internal market and integrating political cooperation in the framework of Community activities. The European Parliament was left out of the proceedings, just as it had been left on the sidelines by the ad hoc Assembly called to draft the EPC Statute.
The Conference, which closed with the European Council meeting in Luxemburg on 2-3 December 1985, gave rise to the Single European Act, which in turn relaunched the prospects of and Economic Union and a Monetary Union.
With the Single European Act, the competences of the Commission were broadened and at the same time the principle of subsidiarity was introduced; the principle of harmonization in some areas was replaced by that of mutual recognition; the foundations of economic and monetary Union — the EMS and the ECU — and the four fundamental policies (social, regional, research and development and environmental) acquired regulatory and contractual dignity; article 30, title three, institutionalized European co-operation in foreign policy matters, codifying the informal procedures for relations between member states with a series of appropriate mechanisms. Article 2 gave responsibility for political co-operation to a new body, the European Council; comprised of Heads of State and Governments, this top-level supra-national body had been created in the field in the 1970s, and now also included a member of the Commission. The Presidency of the European Community also acquired for political co-operation and management responsibilities. The Foreign Ministers of the member states and a member of the Commission met once a year, but could also deal with EPC issues in the framework of the EC Council. The Single European Act also called for the creation of a Political Committee (comprised of the European foreign Ministers’ political directors) and a group of European correspondents. This Committee, whose similarity with the Fouchet plans is inescapable, was to steer the EPC and draft discussions between the Ministers.[20] The Single European Act associated the Commission and the European Parliament with European Political Co-operation, which, however, remained largely the responsibility of the European Council. The Act did not set out the aims of the EPC, which cooperation only in intergovernmental matters, i.e. common stances in conferences and international organizations; but there was always the risk of a deadlock whenever one state expressed a different opinion to the others on individual issues. Thus a mixed system — based on integration and co-operation — came into being.
Commenting before Parliament on the decision-making of the member states’ governments, Spinelli stated in January 1986: “Honourable colleagues, when we voted on the draft Treaty for the Union, I reminded you of Hemingway’ s story of the old fisherman who hooks and boats a giant marlin, only to lose it to the sharks; when he returns to port all that is left are the bones. We are also retuning to port, with nothing left but the marlin’s bones. But this does not mean that the Parliament should resign itself, or give up. We must prepare ourselves to go out into the open sea once again, better equipped this time to catch the marlin and protect it from the sharks.”[21]
Embittered by the outcome of the Luxemburg Conference, but never resigned, in early February 1986[22] Spinelli presented the Institutional Commission with the guidelines of a new strategy for creating a European Union, albeit initially limited to the economic and monetary sectors. At the heart of the proposal was the need to recognize the European Parliament’s right-duty to take on the role of the Union’s Constituent Assembly. After harshly criticizing the method of intergovernmental conferences, which he claimed was utterly unsuitable for achieving any progress whatsoever towards a united Europe, Spinelli set out the four steps of the new strategy: the European Parliament would draft a constituent mandate to be given to the Parliament itself, prior to the 1989 elections; the mandate would then go to the governments which would call a consultative referendum in their respective countries; if the referendums were successful, the governments would undertake to submit the Constitution to ratification by their states; the Constituent Assembly would be elected in June 1989.[23]
This new approach was supported by Jacques Delors, who in the meantime had become a convert to constitutionalism, a conversion whose roots lay in the Single European Act.[24] One of Delors’ most trusted men, who would later chair the Delors Committee, was Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa.
After Spinelli passed away in May 1986, the constituent initiative was taken up — albeit with somewhat less determination — by the Belgian Fernand Herman. I find it quite significant that Herman, a distinguished member of the European People’s Party and the Federalist Intergroup for the European Union,[25] was a member of the Institutions Commission created by the European Movement to support the initiative put forward by Spinelli and the Crocodile Club.[26] The 26-member Commission,[27] began its work on 30 April 1981 under president Martin Bangemann, and soon became a valuable dialogue partner of the Institutional Commission of the European Parliament. The Federal Council of the European Movement, chaired in those years by Giuseppe Petrilli, had appointed the Commission to contribute actively to the European institutional proceedings that were being conducted at the time. Herman had participated in the institutional Commission of the European Movement and concurrently associated with Altiero Spinelli, whose federalist ideas he supported; as a result he stood by Spinelli in the institutional Commission, and took part in the federalist demonstration in Milan on 29 June 1985, alongside a large group of his electors.
Called to sit on the Dooge Committee, Herman then stubbornly but unsuccessfully defended the project for a European Parliament, together with Mauro Ferri, Maurice Faure and the German Rifkind.
Eventually replacing Spinelli as the Rapporteur for the institutional Commission of the European Parliament, as early as March 1986 Herman openly expressed his support for his predecessor’s Plan, illustrating Spinelli’s strategy for entrusting the constituent mandate to the European Assembly, and suggesting the text of a resolution which the Parliament approved at the plenary session of 14 April, to be submitted subsequently to the national parliaments for adoption on the occasion of the ratification of the Single European Act. The Herman motion committed governments to take all the measures necessary for driving the Community towards the European Union, associating the European Parliament with the reform of the institutions.[28]
At the meeting of 29 October 1986, the institutional Commission of the European Parliament unanimously approved a working document presented by Herman, containing the essential features of the constituent strategy already set out in the Spinelli Plan. Notwithstanding the reservations of several members of the Commission (Nord,[29] Seeler,[30] Sutra), three basic concepts were re-proposed: the project for a European Union was to be drawn up by the European Parliament elected in 1989; it would then be submitted to ratification by the competent national authorities; lastly, it would enter into force even if not unanimously ratified.[31] However, the document ignored Spinelli’s recommendations about the direct involvement of European citizens through the organization of national consultative or orientative referendums. Herman, in other words, neglected the very novelties that might have led to the rebirth of the constituent project. By re-presenting a re-hashed version of the failed Spinelli project, he appeared to be denying defeat and was thus also destined to fail. The new approach was, however, welcomed in Italy, where the European Federalist Movement asked the Senate to ratify the Single European Act on the proviso that a consultative referendum on the European Union also be held concomitantly. According to the indications of the Spinelli Plan, the aim was to confer a constituent mandate upon the European Parliament elected in 1989. The “referendum d’indirizzo” or policy referendum was thus held in Italy concomitantly with the European elections of 18 June 1989 and is credited with “quantifying” the percentage of Italian citizens favourable to the European Union: 88%.[32] Spurred by Ludo Diericks, Belgium also embarked on a similar initiative, but did not have the time to implement it.
By the late Eighties, the situation had changed drastically. Europe had been molded by events that had made her stronger: a common market that had thrived for thirty years, tumultuous economic growth that had mended social fractures, eurosocialism and eurocommunism, the collapse of intergovernmental co-operation under the oil shocks, the direct election of the European Parliament, the European Monetary System, the Treaty of Union drafted by the European Parliament. The end of bipolarism, and the dramatic changes brought about by the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe even further modified the European landscape, driving Europeans faced by the challenge of enlargement to seek new forms of political union.
Just as the EMS had put an end to exchange rate fluctuations, so the Single European Act — however flawed — re-launched the prospects of an economic Union which in turn, could not exist without a single currency and democratic consensus.
Delors was a staunch supporter, who believed that the Maastricht Treaty pave the way for a constituent assembly. The single currency represented a fundamental building block for sovereignty, upon which political integration could grow, just as the earliest attempts to create a European state in the Fifties were built on the vision of a common European army.
Once again, the conditions had been created to merge two separate strategies for reaching the same goal, using a method that might be defined as “constitutional gradualism” towards a common action. Each step on the road to integration must be accompanied by adequate “acts of construction”,[33] as well as increased powers of democratic control and thus, the gradual construction of statehood.

[1] There were numerous plans circulating for a federal and confederated constitution in those years. In addition to the ones already mentioned in the text, other noteworthy projects included: Ronald W.J. Mackay, “The Constitution of the United States of Europe”, in Peace Aims and the New Order, London, Michael Joseph Ltd, 1941; Abraham Weinfeld, in his Towards a United States of Europe. Proposals for a Basic Structure, Washington D.C., American Council on Public Affairs, 1942; Leon Van Vassenhove, in L’Europe helvétique. Etude sur les possibilités d’adapter à l’Europe les institutions de la Confédération suisse, Neuchatel, Ed. de la Baconnière, 1943; Hans-Dieter Salinger, in Die Wiedergeburt von Europa, published in German under the pseudonym of Hades and later also released in Dutch (Leiden, Brill, 1945). These numerous and largely inaccessible projects were collected by Andrea Chiti-Batelli, in L’Unione politica europea, Rome, Senato della Repubblica, 1978, in particular in the three substantial volumes annexed to Progetti di costituzione per una Unione europea.
[2] Il Progetto di costituzione federale europea e interna (1942-1943) by Duccio Galimberti (Tancredi) and Antonino Repaci; published in A. Repaci, Duccio Galimberti e la Resistenza italiana, Torino, Bottega d’Erasmo, 1971.
[3] Projet d’une constitution fédérale pour l’Europe, New York, 25 may 1944. The project was conceived as the future “base de discussion à l’Assemblée Constituante Européenne élue par les peuples de notre continent”, by the Legal Commission of the Paneuropean Conference that met in New York under the chairmanship of the Spanish ex-Foreign and Justice Minister — Fernando de los Rios — and the Centre d’Etude pour une Fédération européenne d’après-guerre of the University of New York directed by Arnold J. Zurcher and Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi. The first draft of the project was in English: Draft Constitution of the United States of Europe issued by the Pan-Europa Conference and the Research Seminar for European Federation of New York University, New York, 25 March 1944. In addition to inclusion in the Chiti-Batelli volume cited above, the draft was also published in Arnold J. Zurcher, The Struggle to Unite Europe 1940-1958, New York, New York University Press, 1958, pp. 213-223 (It. trans. La lotta per l’Europa unita 1940-1958, Roma, Opere Nuove, 1964).
[4] The Rough Draft of a Proposed Constitution for a Federation of Western Europe by W. Ivor Jennings was based on the “Draft Constitution” formulated by A.L. Goodhart and Kenneth C. Wheare and on the “Memorandum on the protection of civil liberties”, also by Jennings, presented in 1940 to the Constitutional Research Committee of the Federal Union Research Institute. Established in March 1940, the Constitutional Research Committee was comprised of William Beveridge, Lionel Curtis, A.L. Goodhart, Patrick Ransome, J. Chamberlain, F. Gahan, W. Ivor Jennings, Kenneth C. Wheare. It was published for the first time in Jennings’ A Federation for Western Europe, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1940 and then again in Towards the United States of Europe. Studies in the Making of the European Constitution, edited by Patrick Ransome, London-New York, Lothian Foundation Press, 1991, pp. 136-157.
[5] The project was first published in the journal of the Europa Union, Europa, vol. XV, No.7, Basel, July 1948, pp. 3-5 and was later reproduced in English in Walter Lipgens (edited by), Documents on the History of European Integration, vol. 1, Continental Plans for European Union 1939-1945, Berlin-New York, De Gruyter, 1985, pp. 770-779. The main drafters of the project, which was based on the governing Principles defined in November 1939 and approved by the annual meeting of delegates on 4 February 1940 in Bern, were Wilhelm Hoegner and H.G. Ritzel. The Preamble of the governing Principles was by Adolf Gasser, while the constitutional part is attributed to Hans Bauerand, and to a lesser extent to the Action Committee he directed. Cf. Il federalismo europeo organizzato in Svizzera 1943-1945, dissertation by Francesca Pozzoli, University of Pavia, 1995.
[6] Mario Alberto Rollier, “Schema di Costituzione dell’Unione federale europea”, in Edgardo Monroe (pseudonym of Rollier), Stati Uniti d’Europa, “Quaderni dell’Italia Libera”, s.l., Partito d’Azione, 1944, pp. 58-65, and in Rollier, Stati Uniti d’Europa, Milan, Editoriale Domus, 1950, pp. 69-82.
[7] Promemoria sul Rapporto provvisorio presentato nel luglio 1951 dalla Conferenza per l’organizzazione di una Comunità europea della difesa, an appendix to Mario Albertini’s, “La fondazione dello Stato europeo”, in Il Federalista, XIX (1977), No. 1. The memo was later republished as an appendix to Il Parlamento europeo, Luigi V. Majocchi and Francesco Rossolillo, Naples, Guanda, 1979, pp. 193-216.
[8] Projet de Traité de la CED, 14 February 1952, in Ivan Matteo Lombardo papers, now filed with the Historical Archives of the European Communities, Florence.
[9] The experts from Harvard University supplied valuable comparative materials and analytical studies on the functioning of federal systems throughout the world, subsequently included in (It. trans.) Studi sul federalismo, edited by Robert R. Bowie and Carl J. Friedrich, Milan, Ed. di Comunità, 1959.
[10] Brochure nr. 1 of the Comité d’Etudes, Brussels, November 1952 (It. trans. Risoluzioni del Comitato di Studi per la Costituzione europea, edited by Guido Lucatello, Padua, Cedam, 1954, with comments and introduction by Altiero Spinelli).
[11] Projet de Statut de la Communauté politique européenne. Travaux préparatoires, Brussels, November 1952 (It. trans. Per una Costituzione federale dell’Europa. Lavori preparatori del Comitato di Studi presieduto da P.H. Spaak 1952-1953, edited by Daniela Preda, Padua, Cedam, 1996).
[12] One of the members of the Political Institutions Subcommittee was also a member of the CSEC, the German Max Becker.
[13] As to the “method” adopted in Messina, reference is made to Messina quarant’anni dopo. L’attualità del Metodo in vista della Conferenza intergovernativa del 1986, edited by Luigi V. Majocchi, Bari, Cacucci, 1996.
[14] Indeed, for the General, Europe was comprised of indestructible nations, whose existence and power it would have been pointless to deny.
[15] The treaty was aimed at “establishing a union of states”, and consisted of a preamble and a provision. The latter envisaged an indissoluble union based on the respect of the personality of the peoples and member states, and equal rights and obligations. The aims of the treaty were co-operation in the areas of foreign polity (on issues of common interest), science and culture, and defence. Three institutions were proposed: Council, Parliamentary Assembly, Political Commission. The term Council encompassed two groups, heads of state and government of the EEC, and foreign ministers. The Parliamentary Assembly was virtually identical to that envisaged by the Treaties of Rome, to which explicit reference was made. The most original body was the European Political Commission, comprised of high ranking officials belonging to the foreign affairs administration of each country.
Only the Court of Justice was missing, but this appeared reasonable since there was no question of challenging the sovereignty of the member states. The Council’s duties included resolving issues of relevance to it, taking unanimous decisions that the states participating in their adoption would be obliged to complying with, pass the annual budget of the Union, and dealing with amendments to the Treaty. The European Parliamentary Assembly was responsible for resolving matters pertaining to the aims of the Union, and formulating opinions, when requested to do so by the Council. The Political Commission, supported the Council, was responsible for preparing and executing its deliberations, and dealing with budgetary matters. The states were obliged to cooperate with the institutions of the Union and contribute the resources to maintain it. The initiative of revision could be taken only by the member states.
[16] For additional information, see the final communiqué of the European Summit meeting held in Paris on 9-10 December 1974, in Comunità europee, XXI (1975), No. 1, pp. 16-18.
[17] Brandt’s address to the Congress of Europe organized by the European Movement, Brussels, 5-7 February 1976, in L’Unità europea, III (1976), No. 25, pp. 9-12.
[18] The initiative of the German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher and Italy’s Emilio Colombo, aiming to embark on a reform of the Community (that would ultimately lead to the solemn declaration on the European Union adopted by the European Council of Stuttgart in June 1983) which in point of fact simply proposed extending the method of intergovernmental co-operation to other fields, further narrowing the Commission’s autonomy, and maintaining a Parliament lacking any real powers.
[19] One of the members of the institutional Commission was the Italian Ortensio Zecchino.
[20] Another achievement was the creation of an EPC secretariat, dealing exclusively with foreign policy, which was the forerunner of the current Common Foreign and Security Policy Unit in the framework of the general secretariat.
[21] This was the last address Altiero Spinelli made to the European Parliament, on 16 January 1986. It appears in Altiero Spinelli, Discorsi al Parlamento europeo 1976-1986, edited by Pier Virgilio Dastoli, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1987, pp. 368-373. The passage cited here is on page 373.
[22] Spinelli had sent the working document to the members of the Institutional Commission of the European Parliament on 24 January 1986.
[23] Cf. Luigi V. Majocchi, La difficile costruzione dell’unità europea, Milan, Jaca Book, 1996, pp. 209-222.
[24] Delors had estimated that it would take some 350 directives to create the Single European Act. Since everything depended on achieving a unanimous consensus, it was likely that the Act would never see the light of day unless the necessary institutional reforms were introduced in time.
[25] The Federalist Intergroup at the European Parliament, the successor of the Crocodile Club created by Spinelli in Strasburg in July 1980, was created in 1986 “with the aim of strengthening and making permanent the bonds and commitment of all the innovators in the European Parliament”. Cf. “The Declaration of intents of the Federalist Intergroup at the European Parliament”, in L’Unità europea, XIII (1986), No. 153 (November).
[26] The same can be said of the Spanish socialist Carlos Bru Puron, who had been a committed federalist in Spain for many years, and in the early Eighties was a member, with Herman, of the Institutional Commission of the European Movement; later, the two men also belonged to the Institutional Commission of the European Parliament.
[27] Besides Fernand Herman, the other members of the Commission were: Pierre Bordeaux-Groult, Erwin Guldner of the French Council (OFME); Etienne Boumans, Paula Degroote of the Belgian Council; Carlos Bru-Puron, of the Spanish Council; Anthony Callus, of the Maltese Council; I. Camunas (MLEU); J.L. Cougnon of the Fédération internationale des Maisons d’Europe; Pascal Fontaine of the EPP; Jean-Pierre Gouzy of the Association des journalistes européens; M. Grabitz of the German Council; Sean Healy, Neville Keery of the Irish Council; José Macedo Pereira, Carlos de Pitta e Cunha of the Portuguese Council; Luigi V. Majocchi and Giampiero Orsello of the Italian Council; H.J. Mettler and Alois Riklin of the Swiss Council; John Pinder and Derek Prag of the Brirish Council; Giancarlo Piombino representing the Council of the European Municipalities and Regions; Ivo Samkalden of the Dutch Council; Wolfgang Wessels of the Institut fur Europäische Politik; A. Westerhof representing the Association européenne des Enseignants; the Austrian Max Wratschgo.
[28] The motion stated precisely that it was necessary to acknowledge the institutions of the Community the role attributed to them by democratic principles, in particular participation “with full rights in the preparation and adoption of the constituent act of the European Union”. “The Herman motion was approved by the EP on 14 April.” in L’Unità europea, XIII (1986), No. 146 (April).
[29] Nord suggested awaiting the verification of the Single Act to call upon governments to shoulder their responsibilities and embark on new political and diplomatic negotiations.
[30] Seeler, supported outside the European Parliament above all by the Europa Union, argued that the current Parliament should modify the February 1984 draft taking into account the objections raised by national parliaments and governments, and submit the amended version to the legitimate national authorities.
[31] Provisional agreements would regulate relations with member states of the Community that did not join the Union.
[32] The referendum featured the text of a voter initiative proposed by the MFE. This is the text that Italians were called to vote on: “Do you believe that it is necessary to transform the European Community into a real Union endowed with a government that is responsible to Parliament, appointing the same European Parliament with the task of drafting a constitution to be submitted directly to the ratification of the competent institutions of the member states of the Community?” Cf. the supplement to L’Unità europea, XV (1988), No. 169.
[33] Albertini defines “acts of construction” as those innovative actions designed to create new forms of European statehood: by their revolutionary nature, they are extraneous to the normal political process, and are the prerogative of political vanguards. Cf. Mario Albertini, “La stratégie de la lutte pour l’Europe”, in Le Fédéraliste, VII (1965), No. 3-4. Throughout the history of European integration, these “acts” can be ascribed to the federalist movements that arose from the ashes of the second world war and from such enlightened personalities as Monnet.


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