political revue


Year XLV, 2003, Number 2, Page 111



A concept that we have often used to interpret the process of unification currently taking place in Europe is that of the convergence of the European states’ “raisons d’état”. This concept, if understood correctly, helps to explain the specific behaviour of a group of states that are drawing together through the establishment of closer and closer ties; it also constitutes the objective basis underlying the possibility of struggling for the ultimate completion of the unitary process. Nevertheless, this concept needs to be considered in context, and within its own particular phase — that of a drawing closer to the federal objective.
By using the expression “convergence of the raisons d’état” to define the post-World War II situation of Europe’s states, we are underlining the difference between this setting and another, the latter being one in which a more general and generic convergence of interests manifests itself, giving rise to treaties and agreements among states that serve in the management of their interdependence and, within this interdependence, in the defence of their specific interests. The difference lies in the fact that in the first setting, “convergence” concerns the very survival of the states, which are “forced” to collaborate increasingly closely in order to guarantee their citizens’ security on an economic and military level, and thus “forced” to view their own future in unitary terms. Only this type of convergence renders the battle for federal unification feasible, a battle that could not realistically be undertaken were the states still able adequately to fulfil the fundamental tasks that fall to them.
It would be wrong, however, to assume that this type of convergence triggers an irresistible process that will lead inevitably to federal union. On the contrary, federal union is an objective that implies the need not only to build, but also to “destroy”. The collaboration phase involves, and is indeed based on, a gradual creation of ties and institutions. The “destruction” phase is that which is entered when it is decided to surpass the old power framework — the nation — and to replace it with a supranational one.
And this phase is far more difficult, because it presupposes the coexistence of objective elements, for example an impasse that mere surface adjustments can do nothing to overcome, and subjective elements, such as an awareness of the gravity of the situation, and a willingness to overcome it through a refusal to defend established positions and interests.
Europe’s current situation, and the new global framework characterised by the United States’ dangerous hegemonic role, contain elements that are generating grave concern and rendering the future uncertain. Europe’s now imminent enlargement is seriously jeopardising, now and for an indefinite future time, the possibility of creating a state entity in Europe, and even that of managing in an orderly fashion collaboration among the states. At the same time, America’s hegemony, no longer geared towards the containment of a common enemy, has become oppressive and, since the USA’s revival of the divide et impera policy, been fomenting division and conflict among the European states.
The European states, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War — when it was actually the United States, beginning with the aid offered under the Marshall Plan, that was pushing them in the direction of unification — failed to seize the opportunity offered them by the vast, victorious power. Having wasted this opportunity, and subsequently squandered that of the European Defence Community (EDC), too, western Europe allowed itself to slide into a state of vassal-like dependence on the United States.
But while, in the past, America’s predomination served to guarantee, for a long time, a framework of relative stability in Europe — a setting in which Europe, in stages, achieved what has been termed its de facto unity — today the effects of US hegemony are proving so dangerous that there can no longer be any real justification for the apparent determination, on the part of the national governments and political forces, to maintain the status quo.
One is prompted to ask oneself, to use the words of Altiero Spinelli, how “the proud European states” could possibly have been so ready, and can still be so “ready to throwaway their independence when it is a question of entering a state of vassal-like dependence, yet guard it so jealously when it is a question of joining together in a federation of equals” (see “Pax americana e Federazione europea”, 1949, in Europa Terza forza, Bologna, Il Mulino 2000, p. 166). This state of dependence of the European states can, ultimately, be equated with their collaboration: indeed, on the one hand, they collaborate and by so doing retain a level of power that has now become quite inadequate for solving the problems they face; on the other, they accept protection as a guarantee of their citizens’ security and wellbeing, and by so doing merely keep up the appearance of being sovereign powers, when in reality they have lost their sovereignty.
What we are faced with here, apart from a conscious determination to defend established interests and powers, is an irrational element, a myth that has, for centuries, lain at the root of European political life: the myth of the sovereign nation-state. And it is only those who have fully espoused the federalist objective (in opposition to the established political community), that is to say those who have taken on the priority task of overcoming the nation-state, who can (or should be able to) resist irrational conditioning, and thus see and indicate how this surpassing of the nation-state can be achieved.
It is certainly true that, in the midst of the political struggle, when one is looking for allies and support on which to count as one seeks to rock the foundations of the nation-state, the temptation to lower one’s guard and to allow oneself to be carried along by the dominant current is certainly great: rational asceticism is not easy to practise because “it leaves lonely and out in the cold those who denounce foolishness for what it is. It is to this fear of isolation that we can attribute the shortage of people willing, in this highly passionate political, social and economic field, to practise asceticism of reason” (A. Spinelli, “Lettera ad Alberto Mortara”, August 5th, 1944, in Machiavelli nel secolo XX, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1993, p. 408). But the true revolutionary is sustained by the awareness that radical positions are the only ones that have the potential, sooner or later, when their obviousness is united with the force of circumstance, to impose themselves as the answers to the problems that power faces.
This is why a lack of clear-headedness when faced with the difficult task of speaking the truth becomes, upon reaching the moment of truth — the moment at which there is no alternative to the radical choice: the renunciation of national sovereignty — an unforgivable betrayal. “To win, we must, to quote Machiavelli, be prepared to fight as partisans, and not be cautious in what we do, prudent in what we think, and unsure in what we say” (A. Spinelli, Discorsi al Parlamento europeo, Introduzione, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1987, p. 10).
Nicoletta Mosconi



il federalista logo trasparente

The Federalist / Le Fédéraliste / Il Federalista
Via Villa Glori, 8
I-27100 Pavia