This is a guest blog post about the European Union written by Pamela, who monitors EU agricultural policy on behalf of U.S. agricultural interests and thereby became familiar with the political and philosophical underpinnings of the European Union. It would be great to have a debate about the issues raised by Pamela.
What is This "mystical conception?" I'm not referring to a theological tenant. I'm recalling Harold Macmillan's swoon over the Schuman Plan, which has evolved into what we know today as the European Union. It would be churlish to expect Macmillian to have foreseen the hydra the object of his admiration has become. But surely contemporary Europeans are cognizant, yes? No?
If 'yes', then I must ask why it has come to this. If 'no', then I must ask how it has come to this.
Over the past two years or so, I have solicited the opinions of Europeans I've encountered. The negative opinions closely track my own. The positive views of the EU were more illuminating for me. They exposed premises in my own thinking about Europe and forced me to recalibrate my mental 'ear'. In the early days of the conversations I had, it would have been quite reasonable to tell me "I know you think you know what I said, but that's not what I said".
The gulf between the cultural conceptions of 'nationalism' held by Europeans and Americans could hardly be wider. To Americans it simply means the primacy of a nation's self-interest. It is an amoral political construct. Yet when Europeans hear the word, they hear one loaded with a cacophony of voices crying 'aggression', 'destruction', 'racism'.Without exception, when the abolition of the nation-state is used as a justification for the European Union, it is the European concept of 'nationalism' that is the underlying premise. Still, from the perspective of this admittedly conservative American, the 'soft power' posture toward its global neighbors that supporters of the EU tout as one of its primary virtues is concomitant with a 'soft totalitarianism' toward its citizens.
This is a distillation of the conversations - and the readings - that have comprised my study of the European Union, the conclusions and the questions I've come away with. I have actually read the EU Constitution and most of the revisions released in October 2007. What I read is disturbing, to say the least.
The Abolition of The Nation-State?
Does the establishment of the European Union abolish the nation-state? Or is the better question; Does the establishment of the European Union supersede the nation-state?
The Union shall respect the equality of Member States before the Constitution as well as their national identities, inherent in their fundamental structure, political and constitutional, inclusive of regional and local self-government. It shall respect the essential State functions, including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State, maintaining law and order and safeguarding national security.
Let us parse.
The Union shall respect the equality of Member States before the Constitution
Sometimes it is a good thing to be explicit about what should be obvious. This is one of those times. What might be an example of equality of Member States before the Constitution? Perhaps the issue is more profitably explored if we ask what might be an example of inequality of Member States before the Constitution?
If Poland were permitted to have the same number of MEPs as France, even though Poland's population is considerably smaller, could France reasonably argue that her representation in Parliament is materially unequal? I think so.
What if one third of all Member States had NO representation on the European Commission (the body that proposes EU laws) during any period of rotation? Could the excluded Member States argue such lack of representation denied them equality before the Constitution? According to the Revised Treaty, beginning November 1 2014, that will be the case.
As from 1 November 2014, the Commission shall consist of a number of members, including its President and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, corresponding to two thirds of the number of Member States, unless the European Council, acting unanimously, decides to alter this number.
Perhaps the 'equality before the Constitution' is that, over time, all Member States are denied representation on an equal basis.
It shall respect the essential State functions, including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State
Please explain to me why Italy is having a huge problem with Romanians. What are these 'Polish Plumbers' the Brits and the French keep banging on about? (Note that I am citing examples involving legal immigrants from Member States only.)
As I write this, Italy is convulsed with violent crimes perpetrated by Romanian immigrants, Italian citizens have resorted to vigilantism, and the Italian government has decided to expel the lot of them, or as many as it can round up.
The Italian government appears to have violated the following articles: Article I-10 2:
Citizens of the Union shall enjoy...
(a) the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.
Article II-105 1:
Every citizen of the Union has the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.
Article II-79 1:
Collective expulsions are prohibited.
The articles themselves seem to directly contradict the clause that promises respect for territorial integrity.
Maintaining law and order
I present Learco Chindamo. Mr. Chindamo is an Italian national residing in the UK. When he was 15 (1995), he murdered a school headmaster, Phillip Lawrence. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a required minimum of 12 years. Chindamo was released in 2006 to a resettlement program. Her Majesty's government wants to deport him to Italy. The UK High Court has ruled it cannot. Quote: "There is no error of law in the careful determination of the tribunal..his decision was mainly based on EU regulations". To be absolutely clear, the UK has a set of laws on the books known as The Human Rights Act. The commentary I have read points out that even without the force of the (unspecified) EU regulations, the Human Rights Act may have precluded his deportation on the grounds it would be 'disproportionate'.
My question is: If the Constitution intends to respect the Member States' rights to 'maintain law and order', how does it happen that the UK High Court finds that EU regulations have primacy over a Member State's laws that, for all practical purposes, provide the same protections? Could the answer be here?
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.
and safeguarding national security.
Article I-16(1) states:
The Union's competence in matters of common foreign and security policy shall cover all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union's security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy the might lead to a common defence.
Perhaps it reflects a lack of imagination on my part, but I am at a loss to contrive a circumstance that would threaten the security of a Member State that would not also threaten the security of the Union.
If I were a citizen of Turkey, I would be seriously questioning the wisdom of my government's attempt to join the EU. Turkey is sustaining repeated cross-border incursions from the PKK separatists in Iraq. They have murdered Turkish civilians and soldiers. If Turkey had to tolerate this nonsense as a member of the EU, Brussels would be dithering about whether the Turkish military should be unionized before authorizing any resources for them.
I could go on, but I think you get my drift. Oh, one more thing. The EU will have its own diplomatic service. It will work for the office of what for all practical purposes will be the EU foreign minister. This position is authorized to speak for the Union in the United Nations whenever Member States agree on an issue of foreign policy.
Good luck with that. I await the day when Germany, France, et. al., will relinquish their seats at the U.N., for the clout of a single seat occupied by the EU.
Is the European Union Democratic?
Citizens of Member States directly elect only the members of the Parliament. That sounds lovely. Unfortunately, the Parliament doesn't govern. As I read it, the Commission proposes laws. It is true that the EU Parliament must pass on proposed legislation to national parliaments, who may then respond positively or negatively. I don't think the record so far is terribly encouraging.
Since the procedure was placed in force in September 2006, the French have responded 36 times, the UK 17, the Germans 16, the Swedes 13, the Portuguese 13, and the Danes 12.
I defy anyone reading this to tell me what legislation any of these parliaments were responding to.
Which brings up another question: Does anyone know what percentage of laws a citizen of a Member State is subject to that were passed in Brussels as opposed to those passed by the respective national parliaments? I've read various figures but can verify none of them. The acquis communitaire is over 80,000 pages. Those Brussels people have certainly been busy.
Mark Leonard, writing in "Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century" notes:
Europe has been able to extend itself into the lives of Europeans largely unchallenged by seeping into the existing structure of national life, leaving national institutions outwardly intact but inwardly transformed. The 'Europeanization' of national political life has largely gone on behind the scenes, but its very invisibility has seen the triumph of a unique political experiment.
Mr. Leonard seems to think that's a good thing. If I were a citizen of a Member State, I would be thrashing between states of umbrage, rage, and shame. Democracy and invisibility are mutually exclusive. 'Unchallenged' indeed.
It looks as though things will continue to go on unchallenged and unaccountable. Apparently, calling something a 'treaty' instead of a 'constitution' alleviates any pesky requirements that it be subjected to popular vote. The respective national parliaments can simply vote to ratify and PRESTO! You have your new European Union.
Born not with the vote of the demos, but with a shrug.