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A country called Europe

Mark Mardell | 00:21 UK time, Thursday, 12 July 2007

I have a single European hangover. It should have been subject to co-decision, but nobody stopped me. I'd been covering a meeting of young federalists in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. They're a jolly bunch and have this game, you see, where you have to taste the drinks and nibbles of various European nations and guess their origin. Surprisingly, the porridge with yoghurt and cheese (Romania) didn't get as much attention as the overcrowded drinks table.

bottles_on_tableYour intrepid reporter can exclusively reveal that Romanian wine, followed by Moldovan brandy, Slovenian blueberry schnapps, French Calvados and Scottish single malt certainly makes an evening slip by in a painless fashion. But is the attempt to mix 27 countries together enough to give even federalists a thumping headache?

Tomorrow's leaders

Many in Britain who are hostile to the European Union dislike it precisely because they are worried about the federalist dream, the attempt to create a United States of Europe. Some still want this. Last year, the outgoing Belgian Prime Minister published a book called The United States of Europe.

But many others, including enthusiastic supporters of the European Union, say the dream is dead. It is obvious, they say, that it could have happened with the six, would have been harder with 15, but is well-nigh impossible with 27. The "No" referendums on the constitution in France and the Netherlands - both founder members - were, according to this argument, the final nail. But attempts at "ever closer union" continue, so what is the federalist dream today, and more importantly, tomorrow?

The Young European Federalists, known as JEF after their French acronym (I imagine an earnest young man in a tweed jacket with a wispy beard) are partly funded by the European Commission and it's they who have organised the summer school in Slovenia. The students here have won their places against fierce competition, writing essays on the future of Europe, and they are seriously bright and knowledgeable. Among them, I'm sure, are a few future prime ministers or commissioners, who will shape the Europe of tomorrow. What they think matters.

I joined them first of all for their search for European vibes in the city centre. In front of the Church of the Annunciation, a pretty confection in pink, they are snapping away at everything that moves, trying to capture images redolent of the spirit of Europe. A couple holding hands. Snap. Raindrop on a leaf. Snap. An American busker playing Wonderwall rather well, tossed a coin by a tubby lady all in black, apart from an embroidered headscarf. ("Man! I've been given money by a gypsy!" the busker exclaims.) Snap.

woman_in_fountainThe boys seemed especially keen on capturing pictures of the blonde Latvian delegate, Anete Skrastina, for posterity. She tells me what sights have captured Europe for her: "Daddy carrying his kid on his shoulders. The thoughtful face of an old lady." It's a bit wishy-washy for me. Surely people smile in America and Asia too? Eugen Soineanu from Romania answers: "It's about what links people. You can see love in a Romanian's eyes and a Belgian's eyes… Yes, you can see it in an American's eyes, but Europeans are more docile and calm and romantic. Think about High Romanticism: we were the ones who invited romanticism and now we are picking the fruits of it 200 years later."

They talk about the euro and travel as things that have brought them closer together. But what about a country called Europe? Do they want that?


"The concept of a fixed country is old anyway. We do not need a huge country but a big family, a network that can help each other," says Eugen.

"When you are here you feel the diversity of the cultures but when you go to Asia or America you feel, 'Hey I am a European!'" adds Anete.

Later, the students are busy preparing their national dishes, or fetching the bottles from their rooms, and downloading pictures on to their laptops.

Before the party begins I talk to Iza Trsar in the university gardens. We're lucky, it's a balmy evening between two days of downpours. She feels the politicians have abandoned Europe's political dimension and wrongly concentrated on economics. For her, federalism is an ideal, something to stretch towards, rather than an immediate short-term goal.

"I don't think we will ever be able to feel primarily European, and then Polish, Slovenian, British, whatever. It will always be the other way round," she says.

"But I would certainly like a stronger form of confederation. At the moment federalism is utopia, what I wish for is for is for people to be more mobile, less strict immigration. We should have common foreign and defence policies."

She's 20, so I ask what Europe will be like when she's an old lady? "I would like Europe to be a federalist state but I'll die before that happens," she laughs. "I want more and more and more common things. And really happening, not just written down in treaties."

kiss_getty_203.jpgBefore the uncorking of the local liquid delicacies, each student gives a brief presentation about their country. Nearly all of them claim to be at the heart of Europe and to have the most beautiful women. The French are introduced by their Slovenian host as liking stinky cheese. The two women play the game, branding themselves as arrogant eaters of frogs' legs. A beret perched jauntily atop her pigtails, Violaine Faubert proclaims they invented the French kiss. But they also invented the more controversial embrace of European federalism. What does Violaine make of the dreams of French statesmen like Monnet and Schuman?

"A federation of nation states is an ideal because it resolves war, but maybe we should concentrate on practical things. A nation called Europe...? That's impossible. But we need a more democratic Europe."


The man who brought the malt whisky along is not in favour of European blending. Alistair Maciver tells me he joined the Conservative Party because of European federalists.

"I joined the Tory party after going to a European Youth Parliament event in Britain. I was going along quite cheerily humming the Ode to Joy and left with my head in my hands, thinking 'This is a nightmare!'" he says.

"A lot of young people think we are engaged in a process and we have to bring that process to fruition. It's quite dangerous thinking, it's like Marxism: 'I foresee this day when the working classes rise up… I foresee this day when we are going to be in an ever closer union.' I don't think that's very rational."

He adds that, as a lawyer, federalism has its attractions. "I study law, and federalism legalistically secures the sovereignty of each state, it would define the powers of each member state," he says. "But it's not something I would ever be in favour of. Britain would derive its right to exist from a European document."

Whatever you think of his political argument, his perception about those who call themselves federalists is essentially correct: it's an emotional goal, rather than a political blueprint. Most concede it is further away now than it was 10, 20 years ago. They realise that for now it is a dream. Perhaps the Maltese delegate, in his jokey presentation, makes an important point. Noting that most people have said their country is at the heart of Europe he says his is at the centre of the world. It's in the middle of the Med, and "Mediterranean" means middle of the earth.

Indeed he goes on to claim he used to live in a village at the centre of Malta, and his house was at the centre of the village and his bedroom in the centre of the house. So he was the centre of the world.

While many EU countries' governments claim to abhor such a self-centred view, when push comes to shove few are willing to surrender either that position or that perception for a hazy vision.

Comments   Post your comment

There is always so much talk about nation-state sovereignty but when you look back to when borders were formed and to nation state building such noble acts were usually done through subjugating the people by use of extreme force, particularly by the monarchy. Privilege and power for the few with a fat chance of a whiff of any democratic say in such State building for those loyal citizens put in their place.

You only have to look at the UK and the sidelining of its monarchy to see the little relevance it now plays; but things were a good deal different not that long ago.

It is fair to say that existing ethnicity is a crude way to maintain borders but in a globalised world and a world that is moving to embrace full democracy, why do people see the need to define themselves over borders that have been shaped historically by non-democratic means.

Federalism seems to be the main concept of bringing into play a new style of policy formation, a chance to change the political landscape to match changing circumstances. In terms of Europe, federalism is a chance to shape change democratically and without the use of force.

  • 2.
  • At 04:44 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Roderick V. Louis wrote:


The EU is at a cross-roads like no other in its history-> rather than continuing the last 50 years of practice, & floating-onwards-blindly without a publicly articulated, explicitly defined end-point to its integration & development, EU member nations ought to jointly either:

- formally declare an intention for the EU to become a super-state; or

- formally state an intention to complete the EU's evolution as an association of 'aligned &- to varying & flexible degrees- integrated, community of nations'.


Via an EU-wide, FUTURE-OF-THE-EU DIALOGUE-PROCESS, followed by a non-binding EU-wide "plebiscite-type" multi-question vote.

As part of these processes, residents/citizens of member nations would be provided with documentation describing several possible future EU structural models, each stating simply the powers of member nations under that respective model, & showing EU structures such as the Council of Ministers, Commission & EU Parliament + simply outlining their powers & roles in a future EU.

Residents/citizens of EU member nations then ought to be asked in an EU-wide plebiscite:

- “do they support or are they against the continued existence of an EU parliament?”

- “would they support the conversion of the (demographic-ratio elected system), enormous-sized EU parliament into a much smaller one in which each EU member nation's govt appointed "their" nation's EU MP's, with perhaps, equal numbers of EU MP's for each EU member nation?”

- “do they support or are they against the possibility of an elected EU president?”

- “do they support or are they against the EU having ‘its own military’, not under the command & control of Nato?”

- “should member nations ALL have to be rigidly aligned in all EU programmes/laws/treaty clauses, or should there be opt out ability, for programmes such as the Euro or foreign policy-type initiatives?”

- "do they approve of or are they against the EU becoming a structure in which its member nations are formally & irrevocably subsumed into an EU of 'amalgamated peoples'... an EU where individual nations' parliaments/governments are reduced to being absolutely subordinate to the EU 'Parliament', with a permanent, elected EU president operating out of this parliament?"

The EU continuing to float onwards (as the EU ship has done for more than 50 years) in the undeniable- but never stated or legislatively articulated- direction of super-state status, without the citizenry of individual member nations being asked if this direction is one that they are supportive of- or do they prefer an EU that is an association of (comparatively) equal nations, one in which member nations remain integrated- but only to reasonably varying & flexible extents, & an EU in which ALL member nations possess functionally broad powers of veto over EU laws/policies/directives & have the ability to, within limits, opt out of such... will enable mischief to be perpetrated by bureaucrats/others with improper motives.

The EU continuing without an explicitly delineated end-point to the evolution of its administrative-structure allows persons with unspoken- but dangerous- agendas to surreptitiously move these agendas forward under the guises of flawed, vaguely worded treaties & so-called 'constitutions'.

Concerned stakeholders across the EU ought work to inform member nations' residents/citizens of possible future EU structural models, along with purported advantages of one type over another.

The United Kingdom is well placed to lead a 'future of the EU' dialogue process.

Roderick V. Louis
(near) Vancouver, Canada,

  • 3.
  • At 05:19 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Aidan Cross wrote:

as the US is plutocratically pushed deeper into the debt used to excuse and induce invasion and atrocity and ever lowering standards of living, standards which encourage military enlistment of the ever increasing poor, that poor inundated from birth with a relentless media lauding xenophobia and murder and ostentatious purchases of piety and patriotism for public display, and the noisomely moralising american hyperpower slouches toward fascism, oh so innocuously as fascism is wont to do, the notion of a federal republic of europe is a daunting vision. not because of some conservative's pathological fear of a compassionate social framework which precludes their ascent toward the comforting hierarchical peak they crave, but, rather, BECAUSE of the damage such pathological people have been shown time and again to invariably do. a totally unified europe may rise! and it can be counted on to also fall on hard times. and hard times mean a lot of money for those well-situated. like another imbecilic appointee to power some 75 years ago, a george can happen to anyone should a vast republic come into being--the US should stand as a warning as the failed experiment it is: when order is preferred to justice, and when maintaining stability is more important than fairness, the divide between classes will widen, perhaps irreparably. at home, freedoms will be lost; abroad, liberties will be taken. the euro itself now creates money market vulnerability to outside speculation that specific state currencies were not as easily subjected to. remember this--those at the economic top of the US? they are watching europe very, very hungrily. and they have no love of europeans. in fact, they have nothing but contempt. a federal republic called europe would please them to no end. a nation called europe is no nightmare, but a federal european republic is utterly terrifying. personally, my dream is a europe that continues to embarrass the US by continuing to fulfill the humanitarian promise of the US constitution which to this day, centuries later, remains cravenly unfulfilled by its own country of origin.

  • 4.
  • At 05:37 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Giacomo Dorigo wrote:

Sorry, but I only partially agree. Nations do not exist, what exist are States and linguistic communities. States institutions (I mean political elites) built the myth of Nations during the centuries in order to maintain order and gain soldiers for their armies. The concept of Nation is a purely rhetorical and emotional one, built on the primitive base of feel of belonging to tribe and projected to a bigger community. Well, if someone starts from the point of view of objectively existing Nations, then you will see any federal project as the construction of a bigger Nation. But you will think "oh my and the other Nations really exists so it is impossible to merge them, this is the evil, a nightmare, they want to clean up naturally existing Nations in order to build an artificial monster"
Here there is a huge problem... this is precisely what happened during the construction of all the so called Nations! United Kingdom... United... what has been united? If it has always exist a nation called United Kingdom, why there was a need to unite it? The same with France, the north kingdom army made a kind of crusade in order to destroy the south culture and language! And what about the kingdom of Spain? It was the result of elite engineering as well as UK! And what about Germany and Italy built on military effort by Bismark or Garibaldi... and look at USA they endured a civil war and the differences between north and south still do exist... and what about China: Chinese are the strongest nationalists I ever know, they bring a little China flag in their pocket just in order not to forget they roots... which kind of roots? they had (have) a language variety wider then the European one and the Putonghua, the common language, is just a political engineering artefact , based on the Beijing dialect (but what Chinese call dialect, here in Europe we would call National Language...).
Nations do not really exists, States exists, and what we call Nations are just States. And States are the product of political engineering through the centuries.
Someone said that creating a European federal State would be a nightmare. I don't know really... it can be if it is a totalitarian one, IF it is a totalitarian one, but there is no need to be such a kind of State, it could be also a democratic one...
anyway even if federalism can be seen (and lived) just as an emotional trend now out of fashion, it can be also based on a very simple empirical consideration:
USA, China, India... they did. Now USA are the rulers of the world, tomorrow maybe Chinese will be, we don't know. Now we know how is to live under USA supremacy, but we don't know how it could be to live under Chinese or Indian one.
Anyway they did, they merged their territorial diversities in giant so called National States. We, Europeans did it before, but our products were smaller, and now we are in this half-river-crossed situation. I don't know. What we now call Italy has been in a similar situation for many centuries, many kingdoms, the Pope state, some city-republics, in the meanwhile Spain, Britain, France were built... but Italy not. Dante in the 13th century was already complaining at that, saying that Italy was more or less like a bitch ("Ahi serva Italia di dolori ostello, non donna di province ma bordello"). And now we are here the process seems very like that one... I don't know really what will happen in the future, but what is clear is that in few years China and India GPDs will be higher and their armies stronger, than that of any single European country. So this will be the problem, a real problem. Some people think a light federalism can be a solution, some others not, but who says federalism is not a solution have to bring into the debate an other solution.

  • 5.
  • At 05:50 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Is a federalist Europe a good idea? YES. As always, the devil is in the detail... I think a good point comes through in this article, when the old fossils and their ideas die out, and the current young become old, is the time when this may actualy happen.

Europe does not have to be USE, like the USA. The continent does have a lot of distinct cultures that should not be simply done away with. The best idea would be a kind of federation based on stronger local autonomy than is the case in the USA, to preserve the differences.

With more members, it will take longer to achieve USE, but the result will be greater. Short term gooal vs longer term. Longer term wins I think.

The other option is that with a few generations Europe will become ethnically so mixed that a union will happen by default.

I went to a European Youth Parliament in Prague in the early 1990's and roared with laughter as the delegates voted down the chair's resolution on EU integration because it didn't go far enough. We were were then told to vote and vote again until it did go through. A number of delegates left the hall.

Now, having been pro-Europe and a Conservative Councillor (at different times), I run a business exporting steel from the EU to the Far East.

The Euro makes my life a lot easier but I would like more practical integration rather than these high flying constitutions. I want to live where I want, when I want and trade with whom I want. It has taken me months and kilos of paper work to get VAT registered in the UK. Why can't I be registered for VAT in Germany, Pay people from France, and be registered under English Law?

Denis Oakley, KL

  • 7.
  • At 06:47 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • David Howe wrote:

What's so bad about "federalism"? I was born and raised in Northern Ireland, moved to Canada after university, and am now living in Germany, so I've lived under a few different systems of government over the years, including one of the worlds most successful federations, the United Provinces of Canada.

N.I. was(is?), to all intent and purpose, a federated "statelet" within the UK. It was quite different from the England of my Father, where we went for summer holidays each year. I actually think the UK operates much like a federated state anyway, and as the "heavy hand" of the central government in London has been lifted over the years, it has become more so. Federalism is just another way of determining how you slice the pie - it's the same pie. Fear of federalism seems to me to be nothing more than an "acceptable" way to express xenophobia.

The real problem with Europe, and the real reason for the "no" votes, in my opinion, is that the EU as an institution is too remote from most of us, and too "filtered" by local/national politics. We only see it in the silly way of "Yes Minister", poking fun at strange rules about the size and shape of bananas, or increased harmonization causing the loss of "duty free", or the "threat" of sales tax being imposed on nappies.

One big step forward might be to allow us "integrated" Europeans to vote for all levels of government where we actually work and live. I can vote for an MEP here in Germany, but not for a local German MP? Why is that? Why are those two levels of government so separated from me, a citizen, living, working and paying taxes in an EU state? In theory I could vote for an MP in N.I., but why should I? I don't live there anymore, so I should not have that "right".

Role on more integration. I still find it strange that the party of business (the Tories in the UK) don't support more integration, when in fact it is business interests that drive most of the integration - Harmonization in the Internal Market, the European Patent, the Euro, integrated/harmonized taxation, border controls, etc., etc. All designed to make business easier and smoother within the EU.

I think the EU has been, for the most part, very beneficial. A federated Europe would be OK by me. When can I vote on that?

  • 8.
  • At 07:18 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • steveh wrote:

Mark, the "Ode to Joy" is a bawdly meaningless drinking song - it looks like your Scottish interviewee has arrived back where he started!

  • 9.
  • At 07:44 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • David wrote:

Sounds fun. Maybe it's about the journey, not arrival. We can keep learning about each other as we push things in the right direction - the experience of working together to address individual problems is probably enriching enough in its own right, without worrying about whether we will be lving in a country/confederation/club/federal state. This just seems like mincing words.

Meanwhile, it always seems ironic to me that after a thousand years of muddling along pragmatically with whatever works (while it favoured the interests of the ruling establishment) British anti-European conservatives are suddenly so animated about national symbolism and legalistic principles.

  • 10.
  • At 07:47 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Adrian Bell wrote:

One could be forgiven for reading this and assuming that all young Europeans are pro-federalist. Far from it; very few of my friends have any enthusiasm for Europe. What people forget is that it's our parents who agreed to tl join Europe, back in the 70s referendum, but that they agreed to a Common Market, not a federal state with surrender of law-making ability. The under 35s are being pushed into a system we don't want, with no means of voicing our displeasure. Come on Mr Brown, give us our referendum and let the rest of Europe know our feelings.

  • 11.
  • At 07:51 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Theo S wrote:

Mark, I think that your point of view is very typically English, and sometimes I wonder if you yourself see it. Your blanket statment that the English are afraid of a united Europe has far more to do with England's history, I think, than any current federalist movement in Europe. England has never seen itself as part of Europe, and I think the real fear of being in a united Europe is less to do with whatever policies, but to do with English, or maybe I should say, British national identity (although I seriously doubt that Scotland, despite the Scott you trotted out to make it seem so, is as anti-Europe as England is).

It is certainly not that the UK is utopia. Judging by the comments on the BBC HYS when Blair left office, the general opinion is not that everything is going well, but rather that the two cornerstones of a solid and stable society, education and health, have been seriously neglected in the British rush to emulate the American way (who, rather unsurprisingly, the British have far less fear of integrating with). Your "rational" friend who is so fearful of Europe that he joins a right wing party, is very typical of the attitude.

Mark, I'm a white South African, and England (or the UK, but I feel the fearful isolationist attitude is more of an English tradition) reminds me of the whites who live in South Africa, and about whom the BBC wrote a very enlightened piece (pity the same can't be said about Europe, but maybe it's just too close). In that article they point out that despite all the complaining that the whites do, they have never been as well off as they are now. The only thing, and here the analogy starts, is that white South Africans (in general) still find it terribly hard to integrate. They don't learn any of the other 9 or 10 official langues, they try to avoid going to the same schools etc, etc, etc. The result is that white South Africans are being politically marginalised.

So, tell me Mark, which country that you know, is famous for its inability and unwillingness to learn any of the neighbouring countries languages? And I'm not talking about the French, although there are more similarities between your countries than you would care to admit.

Do you think the UK will always be well off? Only 30 years ago, it was almost on its last knees. You don't think it could happen again? If the UK always distances itself from Europe, do you think the UK will always be able to play the various countries against one another, out of insecurity? What do you think will happen if the UKs economy loses ground? Would you like the Europeans to bail you out then? Or would you prefer a fellow Anglo-Saxon nation, one that will almost certainly want something in return.

I'd love to hear your ideas, Mark.

  • 12.
  • At 08:15 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

In Mark’s report he correctly says that ‘many enthusiastic supporters of the European Union say the dream (of EU federalism) is dead’. The trouble is that although they say (and some may perhaps believe) that multi-nationalism federalism in Europe died with the Austro-Hungarian Empire they act as if it is still possible and desirable. Others talk of confederation today but go on to say that their longer-term goal remains federation. The distinction between confederation and federation is only that the member-states of a confederation retain their status as sovereign states under international law. In practice this is a rather theoretical distinction when EU law is superior to national law and even national constitutions. Member states of the European Union are in practice sovereign only to the extent that they have a choice between accepting the obligations of membership (including the supremacy of European law) or withdrawing from the EU. What is important in the EU therefore is the range of policies subject to decision-making by the ‘community method’ (which is federalism). In the absence of a European ‘demos’ (a unified people) all decisions taken using the ‘community method’ are decisions made outside the democratic arena, but it still remains the case that it is the preference of most EU enthusiasts for the ‘community method’ to be used to decide an ever expanding range of policies. Indeed the Constitution/Reform Treaty would abolish the ‘pillar structure’ of the EU precisely to establish the federalism of the ‘community method’ as THE EU decision-making mechanism in future. So while EU enthusiasts say that federalism is dead, all actual changes to EU treaties are designed to advance it even when it comes at a severe cost to democracy in a multi-national environment.

President Barosso this week described the EU as an empire. In my opinion this word captures what the EU would become if the federalist dream was fulfilled because multi-national federalism is empire. It always involves centralised authority over its constituent nations who must live under this authority’s decisions whether they like them or not. Empires need not be tyrannical but they are always despotic. The enlightened despotism of the British Empire imagined (or deceived itself) that it was doing more good than harm in bringing civilisation to remote parts of the world. But to the people of Boston or Bombay it was still a despotism to be despised because so long as it lasted the governed could not replace their masters or even significantly influence their decisions. Barroso and his fellow Commissioners may imagine they do good but what is perceived in Brussels as the common good – the accumulation of more powers for the EU institutions – is by no means perceived as such by the peoples of Europe. This accumulation of powers has always been pursued by Monnet’s method of ‘integration by stealth’ and has never been subject to any form of democratic legitimisation. We have long since reached the point where there is no popular mandate for even the status quo, but still the federalists push on intoxicated by what they perceive to be a beautiful dream but which would actually be a despotism. National executives are happy to go along with this process because it increases their power relative to other branches of government and even the people they are supposed to represent. The peoples of Europe are slowly being disenfranchised as the national Parliaments they elect have ever less area within which they may legislate without conflicting with European law. The ‘enlightened despots’ of the EU Commission with their monopoly right of legislative initiative for law superior to any other for 490 million people slowly emerge as the true European government. And as with empires of the past it is a remote authority which no voter in Europe can replace or even significantly influence.

A more enlightened approach in the real Europe of nations would be to make EU law subordinate to national law in areas other than the common market. This would still allow common European policy making. But by allowing individuals nations to opt-out of Brussels decisions on a per-case basis it would ensure that each and every EU law enjoyed a true democratic legitimacy in each of the lands in which it is applied.

“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms (of government) those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny” -- Thomas Jefferson

  • 13.
  • At 08:40 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Peter Albertyn wrote:

A key to a closer unity in Europe is to have one official language emanating from Brussels. The commonality (and cost savings) generated (like the common currency) would undoubtedly bring a greater measure of understanding and allow fewer differences in interpretation of any statements/directives/laws made. Communication has always been the key to peaceful understanding and consensus.

Unfortunately, there is only one candidate for the official language of Europe ( and it is probably the de facto common language). Which? Answers on the back of a postcard.

  • 14.
  • At 08:47 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Francesco Rizzuto wrote:


Building an ever closer Europe was never about sweeping away cultural diversity or our individual, local, regional and national identities. Nor has it ever been about replacing or abolishing States -national and multinational, new and old. The goal of ever closer Union (federalism)is essentially a process in time and space. A way of managing our common space and relationships that seek to avoid the horrors of our common history. Federation should be seen as an ongoing, variable speed, process that is in fact a sort of never ending end-game. It has never really been about creating a Super State or Country (the term you use) -in the traditional sense-called Europe. In many ways that is what is truely unique about what has been achieved since 1951. (Coal and Steel Community-the real start of the process of ever closer union)

  • 15.
  • At 08:50 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Oliver wrote:


I am sorry, but this is really the same ol' same ol' EU-trashing stuff regurgitated all over again. It's naive in suggesting common market issues can be separated from foreign policy, immigration etc. What happens on the world stage influences prices, supplies and streams of goods and people. To influence the world stage, you need bargaining power. Now you can say that for example Britain with its aircraft carriers and nuclear weapons has all the bargaining power it needs, but threats of force only get you so far -as the US is learning these days. Bargaining power comes not only with other types of power -say, economic- and with respect. And no one respects a henhouse which can't get its act together.

You claim the people are being disenfranchised. The opposite is true: The constitution would have strengthened the European parliament and introduced the possibility for a referendum. In any case, it is not at all an argument against integration, but against how integration is being done, about the specifics.

As for claiming no voter can influence the EU, look at what the Polish voters did: They elected a government which held the entirety of the rest of the EU hostage in negotiations.

  • 16.
  • At 09:14 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • jan hamminga wrote:

The mere concept of national sovereignty is dead. We modern earthlings are connected with each other on a worldwide scale through commerce, trade and communication. The political leaders that we are so decent to elect every now and then do nothing but betray us. They drag us into wars we never asked for, they impose ridiculous security restrictions on our way of life and they refuse to help us bring down our pollution levels by not using their powers where they are so desperately needed. A European Empire or Confederacy would not change this. There’s no point in replacing one problem by the other. But perhaps it could help people realise they are not British or French or Slovak or whatever they think they are. We are earthlings. We have a general responsibility for the world as a whole and we have, or rather we should feel a personal responsibility for our immediate environment. National borders do not figure in either of these conceptions.

  • 17.
  • At 09:21 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Paul V. Greenall, Liverpool. wrote:

Whilst the EEC was a good idea, the EU is an undemocratic monster beyond reform that should have been strangled at birth. If the nations of mainland Europe want to belong to a US of E then let them, but the sooner we British realise that this is what we are being conned into and get the hell out, the better.

I welcome all sentiments on the matter; federalism, confederalism, supranationalism etc. At least it keeps a debate going.

Unlike what has now happened in Holland. People don't take sides anymore, they no longer care. They feel Europe is irrelevant. The British are waving their arms in panic as ever, the French probably have a secret agenda somewhere, the Germans never really know what they want and the Polish seem to have gone insane.

We have the euro now, and it allows Holland (a traditionally utterly capitalist nation) to do what it wants and needs: trade. The average Dutchman/woman shrugs his/her shoulders at anything else.

  • 19.
  • At 09:44 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

"The Young European Federalists... are partly funded by the European Commission".

Would the European Commission 'partially fund' a Young EUrosceptics organisation? I doubts it.

I have no problem with the idea of a federal United States of Europe - so long as the citizens of each member state have freely elected to to join such a federation.

To all those in favour of a USofE I say: put your proposition to popular vote - by referendum - and stand by the results.

As EU federalists know that it is highly unlikely that the British people would support such a proposition, 'ever closer union' is being ushered in by stealth.

If this ratcheting of integrationalist measures is not ceased and relaxed, it will all end in tears.

What a lot of dangerous waffle. The romantic sell of the EU covers up the largest power grab to a centralised bureaucracy in the history of the world. The programme for ever closer union is powering up with its push to impose the Constitution without democratic ratification. Who will wield all this power and to what purpose? It's time to abandon the European Dream and wake up.

Europe will be politically crushed by the collapse of its democracies, as its economies are already heading for meltdown and rocketing inflation.

Of course Europeans should hold nice parties and get drunk on state paid freebies. But why destroy the whole democratic inheritance, so painfully gained, by handing all the power away from the now well established democracies to god knows what Brussels will become, once it has all the states and regions in its power.

The symbol of drunk and lascivious youth sums the EU up well. Grow up. Wake up. And get down to business in your own countries before they are eliminated maybe for good. Your children will pay the price as much as anyone if you don't.

  • 21.
  • At 10:08 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Isidro Ramos wrote:

If they do feel first French, Polish or Maltese and European only in second place, that's because they have spoken with few Americans... and I say this only half in jest, there is no better way to understand how much we Europeans do have in common than knowing other peoples, other places and other cultures.

  • 22.
  • At 10:08 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

I thought the idea that Europeans are somehow different from everyone else, and that when you go to the Americas, Asia or Africa you feel distinctly European, was slightly troubling. It looks like a manifestation of prejudice.

So here's a controversial idea: the appeal of a US of Europe is that it enables us to be racist against the rest of the world whilst pretending that we're inclusive and tolerant because we can just about stand the Belgians...

  • 23.
  • At 10:17 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Philip Nice wrote:

You can have a United states of Europe or you can be pushed around by the US, China, India or whoever is the next dominant power. That doesn't bother the English because they LIKE the US pushing everyone around, but watchout when it's China, India, whoever...

  • 24.
  • At 10:39 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • John B. Common wrote:

The JEF folks are very representative - representative of the grand ecole/Oxbridge PPE specimens seen so often within French government and the UK civil service executive grades. But are they representative of the common folks? Is it possible that the Netherlands and French no votes are not so much opposition to Federalism with a laissez-faire tweak - but just an expression of total fed-upness with being lorded over by these unelected and unrepresentative oligarchs!!!

  • 25.
  • At 10:48 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

The European nation state is just 200 years old. It is a construction made by the feudal rulers. It has never had a democratic legitimation (who voted on the creation of Italy?) and it has brought us the worst disasters in history. Conflict seems to be in the nature of the nation state, because it always has to define itself as the "other". Borders, exclusion and symbolic distinctions are very important for the nation state.

Most people have their reference frame on regional level. Some countries are basically still tribal. Language is a much stronger bond than citizenship.

Whilst I can understand that some people are critical of the euphoria of those young federalists as it seems to be not much more than juvenile exuberance, we should not allow intellectual laziness to be the determining factor for Europe's future.

As Machiavelli wrote already centuries ago: Substantial change will always meet the fierce resistance of those who profit from the old system while those who will profit from the new system will only offer lukewarm support.

Europeans have more in common than divides them. Britons who claim that they are not European are just silly. What exactly are they then?

And certainly there is no such thing as a "Tory with a vision".

It's great that the BBC offers this debate, but I fear that the British will never really get the dynamics of Europe. They missed the boat basically each and every time.

  • 26.
  • At 10:48 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Sebastian wrote:

I would like to only add one thing. There is a difference between a state and a nation. These two concepts have not always been linked but in people's minds state is a nation. (Britain means the land of the British, Germany the land of the Germans and so on.) But it is possible to have a state with many nations. If Europe ever did become a federalist state it would not form a nation called Europe. It would contain many nations working for a common good.

For now it is a dream. But I do not feel it is dead. Not yet.

Aren't we all grateful that we live in a union that is able to bring together children from across the EU to drink? I'm glad the rest of Europe is now catching up with Britain.

Let us also be grateful that tomorrow's European's (the hosts of this Euro-drinking binge) see the future of Europe comparable to Aldous Huxley's soma-induced utopia laid out in a Brave New World. Crack out the Prozac! I'm off back to bed to rest until it comes together.

  • 28.
  • At 11:10 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Angus wrote:

Your final point about it all being rather self centred seems spot on. In talking about the future, the debate seems to be about Europe in isolation, but surely the rise of China and India will have a huge effect on how Europeans see the EU and what they want from it. Did that get discussed at all? If not, it seems a pity that our future movers and shakers can't see beyond such parochial concerns.

  • 29.
  • At 11:10 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Lynn Kelly wrote:

Why is there no vote for the people on whether they want this new Utopia? There is no legitimacy in any more "integration" without a genuine vote ....not platitudes such as "we have a parliamentary democracy". There is no vote very simply because those people pushing this agenda know the outcome....there will eventually be big trouble if the current situation continues without real consent.

  • 30.
  • At 11:27 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Oliver Lewis wrote:

Time and time again on this blog I see commentators refer to the people of a certain state as if they were one. The use of "we" "they" "our" etc... is absurd.
"The under 35s are being pushed into a system we don't want, with no means of voicing our displeasure."
Who exactly?
As I've mentioned before in other postings, at EU elections in the UK, just as many people vote for pro-EU parties as anti-EU parties. Perhaps this owes more to some of the media in the UK and their blanket anti-EU agenda, or maybe certain traits of the right ("everyone thinks as I do"), but it distorts the debate on this blog, and seeps into fundamentals of coverage of the EU.
I know plenty of people in the UK who enthusiastically support the EU and plenty who don't, but just because a person is a Lib-Dem, it doesn't mean they deny the existence of Labour.

  • 31.
  • At 11:41 AM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

So this political campaign group, which in the UK functions as the youth branch of the European Movement, is funded by taxpayers. Do I understand you correctly?

Interesting article. The danger is that a Europe rich in diverse cultures will become one homegenous culture in time. Remember the france and lira? The diversity that you celebrate will be lost. Even in the United States regional differences are moving because people are mobile and relocating constantly over the years.

I'm more than happy with close co-operation between states in the region. I appreciate my freedom of movement, too -- I worked for a couple of years under contract to the EC in Brussels, and later lived in Rome. And I enjoy working and studying with people from neighbouring countries. But I am 100% against any sort of federal state, for two main reasons.

First, it'll be even more a bulwark of privilege, excluding the poor. I'd much rather we had a looser union open not just to Turkey but also countries like Syria and Morocco.

Second, whereas in the 20th century conflict was about ideology, today it's about the search for identity. We already have such conflicts, peaceful and otherwise, within the EC (Basques, Catalans, Flamands and Walloons, nationalist and unionist Irish, etc., etc.). A united Europe, even if federal, would subsume people's identities and they would then seek to recover them. So it would last perhaps 50 years and then fly apart as Yugoslavia did.

"A country called Europe" is a politician's dream, just as Yugoslavia was. It would divide, not unite, us, and maybe kill quite a lot of us in the process. Let's bury this wretched Utopianism now, and get on with practical cooperation -- controlling emissions, preventing overfishing, and banning mercury; all decent, concrete things that Europeans have been doing together.

  • 34.
  • At 12:33 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

Most people in Britain are emotionally opposed to the idea of USE. How on earth could federalists change their opinions? 'High romanticism' may appeal to Continental youth, but it doesn't have much relevance to British youth. Personally, I think that Europeanism has reached the limits of it's success - it has approached the point where the next logical steps are a single super-state, but most people across Europe wouldn't stand for it. I get the feeling that those on the Continent who are enthusiastic for USE are so because they either think that they dominate Europe already (and therefore will run the show) or because they are too weak and want to throw in their lot with the bigger EU states. Britain, while we are no longer the power we once were, is still in a position to be a power that is more capable than most.

  • 35.
  • At 12:58 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Sebastian wrote:

Answer to John:

I agree that the status quo lacks democratic legitimacy. However, federalism is at its core a democratic idea - the European authority would become elected and would therefore draw its power from the popular mandate. At the same time the federal states would preserve a level of sovereignty necessary to preserve the cultural intricacies of various nations. It is by no means a despotic idea.

Why is the EC funding political campaigns? Or is the EC also funding campaigns which don't like the idea of federalism?

  • 37.
  • At 01:48 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • carlos wrote:

---consolidation of european states into one nation is the only way forward. everyone has the right to live a decent life, but no one has the right to live exactly as they please, and no one has the right to live a lifestyle whose maintenance requires the suffering of others. europe must show its goodwill to the non-western world by uniting and eliminating all of its horrific waste, redundancy and incoherence, which non-europeans ultimately pay for in blood.
---all this is pointless however. the usa is the single big threat and obstacle to the survival and progress of humanity, respectively. until it is disarmed and brought to heel, none of us is safe. if the eu can't get their pathetic cousin the usa (kinda like clark and eddy, respectively, from "national lampoon's vacation") in line, russia and china will be forced to do so for the sake of their own survival.
---forget about soviet steel- and tractor-building 5- and 10-year plans. we are in the last years of the unfolding of the kgb's 100-year plan. what is decided in brussels and washington dc doesn't ultimately matter (other than as signs of good or bad will); all the important decisions are being made in moscow and beijing. nato has brought the insane usa military machine right up to the border of russia, via those crypto-fascist baltic states. eu expansion to the baltics?, no problem; go ahead and have your cute little eu economic and cultural exchanges; let the estonians send their national dance troop to brussels to perform traditional estonian folk dances before the eu parliament. but nato expansion to russia's border??!! that is a direct threat to the survival of russia, and the russians have every right to nuke every nato member to ashes in response. it's 1941 all over again. go ahead and underestimate the russians again, and savor the smell of your red herring arguments; it'll make doing russia's necessary job all that much easier. the russians took care of napoleon; the russians took care of hitler; and now the russians will take care of the usa and its allies. you have only yourselves to blame.

  • 38.
  • At 02:05 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Peter Davidson wrote:

Some interesting perspectives; both in the article and succeeding comments.

Much of this debate revolves around perceptions of federalism and what it really means as an ideological goal. Unfortunately the UK public's response has been poisoned by the negative connotations routinely associated with any reference to the dreaded "F" word.

For the vast majority of UK inhabitants, mere mention of federalism invokes an image of vast bureaucratic empires, assimilating all meaningful areas of competency currently performed by the UK government and functioning in an effective vacuum of accountability. Obviously this nightmarish scenario is reviled by your average Brit and quite rightly so but it is this basic level of ignorance amongst the UK public that precludes any rational debate of the very serious issues at hand.

The overriding caveat applying to any appreciation of these concepts should be their (very) long term nature. Even the most ardent Eurofederalist, such as those referred to in the article, would concede that the notion of an evolving European identity and associated geo-political convergence is a 50-100 year project in the making, not something that present generations will even be around to experience first hand.

As the BBC has demonstrated in this interactive resource,
an extended timescale of this magnitude will bear witness to profound changes in the European geo-political landscape anyway but the vital distinction between events unfolding in the coming decades and 19th – 20th century predecessors is that such change will be wrought within an overarching environment of peace, rather than via the barrel of a gun! That said, the emergence of the European Union cannot be claimed as the sole arbiter of this stability; more complex factors are certainly at work here.

For me Europe’s potential for future evolution revolves around a more rational approach to two fundamental tenets of present day thinking. Firstly, current perceptions of traditional old-style European Nation States as the exclusive unit of socio-political structure/organisation and the secondly the application of federalist principles in delivering decentralised and flexible solutions to seemingly intractable issues, rather than the creation of a centralised super-state edifice as envisaged in many of the knee-jerk responses we see repeatedly in dialogue about the European project.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that there is a more general positive public sentiment expressed towards an enhanced European strata in the smaller more compact member states and those with established traditions of power dispersal; Luxembourg, Germany & Spain spring to mind, in contrast to the negative opinions prevalent in centralised unitary member states like the UK and Sweden?

In the former, the exercise of government activity in many policy areas relevant to everyday existence is either devolved to Regional tiers or more immediate merely by dint of geographical proximity. Goverment functions reserved for central administrations (as represented by the current array of Nation States) are clearly defined as such within federalised constitutional arrangements.

A significant factor here is the fact that many of these apparently sacrosanct “Nation State” roles; defence, foreign affairs, the wider environment, organised crime and terrorism, are naturally gravitating outside the scope of such entities to effectively control. We see this trend in the growing importance of supra-national institutions like the World Bank, IMF and WTO but we (as citizens) exercise no democratic control over these structures. Within this context, the emergence of the European Union seems like a logical response to the growing unpredictability and volatility of our globalising environment.

Maybe we should (as European Citizens) begin to question the long term viability of large and centralised examples of old-style Nation States as efficient models of governance and encourage the emergence of smaller more immediate units of social and political organisation, represented by Catalunya; Scotland certainly appears to be following this pathway?

For me this evolutionary and pragmatic approach to Europe’s development represents a logical response to the complex array of challenges we collectively face and would certainly foster Europeanisation of the political arena, increasing the potential for democratization of its currently unaccountable institutional hierarchy.

  • 39.
  • At 02:10 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Sebastian wrote:

Answer to John:

I agree that the status quo lacks democratic legitimacy. However, federalism is at its core a democratic idea - the European authority would become elected and would therefore draw its power from the popular mandate. At the same time the federal states would preserve a level of sovereignty necessary to preserve the cultural intricacies of various nations. It is by no means a despotic idea.

  • 40.
  • At 02:47 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

(Note: I am writing in my own words and not of the YEM/JEF-UK)

As a member of YEM/JEF-UK, I am angry how my organisation is portrayed by some of the messengers here. Certainly, the British branch is completely self-funded by voluntary donations and subscriptions. Due to this, the organisation is financially run on a knife's-edge, as is run using as low-cost methods of communication, i.e. e-mail between members and an on-line bulletin board.
The main organisation JEF, does receive some funding from the European Commission, but only like any organisation requesting for a grant from the government.

On the talk about the organisation being full of toffs is complete lot of nonsense. Yes, most member (the ones I know of) have a least some sort of 18 year qualification, but most political young adults are fairly well-off and have some advanced education.

We are proud Europeans, and even have a someone from the Czech Republic (Tomáš Ruta) as our Secretary General.

  • 41.
  • At 02:48 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • David wrote:

@Adrian Bell

'The under 35s are being pushed...'

Yes, their being pushed by an anti-European corporate media and a popular culture entertainment system too lazy to find out the excitement to found in the cultures of other languages.

Lots of under 35s also seem to regard Australia as the be all and end all of exotic cosmopolitanism and living/travelling abroad...

...the lack of ambition is depressing.

  • 42.
  • At 02:55 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Jamie Taylor wrote:

Aiden Cross (comment #3) wrote:

..they (the USA elite) are watching europe very, very hungrily. and they have no love of europeans. in fact, they have nothing but contempt. a federal republic called europe would please them to no end. a nation called europe is no nightmare, but a federal european republic is utterly terrifying.

Aiden maybe I'm a dunce but could you or anyone explain the difference between a 'Federal European Republic' and a 'Federal Republic called Europe'


  • 43.
  • At 02:55 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Adrian Bell wrote:

Ironically, Oliver Lewis's response to my earlier post misses the point completely. What I highlighted was that Mark's original article (as spotted by several other contributors) is very one-sided and reinforces the long-founded belief that the EU has an unhealthy obsession with political self-promotion. Sadly, Oliver perpetuates the perennial Europhilic habit of telling only half the story, by quoting me out of context.

What should be clear from my first post was that I was not seeking to make sweeping generalisations about the under-35 age group, merely an observation about the attitudes of those with whom I work, socialise and come into contact with. Yes, I am a Conservative voter; no, I do not believe that everyone thinks like me. Indeed, I am glad that a benefit of living in an open and free society is that the ability of the press to reflect the opinions of those whom it represents - whether one happens to share them or not. What is wrong is that the EU sees fit to throw funding at young people (school children as well as the students referred to in Mark's blog) promoting itself in a one-sided fashion.

The European Commission seeks to make lasting (and in the opinion of many, damaging) changes to the independence and self-governing ability of this country which, as I pointed out, was not the intention of those who agreed to join the Common Market.

We are blessed in this country by not holding referendums on a regular basis, but when they concern matters of such significant substance, does he really think that the electorate - regardless of whether they vote Labour, Lib Dem, Conservative or any other party - should not be given the chance to signal their view?

  • 44.
  • At 03:25 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Giacomo Dorigo wrote:

I still have some remarks to do.
EU has a democratically elected Parliament, so if there is a problem of democratic legitimacy, that lays in the Council rather than in the Parliament. The Council, that is made by chief executives, makes laws. This is the real gap of democracy in the EU.
But who is made the Council by? By European bureaucrats? No, it is made by National Governments! So what happened really? It happened that National Governments, read National Executive Powers, found a way of making laws (legislative power) without National Parliaments.
So pay attention when you think that an Europe of Nations will be more democratic than a Federal one under the law of a democratically elected and fully representative Parliament, Europe of Nations just means much more power to the Council which structure is the real root of the democratic gap!

The trick of National Governments is this:
"We the Governments meeting at the Council, do the European laws, the EU Parliament has some discussion about it, but less power it has better it is. Then we go to our National Parliaments and we say: ' Sorry this is a EU law so you must accept it ' ". This was the trick at the beginning, now it has changed a little:
"We the Governments meeting at the Council do the European laws, but we won't call them laws, we quarrel a little about which State is more or less heavy in the Council because of this or that voting system, but at the end we decide something, the EU Parliament has some discussion about it, but less power it has better it is. Then we go to our National Parliaments and we say: ' sorry this is a EU law so you can accept it or not, if you won't accept you give us back that law we will wait few months and then you must accept it'".

This is the trick, and while we are here quarrelling about more or less federal union, or more or less despotism by the EU, no one is looking at what really matters: that the legislative power has been stolen by the Governments! The real problem is not a more or less centralised power by this or that institution, the real democratic problem is not a centre-periphery problem, it is not a quantity problem, but a quality one. A Parliament can make laws for a city, a province, a State, a Federation, it doesn't change to much to democratic life till that Parliament is democratically elected, The same is true for an executive power, it doesn't matter how big is the territory it administrate, till there is the democratic balance of a real a strong enough Parliament with the help of not enslaved press.

So here we have to opposite solutions: we can go back to our old States, but this means really full sovereignty to them and so not only no EU, but also no WTO, no UN, no NAFTA, etc., or we radically change the Council filling it with Representatives of National Parliaments instead of National Governments.

  • 45.
  • At 03:28 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

To comment number 3.

I am an American citizen and I have no love for the current president or his policies. And according to poll after poll neither does 70% of the American people. Has the US done wrong things under Bush? Of course. But, Bush is an exception, not the rule in the American presidency. Many America presidents have been mediocre, many have been decent, some have been great and a few have been terrible. Any nation can have a Bush-type leader whether large or small. Germany had Hitler and Germany was by no means a "super-state." Yes there are problems in the United States but every nation big or small has its ups and downs. While America still has much to improve so does Britain or France or Slovakia. And as for Europeans embarrasing the US currently in many aspects, only a decade or two ago the US was more often embarrasing Europe. The current problems in the United States are not emblematic of a super-state but are part of the up and down flucuations that ANY nation large or small periodically faces. So before you start decrying the Bush-afflicted US as an example of what happens to "super-states," remember that formation of the US super-state first formed the most powerful state in the Americas and then the most powerful state on Earth which it has not yet relinquished. I realize I probably sound like a jingoistic American, but Mr. Aiden Cross is misleadingly labeling a Bush style president and a declining standard of living as the norm for super-states and that the American people support Mr. Bush. The only way to correct him was to speak out for the land of my birth, something every British, French, German, Polish, or Swede would do if his/her country was incorrectly characterized.

  • 46.
  • At 03:51 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Tony wrote:

I suspect the fanaticism driving the dynamic of European federalism, and consequent statehood, will never die. It's not marked by pragmatic, progressive politics but by highfalutin concepts and eternal introspection. I send my best wishes to JEF and their search for a overriding European identity and a European demos. They'll while away many fruitless hours engaging with such a futile task, whilst many others seek to combat the rigours of the world economy with a grounded blueprint.

It's not so much the advocation of this concept of Little Europeanism that concerns me; it's remains just an idea afterall. No, it's the vigour and the self-righteousness that underpins much of it; a unshakeable belief in the foundations of the idea that gives one the confidence to treat an opponent with incredulous, sneering disbelief. How, afterall, can one explain riding roughshod over negative referedums? Or a British administration reneging on a promised referendum? It seems there are some who still remain oblivious to the need, and indeed obligation, to sell their ideas to the public and build concrete support.

  • 47.
  • At 04:36 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Simon Gray wrote:

@ Ed

Yes, the European Commission will support any material that somehow is about Europe and Europeans, whether pro-EU or against it. I know this because my brother is a member of a political party here in Denmark and some of his friends from the youth group of that same party create anti-EU brochures with funding from the European Commission. I thought it was rather funny. The EU funding isn't about pro-EU propaganda however some wish to twist the facts, it's about European culture.

  • 48.
  • At 05:02 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

The European Union is an artifical construction, and what is worse, one being built without, and in many cases against, the will of the people. It may seem like a Utopian dream to the blinkered political classes, who view it as an opportunity to strut on a bigger stage, but all human history points to it being a failure. There is no successful example of such an enterprise enduring without public support. The only question is how many tears will be shed (and let us hope that tears are all) when the "Union" collapses. At a time when the ruins are still smoking in some parts of the Balkans, it defies belief that sensible people can still claim that such a forced merging of national sovereignty and culture without the express consent of the people, freely given in an honest debate, is a good idea. The EU has not, as so often claimed by its supporters, preserved peace in Europe for the last half century, but unless checked it may well one day fracture it.

I have rarely read such inane reasoning for pressing forward with ever closer union. Why should co-operation and free trade between European nations require a political structure that is bent on achieving for itself ever more power?

Britain is a self confident nation state. It should be allowed to trade with whosoever it wishes, make agreements with whosoever it wishes, make laws in its democratically elected Parliament and represent itself overseas with its own foreign policy agenda.

Britain does not need a Commission or a European Parliament to dictate laws and regulations. Britain must have the right of self determination, not be forced to accept fudged compromises passed off as foreign, energy, immigration, travel, justice and a range of other policies.

  • 50.
  • At 06:34 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • ADilbert wrote:

If the EU is a tryanny it is at a disadvantage to other tryannies as it is unlikely ever to be in a position to use force to retain control. The Soviet Union fell apart after 70 years and I expect the EU to do so too. Not for the reasons of its democratic deficiencies but from an increasing inability to deliver sustainable prosperity to its citizens.

  • 51.
  • At 06:50 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • David Shearman wrote:

When one is honest and views the facts, such as they are, a europe of 27+ states functioning as a single entity is at best impracticable and at worst a dystopian nightmare. I would happily be part of a smaller European super state of perhaps 15 or so western european states, all sharing a common, if often brutal history, moving forward for the benefit of all its citizens. This was a possibility, but now i fear that a massive super state is impossible and possibly even dangerous, resulting as i fear it would, into a civil war much like the USA faced as alluded to by previous contributors. I would favour a return to what has benn scorned in the past as "old europe", if only so Ireland can have a shot at winning the eurovision again!

  • 52.
  • At 07:55 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Chris Christoforides wrote:

The idea of a democratic europe as one country is a brilliant idea. The only people that are holding us back are the older generations. I was born and raised in london but my parents are greek. Reflecting on this i have taken in both cultures.....and yes there are differences but i do not see how cultural differences should mean different nations. Bottom line is both cultures want the same goals which are to be free, a democratic system, legislation, human rights and protection etc. So what is the meaning when someone says 'my people'? To me this means someone who wants freedom, human rights and so on. This is the views of most europeans or in fact any decent human being. In a united europe we can still maintain our culture but just have a common goal. In the future people will be moving from one place to another inside europe and many europeans will be multi cultural and have descendants from all over europe therefore they will feel more european than any single nationality. So whether people like it or not there will be a single entity called europe and it is what i will fight for my whole life!

London, Europe

  • 53.
  • At 09:28 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Thomas Patricio wrote:

Dear Mark,

Again congratulations for such an interesting article. I would also like to say that I'm impressed by the high level of insight posted by most people in this blog. It's great to see many convincing points being put forward, whether con, pro or even neutral.

I would just like to say that I really enjoyed Peter Davidson'd post (37). The future he describes for Europe is the one I hope my children's children will live to see.

Malcom (47) writes:
The European Union is an artificial construction, and what is worse, one being built without, and in many cases against, the will of the people.

What I would like to know is if he thinks his country (whichever it may be) is a natural construction built with the will of his ancestors?
The truth is that I can guarantee him that it is not. There is no greater artificial construct than that of a nation-state. Eurosceptics are usually people who cling to this very artificial, outdated concept of a territory with very specific borders that encloses a very specific people united in the falsehood of common ancestry and distrust of the "others".

The fact is that nothing like the EU has ever been attempted. And comparing the EU to the US, Yugoslavia or any federation, or calling it a super state or an empire is very, very misleading.

Europe is naturally evolving to what Peter Davidson describes on his posting. It's an Europe with a central government in charge of setting common market standards, a common army and a common foreign policy, without internal borders, containing various regions with different cultures and languages united by common values (freedom, tolerance, democracy) in charge of more local matters such as health, culture, infrastructure and education.

This is a very progressive vision that requires a bit of a leap of faith, hence the reason why most conservatives are Eurosceptics. My question to them is this:
Is the status quo much better? Improvement won't come by holding on to what doesn't work.
Yes there might be risks moving forward, but we know for sure there are risks standing still. Doesn't logic dictate that we should move forward?

Thomas Patricio
Toronto, Canada

  • 54.
  • At 11:08 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Vladas Saulis wrote:

I'd like to point attention here to the fact that nations and States were formed with the defence of their inhabitans from other nations/States in mind. All over history it was because of that.

The nations themselves usually not solid ethnic and even language group - this is a group of people who need defence from other group of people and interests.

In EU situation this main purpose of every nation/State has gone or became obsolete (within EU). We have now common internal and external interests. Therefore situation changes towards collective defence from other big groups - USA, Russia, China, etc.

That's why I like the idea of common federal EU state. In Global world now there is a trend to join to more and more larger groups.

  • 55.
  • At 12:58 AM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

I share the views expressed by Peter Davidson and Peter Howe on federalist principles being able to foster decentralised and flexible democracies. As I have said before, federalism has proved effective in big and small countries, and in rich (e.g., United States) and poor ones (India). That does not mean that it is immune to all crises. The American Civil War showed that a principle of federalism (constituent states are free to join and to leave) can conflict with other values (fighting slavery and upholding constitutional civil rights). So, in the EU, it is important that countries fulfil these conditions before they join.

I also share Giacomo Dorigo’s fear that the current EU structure and the piecemeal, top-down reform process risks circumventing parliamentary control at both EU and national levels. However, I don’t agree with others who say that the answer to that is to return to an intergovernmental common market or free trade area. The point is that modern-day trade negotiations deal with a host of issues besides tariffs and quotas: non-tariff barriers, so-called regulatory barriers to trade in services, intellectual property rights, and in bilateral trade agreements also investment, competition and public procurement regulations. People rightly complain about the EU’s democracy deficit, but at the WTO, where these things are negotiated behind closed doors, there is a democracy vacuum. And leaving the WTO won’t help either, because the same and even deeper de- and re-regulation occurs in bilateral trade negotiations. So the good old days are over, folks! And the question in all these forums is the same: how do we reconcile supranationalism and globalisation with democratic rights.

Peter Howe proposes that EU citizens should have the right to vote (and be elected) in all EU Member States at all levels of government. That is a feasible reform that could create a dynamic process for change. But one should always take care not to create a fortress Europe, closed to the outside world. I believe that also non-EU foreigners who have legally resided in a country for a certain period of time should have the right to vote and be elected. That is desirable not only for them but also for the political system as a whole, as voting, including referendums, become distorted if large parts of the population can’t vote.

  • 56.
  • At 04:16 AM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Andriy Sobol wrote:

I believe the creation of a Federalist state (EU) is a good idea, in theory. So is Communism, in pure theory. But we all saw and can see the outcomes of Communism in the USSR and Yugoslavia. Humans are individuals, we are not sheep (sometimes I wonder) and that's what makes us interesting and dangerous. We will never live in an ideal world- we are too individual, and so it is with nations. We may share the same values, religion and even traditions, but does this mean eternal unity and stabilitiy?
In my opinion establishing good working relations with all your neighbours is the key, that way there is no need for unification. Lets take the Russian Federation for example. Do you think Eastern Europe would be different had the Russians pursued a policy of building friendly working relations with her neighbours over the past 500 years? They are still applying the same tactics today(by different means today) and what good will it do them now and in the future. Answer. None.
Give it a few more centuries of good working relationships- then maybe from the tip of Spain to the Urals, European unification could be a formality.

Andriy, Australia

Since the creation of the Roman Empire, a united Europe has been a western ideal -embracing the security and freedom to travel within a "universal" and "civilized" system of language, law and custom. It has also been the failed dream of many European (dictatorial) ruler -including Napoleon and Hitler. As well as being the inspiration for "fascism" as well as the European colonial empires -and inspiring (fairly) successful military and political systems including those of the UK and the US.

Perhaps the difference is that now the way forward is not entirely in the hands of a small elite: Although Eurosceptics do seem to want to limit pan-national democratic debate to members of local national governments, to the cost of public debate in a truly pan-European parliament (perhaps so they can continue to criticize the un-democratic nature of the EU). Perhaps indeed, the Eurosceptics have destroyed a sensible balance by encouraging expansion while discouraging democratic control of the political and administrative systems needed to deal with an enlarged group (whichever structure it has).

Indeed, the perversion of the high ideals of the American revolution (by both sides of the political spectrum -and not just the Bush supporters) demonstrates that power corrupts even the best laid plans of mice and men. So we should proceed with care: But how else are we to deal with trans-national commercial systems -if not in terms of trans-national political and economic systems? Do the Eurosceptics really want us all to become the feudal slaves of transnational commercial companies able to exploit global resources exclusively for their own benefit?

Still unanswered is the question of how a "level playing field" for intensive trade relations is possible without some form of political and economic harmonization to prevent unfair competition by those with no regard for human and environmental values? Do we really want a world where wages are continually forced down to the lowest possible figure -in order to compete in a world based on importing the cheapest possible goods because nobody can afford to pay realistic prices for local products? What is the true global cost of such a system (for both the rich and the poor nations)?

However, Britain did perhaps make an enormous blunder by abandoning the "Commonwealth" for the EU. Perhaps if those links had been better (and more democratically) forged, then a transnational system could have developed which spanned the globe and supported many of the countries now suffering from the current US dominated political and economic system. A little less arrogance -and the putting of fine words into practice -might have been a better way forward (for all concerned) than joining a (regional) European community simply to undermine it in support of US power politics.

Somehow, we also need to learn to understand the value of local culture -as a system of survival and group problem solving. Commercialising "culture" and selling it as "lifestyle" is probably the biggest current danger to human survival. How can we have a useful democratic debate on anything -if we destroy the diversity of viewpoints that can creatively fuel such a debate? Articulating local diversity without falling into chaotic provincialism on the one hand, or global fascism on the other, is quite a problem.

  • 58.
  • At 04:40 AM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Alex Stone wrote:

Some interesting comments here, but i'm compelled to say a lot of them read almost straight out of standard Eurosceptic media offerings, and offer little extra insight.
The young federalists have one thing in common, a shared purpose, beyond nationalism. And it's nationalism that threatens to undo the EU, not some Eurosceptic vision of a megalithic monster imposing rules on us all. The recent events with Poland are resounding proof that the middle aged to older folk in the EU are still too attached to nationalistic beliefs, 'traditions of statehood', and invoking some continual and ongoing revenge for the past. And it's a lot harder to use the past as an excuse for poor domestic political performance, when you're all part of the same team.

It's also amusing to read of the decline and fall of empires as a reason not to think about this in the first place. Stating the obvious, like this system lasted 70 years, or that system lasted only 120 years, is no excuse at all for NOT trying to develop and nurture a common space where each citizen has the same rights. I'll go as far to say it's not the politicians entirely to blame for this, but a sizable demographically middleaged chunk of the EU, who can't think into the future, and just want things to stay the way they are because it's comfortable. The French can continue to make jokes about the English, the English can do the same, etc...

I can understand the fear that drives the reluctance for change, and the frustration that most of us have with self serving politicians, but looking beyond that, to the next 50 years at least, and we have a real chance to forge a working union that protects cultures, and provides a big enough economic and trading base that we all benefit together from the stability that generates.

  • 59.
  • At 06:47 AM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Liberty Valence wrote:

All this romantic, airy-fairy, federalist hot-air only goes to prove how necessary it is that all EU member states have referendums whenever there is a change in their constitutional relationship with either the EU or each other. If the EU's citizens want idealistic fantasy & romance, they will vote for it. But if they don't, & instead want practicalities, then they will vote "No"! Currently the EU's political elite & heads-of-government are very deceptively & dishonestly mascarading the Constitution II as a "Reform Treaty". That's why the UK needs a referendum now - at least about the Constitution II, & probably also about the EU overall, which Barroso has just called an "Empire"!!

  • 60.
  • At 08:12 AM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Sebastion (35/38) who says “federalism is at its core a democratic idea”.

Federalism is only a way to distribute functions within a state. Democracy (from ‘demos’ = people, kratos=’rule by’) requires a people and therefore cannot exist in a multi-national state whether it is federal or not. Majority voting in a multi-national state is just a way by which the larger nations may dominate the smaller. Eurovision Song Contest voting in which some countries have 12 points and some 12000. Both Germany and Denmark are today democratic. But if there were an “Anscluss” to unite these two peoples that gave the 5 million Danes representatives in the Bundestag alongside those of 80 million Germans would the resulting 2-nation state be democratic? Danish representatives would frequently be outvoted and the Danes required to live under law they disagreed with and could not change. Unless a majority of Danes would accept such an ‘Anscluss’ I would not say it could ever be regarded as democratic. No European nation would vote today for an “Anscluss” to create a European Federation yet still treaty changes are made by national executives that achieves the same thing and (not co-incidentally) increases the power of national executives relative to other branches of government and disenfranchises the voters.

In 1862 the liberal historian Lord Acton noted of the Austria-Hungarian Empire that "In those countries where different races dwell together ... the power of the imperial parliament must be limited as jealously as the power of the crown, and many of its functions must be discharged by provincial diets". No European institution – including the European Parliament – can be a solution to the democracy problem in Europe when it arises directly from the linguistic and cultural diversity that lies at the roots of our strong national identities.

“If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions.” -- Thomas Jefferson

  • 61.
  • At 10:46 AM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • albert sanjuan wrote:

Dear Mark

You do not have to attend any pro Federalist European meeting in order to realize that most young people in Europe, at least in the Continent, have got a very vivid idea about what Europe means or should mean in our Global era.

There´s no alternative in facing the world on each country's own. We are nobody alone. Even the most powerful states such UK, Germany or France feel so weak when it turns to fight in the International arena.

Put a present example: UK cannot force Russia to abide the International law in the case of the Litvinenko's murder suspect.

Don't you think if this was a European matter we would have more chances to pressure Russia?

The union makes the strenghth. I have discovered nothing new. Hope most British people understand this as soon as possible.

  • 62.
  • At 11:15 AM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Dick wrote:

Frankly, being run by any organisation that wasn't dominated by the City of London and the Treasury would be a marked improvement.

From an economic and industrial strategy point of view the UK is now completely out of alignment with most of the rest of the EU and is more aligned with the USA.

That said we do seem to have developed our own very peculiar version of the so called Anglo Saxon economic model,

  • 63.
  • At 11:25 AM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

@ David (40): other cultures can also be explored WITHOUT having an 'EU' around.

EUphiles always seem to think that such things cannot be done without the EU being around.

  • 64.
  • At 11:25 AM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Albert Sanjuan writes: "Put a present example: UK cannot force Russia to abide the International law in the case of the Litvinenko's murder suspect.
Don't you think if this was a European matter we would have more chances to pressure Russia?"

Er, no. What is 'Europe' (Actually the EU) going to do - refuse to buy Russian oil or gas?

Other than sending its superanuated politicians to serve as directors of Gazprom, the EU has as much 'soft' power influence on Russia, as a flacid baton in a policeman's hand has on a big, bad, armed mugger.

Oh yes, and Iran is really, really afraid of the EU....

Get real.

  • 65.
  • At 11:31 AM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Calum wrote:

Please can you keep your answers short and concise. Some of us can only get to this in our lunch time and don't have time to read everybodys political dissertations. Also for comment 61, Russia is slowly getting Western Europe in a wringer with it's control of pipelines coming from there, so they wouldn't care if we (Europe) are united or not.

p.s. please excuse the sceptisim - too much work with too little sleep.

  • 66.
  • At 12:28 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

Once again we see Thomas Patricio pushing, from the safe distance of Canada, the agenda of European integration, and dimissing the concerns of those of us who actually live here about the unfolding nature of the EU. It is not democratic or accountable, it is riddled with fraud, corruption and waste, and it has shown time and again that it is not capable of reform. Indeed its default position is to cover up any wrong doing and shoot the messenger who exposed it. That is not something that I, or the majority of British subjects who have grown up in a rather different political culture, want any part of. It is time we were allowed by the government of the UK (while we still have one)a chance to say so, loudly and clearly.

Those who cite the European parliament as a sign of the Union's democracy would do well to study the way in which it works. It is not a parliament in the way that any student of democracy in Britain would recognise; rather it is a chamber of self-important dreamers, bent on horse-trading, whose speaking time is severely limited, stiffling real debate, and where independent thinkers and small parties are disciminated against with official backing. It is there to provide a fig leaf of democratic appearance to the Commission where the real power resides, and which is beyond the influence of us all. The life-style and priviledge enjoyed by the Commission members at our expense would shame many third world despots.

I note that Thomas Patricio has still not explained why, if he is right and ever greater federations are the future and in the best interests of the people, his own country, Canada, still finds itself at the political mercy of ever stronger calls for seperation by the citizens of Quebec. Canada is not an inspiring example from which to write in favour of other nations surrendering their sovereignty and pooling their culture. The whole concept is against human nature, and will always end in tears.

  • 67.
  • At 12:58 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Leonard wrote:

Several opinions and observations from the other side of the Atlantic:
A federal political union would eventually fracture Europe internally for as the locus of power moves to the European Parliament MEP candidates would quickly discover that their best chance of election would be to position themselves as stout defenders of their own country’s national interest (it is an axiom here in the U.S. that all politics are local). Secondly “ever closer union” does not appear to be the trend within several individual European countries: The Scots are agitating for independence from the U.K., the Catalonians consider ‘Spain’ merely a theoretical construct, and there is the Northern League in Italy; the first action of the former Czechoslovakia upon being freed from communist domination was to split itself in two and let us not forget the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Third an additional institution would be needed to address John’s point of population disparity modeled along the lines of the U.S. Senate where each state is equally represented regardless of population. Then there is the problem of language; no matter how accomplished the translator the subtleties of what is implied by the manner in which something is said and what is implied but what is also not spoken which lubricate the legislative process will be lost in translation. And finally as a reinforcement of the first point: Nicholas Sarkozy’s approval rating in France now stands at 67%; Sarko in his first months in office on matters European has clearly indicated 'tout d'abord, en premier lieu je suis à La France'.

  • 68.
  • At 01:23 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Leonard wrote:

To Aidan Cross
What precisely is your point here concerning European Federalism? Sorry to say but it is lost in the virulence of your remarks about America. And who informs your opinion of America; Ken Livingstone, the Guardian; perhaps Hugo Chavez? Curious that in venting your obvious hatred of America you adopt precisely the vitriol and hyperbolic excesses of American talk radio.

  • 69.
  • At 02:16 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

Albert Sanjuan (61) claims most young people in Europe support EU federalism, something Alex Stone (58) and Chris Christoforides (52) also seem to believe. Every actual European referendum, i.e. in Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands and Spain on the EU Constitution, in Ireland on the Treaty of Amsterdam, and Denmark on the Treaty of Maastricht, all show the same thing - that the 18-25 range is among the most hostile to the EU. This for example is an age breakdown of the official exit polls from the French EU referendum of 2005.

2005 vote
Age Yes No Result
----- --- --- ------
18-24 44% 56% NO
25-34 45% 55% NO
35-44 39% 61% NO
45-59 38% 62% NO
60-69 56% 44% YES
70+ 58% 42% YES

The EU's own 2005 'Post-referendum survey in Luxembourg' says "The sociodemographic breakdown confirms phenomena noted in Spain, France and the Netherlands and shows that the voters of the two camps have a well-defined profile irrespective of the country where they are. So, the ‘Yes’ come out on top more clearly among women (60%) and especially among the more elderly (72%), whilst the great majority of young people (62%) tend to side with the ‘No’."

See page 9 of

It is the post-war generation who support the EU the most. The JEF are not representative of their generation who see the EU for what it is.

  • 70.
  • At 02:32 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Zenna wrote:

At #48 Malcolm says that the EU has not preserved peace in the last 50 years. How can you argue that it did not? At least to my knowledge there haven't been any military endeavours within the EU countries, and to a large, if not the full, extent this is due to the core ideas the founding members agreed on.

Looking back in history, there hasn't been a period nearly as long where in central Europe peace and freedom have prevailed. Thus to rebut the argument that the EU has preserved peace (and with it prosperity) is plain wrong.

  • 71.
  • At 03:11 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

People point out why USE could not work, getting taken over or dominated by larger countries, the regional differences. I agree these are potential problems. However, there is nothing preventing the formulation of a set of rules which would address these concerns. Decide what USE should be, and then see what kind of rules would make it happen. Meaning Europe is a work in progress, and it is good to discuss how it may work, but potential problems do not mean it will not work.

Plus before any referenda what the people of all European states need, including the UK, is a clear idea what they are voting for. If it simply becomes a vote about something unspecified, most people will tend to be cautious, and vote "NO"... in a referendum on just about anything in Europe or outside of it. However, this is nothing more than a way to sabotage the whole idea of a USE, conducting a referendum about a non specific entity or an unexplained consitution. More perplexing is why the EU is not formulating any clear steps towards the future and comunicating them to the people... is it that nobody is at the helm on purpose? A wait and see where this ships sails by itself because coming with ideas is hard?

David 41, have to say I thought the same on Australia. It is one possibility for the future of USE, at leats in terms of how people of various European backgrounds, and some others, can mix together in one country. I would not call it lack of ambition though, but a secure, relaxed, much less stress all around, and prosperous country. Europe could do much worse :)

The Uk used to be a european like empire called the British Empire and what is left is the commonwealth. It's mostly due to britain controlling europe or europe controlling britain. Past that, it's the UK's choice to choose on not to be part of a greater state or not.
From North America, it's a long ago issue that is long past and done. Didn't the republicans in the USA beat the conservatives in method and intent. The real reason it isn't the same is that you have a different democratic eye on things. My only advice is do not fight the Americans again; it'll be a whopping of a lifetime if tried..

  • 73.
  • At 03:46 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

John (60)

Very interesting point, but you picked the argument that suited your point of view and you concluded with an answer that suited your point of view. To use your own example we have Germany & Denmark in a union so you have 85M people. The problem those 85M people have is health care, education, common trade policy to compete at a global stage and not against each other and then when those 85M people vote, the vote does not go 80M to 5M but more likely 35M prefer one way forward 35M another way forward and 15M not bothered or undecided. By the way federalism is as democratic as any other democratic form of government. Democracy doesn't require just "a people" as clearly is showen by the democracies of the UK, India, Belgium etc. Federalism allows states to "sub-contract" common state functions to a federal administration.
SSo in reality you could have a federation called European Federation that can be as democratic as any goverment is today. Democracy in the form where every single citizen could fit into a single assembly is not possible anywhere today. So lets make the best of what is available to us and aim for "thing" that respects human rights, regional differences but also represents "us" as one to the rest of the world.

  • 74.
  • At 04:13 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • bongo wrote:

>>The rise of the European nation states can be seen to have been inspired by the thought of Ibn Khaldoun, a 14th Century Muslim philosopher, who advanced the idea that once a people share a common bond of religious feeling a nation is born and becomes powerful as it plays out its destiny in history.

The nation state ignores religious feeling and replaces it with the bond of patriotism which is awakened when the state is threatened or attacked.

so nations are formed out of common feeling so until there is a common feeling there is no nation. In the uk [as elsewhere] immigration has diluted common feeling to the point we have british born terrorists fighting against the existing common feeling and replace it with their own.

  • 75.
  • At 05:57 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

Trevor Batten says:
Still unanswered is the question of how a "level playing field" for intensive trade relations is possible without some form of political and economic harmonization to prevent unfair competition by those with no regard for human and environmental values? Do we really want a world where wages are continually forced down to the lowest possible figure -in order to compete in a world based on importing the cheapest possible goods because nobody can afford to pay realistic prices for local products?

Here are some comments:

International trade can trigger a rush to the bottom, as you describe. On the other hand, over the longer term it can also help to raise wages and conditions in developing countries. Their exports of, for example, clothing or services (e.g., call centres) increase the demand for workers, thus putting an upward pressure on wages. They also raise the revenue of firms, and therefore their ability to pay higher wages. But this is a long-term process, and can be hindered by many factors, such as political regimes that suppress trade unions or companies that refuse to recognise them.

International competition has, at least since the beginning of the industrial revolution, often been used as an argument against social progress. An example among many: from 1802 English textile mills claimed that the regulation of child labour would make them uncompetitive against their French rivals.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), set up after WWI and now a UN specialised agency, adopts international labour conventions and recommendations, and supervises their implementation. Its constitution recognises that “the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own territories.” The ILO has made a remarkable contribution to the promotion labour rights, but its standards are not enforceable, unlike WTO rules.

If you or others want to become active in this area, you can (a) join a trade union, as any TUC-affiliated union, like the TUC itself, is likely to have international activities, bilateral as well as through international trade union organisations; (b) be active as a consumer, by looking out for fair trade articles; (c) participate in activities of organisations like Amnesty International, which seek to defend human rights, including labour rights, around the world.

Here are some references:

International Labour Organisation:

UK Department for International Development: “Labour Standards and poverty reduction”, May 2004, 38 p.

Thomas Greven: “Social Standards in Bilateral and Regional Trade and Investment Agreements”, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (Geneva Office), Occasional Papers No. 16, March 2005, 54p.

Reports and activities of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

  • 76.
  • At 07:17 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • George wrote:

just so you know, there are many federalists, and in the distant future i would gladly trade in my old passport for the passport of an economic superpower called europe. I see nothing scary about that. Whether the UK joins this or not this is going to happen anyway.

The rubbish about an economically sick EU have been proved to be completely wrong. The future will involve large trading blocks, Britain can try to stand alone in such a world but it may well join a parochial set of countries.

I have not heard anything from the EU that i dont find progressive and spot on with my centrist sentiments. Its only murdoch inspired nonsense that keeps brits so sceptical along with a general suspicion of anyone who does not speak their language all the time even in their own countries...

I withdrew considerable business interests in the City of London because i feel as a businessman that when the tories eventually win an election a rabid UKIP inspired agenda will take shape.

I have myself relocated in Bratislava and I know many others who are thinking along the same lines. I am not alone in thinking that the anti foreigner anti EU rhetoric is quite enough already and that the british have an extremely over-inflated idea about their importance in the world.

The petty nationalism emanating from the uk is regrettable and grates rather badly already, Its also a rather immature behaviout.

  • 77.
  • At 09:00 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • NorthernAngler wrote:

Why is no one answering the very simple question: why is the EU funding a political campaign?
It is a question a few people here have raised yet...answers come there none.
It is, of course, a fundamental principle of any democratic society that public money should not be used to propagate a partisan political view. The fact the EU ignores it surely tells us a lot about the EU.

  • 78.
  • At 09:06 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Europe lacks a purpose. It has achieved what it set out to do and no longer has any apparent direction. As such the entire concept of Europe seems to been in grave danger of becoming the equivalent of a Napoleonic buzz word. It represents absolutely everything, yet, at the same time, absolutely nothing.

For the most part the article speaks of an irrational youth with overly romanticised views of European unity. Although not completely true, it is this idea which excuses the engineers in Brussels/Strasbourg to conceive of new plans to develop the European motor.

However, whilst this romanticism may be present in up-starting Eastern bloc countries, it would seem that the polar opposite is true within the 'core seven' to the West. In Britain, France, Italy, Benelux and Germany, young people are inheriting the values of their parents; that Europe began as an agreement promising peace and trade, and managed to deliver on both. That Europe was founded on political opportunism and remains on that very same plinth today. There is little positive talk of federalism or completing the European project here.

From a Western perspective, there simply seems to be no immediate need for reform; political stability has been achieved for the past 60 years and in fact, the only precedent where unity has gone further- in the form of full economic integration- it seems to have undermined the thought of moves towards unity in other areas. It would be quite simply a mistake to suggest that Western Europe has been on any kind of road towards federalism and it would be simply ludicrous to argue that the new members have destroyed the chance of that dream.

History has shown that Europe is based on the individual interests of those party to it- just look at the number of times legislation has been vetoed. The new members are no more volatile than the old '7' used to be; it's merely the case that 27 states makes the problem far more noticeable. Those blaming disagreements caused by new states for the lack of a path towards further integration are arguing for two in the bush rather than one in the hand.

Yet all this aside, federalism as a concept does have its place within Europe. Above the political jostling and opportunism which defines the real Europe enter the federalists. Romanticised and utopian? Maybe. But crucial? Definitely. Europe embodies the philosophy of 'you win some-you lose some'; you give and you take. However, it's the losing and giving which needs to be sold to the public. The creation of an emotional facade of 'togetherness' has been a crucial part in of the success of Europe as we know it. The promotion of an identity which doesn't exist (indeed has never existed), has singularly allowed the losses inherent to membership to be explained away in the name of 'unity. For the cause of ‘European harmony’. Or, in the terms of 1789, for ‘fraternity.’

It is therefore no mistake that the ideas of Monnet and Schumann have been resurrected (regardless of the fact that they are quite obviously doomed to failure) at a time when Europe has quadrupled in size. The detailed Summer school in Slovenia seems to originate from somewhere within the same vein. They both attempt to foster a common identity which doesn't exist. They suggest the possibility of political master plan which cannot exist. And they attempt to discuss a development of a European future which will not exist. Europe as we know it is built on clouds and smoke. It’s just about stable enough to hold the foundations, but if we build any higher, it will all come tumbling down.

To find an example Britons need not look far. Scotland has been part of Britain for 300 years, yet Scots consider their culture, identity and politics to be decisively... well Scottish. At a time when they are considering independence from a 300 year union, how can we realistically expect 27 countries, who are significantly more disparate, both politically and culturally, ever to unite within a federacy?

Europe has no organic identity, nor will it ever have one. Europe is an unnatural union which will not work. Its current status provides a very adequate political, economic and cultural return and there is simply no necessity to change it at all. Europe is a remarkable institution, yet one which remains dependent on a fostered identity in order to make its failings more palatable. We may snigger at the attempts of federalists to actually achieve anything, but their efforts are nonetheless vital.

  • 79.
  • At 12:30 AM on 14 Jul 2007,
  • Mike Turvey wrote:

A number of posts on funding of organisations - I don't how balanced funding is overall, but I do recall being invited to an event in Brussels hosted by a Euro-sceptic group 'Young Britons' which was also funded by the Commission.

  • 80.
  • At 01:51 AM on 14 Jul 2007,
  • Jack Kalpakian wrote:

Unfortunately, the fact that identity is constructed does not mean that any identity can be constructed on demand to suit the ideals and interests of the times.

These young European federalists will soon discover that the state system is still relevant in Europe, that European states have problems with each other and that their dreams of constructing a common European identity are nothing but an illusion.

Europe lacks a common ideology, a common culture, a common religion, a common alphabet, or a common sense of self. All the building blocks of a common identity are not present. About the only thing these young people can do is to define themselves versus the other -- in this case the US.

After a while, the US will revert to isolationism. And the nation-states of Europe will begin rediscovering their bloody history.

  • 81.
  • At 12:09 PM on 14 Jul 2007,
  • Sebastian wrote:


Your example, that Danes would be outvoted, assumes that Danes would somehow stick together and vote different from Germans, as if they were a political party. In the European Parliament we see this does not happen. What does happen is that a certain group of parties outvotes the others, just like in national politics.

Consider the British system. You have Tories and Labour. Under the current government, Tories are often outvoted and their supporters have to live with laws they do not agree with. By your argument this is undemocratic. The point of a democratically elected central government is that each citizen, not each country, have the same voting power.

As for the federalism (sorry if you already know this), it means that the local governments (like the government of Germany say) have power over local legislation that is best dealt with on the local level (like culturally sensitive things and things that offer no advantage if centralised). In this way most laws that change citizens' practical lives (apart from perhaps the tax payments) are decided on the local level. In effect, you gain advantage from cooperation without much sacrifice.

  • 82.
  • At 12:17 PM on 14 Jul 2007,
  • chaplain wrote:

The EU is an unnecessary,expensive and oppressive institution. Its politicians and civil servants have shown that they possess the worst characteristics of each of the participating nations. It is no secret that the EU commissioners are political failures or embarrassments in their own countries, who are shipped out to Brussels to avoid political embarrassment or inconvenience back home.
Perhaps for small countries eg Belgium and Luxembourg, or for eastern european countries (still nervous of renewed russian pressure and domination) there is comfort, or for previously undeveloped countries such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland there is profit. Perhaps for France and Germany the EU can be used to impose their agenda and dominance. However,for an established and successful nation such as the UK, there is no need or real benefit to subsidise the EU or be bound by its expensive and frequently very disadvantageous trading arrangements.

  • 83.
  • At 03:37 PM on 14 Jul 2007,
  • Philippe wrote:

L'union fait la force.

Bien parlé !

Europeennement votre


  • 84.
  • At 04:33 PM on 14 Jul 2007,
  • Oliver Lewis wrote:

Regarding Denmark, John states that if Denmark and Germany joined forces (and parliaments) then it would be terribly undemocratic for the Danes. This same logic can be used in any democratic system consisting of more than one person. It could equally be claimed the UK is really undemocratic too, in that Essex only gets a few MPs and so it is bossed around by the rest of the nation. Indeed, a local village is being oppressed by the council sitting in the near by town too I'm sure. The answer to all of this, is, simply, that powers have to be exercised at the right level, the level at which they are most effective at executing the needs of the people, and that's the true measure of how much power a people hold. The nation-state was artificially created to reflect the defence needs of 1800s Europe, not modern issues affecting people alive today. As such, the disintegration (though not total) of the nation-state is inevitable and favourable outcome of time. Powers can now to go up to be effective or down to be relevant.

In response to Adrian Bell's statement that I have quoted him out of context (to pursue my Europhilic agenda), I offer his own words:
"The under 35s are being pushed into a system we don't want, with no means of voicing our displeasure."
How silly of me to think he was talking about people under 35 when in actual fact, as he has since made clear, he was obviously referring to his friends and co-workers.

People have had their chance to state their views, they have in every election since the UK joined the common market, and whilst I know it's frustrating for Europhobes, no government has ever been punished for pursuing closer integration with Europe, despite the fact that all governments have pursued a pro-integration line. In both national and EU election, the choice has been their to complain, especially in EU elections in the UK, where the main issue is the EU itself, and still, it has never happened. Given that there clearly isn't any significant unease with the EU project, and people who live and vote in the real world don't have a problem with ever closer integration, then I fail to see the value of another referendum on Europe.

  • 85.
  • At 07:07 AM on 15 Jul 2007,
  • Alex Sarmiento wrote:

I don't ever want to see a United Europe in the sense that every country involved surrenders its sovereignity and political independence. I am in favor of something similar that allows for European unity on some fronts, but allows the participants to maintain their representations in the United Nations, the Olympic Games, etc.

  • 86.
  • At 08:52 AM on 15 Jul 2007,
  • arturo wrote:

Dear Mark,

The debate between federalism and just inter-govermental structure has been there for decades. I cannot see much progress in the argument either side. I assume therefore this debate is essentially an ideological one. Some progress may be made on the simpler question on who decides and what.
This is simpler because in many cases the answer is already there, in the national parlaments government monarchies and all that. What is missing ?
Well all things which are necessary in our world of today and tomorrow where the EU nations are the minute political entities in comparison with the super powers USA, RF, and China, IN
. global challanges such as environment, scientific research, and especially technology: just try to do anything significant in these fields to find that alone within your state and resources provided by your own nation you just go nowhere, and globalization as such does not work.

  • 87.
  • At 12:19 PM on 15 Jul 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

@ Alex Stone (58): but is that a reason to discard democracy and letting a bunch of unelected clowns in Brussels basically make our laws for us?

  • 88.
  • At 09:07 PM on 15 Jul 2007,
  • Baron Litron wrote:

Eurosceptics in the 50s said the EEC would never happen. When it came about they said it'd never work. Then they went through the same rigmarole for abolishing internal border controls in the 80s, and about a single currency in the 90s. When the euro was weak they said it was doomed, and now it is strong. When the eurozone's growth was sluggish they said it was doomed, and now it is outpacing the US.

Eurosceptics in 2007 predict a federal Europe will never happen...

  • 89.
  • At 09:34 PM on 15 Jul 2007,
  • Rab Walker wrote:

I am part of a truly 'amazing' European project. It has been funded by the British Council and its counterparts in Norway, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

We have been allowed to create and develop our own collective vision of a 'creative community' of school pupils and their teachers who connect and express identites, exchange experiences and then compare realities and dreams.

We are called 'Who am I? Who are we?'

I believe we are the future of education and society as we link on a daily basis using ICQ, MSN, Skype, email and snail-mail and in the process collaborate and share insights through arts processes, constructing poems, songs, performances, dances, films, animations, websites, murals, drawings and paintings.

This year we have worked together in our 'Creative Community' in Norway, Poland and the Czech Republic - mine is a classroom without boundaries and ALL borders have been crossed by our members.

so, what is all the fuss about?

  • 90.
  • At 09:57 PM on 15 Jul 2007,
  • Johan Blaizot wrote:

Seeing that most of people who posted a com seem to be English or Brittish, I would like to show a French man's opinion.

I am often told, even in France - which is one of the six countries which created the ancestor of EU in 1957 and thus should be regarded as a particularly pro-europe country- that creating a Federal Europe would be a non-democratic behaviour, and besides would be the end of local and regional culture. I think a great harm has been done against Europe by assimilating European construction to globalization, and to centralisation.

I think, on the contratry, that a Federal Europe would be the best way to prevent European nations from losing their cultures, because what makes European different from other people around the world is their deep love of their past and the culture their forebeeings have bestowed them. When you can see how American only look at what could happen, or will happen, without even thinking about what occured in the past, when you see how countries like Corea or Japan are slowly losing their mind and becoming part of a misty worldwide pseudo-culture which tries to look American, I think we need a state, a One State, which could be able to defend European love for culture and also for moderation.

For my part, states are nothing. They are just human-made administrations, just symbols, red lines on a map. What really matters is culture and nations. When there is a way of life, a speech, a culture, that belongs to a particular number of people, then I can understand these people are willing to form a State in order to protect their values. And as they can build a scale of values, they can also build a scale of administrations and governements. I mean, I think that a European single governement could be the best way to protect values shared by all European nations - love of freedom, moderation, History, Human Rights and tolerance...-, while French, Spanish, Polish... insitutions would remain and would be responsible for French, Spanish, Polish... needs and values, as well as Regions (France) , Lander (Germany)and Comunidades (Spain) currently do. Scottish does not have the same needs as Welsh, Galicians does not have the same needs as Andalous, and in the future French will not have the same needs as Britons or German. This is only a matter of scale, and with globalization scales are definitely getting bigger.

  • 91.
  • At 10:38 PM on 15 Jul 2007,
  • hertfordian wrote:

Hi Mark

I've just been reading the article on the BBC website - EU eyes its next big challenges - and was interested to read in it that with all of the (far too) numerous "Opt-outs", the UK has, in the words of the author "effectively designed for itself a second-class membership of the EU". I was interested in this point of view and wondered whether you'd be able to do a blog entry on this so that it can be debated more fully...

What do YOU think about it all Mark?

All the best and keep up the good work with one of the few things that makes the licence fee worth paying all on its own!

  • 92.
  • At 02:27 AM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Robert Otis wrote:

The poet Homer's Iliad opens at the beach of Troy, littered with tired and frustrated kings penned in, along with at least one commoner named Thersites, who calls Achilles a coward and describes Agamemnon as risking the lives of all simply for more treasure. Here, the great men offer sacrifices to the gods, here they try to divine their fates from the innards of pigeons, and here the gods play with them as their toys. Zeus presides as umpire over this game between Trojans and Greeks, while above Zeus is "kosmos" - the Universe, which is governed by logical and balancing laws that even Zeus cannot alter.

From Ljubljana, soothsayer Mark Mardell takes a snapshot of Europe's future rulers on a sunny summer day. He tells us more about the state of the European State today than we could gain from reading another byzantine EU Constitution proposal, or from hearing a million speeches by politicians.

Mark shows us the drinking and girl-gawking of these young political geeks who are the future political elite of Europe. The Young European Federalists came to Ljubljana to party, not to apply themselves to the hard work or serious thought that Europe needs. The facile, ignorant, or chauvinistic pronouncements about Europe or Europeans made by these princelings, wearing their American-style clothes, typing into their American designed laptops, phoning home on their Asian designed mobile phones and photographing the local Helen with their Asian designed cameras, give us a sad view of a future generation of European leaders. Sad because their vision about Europe is a Europe of the past - of opera, of 19th Century romantic literature, of ancient aged cheeses and wines, of other things that they had to study in school and that they were told represents European civilization in a favorably artistic and non-imperialistic, non-genocidal way. But how do they see themselves getting Europe off today's beach of intransigence, uncertainty, and dispute? What will Europe be, what will Europeans do for their livelihoods in a globalized economy that is not interested in Europe, other than as an outsourcer of technology and capital? These ladies and gentlemen provide no vision for a Country called Europe.

Somebody else paid for this party (taxpayers?), and the Young European Federalists simply took their fill of what was laid out on the banquet table by their gods, their political mentors - today's beached European heads of government and their partisans. These are not the Founding Fathers and Founding Mothers of a Country of Europe - at least not yet. They are just Eurocrats in training. They are learning at events such as this the key skills of governing Europe as it is now: partying and posturing to look important and in-the-know.

Homer would have toasted Mark with a good ouzo for his reporting about those days in Ljubljana. Mark shows us the frailties, weaknesses, and vanities of these future greats stranded without a new thought on how to move off the beach. Are these kids any worse than us? Probably not. But as they are the ones who believe that they will lead Europe, should they not be better brain-warriors than we in this campaign? Since they will be the ones taxing Europeans to pay for their parties for a generation, should they not be competent and dedicated political brain-warriors? Or will they just be like Agamemnon and Achilles, needlessly bleeding their nations only for their own personal honor?

In wine, truth? I don't think so. I think that as long as Europe's future political elite is still at the minor league intellectual breakthrough level of noticing how a European travelling to America or Asia suddenly feels European - an observation that one could have easily made in 1950 or 1750 for that matter - then the ranks of the Eurocratic elite will be safely replenished with the same dim minds as their mentors who in their middle age mostly get turned on solely by raising the VAT. These Eurocrats of the future will not be the ones to be tomorrow's European Garibaldis and Mazzinis, passionately urging the birth of a Country called Europe. That Country has to be in their hearts, burning, not just a keyword to trigger another free wine and cheese party.

I'm willing to admit that maybe I'm wrong about these dudes and dudesses, but the comments of the Young European Federalists remind me of a moment on my honeymoon in Greece, 20 years ago. At the Temple of Delphi, my wife and I overheard a large and far too expressive tourist group of Italian pensioners, who, while wending their way through the footpaths around the shrine, some with flailing gesticulations and some with hands fastened behind their backs as if they were prisoners in tow, were debating whether or not Italian romano cheese was better than or was nearly identical to Greek feta cheese. At the time, I took their comments as harmless showings of gastronomic chauvinism, but now that I am older I am willing to admit that perhaps I might have missed some possibilities. Could they have been really subconsciously cogitating on the larger issues of nationality, or even of European identity themselves? Did they then in 1987 discover through Socratic reasoning the crux of Europeanness, only for it to have been lost because nobody wrote down their words? If only the gods had put my wife and I on the same tour bus as these old folks, my wife and I might have witnessed philosophical history, maybe even the birth of a Country called Europe.

  • 93.
  • At 10:08 AM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Christopher wrote:

Mark Mardell's helpful insights into the minds of young Europeans might be summed up as: we want to belong to Europe but we don't want to join it. They want the benefits of Europe but not the high cost and hard graft of making it work. The same stance is seen in youthful attitudes to marriage: we will live together but not get married, we will belong to each other but not join each other. Is 'belonging not joining' the best way to be or does it corrode the relationships that it purports to sustain? That is the question facing young Europeans in both their personal and their political lives.

  • 94.
  • At 10:42 AM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Chandler wrote:

reply to Albert Sanjuan,

and the EU were powerless to get france to lift the bans on UK beef which continued several years after the EU's own authorities declared it safe.

If a member state(s) can so blindly ignore rules made by the organisation it helped found then there is no hope at all for the EU to prosper.

Most of the UK will be glad to see the back of the eu when the time comes.

  • 95.
  • At 01:44 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Brendan wrote:

To John (comment 60),

Contrary to your claim, there are many examples of successful multinational democracies. Just think of the UK, which consists of no less than 4 nations (English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish). Other current examples include Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain and several of the Nordic countries who have sizeable Sami minorities.

Also many of today's "nation-states" started off as groupings of various nations, e.g., France (Francs, Brettons, Basque, Occitanians just to name a few), Germany (the idea of a homogeneous German nation being entirely a product of the 19th century) or Italy.

Congratulations on a great post. We set up Stirred Up magazine last year as an antidote to naive EU initiatives aimed at European youth. In this context we have been dealing with JEF on a regular basis: their intentions are laudable and endearing, but in the same token they are driven by this unshakable belief that further political integration is in itself desirable. I enjoyed the analogy with Marxism because there is something dangerous about integrationist zeal: JEF is an elitist association and it has little contempt for the views expressed by the majority, notably in France and in the Netherlands.

  • 97.
  • At 07:05 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Robert Otis (84) - It's nice to see someone appreciate and use the benefits of a classical education ;-)

  • 98.
  • At 09:52 PM on 16 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Sebastian (73): Do you really mean to say that it is IMPOSSIBLE for a majority of Germans to favor something, but a majority of Danes to oppose it? It is in these circumstances that the principle of decision-making by majority ceases to be democratic in this hypothetical 2-nation state. And yes – nations do ‘stick together’. The solidarities that exist within nations do not exist between nations. Those solidarities are key to the electoral acceptability of the large-scale fiscal redistribution that modern governments engage in. Without such solidarity between European nations electorates would not stomach any European government extracting sufficient revenues from them to provide expensive social services to other peoples in far-away countries.

Federalists base their predictions of the ‘inevitability’ of an EU state on the mistaken belief that it is necessary to be ‘big’ to take on the USA or China. But actual trends in the world show that the smallest states are among the most successful. And that far from states coalescing into ever larger units, there is a clear trend throughout the world in the opposite direction. Singapore is the richest country in Asia. Norway (2nd), Iceland (3rd) and Switzerland (4th richest in the world) are small states that are among the richest countries on Earth while being outside the EU. It is only politicians that feel the need for massive political entities because they are motivated by power. Most people would rather live in rich and democratic Singapore than totalitarian China, or rich and democratic Switzerland rather than any member state of the European Union. But politicians aspire to preside over superpowers, preferably unconstrained by the need to pay heed to the will of electorates.

In the inter-war years high tariff barriers gave large countries with protected domestic markets a big advantage. Small city-states like Singapore would not then have been economically viable as independent entities. Globalisation, the open international trading system and the era of low tariffs now allow even the smallest states to prosper as independent entities because they have near equal access to the largest market imaginable; that of the whole world. The EU’s common external tariff is now down to 0% for services, 1.9% for manufactured goods and ~10.9% for agricultural products, figures too low to significantly distort world trade in the sectors that dominate modern economies.

With the cost of independence never having been so low it is no surprise to see more and more small nations asserting their right to national self-determination by becoming independent nation-states. When Monnet chaired his “Action Committee for the United States of Europe” the membership of the United Nations was less than 60 states. Today it is nearly 200. The number of European states has increased from 30 to 50 since 1989 alone. This process has not ended even in Europe and it has scarcely begun in Africa and parts of Asia, where current state boundaries were drawn up by colonial powers with little consideration for the linguistic and cultural diversity of indigenous peoples. There are some 6000 distinct languages in the world. At their present rate of disappearance there should still be 600 or so left in a century's time. Many new nation states, possibly hundreds more, are likely to come into being during the 21st century such as Quebec, Catalonia, Scotland, Tibet, the Kashmir and Punjab, Flanders and Walloon. The separation in earlier centuries of Norway & Sweden, Belgium & Holland or the nations of the Austrian Empire illustrates an unwritten rule in the affairs of mankind that countries comprising multiple language blocks must break-up unless one language absorbs another. The global and historical trend is therefore strongly away from multi-national multi-lingual states such as the EU Federalists imagine is the future. That was the pre-1789 Europe that was gradually replaced by the nation-state. The rising crisis of legitimacy that threatens to engulf the EU institutions only serves to underline that liberal democracy within the context of the nation-state remains the only recipe for a future that works.

  • 99.
  • At 03:23 AM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Caspar Heetman wrote:

It is both funny and sad to see people everywhere, politicians included, or rather especially politicians, interprete the Dutch and French NO's. The Dutch and French would be weary of Europe. But have they asked voters why they voted No? In their arrogance politicians in France and the Netherlands, but also outside these countries claim to know what the No means. As if you or myself can tell what a dog feels when he barks high or low.

Some interviewing showed that the Dutch are not at all Europe-weary and also not Constitution-weary. Also, in 2006, popular support for the EU and the Constitution, as the name by which we then knew it, was as high as 65 percent, the Eurobarometer tells us. Instead the poor economic climate, from which the Dutch and French suffered significantly, was suggested. The French continue to suffer from it. And they elected Sarkozy. The most pro-EU of all senior French politicians. It is, however, true that there is some resentment about Brussels.

That Brussels is ever expanding its policy areas and is interpreting treaties in a flexible manner is the fault of the national governments, not of Brussels. The refusal to commit themselves to a federal seperation of powers has caused an unclarity in what Europe should decide and what not. How come? The competences of the EU are clearly defined in treaties, arent they? Why is there unclarity then?

A quick look at the major federal states in the world leads to the observation that for some reason roughly all of these federations have placed some specific responsibilities in the hands of the federal government and others in the hands of the state governments. In the EU, leaders have continued to delegate those areas they regard as relatively unimportant to the EU, while retaining sovereignty in others. As a result the EU has come to decide about lots of things that typically ought to be resolved at the (member)state level, while those things that ought to be organised at the federal level are anxiously protected by our governments.

The situation has grown unworkable. That's true for many economic areas, but not least fro foreign policy and defense. Meanwhile the world is not waiting for Europe to organise itself properly. Who has to protect us against military violence? Not our national armed forces. Who makes sure Iran gets no nuclear weapons? Not European countries. Europe has no foreign policy and those individual policies of the 27 are an international joke. If anyone's been protecting us, it's been the US, fortunately, I might add. But the a nursing mother doesn't teach children to grow independent of it, a much-needed independance. The US and Europe have drifted apart during the past 16 years. And even in the Cold War, they never were really together: Americans regarded it totally different that Europeans did.

But the fairy tale of a united West is over. Behind the scenes there is mutual frustration, contempt and unequal treatment. Chirac and Schroeder may have left politics, they highlighted the differences between Europe and the US that persist, even though they left. Cultural differences that a Cold War alliance has not swept away, rather strengthened.

Europe has to take care of its own problems and for that it needs the ability to apply coercion, diplomatically or militarily if needed. Because coercion, that's always what it ultimately comes to. Talking gets you far, but a lot further with the ability to threaten to use force. It is what made the West powerful and what allowed it to become a zone of freedom and prosperity. Look at how Kosovo was solved, why Libya ceased its support for terrorism and ceased nuclear activity: American coercion. That highlights the main problem: today only the US has retained that power. Europe lost it through world wars and decolonization, and now it is a floating raft, without an ability to determine its own fate. The US, Russia and China and India decide about it, not us.

The peace in Europe continues, as long as others don't care to disturb it. We have been led to believe that the peace of the last 60 years will last forever, but nobody has been able to guarantee that a new Hitler or a Stalin, or a Khrushchev or Brezhnev or new Mao will not come to power again. What are we to think of Russia's recent everything but friendly behavior? And China's continuing undemocratic leadership? And Iran?

More importantly: the peace of the last sixty years in Europe was a US-enforced peace, the Pax Americana. The US held the umbrella and Europe sheltered against the rain.

But even in the absence of dangerious and powerful leaders and hostile nations, threats to our free society emerge. Terrorism has not declined over the past few years, rather American unilateral foreign policy has increased it. Though while it is mostly far away in the US, Europeans are paying the price. The world is no safe place and we Europeans would best understand that sooner rather than later.

Federalism will not be the wonder elixir some think it to be, but it can help to make Europe, not Brussels, stronger and capable to take care of its own interests and protect them. Unlike what politicians want us to believe, those interests are for 90% the same for all Europeans. If only politicians could stop governing their little modern fiefdoms, called European countries, and cease acting in their own interest instead of that of the European people, what a wonderful democracy we would then live in. A European democracy, in which people may not decide about every issue they know too little about to make a proper decision, such as in a referendum, but in which the government defends the interests of these people, yet is still controlled by people, just like it is now

In the political science it has long been established that democracy is not only rule by the people, but also rule for the people, in the people's interest. That is what Europe could become and what it isn't today.

  • 100.
  • At 09:00 AM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Iain wrote:


Jak sie masz?

Don't paint all Brits with the same brush, you will find a very different picture from the one the press and the Euro fanatics present!

The very reason the British Isles has such a rich history and culture (yes, we do have lots of culture!), is because we got up off our back-sides and took ourselves into the world to eventually have influence over a quarter of it - while the rest of Europe was dragged into internecine warfare and power struggles....(Remember France, Germany, anyone?). Barely 70 years since Germany raised most of Europe and Vichy France turned traitor for their own ends than they are up to it again! Our forefathers and theirs all the way to Alfred the Great would be ashamed to know we are giving all that away like a dime-store hooker.

70 years later, nothing is any different. The continent still envies our dynamism and power the way it did back then, the only difference now is rather than coming with guns and soldiers they come with the stealthier weapons of words and ink. Beware their greed and intent!

You want to know what Europe will give you: the answer is nothing but the above. This country is what has made this country great alone, and the efforts of the British to defend our way of life is the only thing which has preserved it. Euro-fanatics can give this up to become 'European' if they wish, but they will come to realise all it will mean is that they will end up an alien in a system which merely suffers their prescence than welcomes it.

  • 101.
  • At 02:33 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

I have never understood the rabid anti-Europeanism of some of the English and most of the press here. Part of it is an inflated sense of Englands importance, a previous poster quoted the EU was good for small countries, or previously poor countries, or East European countries or French or Germany as they must be plotting something, so just about everyone except us as we are special!

It is fed by endless referances to the fact "We won the war", yes we did but at the end of it we were bankrupt and remained so for a decade or more.

To take the Denmark merges with Germany analogy a little closer to home: from 1979 to 1997 Scotland voted for a Labour Government, England voted for a Tory Government, not only did Thatcher and Major govern England they governed the whole of the UK and on occasions (poll Tax) deliberately imposed policy specifically on Scotland alone despite the active opposition of it's population.

A federal solution were decisions are taken at EU wide level were necessary and at local level were necessary, would seem to be the obvious solution. The only problem is not only can the South East of Emgland no longer impose it's views on Scotland Wales and Ireland someone may actually impose something on them, oh shock horror!!

Anyway what are all these terrible laws that are imposed on us on a daily basis? Most Daily Mail scare stories turn out either not to be true or something perfectly reasonable that they are against because it is EUROPEAN. The recent agreement of making it easier to share car licence data with the various police forces was condemned as now you might get a speeding ticket from a French court enforced in the UK, but if it was a Polish Truck driver banned from driving in Poland for drink driving, who gets a job in France and kills a British child on a UK road, who would be complaining loudest why we did not know about the original conviction?

We should either stay in, or we should get out, UKIP has a clear policy, if they ever win an election we will leave otherwise we should develop the rules to get our best interests in the same way as the others do.

  • 102.
  • At 03:53 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Brian Fleming wrote:

I just have one question for all the European Fedralists out there...

I'm an American (I'm sorry! Just had to say that first) and I know a lot about American history. We were sortof (I say "we"... my family roots are Irish and italian and both sides came over in the early 1900's, well after the time I'm talking about) able to make this Fedralism thing work because we started as a nation of outcasts nurturing an alomst hatred for our European root countries. By necessity we mixed. Over the years things got a little bumpier; immigrants came for the money, not to flee their home countries. At first they came wanting to hold some of their culture, but generally willing to give up the past for a new future.

The country was big enough where they could form entire towns of Germans, or Italians etc.

I don't know how much you are in tune with US internal News (I try to avoid it... ) but in my opinion things today are a hint of a very dangerous European future. People come for the money but never leave their roots behind. They have no friends except people from their home country. They work in companies which abuse them and pay them far too low because the owner is also from their country and tells them he's doing them a favor by hiring them. Eventually, when things get bad, they form cultural gangs and go shoot other cultural gangs in the face.

Thats not something easy to envision happening in Europe, but it already is. My wife is Romanian and currently she doesn't have a single Aunt of Uncle under the age of 60 who is not now working in Spain or Italy (one in Germany too) working for Romanian bosses in all Romanian companies getting paid about twice what they would make in Romania and half what they should make in those countries. They are not learning Spanish or Italian, they feel unwelcome and live in entirely Romanian communities.

Europe has a disadvantage over America in this respect - EVERYONE is going to have a national history. Until you're willing to give that up (not completely) but to the level that I have given up being Irish (I played an Irishman in a play once and I occasion an Irish music festival) I really worry what the future has in store for you. At this very moment the Balkans are threatening to tear themselves apart once again because Albanians feel like there something different about them compared to the Serbians. In Romania there is a whole region which pretends its part of Hungary where schools are taught in Hungarian and good, obidient little Hungarian girls marry good obedient little Hungarian boys even though the city is actually only 25% Hungarian by ethnic origin. Add to that the German townships in Romania - same story. Can you guess when those Germans were last part of Germany? Think centuries.

If over centuries cultures have not been able to integrate in Europe, do you really think the time is now? Keep cooperating! Keep talking! The EU as is now is a fine example to the world, but don't press it. Pay attention to people, move slowly. Someday, hopefully, humanity can mature to a point where this kind of dream can happen. The US got lucky, and even that is beginning to show signs of fatigue.

  • 103.
  • At 04:14 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

I posted this message on the wrong blog (Polish spirit). Sorry, to the author and others for any confusion.

Here is a slightly revised version again.

The discussion so far suggests that it would be useful to have a definition of federalism.

Here is a try. A constitutional federal state, as opposed to a unitary state, is a union of constituent states, each one of which retains considerable powers and control over many or most matters.

There are three basic elements: First, a written constitution that (a) distributes powers, including legislative powers, between the federal government and the constituent states, and (b) defines certain principles, including basic human rights, that all the constituent states must respect (the entry ticket). Second, a constitutional court to enforce the constitution. Third, a bicameral parliament, with one chamber representing the people and the other chamber representing the constituent states. Parliamentarians in the former chamber are directly elected by the people; those in the latter chamber can be elected directly by the people or by the parliaments of the constituent states, or appointed by the governments of the constituent states. The federal executive can be elected by the people (presidential system), or jointly by the members of one or both parliamentary chambers (parliamentary system).

Federal states can be more or less democratic, depending on the definition and enforcement of human rights, the way in which the states’ chamber is constituted (appointed or directly or indirectly elected), the balance of power between the two chambers, and who elects the executive and to whom it is accountable.

In this sense, the EU can be considered a relatively undemocratic de facto (no constitution) confederation. Confederation because each constituent state enjoys international recognition and conducts its own foreign and defence policies.

  • 104.
  • At 04:53 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Tony wrote:

To follow on from John’s Denmark/Germany analogy, there’s also a case in point regarding the emergence of the Irish Free State from the UK. Why should it be that Irish Republican MPs sought secession from the UK? They were democratically elected, engaged in a democratic process, and could pursue their objectives and grievances by democratic means. It could also be argued enjoyed a more significant amount of power and influence over global affairs via membership of the UK. But they still sought full independence and greater democratic legitimacy because they could not reconcile an Irish demos with any overriding British demos.

A similar sentiment was expressed in an excellent report by the Federal Trust, specifically analyzing the concept of federalism within a European framework. In this report they state “legitimacy depends ultimately on the individual citizen feeling that he or she is part of the polity under which he or she lives”. This has been an essential building block in underpinning the legitimacy and longevity of democratic institutions, which seems lost on some of the posts here. Whilst the nation-state seeks to cultivate allegiance and community within their own specific demos, the EU seeks to cultivate citizenship and identity through Weiler-esque post-modernist theory of representation and humanist values.

It’s no co-incidence that Eurobarometer regularly gauges opinion on how Europeans identify themselves and assigns a specific communications commissioner, Margot Wallström, to address the absence of any genuine sphere of European debate and a European demos. I suspect its importance is fully understood, particularly as decision-making at EU level will, I suspect, continue to extend in coming years. As the Federal Trust report states: “It may be that the process of establishing a European democracy will now need to focus, not merely on the exercise of “kratos” within the EU, but also upon encouraging the emergence of a genuine European demos.”

I don’t believe this is helped either by emasculating the voter by reneging on a promised referendum, or an adherence to social-corporatist technocratic government, albeit this seems to be gradually changing. Far from scepticism being motivated by nationalistic tendencies as some here contend, I would offer simply that the case has not been made, nor the ideas sold – at least in a British context.

This stretches over the treaties - ranging from the SEA, Maastricht, Amsterdam and latterly, the Constitution. The tendency of the likes of JEF, and the self-righteous zeal of some pro-EU supporters, appears to expect the voter to respond to the institutions rather than encouraging the voter to help shape the institutions, listen to their opinion and thus progressively, cultivate concrete public support. Is this really sufficient in a 21st Century “democracy”?

And on the topic of JEF and their ilk, they really only need to ask Margot Wallström instead of naval-gazing - “There is no such thing as a European demos and hopes and fears about Europe very often reflect national politics” she stated in a press release:

The Fed Trust report is also an excellent read:

  • 105.
  • At 06:26 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • Michael Brockmann wrote:

I am born in Frankfurt (Germany) and lived in Paris, in Berlin, in Houston, Texas and now the third time in London. The current situation allows Europeans to travel and work freely in all EU Countries. Why, is my question, does Europe have to be one federal system or country. All countries have a long history, individual cultures and languages. This is what makes Europe unique and very different from the USA. I refuse any comparison to the USA (I lived there too) as it is a country that tries to make everyone equal, that has a culture that does not accept any other cultures and that does not respect individualism.
What is wrong with the current Europe and what would improve if it would be just one country?
I honestly do not see anything which could significantly improve without destroying or at least damaging the individual cultures in Europe in the long run.
I disagree with some comments saying that some countries are better than others in Europe. We are just different and that makes Europe. That is what we are and we should not americanise Europe with every further step.
Politicians do not seem to be able to read the signs over the last few years. After negative result of the referendum over the European Constitution politicians should have understood that the people do not want to continue. The reaction however was not to ask the people anymore because they did not like their answer. People want their individual nations and countries. That was also shown in a very bad way though in former Jugoslavia. Individual nations were formed out of one country that was foreced together by one dictator. I admit that Tito was one of the better one (if such a thing as a godd dictator exists) but still the people were not asked as long as he was in power.
Let Europe be as it is and work on what we have to fine tune it.

  • 106.
  • At 08:41 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • AndrewMS wrote:

I am an (naturalized) American and proud of this - contrary to a few of other commentators here. I am also a Polish citizen by birth so the question of Europe still remotely interests me. My prediction:

EU will either disintegrate or consolidate into a highly centralized organism. In the latter case, the traditional nationalism will disappear and will be replaced by “localism” – an enlighten form of tribalism. Citizens of Europe will take it for granted that they are Europeans since birth, however, their true allegiance will be to the guys form their village, town, district, etc.

You may mark it down and check in 50-75 years that I was right (..or not?).

  • 107.
  • At 10:07 PM on 17 Jul 2007,
  • James wrote:

May I just put a word in for one of the EC's better concepts, the ERASMUS programme, which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary. This student-exchange programme seems to me to have done more than many other short-term initiatives to foster mutual understanding between the peoples of Europe.
(I just find it ironic that due to the deficiencies of the British education system, 99% of Britons will have no idea of who Erasmus was!)

  • 108.
  • At 02:45 AM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • Chris Christoforides wrote:

Europe allows us to live and work where we want inside the union. A lot of people have a strong sense of a specific nationality such as being english or french and so on.....

There are many people in the union already that are many nationalities such as french, welsh, spanish, swedish....and so on basically they descended from all over europe. This person is not going to regard him or herself as 'yes i am part french, part welsh, part spanish and part swedish' they are more likely going to feel more european. And then what happens when the person has kids, these kids will have even more ethnic backgrounds. Anyway in time europeans will become more integrated and i believe there will be a slow but rising positive outlook on europe as one country but it will wake time.

  • 109.
  • At 11:26 AM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • jeff wrote:

A few disparate comments on the above:

1. Any state, be it a federation, confederation or a single-nation state is an artificial construct.

2. If the Europeans so desire, the EU can potentially one day become one democratic country, but it will be a long process which will require many steps to occur, including:

- the creation of a genuine pan-European private sector anchored (unlike today) in freedom of movement of persons, goods, services and capital;
- the creation of a genuine common public sphere (e.g. pan-European universities, research institutions, media, parties, celebrities,...);
- the creation of a genuine common public sector (including pan-European access to public education, health-care and benefits on an equal basis subject to a reasonable length-of-residency requirement); and
- the adoption of English as a common language of communication in paralel with local languages.

These steps must for the most part occur spontaneously and should not be imposed top-down. Most of these steps are a pre-requisite for the creation of a federal Europe, which in their absence cannot be created merely by adopting a new constitution or a similar one-time measure.

3. If these steps do not occur, the EU will not be able to evolve into a united state. I'm afraid in such case the EU is likely to disintegrate as the status quo is untenable over the long term. That will have severe implications on European countries as the single currency, the single market and other integration achievements unwind.

It is not possible to maintain an EU which has the law-making and administrative ambitions and powers of a federal state, yet does not have the capacity and ability to use them and enforce them in an efficient fashion. At present, the EU floods Europe with lofty proclamations that it is unable to put in practice and with voluminous laws that it lacks the ability to enforce.

Nor is it possible to maintain a single currency in the absence of a genuine single employment and product markets.

4. I also agree with the comment that suggested expanding the powers of the EU Parliament to the detriment of the EU Council. Legislative powers at the EU level should vest with the EU Parliament, not with the EU Council, the arena in which national cabinet ministers make their shady deals behind closed doors, effectively turning European democracy into a travesty.

5. What is also needed is the creation of a system of EU courts which will have full jurisdiction to rule on disputes involving EU law or those between residents of different EU member states. Without this, the EU will be unable to enforce its laws and EU laws will remain largely on paper, as is the case today when their enforcement is entrusted mostly to member states' courts.

  • 110.
  • At 04:01 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • vinay wrote:

Europe will never become a single country - it's much too expensive, much too theoretical, much too un-empowering, and above all, much too un-necessary. For all practical purposes, a common currency in a number of nations and (limited) free movement of people/trade, the low-hanging fruit have been taken. The rest is hardly worth the exercise.

  • 111.
  • At 04:40 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • Ewald wrote:

I think what is wrong is to call United Europe project a "United States of Europe". Considering our European "Anti-Americanism" I am not surprised people who have no idea about EU vote "NO" just because they do.

Myself I'd go for "United Nations of Europe" or anything like that. That's what I want - a union of independent nations with they own culture, languages but mutual goals and strong economical bonds.

Because It's so beautiful in Europe, God be my witness!


  • 112.
  • At 05:58 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • Nicky wrote:

In this day and age, nationalism is irrelevant. We are living in an increasingly globalised world so I don't see the point of futile attempts to cling onto borders. Declaring yourself as a "citizen of Earth" is pretty much the only way of cutting out arguments over soverignty.

  • 113.
  • At 06:05 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Tony (104): The Federal Trust paper is a good one, especially its first 12 pages where it analyses the legitimacy problems facing the EU. However some of its later proposals on the ‘way forward’ would fail its own analysis.

For example the Federal Trust recommends a pan-European referendum be used to ratify amendments to European treaties. I am in favour of such referenda but not if they would bind even those nations that voted against the amendment. If a pan-EU referendum were held to approve a change to some key article of a European treaty, such as the right to leave the EU, and this referendum were carried overall but not in some countries, then the outvoted nations would become trapped in the EU against their will. It would be the end of the sovereign right of those outvoted peoples to constitute the form of government they desire, which cannot be legitimised by the votes of people in other larger nations. The Federal Trust proposal would be no more legitimate than holding a UK-wide referendum on Irish independence in 1920, or a similar UK-wide referendum on Scottish independence today in which a majority of Scots voted for independence but were denied it by an English majority.

The Federal Trust paper also advocates the EU Commission being chosen by the European Parliament to reflect the political views of its partisan majority. This is similar to some recent ideas by Commissioner Wallström to ‘politicize’ the Commission. However, the “no EU demos” thesis (which as you point out is accepted by the same Commissioner) implies the Commission could never have the legitimacy to impose an avowedly political agenda over the heads of democratically elected governments. One can easily imagine riots in the streets should a politicized commission impose liberal economic policies ion France in direct opposition to the will of its people and government justified on nothing more than the political hue of the European Parliament. Or alternatively massive resentment in the UK should a politicized Commission impose an alternative social / protectionist agenda against the wishes of its people. The fact that the EU Parliament voted 512 to 111 this week to defeat an amendment that would require ratifying the resurrected Constitution by referendum despite opinion polls showing majorities in all 27 EU member-states wanting such referenda shows that the EU Parliament represents the supranational interest and not the people.

The Northern Ireland experience of 50-years of majority decision-making without a ‘demos’ shows that “more British-style decision-making” (as advocated by the Federal Trust for the EU) may actually lead to the permanent domination of the political system by one group able to impose a “tyranny of the majority” on a smaller group. In its 50-year history, only one piece of legislation was passed by the Northern Ireland Parliament that originated from the Catholic community (concerning wildlife) leading to a build-up of resentments within the minority community that eventually erupted into political violence. Any federal political arrangements in Europe premised on the assumption that they will eventually be legitimized by the possible future emergence of a European ‘demos’ is playing with fire. The only true safeguard is a massive infusion of flexibility into the EU structure by making most European law subordinate to national law such that each national ‘demos’ may decide to adopt individual EU acts on a case-by-case basis. That too is the only system which will prevent the ever growing body of superior EU law from eventually extinguishing the ability of our national parliaments to legislate, and indeed the ability of our votes to influence anything.

I also question if any EU ‘demos’ is actually being formed; page 94 Eurobarometer#62 shows the strength of European identity weakening between 1994 and 2004 and the Eurobarometer#64 shows another fall in 2006. The main purpose of many, perhaps all, EU spending programs is to get people from one country to interact with people from others precisely in the hope that it will lead to the formation of that elusive EU demos. But programs like ERASMUS or this JEF junket are (as you point out) insufficient to outweigh the profound alienation induced by the nakedly anti-democratic means by which the federalist agenda is now being pursued.

  • 114.
  • At 07:04 PM on 18 Jul 2007,
  • jeff wrote:

#55 wrote:
"Peter Howe proposes that EU citizens should have the right to vote (and be elected) in all EU Member States at all levels of government. That is a feasible reform that could create a dynamic process for change. But one should always take care not to create a fortress Europe, closed to the outside world. I believe that also non-EU foreigners who have legally resided in a country for a certain period of time should have the right to vote and be elected. That is desirable not only for them but also for the political system as a whole, as voting, including referendums, become distorted if large parts of the population can’t vote."

I very much agree! Letting all EU residents vote and be elected in all elections in the member state of their residence would greatly contribute to forging a common European identity!

The fact that only nationals of the relevant member state can currently vote in national elections means that elections are biased in favor of those voters who stay in the same member state. Even more importantly, political campaigns and public discussions continue to be largely conducted separately in each member state. Europeans need to talk to each other, and not just at the governmental level. This applies to politics, media, entertainment and other areas of public life.

The present situation when 80% of national legislation is decided in Brussels but public discussion occurs at the member states' level does not make any sense and negatively affects the quality of democracy in European countries.

Common European identity cannot be based on ancient history, works of art or abstract values, it must be based on shared rights and on a shared search for solutions to specific problems.

  • 115.
  • At 01:44 AM on 19 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

I agree with some of the points John makes in his comments on the Federal Trust paper, which I have not read. I don’t agree with his central proposal; namely that “The only true safeguard is a massive infusion of flexibility into the EU structure by making most European law subordinate to national law such that each national ‘demos’ may decide to adopt individual EU acts on a case-by-case basis.” I feel that would defeat the purpose of a European Union, and transform the EU into an international organisation like the United Nations.

John says: “If a pan-EU referendum were held to approve a change to some key article of a European treaty, such as the right to leave the EU, and this referendum were carried overall but not in some countries, then the outvoted nations would become trapped in the EU against their will.” I would suggest that a EU Constitutional Court should be able to intervene to invalidate a law that contradicts a fundamental principle of an EU federation/confederation. Consequently, there would be no need to hold a referendum on that law.

I share John’s scepticism about introducing straight majority principles in the election of the Commission and EU decision-making. Experience shows that where there are strong linguistic, religious or ethnic minorities, the correct principle to apply is that of proportionality, not that of majority. Proportionality depends on a majority being willing to show restraint for the sake of preserving the unity of the polity. (No polity can operate without a minimum of civic sense.)

For example, when in Switzerland the Federal Assembly (joint session of both parliamentary chambers) elects the seven-member government (Federal Council), the German-speaking majority could prevent the election of any members from the linguistic minorities. But the majority realises that to behave in that way would, over time, threaten the existence of the country. In fact, the principle of proportionality permeates the whole system - also in the sense that the right and centre-right parties (the majority) don’t prevent the left from having some seats in the federal government. Because to do otherwise would risk alienating centre-left cantons and powerful municipalities (larger cities). Proportionality enables multilingual, inter-religious, inter-ethnic countries to operate (though it may make politics a little boring). The Northern Ireland example given by John is a possible outcome, but not an inevitable one.

  • 116.
  • At 08:41 PM on 19 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Edward (114): It may be that you and I have different ideas of what the purpose of the EU should be. Certainly I do not favour its continued evolution towards a state, and while the UN has many problems of its own, the principle on which it was founded is a good one; i.e. that the only sustainable basis for peace is the voluntary cooperation of nations. For me the supremacy of EU law in an ever expanding range of politically sensitive areas imposed by QMV on nations against the will of their peoples is not voluntary co-operation.

I cannot agree that any European body should have the final word on changes to the EU’s Constitutional arrangements. A Constitutional Court may only determine if an act is Constitutional with respect to existing arrangements. Since peoples (and not state institutions) constitute governments and define in a constitution the manner in which that government may lawfully act, changes to those arrangements may only be legitimized by those same people. Since there is no European people, only the peoples of the individual nations of Europe may ratify changes to EU treaties (which have a legal status equivalent to national constitutions) and each and every nation must agree to those changes else they would cease to be sovereign. Unfortunately Ireland is the only state in Europe where the rightful necessity to ratify changes to EU treaties by national referendum is protected by their constitution.

I do not accept that a federal European state using Belgian-style “consociational” arrangements would be an improvement on separate democratic nation-states each making decisions by the majoritorian principle within the context of their national ‘demos’. The constitution of Belgium and indeed Lebanon and Iraq, as well as the Good Friday agreement and Dayton peace accords are all ‘consociational’ arrangements designed for use in deeply-divided societies (or even conflict situations). Such arrangements protect smaller groups by an extensive system of group rights from the ‘tyranny of the majority’ that might arise should the largest group(s) permanently dominate political institutions. Democracy is subordinated in those systems with politics being dominated by the group elites who tie up deals among themselves in the interest of keeping a lid on inter-group tensions. Such arrangements may be necessary in Belfast, Beirut or Baghdad where the groups live side-by-side in the same streets, but where these ‘demoi’ live in geographically separate locations a two (or multiple) state solution is better and is certainly the preferred option (bar the odd trouble-spot) as the general rule in Europe. The voting rights granted to member-states in the EU Council of Ministers may be viewed as a form of “consociational” arrangement. The evolution of the EU shows the negative effect such arrangements have on our democracy as politicians that used to view their role as implementing the program of government upon which they ran for office, increasingly adopt a role as merely explainers to the people of the joint position agreed to by their fellow political elites in the Council of Ministers. Such arrangements actually increase the power of those politicians within the elite group, but diminish their accountability to the people relative to the ideal of nation-states.

  • 117.
  • At 06:16 AM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Luka wrote:

I cannot help but noticing that opinion polls show that the English are far more Euro-sceptic than the other nations in the UK. Could it be that they fear that continental Europe will do with the UK what the English did with the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish?

Why else would they be so convinced that an EU federation is such an evil when their own country is an example of a successful multi-lingual, multi-cultural union (de facto federation).

They don't need to worry though - even the most hard line European federalists don't see a future USE as a nation state. On the contrary, they are fighting against the very concept of a nation state.

The nation as a political and economic unit is in fact by any objective criteria problematic. It stems from a more brutal time when it was a necessity for military and economic purposes. It was upheld by manipulation of the most primitive in-group/out-group thinking. It is nothing but tribalism on a larger scale and there is really no excuse for an educated European to still cling to those ideas.

  • 118.
  • At 06:31 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Luka (117): Do you have evidence to support your claim or is this an EU-myth? The Scottish Executive’s website has polling data on the trend of Scottish support for the EU. Their conclusion is “people in Scotland report broadly similar Eurosceptic views as people in Britain as a whole”.

Since the Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party are Scottish I think you can hardly conclude Scotland is a nation being oppressed by the English. I think it important to nourish and support the Celtic languages of the British Isles (and indeed of the Continent), but I never heard anyone describe the UK as a ‘multi-lingual federation’ before.

  • 119.
  • At 04:58 PM on 21 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

Thanks to John for providing the link to the review of British and Scottish attitudes to the EU. It remains that there can always be differences of interpretation and emphasis.

It is true that the review says and shows that on the whole people in Scotland report broadly similar Eurosceptic views as people in Britain as a whole. But it is also stated (para 20) that differences between people in Scotland and people across Britain tend to be brought out by more detailed questioning on the benefits of being a member of the EU.

The review’s main point is that people in Scotland, like people in Britain as a whole, are Eurosceptic. But one could also argue that the results given in the review show that opinion in Britain, as in Scotland, presents a mixed picture of Eurosceptic and Europhile attitudes. Among the Europhile attitudes reported (para 19): “80% of people in Scotland, the overwhelming majority, agree with the view that the 'majority of people living in the United Kingdom think British businesses, consumers and workers benefit from EU membership, although not equally'. The comparable UK average was 78%.”

Then there is the question of interpreting the results of replies to specific questions. Faced by the questions formulated in Table 3, para 12, I would reply that a country should stay in the EU and reduce its powers. But I consider myself to be not a Eurosceptic but a democratic European federalist. If the EU’s democracy deficit were substantially reduced, I would support an increase in the EU’s powers, for example in foreign policy and defence.

One of the reasons that the EU's democracy deficit is not being addressed is that big business favours the current top-down, technocratic integration process, aimed mainly at liberalising markets and other pro-business reforms. The Eurosceptic propaganda of the UK Conservative Party is largely electoral populism, and aimed at any EU measures to flank market liberalisation with EU social or environmental programmes. But if the Conservatives came to power, the UK’s EU policy would in practice not change much.

  • 120.
  • At 10:56 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

In response to Edward (119): ‘Democratic European federalist’ is a kind of political oxymoron, akin to ‘communist democratic republic’ or the Tibetan ‘autonomous region’ of China. For the reasons I explained before, there is no democracy without a demos (i.e. a polity with a strong ‘we-feeling’) and all evidence shows the strength of European identity is far too weak to bear the weight of democratic politics. The consequence is that binding EU decision-making will always be revealed as illegitimate whenever there is disagreement between EU members on politically sensitive matters. Carlos (99) complains that “leaders have continued to delegate those areas they regard as relatively unimportant to the EU, while retaining sovereignty in others”. But given the severely limited EU legitimacy base this is all that is possible. The transfer of further powers to Brussels in politically ‘important’ areas (as the resurrected Constitution would do) can only further overload the EU legitimacy base, resulting in more and more cases where nations reject as alien a body that imposes unwanted law on them.

It is simplistic to say ‘big business’ always supports liberalised markets and that this is related to the EU’s democratic deficit. Business is always the first to ask for protectionist measures when it perceives it has lost competitiveness and representative government should resist their calls because it is always the people they represent (in their role as consumers) who pay for protectionism. The so-called EU ‘democratic deficit’ is a totally separate issue. Shirley Williams once defined it as “the gap between powers transferred to the Community and the efficacy of European Parliamentary oversight and control”. That is to suggest that giving more powers to the EU Parliament would correct the problem. That is true to a point (for example the Commission’s monopoly right to legislative initiative is inappropriate) but it incorrectly assumes that the 490 million people that elect the EU Parliament regard themselves as one polity that will be bound by its majority decisions and this is definitely not the case.

There are some (e.g. Giacomo Dorigo #4) who say that nations do not exist or (e.g. Luka #117) who see no future for the nation-state. Even those who believe nations are ‘imagined communities’ must accept that their existence is not just in the minds of their citizens, but also has a palpable existence in the laws, language, culture, history and institutions of a country which act in concert to reinforce national identity. Given that stable and self-sustaining national identities exist in every European country, the formation of a supranational identity sufficiently strong to legitimate majority decision-making at EU level remains unlikely. Language and culture in particular are extremely resistant to change and it is a utopian fantasy to imagine democratic politics can be detached from them. Monnet’s plan imagined the creation of European political institutions continuously striving to expand their powers that would automatically attract the loyalty of people away from national institutions. The 2nd part of his plan has failed.

For the overwhelming majority (and rising) we remain British, French, Dutch, etc. Co-operation between our countries is desirable, but in the absence of a European ‘demos’ EU law cannot be superior to national law in an ever-growing number of areas.

  • 121.
  • At 11:15 AM on 23 Jul 2007,
  • Peter Davidson wrote:


Your response seems measured, rational and pragmatic, which are features distincly absent from many of the more hysterical contributions here.

However, whilst I accept the influence "big business" may have on the EU's institutional structure; I would also claim that a much bigger barrier to democratization within the EU's architecture is its inherently inter-governmental nature.

Contrary to the claims made by many EU critical groupings, effective control of European policy output remains steadfastly within the remit of the European Council/Council of Ministers. The unelected Commission does suggest policy initiatives but only because they flow from informal (outside the public domain?) discussions with member state governments and any legislative programmes that they may initiate are always subject to scrutiny and/or censure by member states prior to approval.

Therefore the notion that an unelected Commission is ultimately responsible for 80% of Europe's legislative output is being somewhat "economical with the truth". The vitriolic abuse heaped on the Commission in this manner is akin to shooting the messenger boy because you don't like its content.

In reality European citizens should be taking up the matter with those who dictated the message in the first place - i.e. their respective (elected) domestic government ministers!

In summary the real obstacle to democratic progress within the EU's institutional architecture remains the assumed orthodoxy of a Europe of Nations geo-political template.

It is my contention (see my earlier comment in this discussion) that this constitutional arrangement no longer (in fact it never did) reflects the cultural diversity of the European Union and in the case of the larger and more unitary member states, is the real source of the democratic deficit experienced by citizens of those countries; infamously of course this scenario includes the UK.

Solutions for many of the seemingly intractable problems facing European Citizens as a collective body in the 21st century may therefore be available through the gradual adoption of a more flexible and decentralised "Europe of Regions" geo-political template for its future evolution and development.

Who needs an another unaccountable, centralised and bureaucratic super-state called the European Union when I am already living in one better known as the United Kingdom!

  • 122.
  • At 12:31 PM on 24 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

I think your argument regarding the link between the existence of a demos and democracy is flawed. First of all, the experience of countries such as Belgium or Switzerland suggests that you can have democracy without a single, national-level demos. For example, many Belgians feel more Flemish or Wallon than Belgian. This is reflected in Belgian political parties which are either Flemish or Wallon in addition to being right or left wing. There is no political party that spans all of Belgium. Still, Belgium is certainly a funtioning democracy. (The extraordinary and often dysfunctional political tensions between the Flemish and Wallons are a mere historical "accident" stemming from the fact that for many years the minority Wallons suppressed the majority Flemish at a time when Belgium was not a federation but a centralised state. Imagine how well Belgian democracy would work in the absence of this particular history - despite the absence of a single, national-level demos. The Belgian example suggests that what counts in term of democracy is history rather than a demos).

More generally, what is a "demos" and where can we find it? First, the presence or absence of a demos is a matter of degree. Political values and solidarity can be more or less shared (be careful not to define a demos in terms of cultural values because that would create many, many demoi. Of course, this is not to deny that there is some empirical link to culture...). Second, the demos is always shared among different levels of government. Some of it is local (VERY strong in Switzerland), some is regional (VERY strong in Belgium), some is national (VERY strong in UK? Maybe 20 years ago...), some is European and some is even global (Do you belief in some form of universal human rights? Do you feel no solidarity at all with starving people in Africa?). Third, increasingly, the demos is drifting towards the regional (think of Scotland, Wales), and European, perhaps even global, levels - at least in most EU countries.

So what does this mean? While there is some kind of link between the existence of a demos (better: an appropriate configuration of multi-level demoi) and democratic decision-making at a particular level of government, this link is not as strong and far more complex than traditional nationalist ideology suggests. In particular, it seems perfectly OK if there is some divergence between the level of the demos (ie. where it is strongest) and the level of democracy. In fact such a divergence will in most cases be very desirable because - like it or not - the most effective (or sufficiently effective) level of government is often not the one where the demos is strongest. In most cases, the demos will gradually adapt... (something that is at least to some extent happening in the EU). Just to be sure: all of this does not mean that I am a friend of the increasingly less realistic idea of an EU super state. I also think that the EU is not sufficiently democratic. But the emergence of a strong European demos is certainly not a necessary (nor sufficient) condition for a more democratic EU.

  • 123.
  • At 09:39 PM on 24 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:


I agree that "the West" has made some mistakes in its relations with Eastern European countries, such as Chirac's undiplomatic remark (but seen against the background of the Bush administration's unilateralism and the very well founded Western European doubts concerning the absolutely disastrous invasion of Iraq, it is certainly more the style than the contents of his remark that were a mistake). In any case, on the whole these mistakes were quite limited and very definitely cannot account for the K brothers' policies. First, while Eastern European countries did not participate in the Marshall plan, they received many billions of Euros in aid from the EU (and also some money from the US) from 1990 on. In addition, the EU was ready to grant these countries en masse membership (Turkey is still waiting although the country has been associated with the EU since 1964 and officially applied for membership in 1987 - ten years before the Eastern Europeans. MAYBE Turkey will eventually join around 2020). Given that communism was bad, but not as bad as WW2 (nobody was starving, good medical care, housing OK), the level of EU aid and solidarity was quite remarkable. Second, if EU policy towards Eastern Europe was to blame, why are there no K brothers in other Eastern European countries and, perhaps more importantly, why are the K brothers so unpopular in Poland itself after only one year in office (apparently their popularity at present is lower than that of any previous government in Poland). No, as noted by a Polish contributor to this blog, the most important explanatory variable for the K brothers ascent is simply "historcial accident".

  • 124.
  • At 10:29 PM on 24 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Peter (121): The EU currently uses both the ‘community method’ (e.g. for common market regulations) and ‘inter-governmental’ mechanisms (for common foreign & security policy and police & judicial co-operation). The resurrected EU Constitution would ‘collapse’ the so-called pillar structure that determines the policy areas to which these different methods apply such that the ‘community method’ would become the standard across all policy areas in future. It seems you are not a supporter of inter-governmental decision-making so perhaps you may support this change, but you also complain about over-centralization and I cannot therefore imagine you would support the widespread use of the ‘community method’, which puts very extensive power to control the legislative agenda into the hands of the unelected Commission.

When the “community method” is used the Commission has a monopoly right on legislative initiative. If the Commission does not make a proposal no EU action is possible. A qualified majority of member-states in the Council of Ministers is required to approve a Commission proposal, but unanimity from all 27 member-states is required to amend it (unless the Council is fully supported by the European Parliament as per Article 251 EC when a qualified majority may amend). Furthermore, the Commission may withdraw or amend its legislative proposal at any time (Article 250 EC) should it fear unanimity from the elected governments may develop. Neither Council nor EU Parliament can compel the Commission to submit a proposal. This effectively gives the Commission a monopoly of agenda setting when the ‘community method’ is used which it may use to further its own bureaucratic ambitions. The Commission has never for example produced a proposal that would reduce the body of EU law.

Such power to control the legislative agenda by the EU executive (Commission) has no equivalent in any parliamentary or presidential democracy in the world. In the US separation-of-powers system the executive has no formal power to introduce legislation in Congress which is the exclusive right of Congressmen. The US Constitution only allows the executive (president) “to recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary”. The President’s main power is the executive veto on the legislative output of Congress (though Congress may overrule the executive with a super-majority). In parliamentary democracies most legislative proposals are initiated by the cabinet, but ordinary MPs are free to amend or reject these proposals and may also introduce their own. Members of the European Parliament are not free to work on any legislation in the absence of (or prior to) a Commission proposal and their output is subject to the approval of the Council of Ministers. Therefore, while I have some sympathy with your critique of an over-mighty UK executive, the power of the EU executive to control the legislative agenda at European level is actually far greater and is totally inappropriate when one considers that (i) it is an unelected body (ii) the law it leads to is superior to any made by democratic national parliaments (iii) such law actually suppresses the ability of those national parliaments to legislate in that area at any time in the future.

Furthermore national executives (cabinets) appoint EU Commissioners and sit on the EU Council of Ministers putting enormous power in a few hands. The over-mighty national governments you rail against control both ends of the EU legislative ‘pipeline’ and the law they produce there cannot be blocked by any votes in national parliaments. The power of national parliaments to ‘scrutinize’ EU law is toothless without power to amend or block and nothing in the resurrected Constitution would change that. Cabinet ministers in many countries are often tempted to use the EU system when they believe they could not get their proposals through their national system due to the checks on their power at national level. As you point out the checks on the executive power in the UK are rather weak but any attempt to strengthen them without EU reform would be fruitless because they would simply create additional incentives for UK cabinet ministers to emulate their continental colleagues in using the EU democracy bypass to get around them.

You also favor regional government, but recent proposals for devolved government in English regions have been defeated in referenda. The same is true in Italy if I recall correctly. I fail to see how overruling these referendum results with an EU-mandated “Europe of Regions” could be justified on the basis of correcting a ‘democratic deficit’. The people of a region such as N.W. England are not a separate nation and do not seek self-government. That is the difference between a region and a country.

  • 125.
  • At 12:11 PM on 25 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

Dear Mark,

My comment 123 was meant to be for the "Polish spirit" section and was an answer to "James" (rather than John as I mistakenly wrote).

Sorry for the confusion!

  • 126.
  • At 03:43 PM on 25 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

John says in #120: “It is simplistic to say ‘big business’ always supports liberalised markets and that this is related to the EU’s democratic deficit”. This is apparently a reference to my earlier claim that big business - in order to press economic liberalisation, etc - favours the current top-down, technocratic EU integration process, and that this is one of the reasons the EU’s democracy deficit is not being addressed.

John explains further #124 that “when the “community method” is used the Commission has a monopoly right on legislative initiative. … This effectively gives the Commission a monopoly of agenda setting when the ‘community method’ is used which it may use to further its own bureaucratic ambitions.”

“Furthering its own bureaucratic ambitions” could conceivably be one reason for Commission action, but it is unlikely to be the only one. Among other reasons may be pressure from or persuasion by EU lobbies, including big business.

In any case, Business Europe, the leading EU business and employers’ association, seems to support the Commission’s monopoly right on legislative initiative. Its Views on the Content of the Treaty to be Preserved during the Intergovernmental Conference (annexed to a letter of 15 June to Chancellor Angela Merkel), call for “a strong Commission, keeping the exclusive right of initiative (I-26)”. Full text on home page of Business Europe website.

Consequently, it seems to be reasonable to claim that Business Europe supports that aspect of the current legislative process, which is widely seen as top-down and technocratic. Given Business Europe’s representativeness and influence, it also seems reasonable to argue that Business Europe’s stance favours the status quo in this respect and does not foster, for example, an increased role for the European Parliament in relation to the Commission.

John, in #124, also presents an interesting analysis of the EU legislative process. But it still remains unclear whether the Commission has most power, or, as Peter #121 claims, the Council of Ministers. That breeds a lack of accountability, especially as it is clear that the European Parliament’s role is secondary, though slowly increasing (hearings of new Commissioners).

  • 127.
  • At 04:59 PM on 25 Jul 2007,
  • jeff wrote:

John, you claim that EU law should not prevail over member states' law. I don't agree but let's assume you are right.

In such case, I don't see the point of EU law. It is very expensive to maintain the beaurocratic apparatus needed to adopt, maintain and implement tens of thousand of pages of new EU directives and regulations every year. If member states could freely diverge from EU laws on a case-by-case basis whenever it suits them, then such expense would be a waste of money. Intergovernmental cooperation tends to be very inefficient and lacks enforcement mechanisms. However, to the extent that Europe does not want to go beyond intergovernmental cooperation among fully sovereign nations, such cooperation can be handled by other existing institutions such as the UN, the WTO and the NATO - there is no need to double them at the EU level.

  • 128.
  • At 10:10 AM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Tony wrote:

I would digress from Mr Huber's (123) appraisal that a European demos "is certainly not necessary for a more democratic EU". On the contrary, I would argue that it is essential that a European demos should evolve to support democratic reform of the various institutions, particularly in the 21st century. After all, the word “democracy” is a derivative of the Greek word “demos”; a people that share a sense of community and are willing to accept outcomes as legitimate even if they should happen to disagree with them. I frankly do not see how the two might be decoupled in a robust, representative democracy.

And, I'd argue, it requires the prerequisite building blocks; the need for informed debate, the need for people to vote (and feel that their vote counts), the need for people to feel they can remove a government and the need to accept the outcome and process as legitimate. This can manifest itself in a multiplicity of ways - local, regional, national or through a value based structure: built on respect for human rights and humanist values, as you state.

Belgium is an interesting case in point, or "the laboratory of European unification" as Mr Verhofstadt describes it. Interesting in that many of the ideas that forged two distinct peoples into a polity - corporatist, technocratic, consensual government and the use of a centralist welfare state to cultivate commonality, attachment and a demos - bears some resemblance to the European project, as do the men who championed such ideas, De Man and Spaak.

It may be that a Belgian demos doesn't manifest itself in an overt nationalistic form or, as a consequence of the country's formation, is weaker. But it would seem, according to Eurobarometer, that there is a sufficient feeling of commonality which allows the federal government to have significant power vested in it and enjoy legitimacy, despite some of the strong regional identities.

I think any European demos remains in a relatively embryonic stage and as Communications Commissioner Margot Wallström states: "Perceptions of Europe are largely coloured by national history and circumstances. There is no such thing as a European demos and hopes and fears about Europe very often reflect national politics". I agree with these sentiments; in particular I don’t believe the absence of any genuine informed European sphere of debate is conducive to healthy democracy, nor are the attempts to obfuscate the new treaty in order to avoid the dreaded referendum.

Rather debate is still largely channelled through a national or sub-national prism, and consequently significant decision-making rests with that integral institution - the Council of Ministers. I believe, in such a context and in such an oligarchy, government cannot help but become remote and elitist.

Peter (121) makes a compelling and candid case to remedy this. I agree that inter-governmentalism is invariably at the heart of the chronic democratic deficit (particularly with more areas of governance coming within EU jurisdiction) and indeed some of the inefficiencies within the process. I don't however believe the turning of the legal tables that federalism would involve, nor demolishing the "Europe of Nations" geo-political template and replacing it with a "Europe of Regions" template is either doable in the current climate or universally popular. In Britain politicians are still afraid to make the case (and test their case in referendums) for even the more cursory parts of EU decision-making; let alone forsaking the power and status the Council affords them.

  • 129.
  • At 01:51 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Mr. Hubner (122): You point out that there are some states (e.g. Belgium, Switzerland) that stand out as exceptions to the nation-state and conclude that the EU can be democratic along those lines. As I said earlier (post 116) “consociational” states are characterised by deep-internal divisions such that the principle of decision-making by majority is not accepted. They might be justified in cases (e.g. Lebanon) where the different groups cannot be territorially separated or when inter-group conflict may turn violent should the largest group(s) permanently dominate political institutions. But what you do not show is why a nation that has already achieved a stable democratic nation-state would willingly swap it for what is a degraded and unstable form of democracy.

Belgium has been an artificial construction since its formation in 1831. It has evolved from a unitary state (dominated by the minority community so hardly democratic) to a federal state to a consociational state in which political rights are distributed not just to regional areas (as in a federal nation-state) but also to linguistic groups. As I understand it Walloon’s regional identity is weaker than their Belgian identity, but in Flanders the strength of Flemish and Belgian identity is very close such that the existence of a Belgian ‘demos’ is questionable. Flemish politicians have frequently talked off succession but have so far settled for transferring more and more powers away from the national government. It is difficult to avoid the impression that the current Belgian constitution represents simply an advanced step on the road to separate nation-states for Flanders and Walloon. Given that the Belgian constitution has been changed 23 times since 1993 alone I think you can hardly hold this up to the British people as some kind of role model which we might aspire to emulate by becoming a region within a consociational EU state.

Switzerland was prior to 1848 a long-standing confederation formed to oppose the aggressions of hostile neighbours. Swiss national identity appears to have become weaker since World War 2 as their neighbours have become less threatening but the strength of Swiss national identity stills outweighs cantonal identity so one can speak of a Swiss ‘demos’. The Swiss people and cantons approved the most recent changes to their constitution in 1999 so there is no question of Switzerland being an illegitimate state.

By contrast the 2005 referendum results in France and the Netherlands rejected the EU’s Constitutional arrangements which are now apparently to be implemented anyway. It is generally felt that the British people would have rejected not just the EU Constitution but also the treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice. Eurobarometer shows that the strength of European identity is very weak in every EU country, with just 3% of UK citizens saying their European identity is stronger than their British identity. There is no question of a European ‘demos’ existing and we see there is no EU democracy either. The latest proposed changes to the EU have been rejected by two countries and opinion polls show 16 would reject it if given a vote but still the elites try to impose it. To say that the existence of Switzerland demonstrates the EU can be democratic bears no relationship to the reality of the EU, especially when one considers that the Swiss refuse to join because their direct form of democracy is incompatible with the supremacy of EU law.

To Jeff (126): I believe it would be practical to make the following distinction between two tiers of EU law:-
(1) Mandatory EU law superior to national law that should only be permitted in the following cases:
(a) Very specific areas of exclusive competence such as common external tariffs & single market regulations.
(b) Negative law (e.g. ‘thou shalt not …’ ) applied between (and not within) our countries to prevent one country from causing some form of harm to another. All countries should be happy to accept such ‘negative law’ as it would protect them from damaging behaviour by others.

(2) Optional EU ‘recommended law’ subordinate to national law for use in all other cases. This would allow the EU to work in areas of ‘positive law’, e.g. social rights, education/health etc., or big-ticket projects like Galileo, that (unlike ‘negative law’) always come with a high price-tag. If EU legislation in these areas were subordinate to national law then common European positions might be achieved, but the final say on the basic spending priorities of government could still be decided democratically on the basis of national election results. This would also automatically force the EU to work on truly useful programs that countries will voluntarily sign up because they could not achieve the same on their own.

  • 130.
  • At 02:31 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

Some contributors often refer to the indicators on European identity provided by the Eurobarometer surveys, and argue that they reveal weak European identity and consequently a weak basis for a European demos.

I have now had some time to look at the data myself, and have come to a more differentiated conclusion. The question put to EU citizens is whether in the near future they see themselves as national citizens only, as national and European citizens, as European and national citizens, or as European citizens only. (Incidentally, I would prefer the French title to be translated as “Europe and future nationality”.)

The figures (April 2004) for the EU, France, Germany and the UK, show that in the EU and each country over 80% place themselves in one of the first two groups. In the EU, France and Germany, those who see themselves as becoming European as well as national citizens exceed those who see themselves as remaining only national citizens. The smallest difference is in the EU as a whole: 41% national citizens only, 46% national and European citizens. The largest difference is in France: 29% to 54%. Only in the UK does the percentage of those who see themselves as remaining only national citizens exceed those who see themselves becoming European as well as UK citizens – and the gap is big: 62% to 27%.

I would therefore conclude that in the EU as a whole – and, among the countries chosen, especially in France – there is significant identification with the notion of European citizenship in the sense of being part of a European as well as a national polity. But in the UK, people are much less likely to see themselves as also European citizens. The difference between France and the UK is particularly striking.

  • 131.
  • At 02:28 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Peter Davidson wrote:

I trust that all readers here realise that everything I am arguing for is bound by a single overriding caveat: TIME

I am not advocating some kind of short-term revolutionary upheaval in the European geo-political template. In fact, I made specific reference in my first posting on this topic to the 100 year timeline illustrated in an interactive BBC resource.

Therefore whilst accepting the general inference of Edward’s comment “demolishing the "Europe of Nations" geo-political template and replacing it with a "Europe of Regions" template is (n)either doable in the current climate or universally popular.” I would respond by claiming that I am not advocating any kind of “demolition” but rather its gradual metamorphosis from the current orthodoxy into a more flexible and decentralised constitutional arrangement over a period of 50 to 100 years.

In the 21st century we can only hope that the historical methods of aggressive tribalism so evident in earlier bouts of nation building are behind us and that, as Europeans, we can manage such profound socio-political change in a more civilised manner.

John’s claim that the reform (or constitution in another guise) treaty would “collapse” the three pillar structure established by the Maastricht Treaty is a dramatic overstatement of the likely scenario and in a more composed (and dare I say it less dogma driven) interpretation could be viewed as an entirely logical response to the problems posed by an increasingly hybridised and therefore unnecessarily complex set of constitutional arrangements. In other words it is specifically driven by a desire designed to simplify processes, hence the original claims made for European Constitution as a simplifying treaty.

John’s references to evolving European structures of governance repeatedly stress the controlling nature of the Commission in order to give the impression that unelected and unaccountable officials are exclusively dominating the legislative agenda and through it the everyday lives of millions of ordinary EU citizens. This is a dangerously disingenuous interpretation of the prevailing circumstances, both pre and post reform treaty.

Closer examination of the facts reveals that member state governments still retain ultimate power to veto any proposal emerging from the Commission deemed to be of strategic importance and therefore subject to unanimity within the CoM / European Council. As for the unaccountable nature of the Commission, no doubt many UK based readers would be astonished to discover the extent of the unaccountable nature of UK governance as manifested through the exponential growth of QUANGO led public spending. Hence my earlier comments about the real source of the UK’s perceived democratic deficit.

However, I do accept the existence of a widely recognised phenomenon, referred to by academic experts in this field as ‘spillover’ to describe the gradual expansion of EU business from one sphere of activity to another.

This is precisely why I welcome any long-term strategy aimed at democratizing the EU’s institutional architecture in order that it becomes accountable and installs a measure of connection between European citizens and EU citizens, thus helping to foster precisely the kind of demos referred to by John and other contributors. John however has no interest in even allowing such a strategy to emerge because his entire viewpoint is predicated on a visceral rejection of closer European ties (democratic or otherwise) and resolute maintenance of the incumbent Europe of Nations model, thus frustrating any attempts to instill some measure of democratic accountability. Such an outcome has the capacity to fracture any nascent sense of European cooperation and lead to the failure of any long term trend of closer political integration.

Finally the claim that Regional Government in Italy was rejected by voters is factually incorrect. The poll referred to was a rejection of plans to significantly extend the remit of existing Regional tiers of government. Unfortunately this vote was embroiled in the bitter infighting between the outgoing Berlusconi administration and the incoming coalition headed by Prodi. As a result voters tended to reject the plans because they had been introduced by Berlusconi as a backdoor poison pill mechanism aimed at derailing the incoming Prodi administration. Similarly the plans for elected English Regional Assemblies were doomed from the outset, sabotaged by a lethal cocktail of prime-ministerial indifference and London-centric civil servant collusion.

The foundation for the “Europe of Regions” model I have advocated is in fact already firmly established across much of the European Union. Only in limited areas is this constitutional infrastructure not present, prime examples being England and Sweden. Hopefully it will not escape the notice of readers that these areas are also highly centralised and unitary states.

One idea that might fulfil all of the above criteria would be the creation of a second elected chamber within the EU’s institutional architecture (some call this a Senate because it would replicate many of the Constitutional features displayed by the USA Senate). If this chamber were based on Regional/Population criteria and replaced, i.e. led to their abolition, the roles currently played by the European Council, Council of Ministers, Committee of the Regions and Economic and Social Committee, this would achieve many goals simultaneously:
• Spread the principle of accountability
• Increase the EU’s democratic credentials
• Diminish the power of unelected/unaccountable officials
• Consolidate the EU’s institutional network (less politicians and bureaucrats!)

In other words a win-win situation for European Citizens (which includes UK inhabitants last time I looked) at the expense of the hegemony currently exerted by the larger member state administrations within the EU’s hierarchy.

  • 132.
  • At 03:17 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

Tony (128),

Here are some thoughts on your comments on my previous contribution:

"After all, the word “democracy” is a derivative of the Greek word “demos”; a people that share a sense of community and are willing to accept outcomes as legitimate even if they should happen to disagree with them."

- People by and large do seem to accept outcomes of EU decision-making as legitimate even if they disagree, don't they? And this is despite the fact that, as you say, the EU is only based on an embryonic European demos.

"And, I'd argue, it requires the prerequisite building blocks; the need for informed debate, the need for people to vote (and feel that their vote counts), the need for people to feel they can remove a government and the need to accept the outcome and process as legitimate."

- I agree. But these conditions are to a significant extent fulfilled in the case of the EU, although there is certainly much room for improvement: there is an informed debate about EU policies (compare EU coverage in the media today with 20 years ago - it is a big difference in quantity and quality), people can vote at multiple levels, including the European level (yes, turn-out is low etc., but it is at similar levels in some Member States and the U.S.), people can remove the most important players in EU decision-making - national governments. Sure they can't easily remove the Commission, but the Commission is not a government. Nevertheless it can be (and has been) removed. In addition, at the national level it is often also very difficult for voters to remove a government (at least in countries with a strong tendency to coalition government).

"I think any European demos remains in a relatively embryonic stage and as Communications Commissioner Margot Wallström states: "Perceptions of Europe are largely coloured by national history and circumstances. There is no such thing as a European demos and hopes and fears about Europe very often reflect national politics". I agree with these sentiments; in particular I don’t believe the absence of any genuine informed European sphere of debate is conducive to healthy democracy, nor are the attempts to obfuscate the new treaty in order to avoid the dreaded referendum."

- As I said before, much has changed with respect to a European sphere of debate in the last 20 years. Following the Maastricht Treaty, the Dutch and French referenda etc. the EU has been politicised. News coverage of the EU has dramatically increased and I am sure that the impact of the internet has only just started to be felt (English as lingua franca, easy and cheap access to foreign media etc.). Media coverage is indeed mostly "coloured by national history and circumstances", but I don't think that matters too much (except for if it is demagogy as practiced by the British tabloid press - but that is fortunately an exception in the EU). Let's say good bye to an overly idealistic, unitary (nationalist) interpretation of the public sphere. Again, Belgium is a good example (Switzerland may be similar). There are NO national media. ALL the major media are either Flemish or Wallon. And Wallon media do not give much more coverage to Flanders (maps mostly cover only Wallonia) than to the EU. Flamish media coverage is similarly (if not more) centered on Flanders and the Flemish perspective.

"Rather debate is still largely channelled through a national or sub-national prism, and consequently significant decision-making rests with that integral institution - the Council of Ministers. I believe, in such a context and in such an oligarchy, government cannot help but become remote and elitist."

- I agree that there is a danger of elitism. So we need increased accountability. This can be facilitated pragmatically by increasing transparency, strenghtening civil society, increasing debate in the media, a stronger role for national and the European Parliament in EU policy-making. A demos in the strong sense is not necessary for this.

  • 133.
  • At 04:48 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

In response to Edward (130): The Eurobarometer questions ask whether people consider themselves:
(i) National only
(ii) National plus European
(iii) European plus national
(iv) European

The definition of ‘demos’ (i.e. from Fritz Scharpf) is “a community in which the identification of members with the group is sufficiently strong to override the divisive interests of subgroups in case of conflict”. Therefore the important distinction for the legitimacy of EU governance (i.e. whether it will split on contentious issues) is the numbers answering either (i) or (ii) relative to those answering (iii) or (iv). i.e. between those whose primary loyalty is to their country versus those whose primary loyalty is to ‘Europe’ or the EU.

You make much of the number of people answering (ii) (weak European identity) but while people can have only one primary loyalty they may have multiple weaker ones. For example my primary identity is with Britain but I have weaker identification with the English-speaking world, “The West” and Europe (in that order). You cannot group people with a weak European identity (i.e. answer (ii)) as if they had answered (iii) ‘primarily European’ and conclude that a majority of French or Germans would agree to governed by a federal EU state.

Page 21 of Eurobarometer 64 has a diagram showing that Luxembourgers are the people with the strongest European identity. But even in Luxembourg there are more people (27%) answering (i) ‘national only’ than (iii) + (iv) combined (13%+9%=22%). The EU25 average for respondents answering either (iii) or (iv) is 9%. In the heartlands of ‘core Europe’ only 15% of Belgians and 12% of French or Germans say they have a stronger European identity than national. In Britain and Finland it is 3%. The simple truth is that EU federalists are a tiny minority everywhere. They have a missionary zeal that others will join them but the Eurobarometer #62 figures show the strength of European identity has been on the decline since 1994.

In response to Mr Huber (131) who claims that “people do seem to accept outcomes of EU decision-making as legitimate”.

The European Parliament has voted 378-262 to scrap the UK’s opt-out from the Working time directive.

Do you regard this vote from the European Parliament as having any democratic legitimacy when the people and successive government of the one country it would effect (the UK) have consistently supported the retention of this opt-out? If you do regard this EP decision as legitimate can you explain why the democratically expressed will of the British people to work the hours they choose should be overruled? If you do not regard this EP decision as being legitimate why would you regard any of its other decisions as legitimate?

EU decisions are only perceived as not being illegitimate when we do not really care about the issue being decided. Once the matter is seen as being ‘important’ each nation will regard a decision from the EU Parliament that they disagree with as illegitimate. The mechanism has in fact always been illegitimate but is only now revealed as such as the EU assumes powers in politically sensitive areas.

  • 134.
  • At 11:42 AM on 28 Jul 2007,
  • Tony wrote:

In response to some of Mr Huber's thoughts (131):

"People by and large do seem to accept outcomes of EU decision-making as legitimate even if they disagree, don't they? And this is despite the fact that, as you say, the EU is only based on an embryonic European demos."

The treaties are certainly legal and technically legitimate as, in the UK at least, most have secured parliamentary ratification.

I think such questions also relate to a question of degree, and the differences in size of member states across the bloc. Take the UK for example; a country that remains in the position of being one of the largest members and net contributors. It also retains a rather strong hand when it comes to the allocation of votes, and therefore can influence matters in the Council - i.e. it rarely gets outvoted. The matter of legitimacy however did raise its head when, once again, the question over the British opt-out regarding the Working Time directive landed on the table - despite the wishes of the British government.

I recall this initiated strong disapproval both on economic grounds and on political grounds - i.e. politicians who were unaccountable to the British electorate were attempting to impose a course of action contrary to both the UK government position and significant sections of British public and business opinion.

It may be that you read this as national machismo, or the inability to reconcile some of the needs of QMV with national politics. It may also be that some of the smaller countries, that can readily be outvoted, have already reconciled themselves to the rules of the game whereas the UK has lagged behind. But again, I think it highlights some of the relative (rather than universal) positions that exist.

On the question of general popular legitimacy, I think there is much conjecture. IIRC, British/EU relations were only the 8th/9th important issue according to a YouGov poll before the previous general election; the agenda was virtually dominated by domestic politics. I think it would require a stretch of the imagination to extrapolate, in such circumstances, that a generally pro-EU British government reflects a pro-EU mood - particularly when such a government only commanded just over a quarter of the vote.

There may be a groan-and-grumble brigade regarding the EU, but I genuinely believe there has been clear reticence in both making the EU case and, undoubtedly, testing the EU case through referendums. Changing such a scenario would emphatically answer some of the doubts and help legitimise the process.

"I agree. But these conditions are to a significant extent fulfilled in the case of the EU, although there is certainly much room for improvement: there is an informed debate about EU policies (compare EU coverage in the media today with 20 years ago - it is a big difference in quantity and quality), people can vote at multiple levels, including the European level (yes, turn-out is low etc., but it is at similar levels in some Member States and the U.S.), people can remove the most important players in EU decision-making - national governments."

I believe, in the UK at least, that informed debate has improved, but I agree there is much room for improvement. I believe the positions to be polarized a little; there still remains some rather disingenuous sloppy tabloid reporting, and there still remains a disingenuous streak amongst the British political classes - typified by an amorphous depiction of the Constitutional Treaty.

What was described as a "tidying-up exercise" at the time has now become "something that would have fundamentally changed the relationship between the EU and the UK" in the words of the former Europe Minister, Geoff Hoon (writing in the Guardian just last month). All very expedient in the desire to convince the British public that the reform treaty is not really the constitution - and therefore does not warrant the manifesto commitment of a referendum to be honoured.

I also don't believe informed debate is helped by attempts to obfuscate matters and make the treaty "unreadable", as the former Italian PM Giuliano Amato commented recently. I grant treaties are a complex business, but wrapping the process in anodyne, impenetrable language is hardly conducive to reaching out beyond a small clique. I believe there's an obligation to sell such ideas and not hide behind semantics or weasel-words.

On the question of people voting and their votes counting – well, again I think there’s a relative position across the bloc, particularly regarding turnout for the European Parliament elections. But, I’m not sure whether people who delivered no votes in referendums would be able to reconcile themselves to the notion that their vote counted. The process continues regardless, with a steely determination to avoid such scenarios in the future; the project remains largely driven by elites, not shaped by citizens.

"Sure they can't easily remove the Commission, but the Commission is not a government. Nevertheless it can be (and has been) removed. In addition, at the national level it is often also very difficult for voters to remove a government (at least in countries with a strong tendency to coalition government)."

I think this highlights the fault line between majoritarian and consensual democracy that exists. Despite its flaws, I strongly favour the former for its robust, combative nature; coalition governments are certainly difficult to remove, and I believe they are also prone to the development of elitist cliques that are prone to perpetual powerful and immune to public discontent. The EU and Belgium have understandably embraced consensual, consociational systems for reasons of protecting minorities.

This is why I write in #128 that government cannot help but become remote and elitist. The EU is a technically democratic structure, but power is largely exercised by the Council that draws its legitimacy from compromising of elected national ministers; there is kratos (power), but no demos. This is at the heart of the democratic deficit. It’s shown it can work, but I ask is such a situation conducive to healthier, better democratic governance?

"Again, Belgium is a good example (Switzerland may be similar). There are NO national media. ALL the major media are either Flemish or Wallon. And Wallon media do not give much more coverage to Flanders (maps mostly cover only Wallonia) than to the EU. Flamish media coverage is similarly (if not more) centered on Flanders and the Flemish perspective."

I accept this, but the question surely is: do such consensual, consociational systems lend themselves to better, healthier democracy? Belgium has, by its nature, evolved from a unitary state into a form of federalized, consensual system and advanced the ideas championed by De Man and Spaak. It's pre-disposed to some of the coalition cliques and technocracy.

I certainly can't speak for how Belgian citizens identify themselves, but considering the federal government has significant power, there does seem to be some agreement between the regions. I understand there also still remains a common redistributive system whereby Flanders gives significant subsidy to Wallonia. Whether such arrangements qualify as a demos is a matter of contention. But it would seem some of De Man's and Spaak's ideas of utilizing a welfare state to develop commonality hold strong.

I think the EU has grafted many of these ideas onto the organization. I believe it was conceived with a supranational mindset of seeking solutions (i.e. to prevent war) and ensuring delivery (i.e peace); that's not to say it's worse, but such an outlook inevitably leans more towards technocratic government. It doesn't seek to draw legitimacy through normalised nation-state democratic processes, but upon how it achieves results and objectives.

This is why I stand by my contention; that if the EU is to become a genuine robust democracy and depart from this technocratic mindset, then a European demos has to evolve to both demand and effect change in the institutions. It’s particularly important if the European Parliament continues to increase its powers; one European Parliament, passing majoritarian laws for one European people requires that a European people exists and participates in the process.

  • 135.
  • At 01:45 PM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

Some contributors have discussed the possible decentralisation of power in the UK. This could take a federal form, as feral states can be formed by independent states coming together or by unitary states devolving into federations.

Could that happen in the UK?

At present, the Scots have their own parliament, and the Welsh and the Northern Irish have their assemblies. It is possible that calls for an English assembly or parliament will gain ground, if only to resolve the existing anomaly where Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs vote in the House of Commons on matters that concern only England.

It has been a mistake to try to split up England into regions. In time, a proposal for a parliament for the whole of England might be more successful in a referendum. An English parliament could then take steps to strengthen local or regional government in England, if widely desired.

If an English parliament were formed, then the British people might want to form a federal assembly to represent the four regions (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) at the national level. The federal assembly could replace the House of Lords as the country’s second parliamentary chamber. The Law Lords would be hived off into a new Supreme Court.

The federal assembly could be comparable to Germany’s Bundesrat (federal council), though I would prefer it to be directly elected by the people on the basis of region-wide proportional voting.

The monarchy would be downsized and more comfortably installed in a renovated Buckingham Palace.

I’ll stop here, because these reflections are beginning to sound downright seditious!

  • 136.
  • At 11:02 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • jeff wrote:

John, you make an interesting proposal regarding the two-tiered system of EU law (tier 1: mandatory law superior to member states' law in selected areas of exclusive competence and negative law; and tier 2: recommended law subordinate to national law in other areas).

But I am not sure how your proposal would work in practice.

Tier 2 would be a waste of time - there is no point in writing and administering laws from which any member state can opt out whenever it's convenient for a given member state. Such laws would not be worth the paper they'd be written on.

As regards Tier 1, negative law would be too hard to distinguish from positive law which would create legal chaos. Instead of focusing on the merits of legal cases, the court system would be clogged with legal disputes on the division of competences.

Moreover, the areas of exclusive competence are too narrow and could be easily circumvented by member states' laws adopted in other areas (e.g., single market could be boycotted by measures in other areas).

Futhermore, it is not clear how you would deal with competences that have already been pooled at the EU level and you propose to give them back to member states. For example, the single currency could be quite hard to unwind. But the single currency also requires for example a single labor market and common rules on government deficits.

It is also not clear why member states would be more willing to form an ad hoc confederation only in the areas of exclusive competence but not other areas (countries like France would likely not be willing to sign up to your choice of exclusive areas). For example, the single market has proven to be quite controversial given many member states' unwillingness to sign up to a common market in services. Given that services account for 70% of Europe's GDP and the line between goods and services is blurred (e.g., selling and assembling furniture), such single market is not worth much.

Finally, even if Tier 1 is limited to only a few areas, the implementation of EU law would continue to face the same problems like today unless the measures proposed by me are adopted (e.g., direct private remedies with jurisdiction of EU courts in matter involving EU law or residents of different member states; need for English as a common language of communication; common public sphere including common media and political parties; expanded powers of the EU Parliament). But in such case, your proposal does not give much comfort to opponents of deeper European integration.

  • 137.
  • At 11:10 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Edward, you make some interesting observations regarding the Eurobarometer which measures Europeans' identification with their member state and with the EU.

I would take your point even further. Even if only 10% of Europeans put their European identity ahead of their member state identity, that still amounts to something like 50 million people - i.e., one of the largest nations in Europe.

  • 138.
  • At 08:58 AM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Peter (131): Do you really believe that policy areas subject to qualified majority voting can be ‘vetoed’ by a country on the grounds of ‘strategic importance’? Delay for 3 months is not a veto. Do you think the Commission’s monopoly of legislative initiative under the ‘community method’ does not exist or that the EU constitution/reform treaty would not make this the default in future? Or that the treaty articles (as referred to in my earlier posts) that require unanimity from all 27 member state government to modify a Commission proposal mean something other than they say? The EU operates by rules and those rules are defined in treaties. Your call for a ‘closer examination of the facts’ is empty rhetoric unless you can point to articles in EU treaties to back up your claims.

You suggest a European political union may be possible over a 50-100-year period but the linguistic & cultural diversity in Europe will remain for much longer than that. The globalisation of the economy and advances in communications technology make distance ever less important leaving language and culture as the enduring characteristics that underpin the strength of our national identities. You might (arguably) be on stronger ground if you were to say that trends point to future multi-national political unions between nations united by language, history and culture but currently separated by geography. This might for example indicate future prospects for a political union between the English-speaking countries (or the Spanish-speaking world) should there be some practical motivation for such unions. But Europe is arguably the least promising place in the world to create a multi-national federation. Even the Chinese and Japanese share the same written language but nobody suggests that is enough for a political union in Asia.


To Anonymous (137): The abolition of the nations of Europe cannot be decided by a ~9% minority. The existence of a nation is decided by majority opinion of the population of a territory. EU federalists are a tiny minority (and getting smaller) everywhere and cannot constitute a nation.

To Jeff (136): Do you regard national parliaments as ‘a waste of time’ and the laws they produce as ‘not worth the paper they are written on’ because of the supremacy of EU law? If you do you then the only future you can see is an undemocratic unitary state for Europe with our national parliaments closed down. If you do not then why would you regard the opposite legal hierarchy (i.e. making some EU law subordinate to national law where it exists) as rendering the EU worthless?

I do not believe it is difficult to distinguish between so-called negative and positive law. It is in fact an age-old distinction which has importance in a supranational environment because European integration based on ‘negative law’ (e.g. the removal of restrictions on the free movement of people, goods and services, or the prevention of protectionist or anti-competitive behaviour) is a ‘win-win’ scenario even in the absence of a European ‘demos’. Just as natural law (‘though shalt not kill’, etc.) should be accepted by all rationale individuals because it protects them if all others abide by it, negative European law should be acceptable to each country because it protects them so long as other countries abide by it. So while the absence of an EU ‘demos’ implies all EU decision-making suffers from a lack of democratic legitimacy the win-win nature of ‘negative integration’ means it is less likely to lead to conflict that would reveal it as illegitimate.

You say you cannot see why France would agree to be bound by negative EU law but negative law protects the French as much as anyone else by obliging others to refrain from harmful practices that would damage the French. If you as an individual were able to opt-out of the criminal laws against murder or stealing you should accept that you can be legally murdered or your goods taken which is irrational. If the French opt-out of EU laws against the free movement of people, goods and services then it will be their people, goods and services that cannot move and it will be them more than anyone else who suffers. Or do you think the French imagine they would be given an unequal right to harm their neighbours while every one else remains obliged to treat them fairly?

‘Positive integration’ (e.g. harmonised social rights, health, education etc.) is far more problematic because it tends towards a zero-sum game in which a gain for one country is a loss for another. Decision making by majority then becomes impossible to legitimate (in the absence of a European ‘demos’). For example there would undoubtedly be a pan-European majority to abolish the British ‘rebate’ (or indeed any measure where a minority of countries pay more) but is it acceptable to impose such decisions by qualified majority? It is the same with abolishing the British opt-out from the Working Time Directive, or giving European students state-subsidized education at British universities funded by British taxpayers. Some countries will gain from these measures and others will lose and there needs to be a mechanism to prevent a ‘tyranny of the qualified majority’ voting through doubtful measures from which the majority will not suffer but which will come at a real cost to the outvoted countries. That mechanism used to be the national veto but they are gone and anyway always suffered from the serious problem that a decision by one government not to use a veto bound all future governments. The best solution would be to make EU law in the areas of ‘positive integration’ subordinate to national law such that national elections can result in new governments opting in or out of existing areas of EU ‘positive integration’ (but not negative integration) based on their ongoing evaluation of the actual costs and benefits that each European policy delivers.

Just to clarify this distinction of ‘negative European law’ superior to national law and ‘positive European law’ subordinate to national decisions should apply to previously agreed EU policies as well as future ones. Ossified areas of ‘positive integration’ like the CAP have persisted unreformed for decades swallowing huge sums of money but delivering little in return while remaining permanently beyond the influence of voters to reform. It cannot be acceptable that every policy area transferred to Brussels control slowly ossifies in a similar way. Only the option for each national electorate to decide that the EU policy is no longer working for them such that they wish to opt-out of it will force European policy makers to keep EU policy fresh and appealing such that nations will happily remain signed up. The current supremacy of EU positive law is a guarantee of bad policy because it insulates European policy from the pressures of a democratic process that can only exist at the national level.

  • 139.
  • At 11:48 AM on 04 Aug 2007,
  • Peter Davidson wrote:


Your critique of John's ideas is legitimate because as you have pointed out, John's suggestions are upon closer examination totally unworkable, which is precisely why they have been made.

In order that a homogenous trans-national economic market might function effectively, laws/regulations governing its entire territorial limits must take precedence over laws/regulations pertaining to any constituent element thereof. Without this fundamental principle the entire edifice of closer economic integration, symbolically represented in this instance by the Single Market and €, collapses into a shambles of complex legal challenges and virtually limitless commercial loopholes.

John has no interest in seeing economic integration flourish, thus generating increased prosperity across the Union. This trend has the potential to draw the UK ever closer to the prospect of €urozone entry, unthinkable at present I would agree, mainly due to negative UK public sentiment.

Such a long-term outcome would herald a step change in the UK's relationship with the rest of Europe and signal profound transformations across the wider economic and political landscape; for example, by precipitating the eventual usurping of the $ by the € as the de facto currency of international exchange.

The UK public might, in such altered global circumstances, begin to perceive the wisdom of a diminishing geo-political relationship with the USA and its replacement by ever stronger ties with our more natural (from a purely geographical perspective if nothing else) partners just across La Manche.


I concur with much contained in your pragmatic analysis. For the European project to engage the enthusiasm and affinities of European citizens and advance their collective aspirations there must be a developing political space in which the notion of a European “demos” can evolve; I fully anticipate this process taking 50-100 years. A politicised European arena will encourage the emergence of truly pan-European parties and foster the gradual democratization of the EU’s institutional architecture.

However I do take issue with your advocacy of majoritarian politics. A significant contributor to the poisonous levels of public antipathy displayed toward UK élites, across the political spectrum, is its dysfunctional voting system. The UK’s democratic legacy (not one to be particularly proud of) flows from an adversarial winner takes all style of politicking no longer fit for purpose in our more sophisticated, informed and diverse 21st century. Public participation in traditional democratic forms of governance is in long term decline (do not be fooled by the short term fix applied by postal voting) as vast numbers of UK voters realise the futility of wasting their democratic birthright in safe/ultra-safe seats. This electoral feature alone is an important factor in the “democratic deficit” endured by the UK’s population.

The UK’s failure to embrace consensual politics is simply another symbol of the barriers frustrating more pragmatic and engaged UK public attitudes towards the notion of ever closer union. It is not in the interests of the two major parties to adopt proportionality in the UK voting system and so the UK public is obliged to stumble onwards into an increasingly embittered relationship with its so called political betters. Whose purpose does this really serve?


Whilst agreeing with the majority of your contributions in this forum, I must challenge your analysis of England’s current status within the UK constitutional framework. The UK remains an inherently centralised structure where effective power resides resolutely within the inner cliques of Whitehall’s opaque bastions of influence; just more evidence of the “democratic deficit” phenomenon.

An English Parliament would achieve nothing in addressing this fundamentally unaccountable and undemocratic construction. The only lasting settlement of the running sore better known as “the West Lothian question” is one based on a partnership of equals. The NW.England Region has a total GDP and population exceeding that of Scotland yet we are still denied accountable political frameworks capable of delivering Regional solutions to Regional issues. How would another tier of governance with its unwanted politicians and bureaucrats serve the democratic needs of English peripheral Regions? I want less government, not more.
Installing an expensive and lame proxy to an endemic culture of South East/London centric bias, in the form of an English Parliament (based where one asks – London by any chance?) would only exacerbate existing tensions.

There are complex factors at work here revolving around economies of scale. A more coherent analysis of the trade-off between the benefits of size and costs of heterogeneity is offered by Alesina and Spolaore in “The Size of Nations”

Put quite simply, England as a single entity is too large and cannot deliver the kind of decentralised flexible geo-political building bloc for the more integrated Europe envisaged. In addition it is probably the worst kept secret in political circles that English Nationalism is a thinly veiled vehicle for organised anti-European sentiment. No, people living in the peripheral English Regions need the concept of an English Parliament like a hole in the head!

  • 140.
  • At 09:48 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

Peter, thanks for your comments on my reflections on a reform of the British political system.

Just a few points:

That English nationalism may be a thinly veiled vehicle for organised anti-European sentiment can't be decisive for me. With some reservations, I also favour institutions of direct democracy, including referendums.

Moreover, the establishment of an English parliament would be an opportunity:

- to introduce proportional voting both to that parliament and to a new federal assembly if that assembly were to be directly elected;

- to site an important institution - i.e. the English parliament - outside London or the South-East, perhaps in Newcastle.

I don't believe that the constituent states of a federal state need to be similarly sized. In fact, that is not the case in practice. The important point is that they should have equal or similar representation in the "Senate".

Ultimately, it would be for the English to decide. Do they identify themselves more with England as a whole, or, as you feel, with the different regions?

Finally, the South-East might have even more power as a separate entity than as a part of England.

  • 141.
  • At 09:36 AM on 07 Aug 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Peter (131): You suggest a European political union may be possible over a 50-100 year period but the linguistic & cultural diversity in Europe will remain for far longer than that. Globalisation of the economy and advances in communications technology make distance ever less important leaving language and culture as the enduring characteristics that underpin the strength of our national identities. You say (138) that England is too large a political entity but this contradicts your assertion that an even larger European political entity is desirable. You also contradict yourself in calling my proposal for two tiers of EU law ‘unworkable’ while asking for devolution for English regions. And finally the size of nations is not something that will ever be determined by mathematical equations. Nations ranging in size from Tuvalu to China co-exist in this world and the form of government they (if not always their politicians) will inevitably aspire to is the nation-state because that is the only form of government compatible (due to its ‘demos’) with democracy.

To Anonymous (137): The abolition of the nations of Europe cannot be decided by a ~9% minority. The existence of a nation is decided by majority opinion of the population of a territory. EU federalists are a tiny minority (and getting smaller) everywhere and cannot constitute a nation.

To Jeff (136): Do you regard national parliaments as ‘a waste of time’ and the laws they produce as ‘not worth the paper they are written on’ because of the supremacy of EU law? If you do you then the only future you can see is an undemocratic unitary state for Europe with our national parliaments closed down. If you do not then why would you regard the opposite legal hierarchy (i.e. making some EU law subordinate to national law where it exists) as rendering the EU worthless?

I do not believe it is difficult to distinguish between so-called negative and positive law. It is in fact an age-old distinction which has importance in a supranational environment because European integration based on ‘negative law’ (e.g. the removal of restrictions on the free movement of people, goods and services, or the prevention of protectionist or anti-competitive behaviour) is a ‘win-win’ scenario even in the absence of a European ‘demos’. Just as natural law (‘though shalt not kill’, etc.) should be accepted by all rationale individuals because it protects them if all others abide by it, negative European law should be acceptable to each country because it protects them so long as other countries abide by it. So while the absence of an EU ‘demos’ implies all EU decision-making suffers from a lack of democratic legitimacy the win-win nature of ‘negative integration’ means it is less likely to lead to conflict that would reveal it as illegitimate.

You say you cannot see why France would agree to be bound by negative EU law but negative law protects the French as much as anyone else by obliging others to refrain from harmful practices that would damage the French. If you as an individual were able to opt-out of the criminal laws against murder or stealing you should accept that you can be legally murdered or your goods taken which is irrational. If the French opt-out of EU laws against the free movement of people, goods and services then it will be their people, goods and services that cannot move and it will be them more than anyone else who suffers. Or do you think the French imagine they would be given an unequal right to harm their neighbours while every one else remains obliged to treat them fairly?

‘Positive integration’ (e.g. harmonised social rights, health, education etc.) is far more problematic because it tends towards a zero-sum game in which a gain for one country is a loss for another. Decision making by majority then becomes impossible to legitimate (in the absence of a European ‘demos’). For example there would undoubtedly be a pan-European majority to abolish the British ‘rebate’ (or indeed any measure where a minority of countries pay more) but is it acceptable to impose such decisions by qualified majority? It is the same with abolishing the British opt-out from the Working Time Directive, or giving European students state-subsidized education at British universities funded by British taxpayers. Some countries will gain from these measures and others will lose and there needs to be a mechanism to prevent a ‘tyranny of the qualified majority’ voting through doubtful measures from which the majority will not suffer but which will come at a real cost to the outvoted countries. That mechanism used to be the national veto but they are gone and anyway always suffered from the serious problem that a decision by one government not to use a veto bound all future governments. The best solution would be to make EU law in the areas of ‘positive integration’ subordinate to national law such that national elections can result in new governments opting in or out of existing areas of EU ‘positive integration’ (but not negative integration) based on their ongoing evaluation of the actual costs and benefits that each European policy delivers.

Just to clarify this distinction of ‘negative European law’ superior to national law and ‘positive European law’ subordinate to national decisions should apply to previously agreed EU policies as well as future ones. Ossified areas of ‘positive integration’ like the CAP have persisted unreformed for decades swallowing huge sums of money but delivering little in return while remaining permanently beyond the influence of voters to reform. It cannot be acceptable that every policy area transferred to Brussels control slowly ossifies in a similar way. Only the option for each national electorate to decide that the EU policy is no longer working for them such that they wish to opt-out of it will force European policy makers to keep EU policy fresh and appealing such that nations will happily remain signed up. The current supremacy of EU positive law is a guarantee of bad policy because it insulates European policy from the pressures of a democratic process that can only exist at the national level.

  • 142.
  • At 04:03 PM on 08 Aug 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

To John (133) and related comments:
Sometimes the working time directive is cited as an example of illegitimate EU decision-making because it is not supported in the UK. To me this seems to reveal a strong misunderstanding of what legitimacy is about. The UK government constantly makes decisions that are opposed by a majority of the UK public - some of these decisions are very serious ones such as going to war in Iraq. Still, these decisions are legitimate. So it clearly takes much more than broad disapproval of an EU decision in one member state for that decision (let alone the organisation that makes the decision) to be illegitimate.

  • 143.
  • At 06:37 PM on 16 Aug 2007,
  • Peter Davidson wrote:


Your posting illustrates that you have completely forgotten the original theme of this discussion, presumably because you are on an ideological crusade?

You will recall that the discussion focused on interpretations of federalist principles, which is of course about allocation of policy to appropriate tiers of governance. Therefore the idea that I am contradicting myself is a complete misnomer because the application of federalist principles within a flexible Europe of Regions model implies the devolution (downwards closer to the citizen) of many of the most important day to day policy areas whilst others of incresingly supra-national import, are ceded upwards to a democratically accountable Brussels based administration (if the citizens of Europe really want it).

It is around this two-tier structure that the notion of a concentric dual identity emerges. The only loser in this process is of course the larger more unitary Nation States, like the UK, which are already heavily centralised and democratically opaque.

You also appear to have conveniently ignored much of the thrust of my postings, again presumably because they do not fit with your narrow perspective of Europe's real diversity.

A major factor restraining the process of closer integration is because certain vested interests attempt to characterise the constituent elements of the Union as exclusively national (as in Member State) in character. However, somewhat inconveniently (for both your dogma driven perspective and the currently dominant loci of power and influence within the Union's hierarchy;namely individual member state administrations), the cultural values of Europe's inhabitants do not conform to the fixed template you describe.

If you do take the time to read the book in question and then revert back to the BBC interactive resource I mentioned in an earlier post you will see (if you manage to remove your ideological blinkers just long enough) how the political map of Europe is a moving picture. It has changed dramatically in the last 100 years and guess what - in the next 100 years it will undergo similar change.

The vital difference this time is that such change will now occur within a peaceful, stable environment rather than one of war! Maybe that is just a coincidence but then again, perhaps the emergence of the what we call the European Union might just have had something to do with it?

  • 144.
  • At 09:57 AM on 20 Aug 2007,
  • jeff wrote:

To John:
“Anomynous” was “jeff” who forgot to fill out his nick. Apologies. I did not say that a minority should decide on Europe’s constitutional system. The fact that so many Europeans in the EU as a whole are in favour of integration means that they will be in a position to push the cause of European integration through day-to-day bottom-up decisions which will hopefully prepare the ground for constitutional changes for the next generations. You are also ignoring that this lukewarm identification with the EU on part of the majority of Europeans is partly due to EU’s poor functioning. In an EU where individuals from other EU states are not guaranteed equal treatment and enforceable legal rights in other member states, it requires a leap of faith to self-identify as European. For example, it is not easy for central Europeans to regard themselves as Europeans when Germany’s government is proclaiming that granting free access to workers and services providers from central Europe may result in major electoral gains for neo-Nazi parties in Germany.

The purpose of conferring certain competences upon the EU (as its exclusive competence or as a concurrent competence) is to ensure that certain matters can be addressed at the EU-wide level if needed. Supremacy of state law over EU law would defeat the purpose of such conferral. If states feel that they cannot tolerate the supremacy of EU law over state law in certain areas, such competences should not at all be conferred upon the EU.
The distinction between negative and positive law can provide useful philosophical and political guidance for the proponents of the government of limited powers – I count myself as one of them. However, for reasons already explained this distinction is not a useful legal concept – it is simply too vague to guarantee sufficient legal predictability in legal proceedings.

You are correct that negative law relating to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital should be in the interest of all states. However, experience has shown (most recently the discussions on the services directive and on workers and service providers from new member states) that measures in this area often face great opposition from member states. Yes, I believe France imagines that it will be given an unequal right to harm their neighbours - by the way, that is currently the case since French employees can work in the new member states but not vice versa.
Undesirable social legislation (e.g., the Working Time Directive) should be addressed at the political level rather than at the constitutional level. If the UK did not have the opt-outs that you referred to, its representatives could team up with representatives from other member states and could defeat such legislation in the EU Parliament.

In my view, the primary reason why ossified areas of EU policy are resistant to reform is that the EU currently does not function in a democratic manner, i.e., as a territorial organization whose institutions derive their legitimacy directly from European people rather than from the cabinets of its constituent subdivisions (i.e., the member states). EU’s policy agenda is largely controlled by the Council of Ministers in which large member states can easily defend their privileges in deals made “behind the closed doors”. Once the EU Parliament is given more powers, political parties will have to publicly defend their positions on policy issues and will have to explain why they are defending obsolete and deficient policies such as the CAP.

  • 145.
  • At 06:26 PM on 28 Aug 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Mr Huber (141): Are you in favour of government taking measures that lack the support of the people? You seem to use the fact that this occasionally happens in national democracies as a justification for an EU system in which it inevitably happens when QMV is used to impose law superior to national law on nations that voted against it.

There was a majority in Britain in March 2003 that supported the action in Iraq so you cannot say Iraq is an example of democratically illegitimate action at national level that justifies undemocratic governance in Brussels. See the following poll for example taken in the very week of the invasion.

In our parliamentary democracies, no government can bind its successors. If a government takes unpopular measures at national level, the people may elect a new government which will have the power to reverse the unpopular decisions that lead us to change government. The primacy of EU law means that this fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy is lost when governments take action at EU level. If a national government agrees to some EU act then its decision binds both it AND its successors. For example, both Chirac and Sarkozy were elected on a mandate including a commitment to reduce VAT on French restaurant bills but could not implement this promise to the people that elected them because of prior EU law (from the Mitterrand era) setting a minimum rate of Vat in the EU at 15%. Such scenarios happen more and more as the body of EU law expands. QMV makes the situation worse because it means even decisions that our elected representatives voted AGAINST in the Council of Ministers can bind them, all future governments and electorates current and future. Our votes lose effect with every new EU law.

To Jeff (143): We will have to agree to disagree on the merits of the distinctions I make and their application to the limits of EU power but I base these distinctions on a reading of some of the foremost political scientists and legal minds and their writings on the EU and the legitimate role of the state. You say that EU law must be supreme and that there is no principle that can be used to distinguish the legitimate limits of its activity. If you were correct the EU should be disbanded immediately because it could lead only to an undemocratic unitary state for Europe.

I cannot see that the European Parliament can be any answer to the lack of democratic legitimacy in Europe when there is no EU ‘demos’ or people for it to represent. That is not going to change unless you advocate a social engineering project of unprecedented scope to eliminate the linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe. Your call for the use of English throughout Europe would be regarded as far too high a price to pay in Continental countries for a super-state, and speaking English is not enough on its own to form a united people as the example of Irish independence in 1921 shows. The European Parliament can never be a democratic institution when it does not represent a people. Their vote on the Working Time Directive shows that no decision of that body that the British people or their representatives in Westminster disagrees with can be regarded as having any democratic legitimacy in this country. In practice the EU Parliament represents no interest other than its own in acquiring more powers and those powers can only come at the expense of our national parliaments. Since they alone represent a people, they alone have a true democratic legitimacy and more powers for the European Parliament taken at their expense can only add further to the problem of EU democratic legitimacy.

  • 146.
  • At 12:55 AM on 30 Aug 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

To John:

I believe you mix up federation and unitary state. Federation requires primacy of federal law over state law but that does not turn the federation into a unitary state.

I disagree with your assumption that there can never be a European demos (by demos I mean a community of people inhabiting a certain territory, freely entitled to relocate within that territory and living under common institutions, but not necessarily sharing the same native language, origins, culture, ethnicity or religion).

The truth is that neither you nor me can predict any such future developments with any certainty - it is partly a matter of a free collective decision (self-identification) of people who live in Europe and partly a matter of other factors. Anyway, insofar as nationals of EU states are already entitled to freely reside and relocate to other EU states, do they not to a certain extent already constitute a demos? And would that not be even more the case should they become entitled to vote and run in state elections in the EU state of their residence? And who says such electoral reform can never be adopted?

I agree that the birth of a European demos is a long-term development, but how says it can never materialize?

However, if your assumption regarding the impossibility of a European demos were to be correct, then I think the best solution would be to dissolve the EU as the measures proposed by you could not make it function in the areas where you want the EU to be active.

I also disagree that calling for Europeans to learn English (in addition to any other languages they use) amounts to social engineering. In most EU states (and many other countries for that matter), fluency in English is already a de facto requirement in many segments of the private sector. What is needed is for the public institutions and small businesses to catch up - otherwise they risk losing their relevance. Without widespread adoption of English throughout Europe, it is hard to imagine how there could be a single EU-wide market (which I understand you are in favor of).

I really appreciate the idea of European Union. I am very upbeat about the idea and think it as an example to be followed by other nations as well. Think Europe of 60 years before. There was lots of enmity at that time between various European nations. Patience, mutual respect, mutual understanding and will to resolve the problems and issues shown by the nations have brought the changes required. We can see that the things are changing to be better day by day. Changes are slow and I believe that change of such a big scale should always be slow. A sudden change will create troubles.

I have never been to Europe and am very much willing to see the changes happening there. I live in India and we have even more diversity here than it would be in Europe. India is a successful experiment and is thriving. We are proud of our diversity and it helps us to become truly global.

World is not as big as we think it to be. This world is well within our reach. If we have the will, we can make it a better place to live. We should learn from the past and should aim for the peace for ages.

I remember a story which my father used to tell me when I was young. I would like to share the same here.

There was a poor farmer. He had a wife and two children. One day he could not earn much and was able to buy only one piece of bread for the dinner. He told his children that there are two ways to have dinner tonight –
1) One person, who is the most powerful, snatches the bread and eats it completely without giving any piece of it to anybody else.
2) Another way is that we all share it as per our needs and we work harder to earn more next time.

Most of the problems in this world are because of our greed and misuse of power by powerful. We do not think collectively and rather prefer to think individually. This attitude will not bring peace and is very fragile. No body will be happy in this situation. We should make a system where we respect each other and empathize with weaker section. Effort of making a European Union is the effort in the similar direction. It is not perfect at this moment but things are going better and I foresee a better future for European Union.

When we talk about European Union we do not target any other country and are only making an effort to create a peaceful neighborhood. Neighbors should live peacefully. It is an example which other nations can also emulate even if they are not part of European nations. These kinds of constructive steps work as a catalyst. India and China should also follow the similar steps for unification. There is already a word popped up as “Chindia” which refer India and China collectively. I do not know when it would be possible but what is more important is that we gave it a thought. Chindia can also work as the first step in fulfilling a “Russia-India-China” dream. India is neighbor of China and China is neighbor of Russia. Russia is neighbor of European Union. Going by this, world is not flat but round and if we keep on counting the respective neighborhood we will reach the same place where we started.

I am patriotic but I believe that excess of anything is always bad. I dream of earth as one nation and that does not sound impossible by seeing the current trends. There seems to be a wave of unification everywhere. Let it be business, nations, religions, ideologies e.t.c. I believe in the path of Gandhi that we can achieve anything by negotiations.

Three cheers to European Union.

  • 148.
  • At 02:11 PM on 01 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Vaibhav (147) : This BBC website recently had a report to mark the 60th anniversary of Indian independence and the partition of ‘British India’ into the separate states of India and Pakistan.

The report contained a quote from Lord Mountbatten (last viceroy of India), explaining the need for separate states for India & Pakistan. He said "There can be no question of coercing any large areas in which one community has a majority to live against their will under a government in which another community has a majority. And the only alternative to coercion is partition."

This is the ‘no demos’ thesis applied to the Indian Subcontinent. It is exactly the same reason (see my earlier post #12) that there can be no democratic EU state when the real Europe consists of multiple nations none of whom will accept to live under a government that is not answerable to them.

From the Balkans to Jerusalem to Kashmir the experience is that wherever you see two peoples forced to live under one government you will see tension and outbreaks of political violence and always it is a two (or more) state solution that is necessary to restore peace and democracy. The progress of mankind means more states and we should be grateful to see that there are now almost 200 nation-states in the world and rising. Indians (and EU federalists) should remember that Ghandi was a nationalist who built a democracy that has endured while Stalin built a multi-national federation that collapsed.

  • 149.
  • At 04:43 PM on 02 Sep 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

To John:

Stalin did not build a multi-national federation. He built a totalitarian regime which enslaved Russia's population and whose armed forces occupied other countries whose population was enslaved. Stop confusing people, the USSR has nothing to do with the EU.

You say that the progress of mankind means more states. But isn't the sovereignty of many small countries nothing but a costly illusion? The reality is that small countries cannot make a difference in most policy areas that matter and - unless they belong to a larger federation or unless they are lucky enough to carve out a lucrative niche for themselves - cannot provide for the economies of scale, secure base of a large domestic market and intellectual competitiveness offered by large countries.

If the EU dissolves (and it is likely to dissolve unless it consolidates into a federation), many of EU's small and mid-sized states will face a bleak future. I would not like to be a citizen residing in such states or an investor investing there.

To John:

I do not agree with Lord Mountbatten regarding his justification in favor of the partition of India and Pakistan.

A civil war or revolution is caused by the minorities or by the weaker section of the society. It happens when the majority suppress the minority or become uncompassionate to their needs or rights. Power gives us the responsibility as well. It is more of a powerful section or majority population's responsibility to make a successful democracy than the weaker section or the minority one. If you look at India then India has given many minority state premiers. Our current Prime Minister is from minority community. Our last president was Muslim and was from minority community. They achieved the position because they deserved it and there was no biasing about it based on their minority status.

Mother Nature also tells us the same. A storm comes when the pressure of one place suddenly decreases. If we want to ensure the peace for ages let us make sure to maintain the balance by empathizing the weaker section. Going by this law we should first pray to God to make our neighbor prosper before he does the same with us.

Mother Nature tells us one more law that every action has a reaction. Reaction of a good action would be good and the reaction of a bad or suppressing action would be the same.

It took two deadly world wars to bring Europe on the negotiation table to discuss the European Union. My question is why we waited for two world wars? God loves all of us the same. Why will God let one section to win and other to lose? God wins when everybody wins.

We might want to make division of the world into various nations to make a better management but their ambitions should not be conflicting. I agree very much with Jeff that - "the sovereignty of many small countries is nothing but a costly illusion." Why do the nations feel insecure with the neighboring nations and spend so much on their defense budget? Why can not we use this money to feed the poor section or to make a better and peaceful world?

From the theory of evolution, our ancestors were monkeys. We still have some of the traits of monkeys such as imitating others. We imitate good as well as bad things. If one nation tries to grab more and more power the others will also follow him. If one nation makes nuclear bomb then others will also follow him. If one Gandhi takes initiative to talk peace and assimilation then there will be more and more Gandhi. My question is that then why do we support separatism and not assimilation or unification?

Peace and prosperity is more of a collective effort than being an individual one. Let us cultivate the feeling of "V" instead of "I".

  • 151.
  • At 11:30 AM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Peter Davidson wrote:

There is an irony here within mini-debate between Vaibhav and John.

Great Britain was the superpower of the 19th Century. In the 20th Century that mantle passed to the USA. Perhaps now we are witnessing the emergence of a multi-polar world in which military supremacy no longer determines the outcome of conflicts of interest. Maybe that is a sign of more civilised behaviour on the part of the human race or maybe I am being naively optimistic?

However, it is indeed ironic (given the original theme of this entire thread of discussion; perceptions of federalist principles) that Great Britain in its role as 19th Century superpower was instrumental in bequeathing a legacy of federalism to many of its colonial dominions - Australia, South Africa, Canada, India, whilst actively eschewing those very same federalist ideas as credible mechanisms for the governance of the mother country itself?

Now, within the context of European integration, the literal meaning of the word "Federalism" has been grotesquely distorted to the point where its very mention immediately labels any advocate of its benefits as a dangerously subversive character acting in direct opposition to the fabled national interest.

This begs a serious question concerning the definition of what precisely is "The National Interest" so resolutely defended even today by the Prime Minister during an interview on Radio 4.

In a globalising environment, what is the National (British) interest and does it differ so markedly from those of our near European neighbours? Is the narrow pursuit of a singularly British self interest rather than finding a composite set of values benefiting us as Europeans actually counter productive?

I don't have definitive answers to those questions but I think it is a debate worth having because many contributors to this discussion may be surprised to discover how many interests we share with our natural (European) partners, rather than illusory friends linked by language instead of proximity.

I just returned from a 2 month long trip through European Union and Russia, and I am so glad of what I have seen! I visited Russia, France, UK, Germany, Finland, Estonia, Poland, Austria, Czech Republic and Italy.

You Europeans should be very very proud of what you are building, and you should work to make it stronger. I don't mean you should turn in a federation or whatever else. I mean you should protect and keep improving the Union. It's a BEAUTIFUL thing to see, all those blue flags, the same stamps on passports, people from all places playing and talking to people from all places. And no matter what you are, or what are your beliefs, skin color and habits, you can live, work, travel together and be friends! In a world full of pain and hate, seeing such a beautiful community gives me hope in a better future.

So, no matter if sometimes UK loses and Poland wins and sometimes Poland loses and UK wins with the Union. In the end, everybody wins and it's DAMN GOOD.

Cheers to European Union and my greetins from Brazil.

  • 153.
  • At 10:06 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Jeff (146 & 149): I am well aware of the differences between a federal state and unitary state but neither is an option in Europe. Federalism is only a means to distribute the functions of government within a single large state but that state must still be constituted by a people if it is to be democratic and this people does not exist in Europe. Multi-national federation is something entirely different from a federal nation-state and normally goes under the name ‘empire’. Do not pretend there is any ‘constitutional demos’ for such a European state when the EU Constitution was rejected in 2005 and the political elites now resort to underhand methods to re-impose it knowing that further referendums would very likely be lost.

Your president Václav Klaus has stated that freedom is what is endangered in Europe and he is right. Your country is one that was until recently part of Czechoslovakia, a small multi-national federation. Very soon after democracy was restored in 1989 it broke up when the Slovak parliament voted for independence. The experience of your own country shows that democracy and multi-national federation are mutually exclusive. You can have one, or the other, but not both. The EU elites make their preference very clear by denying further referendums that are absolutely necessary to legitimate EU constitutional arrangements under which the supreme law of every country in Europe is determined.

Economic prosperity for small states does not depend on the EU. Any connection between size of domestic market and prosperity dates back to the age of high tariff barriers which no longer exists. The great majority of people today work in the service sector where the EU common external tariff is 0%. For manufacturing it is just ~1.9%. Only the EU tariff for agriculture (~10.9%) is big enough to distort world trade where it mainly acts to raise the price we pay for food by the amount of the tariff such as to redistribute income from food consumers throughout the EU to food producers in a handful of member states. Low tariffs for services and manufacturing mean that a global marketplace has formed in which all nations large and small can prosper equally. When the list of richest countries in the world includes Norway (3rd), Iceland (5th) and Switzerland (6th), all of them outside the EU, who can believe your claim that prosperity demands a federal state for Europe? The rise of India and China can be dated precisely to the point at which they left economic self-sufficiency behind and opened up to the world economy. If that is true for the most populous nations on Earth how could it be different for any smaller nation in Europe?

"The most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe" -- Mikhail Gorbachev

  • 154.
  • At 11:23 AM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

Jeff #149 refers to economic concepts (“economies of scale”, “lucrative niche”) in arguing the advantages of larger entities. I would push the analogy with the economy further. In most industries (pharmaceuticals, food, automobiles, banking, retail trade, etc) one finds at international and national levels a few big players plus a host of medium and smaller players.

One finds a similar pattern in politics: within nations (political parties) and between countries or groups of countries.

Peter #151 says “Great Britain was the superpower of the 19th Century. In the 20th Century that mantle passed to the USA. Perhaps now we are witnessing the emergence of a multi-polar world … “. I agree that we are now probably witnessing the emergence of a multi-polar world. But I would say re-emergence, because I feel that a multi-polar world is the natural state of affairs and that GB and USA were sole superpowers not for whole centuries but only for decades during those centuries.

Let’s assume that, despite many uncertainties, India, China, Russia and Brazil (so-called BRIC countries) do emerge as big players to challenge the USA. What would Europe’s place be? Let’s also assume that the EU doesn’t exist. Then only Germany (like in Asia, Japan) would have the economic power to play a role alongside these five great powers.

However, I feel that Continental Europeans, especially the French, feel sufficiently European to want Europe to play a larger role than Germany can alone, and not to want Europe to be represented by only Germany. Consequently, there would be movement towards Franco-German unity (“Franceallemagne” in the footsteps of Charlemagne), and that unity would cover not only the economy (single market and currency) but also a joint defence and foreign policy.

How would other European counties respond to the existence of Franceallemagne? Some would want to join, so as to form “a country called Europe”, as Mike puts it. But other European countries would prefer to retain their independence, to be like the many other small and medium players around the world that would seek to flourish in the space between the big powers.

Britain would perhaps be among the latter group of European countries, because its people do not feel particularly European and its close ties to the United States and to Commonwealth countries provide it an alternative, “English-speaking world” identity, as John always stresses. But Britain would want close relations with the “country called Europe” and would probably also form a looser association or associations with that country and independent European countries.

  • 155.
  • At 06:02 PM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

To John: I simply cannot agree with your central premise that there can never be a European demos defined as people united by a common territory, freely entitled to relocate within that territory, living under common institutions, linked by economic interdependence and enjoying a comparable level of fundamental human rights, but not necessarily sharing the same ethnicity, origin, history, native language, culture or religion.

The truth is that neither you nor me can predict the future. The future emergence of a pan-European demos cannot be ruled out and in fact such demos already exists to some extent. However, I agree that the emergence of a European demos is a long-term process. Until the emergence of a consolidated pan-European demos, it would be unwise to push prematurely for too much pan-European cratos, especially against the will of the public.

There is one reason why Klaus and Meciar broke up Czechoslovakia despite the opposition of the majority of Czechoslovak citizens and WITHOUT A REFERENDUM: their hunger for power. By breaking up the country Klaus and Meciar secured comfortable grip over political power. That enabled Klaus to maintain a regime that turned a blind eye to massive fraud and asset-stripping co-funded by state-owned banks. An even worse version materialized in Slovakia where Meciar was able to maintain an authoritarian regime which sought to suppress civil liberties until 1998. Hunger for power is also the reason why the likes of Klaus continue to fight against anything that can curtail the absolute power of the nation-state, be it the EU, decentralized regions or strong NGOs and civic associations. Unfortunately, the interest of local power elites is frequently not alligned with the interest of the public that they should in theory represent. I as a Czech national have absolutely no interest in conserving the priviliges of local political elites which seek to avoid public accountability, to preserve their cosy relationships with local business monopolies and to take advantage of the vulnerability of citizens who cannot rely on a robust rule of law.

As is clearly evidenced by the history of EU’s common market, tariffs are only a small part of the story. In today’s world, non-tariff barriers play a much bigger role as hurdles to trade. The success of EU’s regulatory framework is illustrated by the volumes of intra-EU trade when compared for instance with NAFTA. Many EU states are now at the point where they are so dependent on EU trade that their economies would collapse in the absence of internal EU market, supported by a legally enforceable regulatory framework that only a federation-style polity can guarantee. You point to the example of Norway, Iceland and Switzerland but all of these are countries that actually partake of EU’s advantages by means of complex arrangements designed to make up for the lack of their EU membership. United States, China and India are huge countries and I simply cannot fathom how individual EU states could be, on a stand-alone basis, their equal partner in economic or political terms.

  • 156.
  • At 02:36 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

With all due respect Jeff, your argument is based on an ad-hoc definition of a people (or ‘demos’) which is actually far weaker than that required to form a cohesive state. The definition of a ‘demos’ used by political scientists (e.g. see post #133) is more rigid and I think it is not controversial. I am not sure why you make your own one up.

‘Never’ is a long time and I do not claim to know what the future will hold with any certainty. What I can say is that there will be no democratic ‘country called Europe’ without a people who call themselves ‘Europeans’. The definition of ‘demos’ that I use depends on a strong European identity (a stronger bond to Europe than to ours nations) but the EU’s own polling evidence shows European identity to be weak everywhere and getting weaker. This is why the federalist dream is fading fast.

There are many more possible futures than that envisaged by Monnet. He believed political union would automatically follow economic integration but already the economic integration has become global. If Monnet saw that we now buy Japanese cars or Korean TV would he automatically assume we agree to live under a joint government with the people who make those products?

What cannot be accepted is that democracy be replaced by government from supra-national bureaucrats. Some means has to be found by which democracy can continue to exist at the national level (the only level where there can be a ‘demos’) while allowing for voluntary co-operations between nations. The supremacy of EU law in all areas imposed by QMV on nations against their wishes is not voluntary co-operation. However this is not the only failing of the current EU in need of real reform. The Adam Smith Institute today announced my ‘constitution for democracy’ is the winner of their prize to identity the best alternative to the EU Constitution.

  • 157.
  • At 06:08 PM on 08 Sep 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

Jeff, that you complain that Czechoslovakia was dissolved without a referendum shows that you have not yet learned to enjoy the delights of circular reasoning.

Haven't you understood that a demos and therefore democracy can exist only in nation states? Czechoslovakia was a binational - counting, Moravia, even a trinational - state and therefore by definition always going to be undemocratic. Consequently, a referendum on its break-up would have only delayed or even blocked a process that was necessary for democracy, peace and human salvation.

Other examples to help you master this thought method:

Why are there no legal labour strikes in Communist countries? Because strikes are an aspect of class struggle, itself the result of the private ownership of the means of production. The end of private ownership ends class struggle and therefore strikes.

Markets are always right. Therefore any lasting economic or social problem is the consequence of a structural market distortion, usually caused by governments.

I was born on 4 August, but I don't believe in astrology. Why? Because stubborn disbelief in astrology is a trait common to Leos.

  • 158.
  • At 01:06 AM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Louis wrote:

To John,

I read the "best alternative to the EU Consitution" your last post linked to. It's an impressive piece of work but it looks like a simplified version of the original 1957 EEC treaty (plus some adjustments to more recent competencies, like common currency). From this constitution and your last posts, your point seems to be, ok for a commercial union but forget about any political dream like a country called Europe which in practise can only be the negation of democracy, the latter being only legitimately expressed in a purely national framework.

Well, the fact is that in its original version, the EEC treaty clearly expressed that member states were seeking wider benefits than purely economical ones (e.g. an ever closer union) in signing the Treaty of Rome. States that just want commercial agreements...just sign commercial agreements (and that's what they do) and don't agree to transfers of sovereignty as substantial as those agreed by the member states in the EEC treaty and in the subsequent treaties.

In other words, the EEC treaty and the subsequent evolution towards a greater political integration reflect the fact that members states, and their peoples, have a sense of common destiny and common needs that go far beyond mere commercial exchanges. All this doesn't make a european "demos". But it certainly requires some pan european efficient law-making process. I doubt the light version of the EEC treaty you offer, dominated by the rule of unanimity (veto power for any member state on any decision), answers this need.

  • 159.
  • At 11:24 AM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Louis (158): I think you did not understand this alternative to the EU Constitution if you believe it includes widespread use of the rule of unanimity. It uses a completely different mechanism (two tiers of EU legislation) to reconcile democratic legitimacy with efficient decision-making in an EU of 27. The democratic legitimacy of the EU cannot be restored simply by re-introducing national vetoes because that would not prevent that decisions taken at EU level in past decades bind all current and future governments no matter how we vote now. As the history of the CAP shows that is a recipe for the ossification of all policy since it prevents any meaningful reform through the democratic process. Democratic legitimacy can only be restored by restricting binding EU law to usage between (and not within) our countries. If a matter is purely domestic (e.g. these roads in Poland and Spain that Mark Mardell has reported on) then EU law should be subordinate to national law such that the democratically elected national government can overrule the EU within their own territory without preventing other countries that wish to implement it from doing so. In this way qualified majority voting could be used to quickly reach EU decisions, but democratic legitimacy is preserved because the will of each nation of Europe (as expressed in their elections) can still influence the law we live under. This is the only way our votes can continue to mean something in the future.

Finally it does not matter what some men now dead thought the future of Europe might be back in the 1950s. We make our own future.

“We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.” – T. Jefferson.

  • 160.
  • At 03:43 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

To Edward: I enjoyed your examples. It looks like I need to take a class in persuasive reasoning.

To John: You complain that my concept of demos is too vague. In my view, the right to reside in a certain territory without being subject to the whims of the local government is one of the most intimate links any individual can have with the territory of a country. Such right already exists in the EU to a large extent. Therefore, my broad concept of demos makes some sense and can point the way for the EU, although I admit that such vague definition of demos may not be shared by those numerous commentators who are attached to more traditionalist national values.

What you cannot deny is that the EU needs to overcome two problems at the same time, namely (i) its lack of efficiency, and (ii) its lack of legitimacy.

Efficiency: As for instance pointed out in Federalist No. 15, "[t]he great and radical vice in the construction of the existing Confederation is in the principle of LEGISLATION for STATES or GOVERNMENTS, in their CORPORATE or COLLECTIVE CAPACITIES, and as contradistinguished from the INDIVIDUALS of which they consist. [...] The consequence of this is, that though in theory their resolutions concerning those objects are laws, constitutionally binding on the members of the Union, yet in practice they are mere recommendations which the States observe or disregard at their option."

This is precisely the problem which the EU is facing at present. This problem cannot be overcome unless the EU acquires the power to adopt and directly enforce laws binding on individuals (at present, that is the case only to a very limited extent, which is why EC directives - for the most part - do not lead to any real harmonization and do not create rights that would be enforceable in the real world).

Legitimacy: My flexible concept of demos is useful in providing the legitimacy for the increased powers that are needed to make the EU efficient. In my view, if you state that there can never be a European demos, then you should also openly state that there can never be a functioning EU which could have any practically significant powers. At the most, it can serve as an intergovernmental organization responsible for administering international treaties on certain technical points where no political discretion is involved (e.g., possibly the size of cucumbers but probably not the free market in goods and services).

Or perhaps you have other constructive ideas that can secure an acceptable level of efficiency in a democratic fashion. But I just don't see any such constructive ideas in your proposals.

Your free trade EU which would have any power only on so-called remote technical issues that "are not of interest to the broader public" (although they may be decisive for national economies) is suspiciously similar to the democratically unaccountable WTO and is based on the cynical view that voters are not interested in (or are not capable of understanding) issues that matter to their economies.

Making the WTO work democratically may be a separate topic, but since we already have one WTO, why do you see the need to replicate the WTO at the EU level, looking at things from your perspective?

  • 161.
  • At 11:04 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Louis wrote:

To John,

Sorry for glossing over some points. After a second reading of your constitution, I do agree that QMV, rather than unanimity, looks to be the rule for adopting law in your system. And QMV is certainly a bit more practical, if you expect some concrete measures to be adopted by the institutions.

But QMV is already the system applied in most of the EU law-making processes.
So what's the progress induced by your text?

Reducing the competences of the EU institutions to a limited commercial area? But member states and their peoples repeatedly approved the extensions of EU competences (Single European Act in 1987, Maastricht in 1992, etc.).
Depriving EU law of any significance and practical impact, as you offer, by stating that EU law may be overruled by any member state posterior legislation? But as the European Court of Justice soundly expressed it as early as 1964:
" The executive force of Community law cannot vary from one state to another in deference to subsequent domestic laws, without jeopardizing the attainment of the objectives of the Treaty..." (Costa v. ENEL case)

Further, you seem to oppose systematically QMV decisions by EU institutions and national legislations, the former supposedly being much less democratic than the latter.
Most of EU law is adopted through a co decision process involving the European Parliament (directly elected by the EU citizens) and the Council (i.e. the executives of the membre states designated at national polls).
Is such a process really much less democratic than national laws being adopted after some fine tailoring by non elected civil servants and more or less transparent debates in a national parliament?

  • 162.
  • At 01:58 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Peter Davidson wrote:

Louis / Jeff / Edward and anybody else attempting to reason with John.

Don't bother because you are wasting your time and energy. John has no interest in promoting any kind of rapprochement with the concept of closer European integration.

John is wedded (more like welded) to the paradigm of distinct sovereign nation states, primarily represented in the form of a unitary, centralised entity a la United Kingdom, as the sole exclusive and enduring (in perpetuity) political unit.

He cannot accept any form a supranational governance, in democratic form or otherwise, emerging to supersede this "natural" state of affairs. The idea that we live in a dynamic global environment in which "things change" is an anathema to his fixed ideology.

Therefore he devises wonderfully elaborate legal and constitutional devices, whose sole purpose it to perpetuate this geo-political scenario, in the process rendering any semblance of potentially closer political integration with the European mainland utterly impossible because the mechanisms driving the process are tied up in legal knots.

In summary John wants European integration, in any form whatsoever, to completely fail so the UK can return to some kind of imagined pre-Suez halcyon period of splendid isolation.

  • 163.
  • At 09:49 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Oliver (161): It is the combination of the supremacy of supranational law in all fields and its imposition via QMV which leads (automatically) to the lack of democratic legitimacy that we see in the EU. The inevitable consequence is law being imposed on outvoted nations against the will of their elected governments which their people can never again change through their votes. There are consequently two ways to tackle this issue; either (i) ending QMV or (ii) restricting the areas in which EU law is supreme. For the reasons given in my previous post my ‘alternative Constitution’ takes the second approach. Below I try to summarise the improvements my alternative would introduce relative to the rejected Constitution (or its reincarnation as the ‘Reform’ treaty).

Legislative Changes
1. A coherent set of Objectives for the EU based on the legitimate roles of government recognized by classical liberals. This would be a big improvement on the huge, rambling and incoherent objectives found in existing EU treaties which can be (and as per your example of ‘Costa v. ENEL’ have been) used to justify almost anything.
2. There would be two types of EU legislation; (a) the existing category of EU ‘law’ superior to national law, and (b) a new lower-tier, which I call EU ‘recommendations’, sub-ordinate to national law but with the force of law in each member state unless overruled in that country only by its democratically-elected national government. As described above the first category (a) has inherent problems of democratic legitimacy in a multi-national environment and should only be used in tightly restricted areas of ‘exclusive’ competence (where only one decision is possible) and in additional areas of ‘cross-border competence’ where some ‘principle of cross-border harm’ is involved. Beyond this the EU would only be able to legislate using the new lower-tier of ‘recommendation’. As an example, the EU should not be able to mandate an EU-wide smoking ban using law superior to national law because while 2nd-hand smoke may harm someone near the smoker it cannot harm anyone in another member-state of the European Union. Such purely domestic matters are better decided by democratically elected national governments. I intend that this distinction between two tiers of European law be used to differentiate between areas of ‘negative integration’ (e.g. the removal of harmful restrictive barriers between European countries) that are a win-win scenario for all, and areas of ‘positive integration’ (redistributive programs like the CAP or expensive social-rights like the Working Time Directive) that are a zero-sum game and therefore cannot be decided by a majority vote in a supranational environment without permanently penalizing minority nations. As you say Free Trade is an example of ‘negative integration’ but it is by no means the only such example.
3. The new lower-tier of EU “recommendations” could also be used to create a legislative basis for further integration for those countries that are willing to voluntarily sign up for it. This mechanism would have the great advantage of allowing countries that initially do not accept further integration to later opt in (e.g. following a change of national government) or indeed for initial signatories to opt-out. This would lead to a massive increase in the flexibility of the European Union and would also allow our votes in national elections to continue to influence the law we live under.
4. Some existing redistributive EU policies (e.g. CAP, CFP, regional development, etc.) would be re-classified so as to be implemented using “recommendations”. This would allow nations that do not feel continued participation in these EU policies is still in their interest to opt-out of them and any associated financial burden.
5. There would be rights for citizens to initiate national referenda to over-rule EU recommendations in their own country or indeed to leave the Union and for pan-European referenda to strike down EU-law. This would be a final guarantee of the democratic legitimacy of EU action. Since EU law superior to national law once created can be very difficult to change and may persist long after the reasons for it have been forgotten I also include “sunset clauses” that would result in EU legislation or agencies ‘timing-out’ unless re-enacted. This would ensure that the democratic legitimacy of EU law and agencies must eventually be ‘refreshed’.

Institutional Changes
1. A true separation of powers based on Montesquieu’s model as follows:
(a) Executive: The current Council of Ministers and Commission merged into a single EU Executive (Council) with limited powers, e.g. the right of an ‘executive veto’ on legislation from the EU Parliament.
The Council of Ministers would be stripped of all legislative power, so becoming a pure executive. This would remove the current problem (recently highlighted by former German President Roman Herzog) of national executives (i.e. cabinet ministers) using the legislative powers of the EU Council of Ministers to bypass democratic checks (e.g. votes in their national parliaments) on their executive power at home.
The Commission’s current monopoly on legislative initiative at EU level (which is morally indefensible for an unelected body to hold) would be removed from it and transferred to the EU Parliament.
(b) Legislative: All legislative power (including the right to initiate legislation) placed in a Parliament comprised of two chambers; (i) the existing EU Parliament as a lower house and (ii) a new 2nd chamber ("EU Senate") formed from representatives of the 2nd-chambers of national parliaments. This ‘EU Senate’ would for the first time give national parliaments a real power to amend EU legislation during its drafting. Since national parliaments are the only bodies in Europe that can claim a true democratic legitimacy this would be a major improvement on the democratic credentials of EU legislation. In order to prevent this “Senate” from simply becoming the Council of Ministers in disguise I would form it from representatives of national 2nd-chambers (House of Lords, French Senate, German Bundesrat, etc.) that are more independent of national executives. (Naturally this assumes the House of Lords become directly elected but this is already planned).
(c) Judiciary: A ‘Constitutional Court’ (composed of national judges) with the power of judicial review in matters related to the competence of EU institutions. This body would for example be able to strike down ECJ rulings that extend EU competence in ways unforeseen by treaty signatories (the example of ‘Costa v. ENEL’ as cited by you is a good example of inappropriate judicial activism from the ECJ in ‘inventing’ significant new EU powers such as the supremacy of EU law for which there is to date no basis in any European treaty).
2. Qualified Majority Voting would use the “Penrose” method, with the voting weight of each country based on the square-root of population. This method (which is currently used in the German Bundesrat) is mathematically proven to be the fairest way to distribute power between representatives of states of different sizes.


To Jeff (160) : The critique of confederal arrangements (i.e. a voluntary association of sovereign states) you refer to in ‘The Federalist Papers’ does not alter the fact that the choice between confederation or a federal nation-state available to Americans in the immediate aftermath of the War of Independence is not available today in Europe. The words you quote from Alexander Hamilton were written to encourage ratification of a US Constitution that begins with the words “We the People”. Nobody could use those words in any EU Constitution because there is no European People. Since the real Europe consists of multiple peoples, confederal arrangements are the only legitimate option available beyond the nation-state and even they require justification. The traditional reason for Confederation has been a mutual common defense for small states against a strong external threat, a role that NATO continues to fulfill in Europe. Other objectives must be found to justify the EU such as those in Article 2 of my alternative to the EU Constitution.

  • 164.
  • At 10:32 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

To John: At the time when the Federalist Papers were written it was by no means clear whether Americans would form a political nation. There were 13 sovereign colonies, very diverse in terms of their ethnic origin, native language and faith, and there was a strong anti-federalist movement which sought to block the creation of a federation. A true demos was not formed until the Civil War. It takes intellectual courage, vision and an open mind to propose, explain and create political and legal structures that do not fully exist but may potentially bring massive benefits in the future and are needed to address pressing challenges for which there are no other solutions.

I do not know whether the UK needs to associate with continental Europe or whether an "English-speaking union" could be an acceptable alternative. It seems to me that the volumes of air traffic needed to support a union between the UK and Canada, Australia and South Africa, which would replicate the level of integration which has already been achieved within Europe, would likely ruin the global environment so quickly that our ancestors might not be here to witness whether or not such "anglophone" union is more workable than the EU.

It seems obvious to me that small European states cannot prosper as stand-alone sovereign countries and, even if they could, any such sovereignty would be formal, without any real ability to use it for the country's benefit. Given that some form of European integration is necessary for European countries to prosper and to retain a say in world affairs, I'd much rather see an efficient and democratic EU rather than an intergovernmental EU operating in the interest of the privileged few under obscure rules based on political clout and intrigue rather than on a transparent legal system.

A democratic EU should operate on the basis of EU law which equally applies to all individuals covered by it, is adopted by a legislature elected by all European voters (possibly with the EU Parliament and the Council becoming its respective chambers), an executive accountable to that legislature (and not to EU states' cabinets) and an independent European judiciary with the power to enforce EU laws consistently accross the entire EU in a neutral legal environment which does not favor residents of one EU state over residents of other states. Such a democratic EU is possible if the interactions and cooperation among Europeans can intensify to a level where Europeans can be credibly referred to as a demos.

Given the above, the key task of Europe's politicians should be to figure out how to foster such non-governmental cooperation that can lead to the emergence of a single demos. Whether such demos can emerge is partly a matter of perception or self-perception and partly a matter of hard data, political institutions and actual behavior of people. What we surely do not need is to lock our minds in ideological schemes that automatically preempt any constructive developments.

  • 165.
  • At 03:37 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Stephen Farndon wrote:

To John(163):

Thank you for your detailed critique and proposals for the EU. I am broadly on your side. You appear to have done a lot of research on the EU's history and the way it operates. I, too, have read a lot of small print on the subject but was not aware that there is, to date, no basis in any European Treaty for the supremacy of EU law. If true then this would mean that that the EU has exercised power beyond its mandate many times over without any challenge from the member states. A quite staggering conclusion. So, please give us some details to explain your comment. I eagerly await your answer. I thank you.

  • 166.
  • At 04:20 PM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

To Jeff #164

I agree with most of your contribution, and in particular, largely share the vision set down in the penultimate paragraph.

But I have a few comments. As regards the penultimate paragraph, I would add that that a federal EU needs a constitution, which would a) set down the human rights to be respected by all member states; b) define the competencies of the EU; c) define the functioning of the executive, legislature and judiciary as you suggest; d) provide for a court to enforce the constitution; and e) include a procedure for revision. The parliament and people of each country would then vote on whether they wish to join such a European Union. Given the fairly low current level of European demos, the competencies transferred to the EU would be rather limited in a first stage, but they could increase somewhat over time.

I am less pessimistic about the prospects for small and medium countries in a new multi-polar world. I feel you exaggerate in saying: “It seems obvious to me that small European states cannot prosper as stand-alone sovereign countries and, even if they could, any such sovereignty would be formal, without any real ability to use it for the country's benefit.” I believe that independent European states could continue to prosper if they are willing to sacrifice quite a lot of their actual independence in order to reach the appropriate agreements with the EU. At some point their peoples would have to decide whether their remaining sovereign independence is sufficient to offset the deficit in actual independence resulting from their not being able to participate in EU decision-making processes. The interests of small and medium countries are also protected by multilateral organisations like the WTO, which is, however, less democratic than even the existing EU.

If the UK were to remain outside such an EU federation, it could seek solutions similar to those found by the EFTA members. It could continue to identify primarily with the English-speaking peoples, without seeking to “replicate the level of integration which has already been achieved within Europe,” as you suggest. That is not the choice I would make, but it is a feasible option.

  • 167.
  • At 10:24 PM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Stephen Farndon (165) : Unfortunately it is true. You could search for ever through all EU treaties without ever finding any article stating that EU law has primacy over national law because there is no such article. Article #6 of the rejected EU Constitution would have done this for the 1st time stating “The Constitution and law adopted by the institutions of the Union in exercising competences conferred on it shall have primacy over the law of the Member States”. The so-called ‘Reform Treaty’ has instead the following “declaration concerning primacy” (which amounts to the same thing) and refers to the ECJ ruling ‘Costa vs ENEL’.


The ECJ unfortunately has a long track record in interpreting EU treaties to the maximum integrationist effect possible ‘inventing’ such significant EU powers such as the supremacy of EU law and its ‘direct effect’ (i.e. capacity to be applied in domestic court proceedings) based purely on its own conceptions. For a long time it was the primary actor in ‘moving the goalposts’ of integration with Justice Lenaerts declaring in 1990 that ‘there is no nucleus of sovereignty that the member states can invoke as such against the community’. The ECJ believes in its own theory of ‘implied powers’ (e.g. Germany vs Commission Cases 281, 283-5,287/85) whereby the existence of a given ‘objective’ in a European Treaty implies the existence of any EU power necessary to attain that objective even when it is not explicitly provided for in an EU treaty. It is no coincidence that the objectives in EU treaties (see Article 3 of the rejected Constitution) just happen to be rather vast rambling sections that therefore give considerable discretion for unelected judges to take policy making out of the hands of elected governments with no option for appeal against their decrees. Seemingly innocuous objectives such as ‘equality between men and woman’ or ‘solidarity between generations’ can be used by unelected judges to make policy changes that should be voted upon as part of an election manifesto. See for example the following article from Roman Herzog (former president of Germany) who describes how the ECJ torpedoed elements of Chancellor Schroeder’s reform package and advocates an EU Constitutional Court composed of national judges to protect against creeping centralisation by judicial decree.

Since the EU is not a nation-state it can only exercises those powers conferred upon it by its member states - it can have no power of its own to determine the limits of own competence. There should therefore be a separation of the roles of determining what EU law means in cases of ambiguity (i.e. the role of a court of referral which can be a legitimate function for the ECJ) and determining if some given EU action lie within the limits of those powers that have been conferred upon the supranational institutions. This latter function cannot be performed by the ECJ when it has an interest in the result.

  • 168.
  • At 10:39 PM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Simon (165): Due to the way i submitted my last post (167) the following section from the 'Reform Treaty' referring to primacy of EU law being based only on an ECJ ruling was missed out...

“It results from the case-law of the Court of Justice that primacy of EC law is a cornerstone principle of Community law. According to the Court, this principle is inherent to the specific nature of the European Community. At the time of the first judgment of this established case law (Costa/ENEL,15 July 1964, Case 6/6411) there was no mention of primacy in the treaty. It is still the case today. The fact that the principle of primacy will not be included in the future treaty shall not in any way change the existence of the principle and the existing case-law of the Court of Justice."

  • 169.
  • At 01:11 AM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • Anonymous, California wrote:

Can state that this American would not object to the EU morphing into a federal republic. If you ended up naming the republic the United States of Europe, that could even be seen as an honor (and off you go to come up with some other name.....).

Suspect that this is the same for many other Americans and the American government. Contrary to what some of the conspiracy theorist anti-Americans have typed on these EU segments, the United States is not actively trying to hold the EU down or back, or prevent the EU from integrating into a single country. This even though for many EUers there primary goal from such a 'federal superstate' seems to be to try to wrest control from the United States.

It would be great if you could form a single country EU without one-upping the Americans as your motive, and have a somewhat less hostile or angry objective for creating such a union, but if the EU decides to turn into the United States of Europe, the United States of America would probably be one of the first nations to recognize your new country.

  • 170.
  • At 03:08 PM on 14 Sep 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

To Edward:

I agree with what you say about the federal EU.

I do not have a clear view on the pros and cons of EFTA-style arrangements but I am a bit skeptical.

First, I am not sure that all European states have an equally strong negotiating position like for instance Switzerland, a powerful economy with an established position in many highly lucrative niche markets and a country with an immense appeal for many wealthy Germans and French people which gives Switzerland direct leverage against the most powerful EU states.
UK may be in a similar position but certain other EU states.

On a more fundamental level, I am not sure how EFTA-style arrangements can achieve the requisite level of efficiency and democracy. Do not forget that 80% of state legislation is at present derived from EU law, with state legislators merely rubberstamping it or slightly tweaking it without changing the essence. If we insist that a country like Switzerland is a sovereign and democratic country, it seems to me that a general delegation of law-making power to EU institutions (or a wholesale incorporation of EU laws and acquis communautaire into Swiss legal order) must be inherently unlawful (or at the very least must empty the substance of such country's sovereignty to the point of rendering it practically meaningless), whereas the requirement that each piece of EU legislation be approved by national legislator (rather than just the executive power) would defeat the purpose of such EU legislation (as described by Publius) - i.e., uniform regulation of certain matters throughout the entire territory to which such legislation applies. It would be interesting to know how these things work in Switzerland or Norway. However, what can work as an exception for a few countries might destroy the EU if accepted as the prevailing rule of the EU's organization. Cherry-picking EU legislation according to the whim of each EU state is not a satisfactory solution.

As regards your earlier points about a Franco-German alliance, I mostly agree with you but I think it is important to keep in mind that for any such alliance to be democratic, it cannot be formed exclusively on the basis of a voluntaristic decision of the concerned governments but must be supported by the existence of a dense network of private (non-government) relationships between individuals/organizations in the relevant states.

From the perspective of smaller European states, I think the prospect of a failed EU replaced by an inner core EU which might not accept certain European states is a major threat. In this context, the rhetoric of certain EU state governments amounts to playing with fire.

  • 171.
  • At 06:02 PM on 15 Sep 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

Anonymous, California #169 makes an important point: “Can state that this American would not object to the EU morphing into a federal republic. … Suspect that this is the same for many other Americans and the American government.” (Though with so many monarchies, I doubt whether one could speak of Europe as a republic.)

But the more important point is this: Many Britons today appear to see the special relationship with the United States as a long-term alternative to positive (as opposed to dissenting, “opt-out”) EU membership. This belief has been revived by the close Bush-Blair relationship over Iraq and other foreign policy issues.

I believe, on the contrary, that for the United States, the relationship with the major EU powers, France and Germany, and with the EU itself, are fundamentally more important than its relations with Britain. US relations with Britain are a function of its relations with France and Germany: when relations with them are bad, Britain gains in importance for the US; when relations with them are good, Britain is of secondary importance.

That France and Germany are fundamentally more important to the US is precisely because they are leading European integration. Yes, US-Franco/German relations have been bad in recent years. But if the US didn’t think they were important, it wouldn’t have been so furious about their position on Iraq. Why would the US get so worked up about a trivial matter?

So, over the long term, the US’s view will be the one already expressed by Dean Acheson, former United States Secretary of State, in 1962. He stated that Britain's role as an independent power was "about played out." He said Britain had lost an empire and had not found a role, and added: "Britain's attempt to play a separate power role - that is, a role apart from Europe, a role based on a 'special relationship' with the United States, a role based on being the head of a Commonwealth which has no political structure or unity or strength and enjoys a fragile and precarious economic relationship - this role is about played out.” Mr Acheson, at the time President Kennedy's special adviser on NATO affairs, said that Britain's application for membership of the Common Market was a "decisive turning point”. Should Britain join the Six, "another step forward of vast importance will have been taken" (The Guardian, 6 December 1962).

In the same speech, Mr Acheson dismissed Britain’s attempt to play the role of intermediary. "Great Britain, attempting to work alone and to be a broker between the United States and Russia, has seemed to conduct a policy as weak as its military power." I wouldn’t be surprised if today people in Washington would feel the same way about Britain “attempting to work alone and to be a broker between the United States” and the European Union.

  • 172.
  • At 02:10 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Edward (166) & Jeff (160): The WTO does not have any democratic legitimacy problem similar to the EU’s because it uses the traditional method of legitimating supranational decision-making (Unanimity) such that no nation is coerced against its will. The same of true of other supranational organisations such as NATO. The WTO avoids using QMV despite having a far larger membership than the EU.

The WTO is active in an area of ‘negative integration’, i.e. the reduction of harmful restrictive practices (trade barriers in the case of the WTO) between nations which if achieved are a win-win situation for all concerned. Human rights legislation from the ECHR is also an area of ‘negative integration’ which all rationale individuals should accept because it protects them from possible abuse of the power of the state. Therefore even if the WTO were to use qualified majority voting it would not be as controversial as the EU which increasingly tries to use QMV in areas of ‘positive integration’, e.g. legislation for social rights, education and healthcare or big-ticket projects like Galileo that come with a significant implementation cost.

Majority voting at the supranational level in areas of ‘positive integration’ is not accepted as legitimate by the outvoted nations because the associated costs of policies in these areas mean this is no longer a win-win scenario. There will be winners and losers and small nations will always be outvoted by larger ones (or an alliance of larger ones) irrespective of the merits of their case. The permanent 26-1 majority in favour of abolishing the ‘British rebate’ irrespective of the reasons for its existence shows that this is very much the case in the EU. Outvoted nations will not accept to be bound by the result of such majority votes because the strong solidarities afforded by the national ‘demos’ do not exist at supra-national level. Jeff has described this distinction between negative and positive integration as a ‘philosophical point’ but if you do not know why some international decision-making is accepted as legitimate and some not you will never know why the EU is in such a deep legitimacy crisis or how it can be fixed. My alternative constitution seeks to ensure that decision-making by QMV cannot be imposed on nations against their wishes in areas of ‘positive integration’ and cannot bind future national governments and future generations of voters (thus preserving the power of our votes) in these areas.

Rather than accept that the lack of an EU ‘demos’ means the EU should restrict its activities, Jeff proposes the greatest social engineering project in history to obliterate the cultural diversity of Europe to turn us all into a homogenous EU People. This would be the greatest cultural crime in history and it is never going to happen. The truth is no federal EU state could ever have the legitimacy to act effectively in all these redistributive areas of ‘positive integration’ such that it would inevitably be far a more hard-nosed capitalist polity than even the USA. Only the nation-state has a ‘demos’ to support a true claim to democratic legitimacy and only the solidarities afforded by that ‘demos’ legitimate the redistributive functions of the state which the peoples of Europe expect.

  • 173.
  • At 11:52 PM on 17 Sep 2007,
  • Ignace wrote:

A question for me is how countries like the UK would react if a subset of EU member states would democratically decide to form their stronger socio-political union - a softer version of the United States, softer because of the language and cultural diversity. That may just be a matter of time, and would be a continuation of history, i.e. countries are coming and going, borders change over time. The belief that it's just a matter of time is based on the fact that the real disagreements within the EU is about it's mission: is it an economic union (supported by the UK and other), or should it in addition become a strong socio-economic union, which a number of continental countries support. The paralysis created by the lack of agreement on mission is unlikey to continue foreever.
I suspect that The UK wouldn't like the idea, as it would diminish it's political influence, but what right would the UK have to stop it, if it's a democratic choice of a subset of EU countries, limited to the countries that deliberatly decide to join?

  • 174.
  • At 12:22 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

Edward (171) trots out quotes from 45 years ago to justify what he hopes is a self-fulfilling prophecy that the UK is in terminal decline, is incapable of articulating its own interests or acting to advance them and consequently has no other choice than to be a sub-ordinate region of a Franco-German led EU state. The calculation of interest is rather different than he would pretend. According to Edward (post #154) only Germany of the European countries has the economic power to play an influential role in the 21st century. But the EU’s own figures show that the population of Germany will fall 9.7% to 74 million by 2050 while that of the UK will rise 7% to 64 million in the same period. The UK economy has outperformed Germany’s consistently since 1990 such that our per-capita wealth is already higher than the Germans’. If the population and GDP trends continue the UK economy will overtake Germany to become the largest in Europe sometime in the late 2030s. The UK economy has outperformed the Eurozone every year since the single currency was introduced and we are already decisively ahead of France.

Edward might believe that there is a multi-polar world around the corner, and he may be right. But the demographic and economic data (not to mention military spending) indicate the Continent will not be one of those poles. US GDP/person today stands 40% higher than in France and is pulling further ahead every year. The population of the USA has risen from 140 million in 1945 to 300 million today and is projected to rise to 400 million in 2050 and 500 million in 2100 by which time the combined population of the six main English-speaking countries will be 50% higher than the Continental EU25. The influence of the Anglosphere is far more likely to increase in the 21st century than decrease.

The relationship between the US and UK is based on shared values, common historical experience (including in adversity) and on shared language and even legal system, but also on a shrewd awareness of where real power lies in the world. The relative economic and demographic trends on the Continent and in the wider world indicate it would be a miscalculation of historic proportions for the UK to severe its links with its natural partners in the English-speaking world at a time when geography is becoming ever less relevant. The UK desires good relations with Continental countries, but never a forced political union that would be the end of our democratic liberties. The primacy we have afforded our relationship with the USA was the correct choice for the UK in the 20th century, and all demographic and economic data suggests it will be an even better choice in the 21st century.

  • 175.
  • At 06:31 PM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Ignace wrote:

a question for me is how countries like the UK would react if a subset of EU countries would decide on a democratic basis to form a stronger socio-political union, a soft version of the USA. I believe that this is just a matter of time, and just a continuation of history, i.e. countries emerge, split-up, regroup....has been the scenario all over the world for the last 2000 years. The belief that it's just a matter of time is also based on the fact that the paralysis in the EU is created by lack of aligned mission. Some countries want it to be an economic union, some other want additionally a stronger socio-political union. That paralysis cannot continue foreever, alignment on mission is key for any organization to succeed. Not all EU countries will ever subscribe to the combined mission, so the countries who want the socio-political union will have to move on their own. It would reduce the UK's political influence, but what right would anyone have to stop it, if it's the democratic choice of individual countries and membership limited to countries that deliberately made that decision and commit to it

  • 176.
  • At 01:07 AM on 19 Sep 2007,
  • Anna wrote:

I am very surprised by the complete lack of comments on the practical terms of further European integration in this blog. Being a woman, my first thoughts go to what it should mean to be a federation -or confederation in REAL LIFE. It may mean that I could open my company in England, live in France, have a bank account in Germany... but where will I pay my taxes? I regrettably notice that money management is what all this is about. And in fact, the one and only step into real life integration that has been made so far is the Euro (no one actually cared for custom control even when it existed). Developing tighter bonds necessarily means developing common taxation rules, common bureaucratic procedures, common social security systems, etc. This is being a real Union (not dreamingly fantasize about our ancestor's common cultural roots and discussing months about whether we should be identified as cristians or not), and this is why we will never be the United States of Europe.

  • 177.
  • At 10:19 AM on 19 Sep 2007,
  • Stephen Farndon wrote:

To John(167):
Thank you very much for your reply about the illegality of the 'supremacy of EU law'. The EEC/EC/EEC Treaties run into thousands of pages of tortuous legalese so your conclusion represents a monumental piece of research. The debate on the EU needs more coherant and fact-based discussion and your contribution hits the right note on that score. I would very much like to communicate with you off-line (if that's OK with you, Mr.Moderator) to pick up some more details of where to look please. Is this OK with you, John? Thank you.

  • 178.
  • At 01:18 PM on 19 Sep 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

To John: Assuming for the sake of argument the absence of a common demos, I do not agree that majority voting can be justified in areas of negative integration because sovereign countries are not subject to any overarching law that would oblige them to accept, for instance, a certain level of tariffs. We could discuss whether there are any rules of international law that override sovereignty (e.g., the obligation to refrain from military aggression, from genocide or from egregious human rights abuses), on grounds of what theory (e.g., the theory of ius naturale derived from the concepts of human dignity and free will) and to what extent they are legally enforceable (to a very limited extent) and by whom (only by a stronger group of countries against a weaker group of countries). However, any such areas of negative integration would be extremely narrow and there would be no need to address them separately at the regional (e.g., European) level since they are derived from universal principles. In any other areas, majority voting would, in the absence of a common demos, amount to a loss of sovereignty in favor of the countries voting with the majority (i.e., unlawful subjugation of dissenting countries).

In other words, EU institutions that do not represent the interest of Europeans as a whole but merely the sum of interests of individual EU member states should not have the power to impose any decisions or rules whatsoever on sovereign countries, not even in the area of negative integration (subject only to the narrow exceptions referred to above which would moreover have to be addressed at the global level rather than the EU level).

As regards the WTO, it shares the problems of any intergovernmental organization which decides predominantly on a unanimous basis, namely the lack of mechanisms that would guarantee that WTO rules and decisions will be enforced. WTO's enforcement mechanisms rely on willingness of sovereign countries to comply with them at their discretion. In practice, it typically means that it is impossible for a less powerful plaintiff or group of plaintiffs to enforce any WTO rules against a more powerful defendant or group of defendants. In this sense, the WTO is really just a forum for exercising political power as a peaceful alternative to military aggression but it does not provide any civilized legal framework to relationships among sovereign countries.

  • 179.
  • At 01:30 PM on 19 Sep 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

To Anna: As you point out and as I also mentioned in an earlier contribution, the formation of European demos/European integration require a number of practical measures, including, for instance:

- genuine practical introduction of the free movement of people, goods, services and capital (such that it will lead to a much denser network of relationships within the EU compared to those between the EU and the rest of the world),
- formation of a European public sphere (media, schools, parties, celebrities),
- mutually compatible institutions and social systems,
- taxation powers,
- widespread adoption of a common (not necessarily native) language of communication (most likely English).

In the absence of these developments (which will take some time to materialize), European integration cannot be in the long term successful merely on the basis of some simple one-off trick (e.g., the adoption of a constitution) and may need to be abandoned, which may have quite unpredictable repercussions for European countries.

  • 180.
  • At 04:14 PM on 19 Sep 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

John #174 refers to me as making “what he [Edward] hopes is a self-fulfilling prophecy that the UK is in terminal decline, is incapable of articulating its own interests or acting to advance them and consequently has no other choice than to be a sub-ordinate region of a Franco-German led EU state”. It is presumptuous for John to claim to know what my hopes are. Moreover, I have said, e.g., in #166, that it would be feasible for Britain to remain outside a EU federation.

But if it did so, Britain would have to choose between playing a secondary role in world affairs (nothing wrong with that in principle) or seeking to pay a bigger role through its special relationship with the US and its ties to Commonwealth countries (the rest of the English-speaking world).

In #171 I quote from Dean Acheson to suggest that it is by no means certain that the US will want to indefinitely limit its options by granting Britain the status of permanent first ally, and that the Commonwealth does not form a political or economic power base, however valuable it may be in other respects. Moreover, Britain is and would remain a very junior partner in any US-UK relationship. So it is ironic that John claims that I want the UK to play a sub-ordinate role in relation to a Franco-German led EU. The fact is that Britain can have more influence in the EU than it can on the US.

John states: “If the population and GDP trends continue the UK economy will overtake Germany to become the largest in Europe sometime in the late 2030s.” I have not verified this statement, but I am pleased that John notes that the forecast is conditional on present trends continuing. It remains to be seen how economically sustainable UK growth is, with its chronic trade deficit. By contrast, Germany shows a steady trade surplus. It is also the world’s largest exporter, though expected to be overtaken by China in 2008. I do not believe in exports for their own sake, and even feel that Germany’s widening trade surplus reflects too restrictive monetary policy on the part of the ECB. But a steady trade surplus is more likely to translate into world economic power than is a chronic trade deficit and a declining currency. The US is an exception because, due to its huge economy, the dollar is a reserve currency.

John claims that demographic and economic data (not to mention military spending) indicate that the European Continent will not be a pole of power in a multi-polar world. Again, one cannot predict what the future will bring. But what one can affirm is that the Eurozone is today already a leading world economy. One indication of this is that organisations like the OECD and the IMF refer to the Euro area, along with the United States and Japan in making forecasts of world economic growth. They do this because the Euro area is a large economy with a single currency governed by a single monetary policy made by the ECB, and backed by co-ordinated macro-economic policies (enforceable rules on inflation, budget deficits, etc). I can’t see John’s six main English-speaking countries or even the US and the UK similarly developing into a common economic area with a coherent economic policy.

John asserts: “The influence of the Anglosphere is far more likely to increase in the 21st century than decrease.” The “Anglosphere” is a figment of John’s imagination, a personal utopia. It doesn’t exist as a polity or coherent economic area. To use Dean Acheson’ worlds, it “has no political structure or unity or strength”.

Contrary to what John implies, I do not suggest that Britain should “sever its links with its natural partners in the English-speaking world”.

Anna # 176 observes. “Being a woman, my first thoughts go to what it should mean to be a federation -or confederation in REAL LIFE. It may mean that I could open my company in England, live in France, have a bank account in Germany... but where will I pay my taxes?” Why wouldn’t men be interested in REAL LIFE too? Taxes may be organised differently in different federal states. In Switzerland, for example, indirect taxes (VAT, trade tariffs) are fixed at and go to the federal level. Direct taxes are for the most part fixed at and go to cantons and their communes. This creates fiscal competition between cantons and communes, a cause of controversy within Switzerland and in its relations with the EU. The Federal Tribunal recently upheld a complaint filed by a far-left political party that regressive taxation (i.e. attracting the rich by imposing lower tax rates on them than on poorer people) is unconstitutional. But other aspects of the issue remain open.

  • 181.
  • At 06:57 PM on 20 Sep 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

To John:

Assuming for the sake of argument the absence of a common demos, I do not agree that majority voting can be justified in areas of negative integration because sovereign countries are not subject to any overarching law that would oblige them to accept, for instance, a certain level of tariffs. We could discuss whether there are any rules of international law that override sovereignty (e.g., the obligation to refrain from military aggression, from genocide or from egregious human rights abuses), on grounds of what theory (e.g., the theory of ius naturale derived from the concepts of human dignity and free will) and to what extent they are legally enforceable (to a very limited extent) and by whom (only by a stronger group of countries against a weaker group of countries). However, any such areas of negative integration would be extremely narrow and there would be no need to address them separately at the regional (e.g., European) level since they are derived from universal principles. In any other areas, majority voting would, in the absence of a common demos, amount to a loss of sovereignty in favor of the countries voting with the majority (i.e., unlawful subjugation of dissenting countries).

In other words, EU institutions that do not represent the interest of Europeans as a whole but merely the sum of interests of individual EU member states should not have the power to impose any decisions or rules whatsoever on sovereign countries, not even in the area of negative integration (subject only to the narrow exceptions referred to above which would moreover have to be addressed at the global level rather than the EU level).

As regards the WTO, it shares the problems of any intergovernmental organization which decides predominantly on a unanimous basis, namely the lack of mechanisms that would guarantee that WTO rules and decisions will be enforced. WTO's enforcement mechanisms rely on willingness of sovereign countries to comply with them at their discretion. In practice, it typically means that it is impossible for a less powerful plaintiff or group of plaintiffs to enforce any WTO rules against a more powerful defendant or group of defendants. In this sense, the WTO is really just a forum for exercising political power as a peaceful alternative to military aggression but it does not provide a fair legal framework for relationships among sovereign countries.

  • 182.
  • At 10:39 PM on 21 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

Edward (179): The UK’s influence is based on the strength and productivity of our economy (the 5th largest in the world), our reputation as an honest and reliable partner and the strength of our case in support of the causes we believe in. We would remain the 2nd-most influential country in the world if we were outside the EU. In theory the EU can act to increase our influence but in practice (as evidenced most recently by the EU’s support for President Mugabe of Zimbabwe) the Continent does not share our values such that EU membership more often acts in practice to muffle the British voice. International influence should never be confused with the EU bargain whereby we gain a 9% vote in determining the laws of other countries (which we only have an academic interest in unless they affect us adversely) in exchange for them having 91% of the votes to determine the laws we live under (which we always have a direct interest in). That type of bargain is incompatible with liberal democracy. It destroys the link between governed and governors, resulting in British politicians listening more to their peers in other EU countries than to the voters who elected them.

The Anglosphere most certainly does exist and indeed has some of the attributes (common language, shared values, etc.) whose absence in Europe so cripples the dreams of EU federalists. As per my earlier posts, there is no ‘demos’ at the supranational level meaning that the only true basis for enduring relations between nations are shared interests and common values. ‘Civilizational’ values are a weaker form of community than those necessary to hold a nation together, but even at this weaker level Europe is found wanting because there are no European values distinct from Western values. The English-speaking part of the West (which is steadily becoming its greater part) has more shared values than does Europe which is why the UK/US relationship is such an enduring feature in international relations. For example the six main English-speaking countries all share a belief in a model of society developed in these Islands based on free markets and a minimal role for government, individual rights and responsibilities, a strong civil society, and democratic politics within the framework of a liberal constitution, which can readily be contrasted with the dirigiste & mercantilist traditions of France or the welfare model of Scandinavia.

The English-speaking countries already have mutual cooperative institutions such as NATO & ANZUS, the UKUSA intelligence sharing agreements, Free Trade Agreements for North America and USA/Australia. The USA is the UK’s top export market (ahead of Germany). Opinion polls show that Americans, Britons and Australians all regard one another as their most reliable allies. Six of the seven top destinations to which Britons emigrate are in the English-speaking world such that for every Briton that works in Belgium there are 42 working in Australia. These links are therefore not ‘a figment of my imagination’ but are actually far more real and substantial than any number of lowest-common-denominator communiqués from government ministers at EU meetings they would rather not be at.

There is the potential to expand these close collaborations into deeper ties in trade, defence, free movement of peoples, and scientific cooperation, all bound together by our common language, culture, and values while avoiding the excesses of the EU. But that is for the future. The UK should try to rescue the EU by seriously reforming it (for example along the lines of my alternative to its rejected Constitution) but if this cannot be done then we should start afresh on a global-scale with like-minded partners in developing a new and improved form of international co-operation within which liberal democracy might be safe.

  • 183.
  • At 02:10 PM on 22 Sep 2007,
  • Louis wrote:

To Stephen (177), if you want facts based arguments about whether the doctrine of supremacy is "illegal", please have a look on the following points:

- as early as the 60's the European Court of Justice drew from the European Economic Community Treaty of 1957 that each Member State having expressed its will and commitment to create with the others a single market, such that within it goods, capital, companies and people could move freely, then that same member state could not anymore adopt a national measure that would contradict these principles and objectives. Quite simple and logical isn't it? It's all what the "principle of supremacy" is about: if, as a State, you want to be part of the team then play with the common rule!

- This doctrine was indeed far reaching in legal terms and the 6 founding member states might have not foreseen such a major constitutional implication, that is, the EEC Treaty is a binding document that have very concrete implications in each national legal lanscape and the ECJ is ready to enforce community rules. However, in the 70's, the doctrine of Supremacy and its constitutional implications were well known and states that subsequently joined the EEC (UK in 1973 for example) can certainly not claim they were not aware of the impacts on their constitutional organisation their membership would have. Furthermore, no member state withdrew from the EEC Treaty in consequence of this new judge based principle; nor the treaty was reformed to weaken the ECJ or nullify its case law; instead, these states strengthen and develop the EEC in the 80's (Single European Act 1986) and created the European Union in 1992...

- The national supreme courts of member states, over decades, all recognized and legitimized the principle that, in case of conflicting rules, precedence must be given to community law over national law.

Therefore, claiming that the doctrine of Supremacy is an illegal invention of the ECJ (posts 167, 168) because the principle was not plainly written in the original treaties does not make much sense.
Creating and dealing with a genuine single market, as the 1957 EEC Treaty provided for, implies, in legal terms, supremacy of EU rules. It was ECJ 's job to acknowledge it.
And, as a footnote: case law is a major and legitimate source of law, in code based law countries (continental Europe) as well as, obviously, in Common law countries.

  • 184.
  • At 04:43 PM on 22 Sep 2007,
  • Bryn wrote:

Europe must unite to compete economically with the USA, China & India. But also, Britain can learn from the Rest of Europe on socail aspects. Whenever I've been in big cities in Europe (Paris, Prague, Brussels etc.), the way of life has seemed so much better than here. I've felt safer in Capital Cities, late at night than I do in my own village!
But also British people need to change their mentality on Europe.
If you read the right-wing tabloids in Britain, some of the articles on the EU border on the Europhobic, let alone Eurosceptic.
We must embrace Europe, not fear it.
Vive l'Europe,
Vive l'Union!

  • 185.
  • At 04:46 PM on 22 Sep 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

John #182 writes: "The English-speaking countries already have mutual cooperative institutions such as NATO & ANZUS, the UKUSA intelligence sharing agreements, Free Trade Agreements for North America and USA/Australia."

The many non-English speaking countries in NATO will be disappointed to hear that John wants to expel them. On the other hand, I am not sure that Mexico would want to see itself re-classified as an English-speaking country. Unless, perhaps, the US recognised Spanish as a national language.

The English-speaking world exists as a cultural community but not as a coherent polity or economy.

John's piece deserves to be read as an example of how Britons see their place in the world. Dream on Britain! The country's new motto.

  • 186.
  • At 11:01 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Louis (183): No decision taken by a judge in 1964 (when the EU restricted itself to minor matters like the maximum curvature of cucumbers) can justify that EU law is supreme in all policy areas in future. If that is the case then every new EU law will remove a national law and also the ability of our national parliaments to change that law. The inevitable result of that process will be the death of democracy because in the long-run every law will be made in Brussels and the democratic parliaments we elect will not then be able to change anything. No judge in 1964 can make such a decision about the future of democracy for 500 million people.

Jeff (181): Sovereign nation states are bound by the terms of international treaties whether they are big or small countries. The US Constitution for example states “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made … shall be the supreme law of the land”. It does not say the US Constitution alone is supreme; it says the constitution and international treaties. The status of international treaties is the same throughout the world so they are no less binding on European countries, whatever their size.

Distinctions should be made between law applied within our countries (i.e. purely domestic law) & law applied between countries, and also between negative law & positive law. Note that the EU today does NOT restrict itself to law between our countries and can replace our national law. EU law should only be binding (i.e. superior to law from our democratic national parliaments) for negative law applied between our countries. In these cases law with purely national jurisdiction cannot help that much. Therefore I think it tolerable that negative international law be imposed by a qualified majority of countries. National law should be superior to EU law in all other cases (i.e. all purely domestic law, and legislation to create positive rights with an international dimension).

Consider for example a ban on smoking in public. This is an example of negative law in that it restrains people from an activity that is harmful to others. The law against smoking in public should be purely national because somebody smoking in the UK cannot harm anybody else in another member state of the European Union. The EU should not therefore be able to create law superior to national law to stop people smoking. Even if all 27 EU countries ban smoking in public the EU should still not be able to introduce a similar EU-level ban using law superior to national law because to do so would prevent any of those 27 nations electing a future government to change their law on smoking even though smoking in one country cannot harm anybody in another country.

However if we talk of airborne pollution from factories, power stations etc. that can be carried from one country to another then one can consider a role for binding EU law to protect people in one country from harmful activities performed in other countries. This is an example of negative international law, which is in my opinion the only area where EU law should be supreme.

Examples of international positive rights might be a right to university education in another EU country at the same subsidised rate as domestic students, or the right to use the health service of other member states. Most people’s attitude to such positive EU rights might be “OK, but who is going to pay for that”? If the EU creates positive rights using law superior to national law then it is taking a decision to spend national resources which voters might prefer be spent in another way, and it is binding all future national governments to do likewise whatever future generations of their voters might think, which cannot be legitimate. Positive EU rights (whether with an international dimension or not) should be subordinate to national law such that voters can elect governments with a real power to change how their taxes are spent by opting-in or -out of EU positive rights legislation. This would also have the very desirable effect of automatically forcing the EU to design spending programs wisely such that they are attractive enough for voters in different countries to voluntarily consent to funding.

  • 187.
  • At 02:10 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Jeff wrote:

To John: You claim that EU institutions are not accountable to European people (which in your view does not and cannot exist) and do not act in the interest of Europe as a whole, but instead are accountable to EU member states and act in the interest of individual member states (understand those states with enough influence over the EU, especially France and Germany). In such case, EU institutions should not have the power to adopt or maintain any rules that in any way affect the laws adopted by member states' legislators, against such legislators' will, since it is solely the member state's legislator which is accountable to the demos. Otherwise, EU member states would cease to be democratic states since their laws would be adopted by democratically unaccountable institutions (e.g., by ad hoc meetings of member states' ministers and by the European Parliament which you insist is not democratically accountable since there is no European demos) without any control of the legislator. In addition, it is unacceptable to say that, by agreeing to EU membership, member states' legislators delegated a significant part of their lawmaking power to EU institutions, thereby losing control over such lawmaking activity.

The proper way to address this problem is by (i) recognizing that Europeans are a common demos and that EU institutions are accountable to European people and that lawmaking at the EU level needs to be carried out by an EU parliament elected and accountable to the European demos, and (ii) clearly defining legislative powers that will be vested with the EU (including air pollution if you like), with the rest staying with member states.

Another possible approach would be to say that each member state is fully sovereign and retains its entire legislative competence although member states' government are free to agree and coordinate their policies with each other provided that all such agreements that have an impact on the respective member states' laws must first be approved by the respective legislators before having any binding legal effect and can be revoked by the legislator at any time.

In addition, there is the separate issue whether the sovereignty of countries is subject to any limitations. I agree 100% that sovereign countries should be bound by those treaties that they enter into and ratify, until they choose to withdraw from such treaties in accordance with the pre-agreed procedure provided for such withdrawal. (Where ratification by the legislator is required for the adoption of a treaty, treaties are typically not binding on signatories until their ratification; this is very clearly demostrated for instance by the US approach to international treaties and obligations - in fact the US goes even further, for instance as regards the enforcement of WTO rules against the US). The more complex question is whether a group of countries, acting on the basis of qualified majority, should be able to impose an international treaty on a dissenting sovereign country (as you propose in the area of air-borne pollution). I am not entirely against such idea in certain narrow areas (e.g., global pollution, egregious violations of human rights, military aggression and discriminatory trade practises) although I am sceptical about how such obligations can be enforced in a fair and non-discriminative fashion in the absence of an overarching power superior to sovereign countries. In addition, I do not see any need for developing a separate European system of binding qualified-majority based international law that would go beyond the global principles of international law. If there is no European demos, as you claim, why should, for instance, the Czech Republic be forced to favor the UK over Canada against the Czech Republic's will? Sorry, but that does not make any sense.

  • 188.
  • At 12:07 AM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Michal wrote:

I can't resist writing a reply to John (153)...

My president Vaclav Klaus is pretty much a nutcase. His is a Randian, ultra-libertarian idea of freedom, where people should have be free to do whatever they like and damn the consequences. Mr. Klaus thinks very highly of himself, but that doesn't make him right. He completely lacks humility and self-doubt, which makes him much closer to the authoritarians he decries than he'd ever admit.

Re Czechoslovakia. The creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 was a historical accident. Although Czechs and Slovaks have very similar language and similar culture, they do not have much common history. While the Czech side (Bohemia & Moravia) was firmly in the German/Austrian sphere of influence, Slovakia was part of Hungary for most of the second millennium.

The practical problem with Czechoslovakia as a federation was that it only had two constituent parts, and one of them was twice as large as the other in terms of population and considerably more developed economically. Proportionality was hated by Slovaks, parity irritated Czechs.

In the end, part of the political elite split Czechoslovakia against the will of most of the population. Personally I believe the split was probably the right thing to do, and certainly it was done with minimum of fuss.

The disintegration of Czechoslovakia has little bearing on intra-EU relations. A union with only two participants is a very different beast compared to a union with 20+ members.

  • 189.
  • At 12:27 AM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Michal wrote:

A few random thoughts...

Many believe that the US of A is a model federation with no problems. That is not the case. Some Americans would explain to you how the Federal Government usurps state rights and does many things that directly contradict the US Constitution (such as levying federal taxes).

How does it work in practice? Let's say that one state, let's call it state C, decides to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The Federal Govt does not believe this is in the best interests of the federation. Now this should be firmly within state C's jurisdiction, right? Wrong! The Federal Govt has many tools at its disposal to coerce a state. The chief of those is threatening to withdraw federal funding of various projects (ie. billions and billions of dollars). States inevitably decide that it's not worth the trouble to resist the Federal Govt.

Re economies of scale. They are a fact of life and anyone who says different knows nothing of economics. A large internal market provides an excellent opportunity for a company to grow to a size where it can become an international player. On the other hand, companies started in small countries often find it very difficult to expand beyond the borders.

Re Norway. Listing Norway as an example of how the world's richest countries aren't EU member states is laughable. Everyone knows that Norway is rich because of oil, and if Norwegians entered the EU, they'd have to give a chunk of their wealth away. Why would they join? Same with Switzerland - as a rich country, they don't want to pay, so they just get as many advantages as they can get (Schengen) without actually joining.

  • 190.
  • At 05:22 PM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Peter Davidson wrote:


I cannot argue with your logical approach to this (relatively) contentious topic. However have to point out a few points that must be taken into account when deliberating upon possible long-term solutions.

You highlight the benefits flowing from economies of scale but this is not the whole story.

Try reading "The Size of Nations" by Alesina and Spolaore, in which they debate the cost-benefit trade-off between economies of scale weighed against costs of heterogeneity.

In large countries, the per capita costs of delivering mass public services are low but the heterogeneous preferences of a large population potentially frustrate the capacity of states to formulate policy and state provision on this basis.

Conversely smaller countries remain flexible enough to respond to citizen preferences in a more democratic fashion.

Secondly you illustrate the coercive capacity of the federal government to override the democratic wishes of constituent geo-political elements.

I accept the thrust of your critique but would respond by saying that Europe now has an opportunity to learn from such mistakes and build a federal structure in which the balance of power is tilted firmly in favour of Regional blocs making up the EU. In fact this is precisely what the subsidiarity principle, enshrined in the Treaty of European Union (Maastricht) was all about in the first place!

Finally your remarks about Switzerland and Norway are slightly misleading because as we know, Norway and Switzerland do not enjoy the trade benefits of association with the richest trading bloc in the world bar none (the EU) gratis; both countries pay a boat load of money for the privilege and have absolutely no say in how the club is run.

It would be good to think that the majority of people could view the prospects for future evolution of the Union in a relatively dispassionate and objective manner but perhaps that is hoping for too much given the emotional nature of the topic. As Samuel Johnson once famously intoned "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel!"

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