Year XLV, 2003, Number 1, Page 49
AN IMPERATIVE FOR FEDERALISTS
In the plenary session of the MFE’s supra-national Congress in Lyon (January 1959), approval was given to the “Treaty project for the convocation of a European Constituent Assembly” drafted by a special committee elected by the European People’s Congress (EPC) in Turin, in December 1958.
The Treaty opened with the following statement: “The Contracting Parties, fully aware that they are expressing the will of their peoples and determined to establish the foundations of an indissoluble union… have agreed to the following provisions”.
Article 1 stated: “With this Treaty the Contracting Parties hereby decide to convoke a European Constituent Assembly with a mandate to draft the Constitution of the United States of Europe”.
Pursuant to Article 8 the Treaty would go into effect “on the day it is ratified by all the Contracting Parties or, failing that, three months after its signature, provided it is ratified by at least three states with… a global minimum population of 100 million inhabitants”.
Once the Treaty is in effect, the Constituent Assembly — elected by universal suffrage — “shall within 6 months draft the Constitution of the United States of Europe”.
Article 4 called for a referendum to be held on the Constitution promulgated by the president of the Constituent Assembly “in those States which approve it by a simple majority of voters, provided there are at least three of such states with a global population of at least 100 million inhabitants”.
A cursory interpretation of this phase of the federalist battle and its strategic tools might lead one to consider it comparable to the current situation, in which governments (the Laeken Summit) have appointed an Assembly (the Convention, albeit not directly elected), to draft a constitution. Indeed some would define the strategy of the EPC as still relevant. However, a more alert and objective analysis of what the Movement was asking for then and the documents supporting its request shows that there are significant, if not fundamental differences between that time and the framework within which the MFE majority is operating today.
In reality these differences prove that the alternative strategy, based on an Appeal to the governments of the six founding countries, reflects the basic strategic notion — regardless of the tools or concrete aims characterising the various phases — by which the Movement has consistently abided, and which defines its role: to confront power.
This is the element that sets us apart from what is commonly termed “movementism”, i.e. merely laying claim to objectives or values, without specifying the whos, whys, hows and wherefores necessary for achieving them. We also stand clearly apart from generic Europeanists, who applaud any minor adjustment as a sign of victory.
But where do these differences actually lie?
In the first place, it was originally deemed essential for there to be a Treaty between the member countries of the Community, in the awareness that to create a state of states, the latter must clearly demonstrate, through their respective governments, a determination to surrender power and sovereignty. If no such determination is demonstrated, then no other political subject can seize the power to decide.
A Treaty between states wishing to “establish the foundations of their indissoluble union” is far more than a simple international Treaty among sovereign states. It is the fine line that distinguishes union from division. A Treaty such as this cannot be defined in merely legal terms, nor can it be viewed as an act regarding the world order, as argued by Dominique Rousseau in Le Monde on 22 October 2002. It is a political act without which there will always be a world order incapable of manifesting the sovereignty of Europe’s citizens, and only such a Treaty can give rise to the constituent mandate (see article 1 of the Treaty, mentioned above). The fact that the Laeken Summit has entrusted the Convention with the task of drafting a constitution for Europe, without defining it as the constituent act of a new state — without the constituent mandate which we have repeatedly requested in the past — is a clear indication that the determination to surrender national sovereignty has not yet manifested itself.
In 1958 Norberto Bobbio, having been elected as a member of the Constitutional Committee of the EPC, made this lucid comment on the “Project of a Treaty for the convocation of a European constituent assembly”. In an interview with Popolo Europeo he stated: “Assuming that the aim is to constitute a federal state in Europe, I do not see any other means of achieving it than by an international agreement in which the states undertake to convoke a constituent assembly with the mandate to draft a constitution of the United States of Europe. Therefore, I believe that the Treaty project drafted by the Committee of the European People’s Congress is a necessary and decisive step towards reaching this aim. Taking this step is a sign of maturity and down-to-earthness. I remember various Constitution projects of the United States of Europe, but they never warranted much attention. What matters is not so much the drafting of a Constitution project, as suggesting the straightest route towards the convocation of a constituent Assembly. If the constituent Assembly is duly convoked, the text of the Constitution will follow on automatically. You have to take one step at a time. The hardest step is the international Treaty for the European constituent Assembly, not the drafting of a constitutional text, which no one will be able to draft better than an Assembly elected for this very purpose.”
Even back then (Article 8), it was considered likely that not all countries (and the group was smaller at the time) would agree to creating a European Federation. But what was regarded as indispensable was a manifestation of the determination of governments (at least some, if not all) to form an “indissoluble union” under the terms of the Treaty. And this before, not after, an Assembly drafted a Constitution. Failing that, its creation would be a farce, a deception: the mandate could never be constituent in the most genuine sense of the word. Just as the mandate to draft is by no means constituent: it is well seen that it is so utterly generic as to render the drafting of a Constitution to create a federal European state unthinkable. But all this is entirely inevitable: while at least some governments have failed to express their determination to proceed in this direction, there are others which have made no secret of their opposition to federation. This is a widely recognized state of affairs, and ultimately represents the fig leaf of sham Europeanists, who trade on the opposition of others to conceal their own; but not even federalists deduced the consequences of this.
And lastly, Article 4 of the 1959 Treaty points to the referendum as the democratic sanction of the “Constitution of the United States of Europe”. In other words, Europe’s citizens would be called upon to approve the Constitution and thus also both the creation of a Federal state and the principles enshrined within it. But once again, the true institutional act of the new state coincided with the ratification of the international Treaty with which governments decided to surrender their national sovereignty to that of Europe.
Today the same road must be followed. Without the prior decision of governments — those holding the greatest responsibility, which we must pressure by mobilizing all the forces in the field — the almost certain outcome would give a democratic sanction to a bogus Constitution, a mere list of rights and duties, lacking the power to fulfil or impose them. And Europe’s citizens would be deceived in the short term and headed in the long term towards rack and ruin.