Friday, January 21, 2005

A rambling attempt at historical perspective

Old Ken over at EU Realist has been delving into the history books, and come up with some quotes from prominent pro-Europeans of times past which seem to confirm all Eurosceptics' worst fears. It started with this, of which this one stood out:

“Europe's nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation" (Jean Monnet communication, 30 April 1952)
Following my suggestion that times have changed and that not all pro-Europeans necessarily have the same aims that Monnet did half a century ago, Ken came back with yet more quotes.

Here's my vague response, posted as a comment on Ken's site. We started off misunderstanding each other's intentions - I thought Ken was claiming that the EU is driving towards a federal superstate, he thought I was denying that the EU is pushing for further integration and powers. It's all off the top of my head, not backed up with any links, references or anything else, and was written while slightly sozzled after a liquid lunch, so it may not make any sense. It may, however, prompt some interesting debate. Or be mind-numbingly tedious, I don't know...

Anyway, here it is - the point I initially refer to is that federalism is no longer the principle aim of the EU project:

The point still stands, however, no matter how many quotes you find (and there are a lot more than just that little lot - especially from the '40s and '50s when full-on federalism actually seemed like a desirable long-term goal). Quotes are not the same as facts.

There is certainly a minority of politicians - even leading ones - who are so idealistic as to actually want to create a United States of Europe (Ted Heath being one), but they are becoming rarer and rarer as time goes by and realpolitik takes over. It's simply unrealistic and undesirable for all but the most idealistic of politicians.

Probably ought to clarify - further integration, yes, obviously, is an aim - including some semblance of political integration. But nowhere near as much as often seems to be claimed.

I don't have any political philosophy reference works to hand to find the generally accepted definition of a political federation - but I'm fairly sure that by the broadest definition the EU already is one. What I am denying is the (peculiarly British) interpretation of the idea of a federal Europe being one in which nation states no longer hold any power or influence.

Ken's response:
Federalism is not really the point, the point is that the EU is on the road to become the full government of Britain and the other states. To deny that, which you are attempting to do, flows against all of the history of the EU itself, every single treaty drives this project forward every single treaty removes power from the states and gives it to the EU. What you are doing is to deny the Monnet Method, which was designed to achieve unity in Europe by slow inconsistent unconnected moves toward integration that can be explained as something other.
Not sure what you mean by “full government”. If you mean having control over the majority of policy areas, we are blatantly still a long way off. As for “on the road” – well, in the sense that there is still a drive towards further integration, the EU is indeed on the road somewhere, and this involves gaining more influence over certain policy areas, certainly. But not you, nor I, nor they know where this road will end up – unless you have a crystal ball, that is?

I am by no means suggesting that a move to further integration is not happening now, as it obviously is – the EU project is still in its early stages (and no one knows what the final stage will be because, as is obvious from this little discussion, no one can agree yet).

I’m just trying to point out the obvious - namely that what was true in the 1950s is not the case now. What I am suggesting – as I am fairly certain that it is true – is that the drive to further integration which is happening today is happening for very different motives than was the case 40-50 years ago – even than 20 years ago. Lest we forget, in the mid to late 1940s one of the prime advocates of a European union, complete with a common army and all the rest, was Winston Churchill; he later changed his mind.

The “Monnet method” may well still be in existence, but if so the timescale has been extended to the point of being inconsequential – as I said before, there isn’t a hope in hell of this happening in either of our lifetimes, or indeed for centuries. Yet he intended for everything to be sorted by the end of the twentieth century. This proved utterly unrealistic, so plans have changed.

Monnet was also, lest we forget, working in a bipolar, Cold War world, and many then believed that building Europe into a geographically large and coherent superstate to compete alongside the USA and USSR was the best way to get by. Times and opinions change.

A fully politically integrated United States of Europe seemed like a good idea then for the mutual protection of the entire continent (nuclear bombs have a tendency not to stop spreading their radiation at national borders). Now it is less necessary for defensive purposes (although cross-border policing thanks to drug, people-trafficking and terrorist networks strikes me as a good idea with which the EU can greatly assist), and hence far, far less desirable to national political elites who want to maintain their hold on power.

The EU is not the product of one man’s vision, but a multitude of constantly-shifting opinions. It seems that, by your logic, Monnet said x, so everything the EU has been doing since has been to promote x. I might point out that in the early 1980s Tony Blair was opposed to both the EU and the United States’ overseas influence. Has his sucking up to Bush and promotion of the EU constitution all been part of a masterplan to undermine both? Of course not – because times and opinions change.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My argument is quite simple this is not ancient history, but an ongoing process. To describe this as a master plan would in my opinion suggest undertones of deceit which is not my intention, in fact the ideas for a united Europe were set out a very long time ago in the open, and for reasons that these people were proud to promote. One can clearly see the process continuing along the lines set down by Monnet who is described as the Father of the European Union for the very good reason that he set up a system that would be self propelling. For his ideas to succeed he realised there must be a motor for integration which was not affected by the democratic process in the member states, this High Authority became the EU Commission. If you look at the Constitution you find the driving force which has been in all the treaties, this time worded “Reflecting the will of the citizens and States of Europe to build a
common future” the word “Federal” was removed but replaced by “in the Community way” which means the same thing, and we find that the Commission is still the motor of integration

The European Commission shall promote the general European interest and take appropriate initiatives to that end. It shall ensure the application of the Constitution, and steps taken by the institutions under the Constitution. It shall oversee the application of Union law under the control of the Court
of Justice. It shall execute the budget and manage programmes. It shall exercise coordinating, executive and management functions as laid down in the Constitution. With the exception of the common foreign and security policy, and other cases provided for in the Constitution, it shall ensure the Union's external representation. It shall initiate the Union's annual and multiannual programming with a view to achieving interinstitutional agreements.

Any attempt to deny the meaning of the part of Preamble I quoted is undermined because, both the Commision and the ECJ take those words to mean exactly what they say “the people of Europe wish to form a common future”

My basic argument is that the people of Britain have never been asked if they wish to do this at all, let alone under the Umbrella of an overarching European Government. We have been misdirected by our own politicians from the begging of this process. On the Continent, politicians have been much more open about the intention and the aims of the movement, and have to a certain extent taken their people with them, this is not the case in Britain (I do hope that the quotes of our politicians will not be needed for this point to be accepted).

There is a debate about the benefits or otherwise of becoming a state in the EU as opposed to autonomy, but that debate cannot begin whilst misdirection about the intentions of all this integration is still being perused, and the eventual aims of the movement are being denied, because then we find ourselves debating the finer points of power division between Britain and the EU and not the very necessary overall decision of do we or do we not want to part of this union. That of course is the reason for the misdirection to move the debate onto a safer ground.

1/22/2005 01:48:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In actual fact there are varying definitions of a federation, but the easiest to work with is to define a federation as being a political system where component states or entities derive powers that are explicitly devolved to them from the central government.

In contrast, I think of the European Union as being a confederal construction, where the central authority has only those powers that are given to it by the component states or entities.

The European Constitution will in effect codify this confederal state of affairs. The EU has only those powers that have been explicitly passed to it by the member states. In effect the Constitution is the final declaration, and guarantee, against the development of a federal Europe!


1/22/2005 10:52:00 am  
Blogger Tim Worstall said...

Well, at least you’ve made it easy for me to explain my opposition to the EU.
As you state, it is working and moving towards further integration. I do not desire further integration, thus am against the EU.
Simple enough?

1/22/2005 06:10:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your first definition is the one that the EU is working towards, I understand that your final paragraph is the argument that will be used to convince the people of the benefits of this constitution, but unfortunately it is a false statement. What you are suggesting by (The EU has only those powers that have been explicitly passed to it by the member states) was put forward at the Convention on the Future of Europe but it was rejected otherwise we would see a clear division of those competences which are the Unions and those which are the states

Sorry to bore you with a quote but here a two from Gisela Stuart

"This Treaty establishing a Constitution brings together all that has been agreed in the past and introduces significant new changes in the EU. It will be difficult to amend and will be subject to interpretation by the European Court of Justice. And if it remains in its current form, the new Constitution will be able to create powers for itself. It cannot be viewed piecemeal; its sum is more than its parts".

"This Constitution is unusual in that it also initiates processes for future development with the aim of deeper and ever closer integration. Where integration can be deepened no further, this text has rigid rules as for example in the list of exclusive competences of the Commission. Power at the centre cannot be returned to Member States., the Draft Constitution creates the structure for a process to develop later. An example of this is defence and foreign policy".

Now either she, who is a pro European and was a member of the presidium at the convention, is wrong or, your information is, because you are each saying diametrically opposite things.

In the constitution text as you will know the language is clear and unambiguous in some parts and less so in others, which effectively indicates that Stuart has the right in this when she says “Where the political climate means that certain ideas for further integration are not yet acceptable”

Let us look at the line of reasoning that the States are the master and the Union the servant. This of course is now the case, however, again as you will know, the Constitution changes the flow of power, it firstly sets up the union as a legal entity in its own right, it then makes the EU Constitution superior to states constitution and EU law superior to state law in as much if there is a dispute it is the state law which must change. The Constitution also imposes a duty of loyal cooperation on the member states and then enforces that duty with the words “The Member States shall facilitate the achievement of the Union's tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives set out in the Constitution." Please note objectives set out in the Constitution. The import of this is that national governments must give priority to Union objectives, even in areas of policy that have not been
transferred to the EU, because of the overarching scope of the Union's objectives. It does not for instance say anything about limiting those objectives I does however list them. Read again the preamble;

CONVINCED that, while remaining proud of their own national identities and history, the peoples of Europe are determined to transcend their former divisions and, united ever more closely, to forge a common destiny,
CONVINCED that, thus "United in diversity", Europe offers them the best chance of pursuing, with due regard for the rights of each individual and in awareness of their responsibilities towards future generations and the Earth, the great venture which makes of it a special area of human hope,
DETERMINED to continue the work accomplished within the framework of the Treaties establishing the European Communities1 and the Treaty on European Union, by ensuring the continuity of the Community acquis,
GRATEFUL to the members of the European Convention for having prepared the draft of this Constitution on behalf of the citizens and States of Europe,WHO, having exchanged their full powers, found in good and due form, have agreed as follows:

There is a clause which states the Union “shall respect the national identities of its Member States …" This is meaningless in law, because national identity is not a justiciable concept, also it is quite different from national democracy or independence or sovereignty or power.

Now the final declaration, and guarantee, against the development of a federal Europe, there is nothing in the Constitution that says this is the final declaration, there is nothing that guarantees no further development in fact as quoted above Stuart say the exact opposite. This point was confirmed last week by commission president José Manuel Barroso he said: "If there is a need to change the rules later we will do it. But that is not the issue today." (On weighted votes in the Council) Again the point is confirmed in the document Building a political Europe

Now I am quite sure that we can go through the text for the next week or so, we could discus subsidiarity the flexibility clause etc. But I am equally sure that you cannot show me where this constitution limits and prevents the EU from becoming the government of Britain in the sense which I mean, to be the final authority.

1/22/2005 11:36:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Tim - you see, that I can understand. I reckon we'll be better off with a bit more integration, you don't. Matter of opinion - fine.

Ken - I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything, just trying to work out the logic of the various viewpoints.

The problem is that the EU needs to re-assess itself and work out where it's heading - especially since the new member states joined last year - but hasn't allowed itself enough time. You quoted Gisela Stuart - this article by her sums up a lot of the difficulties the EU is facing now that there are 25 members. She is largely pro-EU as am I - that doesn't mean that she or I think that EVERYTHING the EU is doing is perfect or that we'd defend everything it's trying to do.

As for part of the constitution which prevents the EU from becoming the "government of Britain" - how about the clause which for the first time provides a procedure for withdrawal? There are countless other, more minor ones - continued veto in key policy areas etc. etc. Nothing will happen unless Britain wants it to. And as we seem to be setting precedents to hold referenda on every new stage of our relationship with the EU, there will be countless chances to stop further integration.

I just wish you could explain precisely why it is in the interests of the national governments of Britain, France, Germany and every other EU state to give away all their authority and power to an organisation over which they have little control? But you can't, because it isn't.

This whole idea that the EU is going to become the government of Britain is one of your pet "straw man" arguments - it simply doesn't make any logical sense for any of the national political elites to let this happen. It was certainly an aim back in the 1940s/50s - post-war idealism etc. - but everyone fairly quickly realised the power they'd be giving up on a national level, and all but the most naive pro-Europeans abandoned the idea.

1/23/2005 01:43:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand you were not trying to convince, but that is the argument that is being used in other places, sorry did not mean to imply anything. Yes Gisela Stuart is pro EU and pro EU constitution, just not this one, and she was closely involved with drafting it, and it is her informed opinion that it is not a good text and that it was not produced democratically. However you have not addressed the question which is that your position is opposed to hers so who is right?

Withdrawal as I said we could debate this for a week or so. The clause you mention is not an easy way out, it removes from the British government the power they have at present to make that decision for themselves, because the British government have retained the final power to withdraw, what this clause does is set conditions on the British parliament which were are not there presently. Of cause any attempts at withdrawal will be accompanied by negotiations but at the moment if the British parliament voted in support Britain could remove herself from the union in a day. This clause complicates that simple fact. This clause also shows the way that could, I repeat could, be used in the future to make things even harder for a country that wanted to withdraw by simply changing this clause, extending the time, making the conditions more difficult etc. It is also not beyond the bounds of possibility that a State may be asked to poll their people, it must not be ignored that we are also citizens of the EU as such no matter what my feelings for that may be the EU is increasingly taking the stand that it has the right and the power to look after its citizens. And as this is not and cannot be the final definitive Constitution the door is well and truly left open for such change.

As for setting presidents I see the need for this referendum from the governments view, but that situation will not arise again, because we will have accepted that the EU constitution is our constitution changes to it will not require further referendums because we will have already accepted the principal. Don’t forget that this constitution also allows for changes to it simply by agreement at the Council without the need for state parliamentary acceptance. It also allows for a move from unanimity to QMV on these key policy areas. You really must not forget that this constitution is an enabling constitution which will allow for change and make that change easier.

Now you ask a very pertinent question why would national governments of Britain, France, Germany and every other EU state give away all their authority and power to an organisation over which they have little control. you say I can’t and to honest I do not have definitive answer to that, this is the one question that evades any understanding, I do not believe in the power argument, quite obviously there is no financial incentive, there is one reason that could hold water but not unless you are a believer in secret societies which I am not but is might be worth doing a goggle on Bilderberger, there are some interesting sites and also some nutters. However I dispute you point that I can’t because it isn’t it obviously is.
You keep asserting that the idea has been abandoned, yet as I have said, your point is not only disputed by Eusceptics but those in the front line of EU integration the Schröder`s, the Prodi’s, etc. they all are clear about the aim and the intentions of the movement. It is only in Britain where we see this denial of what is happening and that may possibly I suggest be one of the major reasons for the amount Eusceptisism.
"Your problem [in Britain] is that you are afraid of saying clearly to European citizens just what the European Union is." Jean-Luc Dehaene, Vice-President of the European Constitutional Convention. Comment to Peter Hain, Labour Minister for Europe. Quoted in Le Monde, 13 April 2003.

1/23/2005 05:35:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken writes: why would national governments of Britain, France, Germany and every other EU state give away all their authority and power to an organisation over which they have little control.Um... They would do this for the same reason states have always acted in internatinal affairs: they percieve this course of actions to be in their interests. Ken also assumes the states see the EU as "an organisation over which they have little control". Perhaps -- indeed presumably -- well-informed governments do not share this perception.

1/24/2005 05:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I did not pose the question I was responding. However in which way do the states control the EU? and what affect will the Constitution have on that control?

A state agreeing an international treaty with another for their mutual benefit is not giving up its sovereignty, it is therefore free to dissolve the agreement at any time. It is certainly not giving it to a third party who will then hold that power for ever, so please do not try to confuse the two, either show how the EU is controlled and how sovereignty lies with the British parliament or accept the premise.

Ken does not assume states perceive see the EU as "an organisation over which they have little control". But then what makes a state, the government or the people or is it something else.

In which way can the people voting for a government be assured that the policies they vote for can be implemented, whilst we remain in the EU they cannot, because policies are limited to those which are acceptable to the EU, as we discovered on asylum. Eusceptics keep saying that membership of the EU removes sovereignty Euphiles keep denying this, now the EU has confirmed that Britain has given up sovereignty on Asylum.

1/30/2005 12:14:00 am  

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