Year XLIII, 2001, Number 2, Page 125
FROM EUROPEANISM TO FEDERALISM
Federalists, above all beginning with the phase of constitutional gradualism, have always appealed to widespread Europeanism, and in particular the Europeanism of governments, to move forward the process of European unification. The partial objectives that have been tabled, once achieved, were meant to accentuate contradictions whose resolution would be sought in unification. Each of these objectives was therefore viewed by federalists not as a possible answer — one that would be acceptable to governments — to a problem of governance, but instead as a means of placing on the agenda the problem of the government, that is to say the creation of the federal state. All this in the full awareness that, if the contradictions were not resolved through the federal solution, Europe’s “de facto unity” (the framework of necessary collaboration that is the basis for the persistence of pro-European attitudes) would have kept the process open, allowing it to lead, sooner or later, to a new potentially constitutional objective.
But all this is no longer the case. Now there are only two possible scenarios: either Europeanism will turn into federalism, that is, into the identification and pursuit of the European federal state, or, as is in fact already occurring, nationalism will begin to emerge from behind vague pro-European affirmations.
It is certainly true that, since the initially strong inclination towards European federation was lost with the collapse of the EDC, protection of national interests has, throughout the process of integration, constantly underlain the politics of the European states. It is also true that collaboration between the states has been nothing more than an attempt to keep the national framework alive in a setting that growing interdependence was rendering too narrow to allow guaranteed socio-economic development and security. This mechanism spawned a dialectical process that, as such, comprised, in relation to the advance towards unity, both a driving force and a braking force.
But since it has now become a question not so much of the advance of the process as of the definitive overcoming of its impasse, defence of the nation-state takes on the crude connotations of a kind of nationalism in which the idea of the protection, to the bitter end, of the nation’s existing powers and, ultimately, of the power of the heads of government, is strengthened. In other words, as long as the building of European unity remains within the sphere of Europeanism, the value of the nation will prevail over other group values. This was seen at the Nice summit last December and has also emerged in some of the interventions in the debate that that meeting fired. All this is, without doubt, influenced by the de facto situation in which Europe currently finds itself: the single currency and enlargement of the Union, already decided, have altered the terms of the European situation and this is something that the governments cannot ignore. Indeed, this is why the crucial issue of institutional reforms is currently becoming a focus of reflection and a subject on which governments and the political class are being forced to speak out. However, in the majority of cases, while the institutional formulae that they propose seem innovative, they are, in fact, substantially geared towards national preservation.
It is too soon to say whether the positions of these lukewarm pro-Europeans, which would set the Union on the road towards its own dissolution, will win through, or whether, instead, it will be the views of those who sustain the federal model that will prevail. It is, in any case, the job of federalists to strip away the mask from spurious solutions, to indicate the right solutions (as well as how to achieve them) and, as always, to gather around these the consensus and support of all those who are beginning to appreciate the true nature of the impasse that Europe has now reached.
In order to unmask false solutions, it is important that we do not allow ourselves to be taken in by the words used by politicians, words that, to a greater or lesser degree, they unintentionally mystify and which thus often conceal meanings that are totally different depending on the context in which they are used and the intentions of whoever is using them. The words “constitution” and “federation” are now frequently on the lips of many politicians and government figures, but the meaning attributed to them by those thinking in terms of the creation of a federal state is not the same as that which they are given by those wishing to preserve the confederal framework.
The contradictions that imprison defenders of the confederal framework are numerous and clear to see. For example, France’s minister for European affairs, Pierre Moscovici, responded (on 10th May, 2001) to Chancellor Schröder’s proposals for federal reform of the European institutions by asking questions about the “balance between European integration and intergovernmental cooperation” and about the role that must be retained by the national governments. And his answers to these questions were quite definite: European integration must move forward, but with due respect for the role played by the national governments, and, to this end, the Council of Ministers cannot become the lower chamber of a European Parliament. He then, quite rightly, raised the question of the legitimacy of the European institutions, that is to say the problem of democratic European statehood, but at the same time denied the importance of the same, defending, rather, the role and the independence of the national governments that he regards as the sole legitimate expression of the European peoples. When he predicts that Europe will become “a federation of nation-states” it is thus clear that he does not intend “federation” to mean “federal state”, which is the only means of guaranteeing a union of states a democratic (and thus legitimate) political power.
The same questions, differently framed, were asked by the French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine, who referred (in a joint interview with his German counterpart Joschka Fischer, Le Monde des Débats, 10th May, 2000) to the problem of the “nature and working of power at European level”. His answer amounted, in fact, to nothing more than an image of the present also projected into the Europe of the future. His failure to think in terms of statehood was evident throughout, beginning with his affirmation of the need to preserve the current balance between the European Parliament, Commission and Council of Ministers. He prefigured “possible different degrees” of “integration of policies”, from “completely integrated policies, managed by the Commission, or by a Community agency” (an alternative that is significant in itself) to policies conducted through “increased cooperation”, and to the simple coordination of national policies (defined by the minister as a “modernised intergovernmental approach”). In all this, he maintained, lies “Europe’s originality”. When Vedrine feels obliged, like all those entering into this debate, to talk of Constitution, it is certain that he does not mean what federalists — and like them all those who, not having power interests to protect, do not mystify what they say — mean.
Even the President of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, empties the word “constitution” of all its true meaning when he fails to associate it with the idea of a state, and when he remarks that it is irrelevant whether Europe evolves in the direction of a federation or of a confederation, providing it has a constitution (ISPI, 3rd July, 2001).
In spite of these contradictions and ambiguities, the men of government taking an active part in the current debate on Europe’s future are convinced that they are “good pro-Europeans.” Jospin himself, in a speech delivered on 28th May, 2001, describes himself as a “convinced” pro-European, but even though he uses the word “federation” to describe the model of Europe that must be pursued, he remains in thrall to a broad form of Europeanism based on intergovernmental cooperation, which, in his view, “still occupies an important position and will continue to be indispensable”. The “federation of nation-states” proposed by Jospin, and now the institutional formula sustained by many politicians, has thus become a mirror of the current (that is to say, intergovernmental) situation. It is not by mere chance that the word Europe has never been associated with the word state, nor that the Europe of the future is defined as “a whole”, in other words, as an amorphous institutional entity.
Faced with the serious problem of enlargement and with the risks it poses to the working of the Union, the position adopted by national politicians is a purely defensive one. And even when it is suggested that a vanguard or “pioneering group” of states should embark on some initiative aimed at avoiding Europe’s disintegration, all that is proposed are more forms of restricted cooperation.
Some heads of state and of government extend their view on Europe’s future to its role in the world as a whole (in the promotion of peace, democracy and the affirmation of a socio-economic model that displays more solidarity than the one that currently prevails), identifying values and goals on which sights must certainly be set. But they remain tied to a framework that will not allow these values and goals to be realised. In this regard, Jospin’s speech, cited earlier, is very clear: “I want a Europe that asserts its own identity, that has the best possible answers to the needs of its peoples, that can be an example to the rest of the world”. For this very reason, he adds, the debate must not be oriented solely towards the question of the institutions and of their reform. Europe, rather than a “container” can be defined, first and foremost, as a political project, as “content”. It is “a social project, a world vision, a political construction”.
These are words that need to be said, because no great political battle can be won if it does not draw strength and meaning from the values on which it is founded. But no great political battle can be won without identification of the means by which its aims can be realised. And the means with which Europe must now equip itself cannot derive from mere modifications of the current situation: what is needed is the creation of a new democratic and sovereign power at European level. In the words of François Bayrou, writing in opposition to the defenders of national sovereignty (Libération, 13.6.2001), “the question of sovereignty is not the main political question. It is the only question… To exercise sovereignty, we need to build our power. And before us lies but one way, the European way. If the nations are to recover their lost sovereignty, they must build European sovereignty.”
The six founding countries of Europe, historically credited with launching the process of the continent’s unification and of indicating, from the outset, what its final outcome should be — European federation — must also bear the burden of responsibility for its failure if they prove unable to free themselves from the impasse in which they are currently stuck, and to overcome an ambiguous form of Europeanism through the creation of a federal state open to the membership of all states wishing to join it.