A Federalist Journal for World Citizenship

June 6, 2023

“… ensuring that the ‘power of rules’ prevail over the ‘rules of power’…”

Tanja Fajon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, 

Bled Strategic Forum, 26-30 August 2022


As suggested by Tanja Fajon, ensuring that the power of rules prevails is the main challenge concerning the relationship between the Balkans and the EU. This challenge must be viewed against at least four critical features: the current global geopolitical challenges; the reshuffling from global to regional value-chains; the risks and opportunities deriving from the EU enlargement to the Balkans; and the need for a European structural reform.

1. The global framework

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, since at least the US-led financial crisis, the world was in need of (and moving, slowly, towards) multilateralism, as a way to overcome the weakness of a hegemonic system no longer reflected in the real balance of economic and political power worldwide. The conflict put a halt to this process, risking a return to a new form of bilateralism, that very much resembles the doom years of the cold war. The need to provide crucial global public goods for the survival of mankind suggests that we cannot afford such trend.

We must return on the way of multilateralism.

A key responsibility for this is the birth and consolidation of a clear European actorness and sovereignty, in turn depending on the ability of Europe to provide crucial public goods such as ensuring security in the provision of energy, food, raw materials, technology, multi-layered industrial structures, etc. Generally speaking, this requires restructuring the European economy to be more self-reliant; at the same time this implies a single foreign policy and a common strategic attitude towards external partnerships (Africa, Latina America, wider Europe, post-Putin Russia, Mediterranean Basin, etc).

Hence the need to enhance the European cohesion in areas where externalities split over national boundaries, again: security, foreign policy, energy, health, major infrastructure, digital and green transition. This can be done via national coordinated action, which proved weak in times of crisis, i.e when it is most required, and with high risks of asymmetry (due to different financial health of national budgets) or with a joint budget, increased with genuine own resources and/or in deficit spending. 

2. Reshoring

One key aspect of this European sovereignty enhancing strategy requires internalizing formerly global value chains. This is an ongoing process since the covid, but should be further pursued.

Hence the economic relevance of the Balkans in the EU. The following is a series of graphs and tables illustrating the trade interchange between the Balkan countries and the EU, from both sides.

They testify of a strong interdependence in regional value chains that should be further pursued. Not in an autarchic perspective, that the EU cannot afford anyway, being extremely exposed to external provision of key raw materials, but in a strategy of greater productive autonomy.

The EU current account surplus is constant and comes from an increasing trend of both imports and exports.

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Exports are mainly directed to Serbia, which has a leading role in economic terms among the Balkan countries, in particular thanks to the strong engagement of Germany and Italy.

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Also from the part of the Balkans, the EU represents over 4/5th of the regional exports and accounts for more than a half of imports. Both China and Russia are currently of minor economic importance to the area. This strategic asset should not be wasted.

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3. Critical features

Traditional, historical, geopolitical alliances may be a problem. Serbia’s relations with Russia may be a risk for the strategic unity of the region. But it may be turned into an opportunity. Sooner or later the conflict in Ukraine is destined to come to an end; and we cannot expect simply to ignore the existence of Russia. Some kind of reciprocal relations must be established again between the EU and Russia. In this case, previous privileged relationships with Russia of some member countries may be an opportunity as a political and economic bridge. It is a long-run perspective. But nobody can predict how short this long-run may turn out to be.

Another major risk may be diverging interests between the Balkans. It is not by chance that we use the term Balkanization to illustrate fragmentation. It is in the responsibility of the EU to single out areas where balkanization risks are minimized a strategic unity ensured.

One more risk derives from the current weakness, especially in some of these countries, to ensure the (active) protection of human, civic, social rights and common European values. We do not want more problems similar to those we are experiencing with Hungary and Poland. This will very much depend on the way collective decisions are taken and enforced. We shall return on this later.

One further issue concerning the diverging performance of these countries in economic terms, that will need to be addressed. This also implies a more active redistributive capacity of the EU budget than what it is currently. We shall return on this in the next section.

4. Deepening or enlarging?

I hope I made it clear that the sooner we allow the Balkans in the process of EU membership the better. Pending the implementation of effective powers in foreign policy, the enlargement represented (and still represents) the true, viable EU foreign policy till now, by which the EU extended the power of supranational rules to a growing number of European countries. 

Enlarging is therefore unavoidable; to stabilize democratic trends, ensure balanced growth, enhance the resilience of the whole European continent to internal and external challenges. The ADRIA Region is already providing a useful table for common projects in the fields of skills, best practices, human capital, joint investment, etc. It is not enough. Full membership should come as soon as possible.

Deepening, nevertheless, is key too. In particular, no collective decision can be left again to the blackmails of veto power. And this requires treaty changes and an ex-ante agreement, before any enlargement takes place.

A two or three tier Europe might fit for the purpose of accommodating the institutional architecture to the required compromise between enlargement and deepening. Macron’ European political community might serve for this purpose. This implies, nevertheless, that a core of European countries has the strength to increase its collective sovereignty, basically thorough founding a federal system. 

Concluding remarks

In any case, what is mostly important is that Europe provides a clear and timely signal of a radical change in its governing structure, showing that it is ready to take the opportunities and minimize the risks of inefficiency, eventually providing a convincing coherence between its decision-making system and the rhythm of history.

Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash,

The Middle East exploded once more this spring, around the crucial issue that fuels an interminable conflict: the Palestine question.

Wars have been fought over it, and terrorist operations of various types have been conducted.  All in a setting that sees the great powers (the US and Russia) engaged in flexing their muscles, and exploiting states, political and terrorist movements to shore up their power in this corner of the world.

Recent years have seen the advent of various “regional” powers (Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia) intent on operating in a similar fashion, with the aim of carving out their own area of influence (hegemony), in agreement with one superpower or another, depending on the circumstances.

From the Second World War onwards, the Israel/Palestine question has unfolded in an area that is crucial for the development of the global economy due to the presence of oil, the main energy source of the twentieth century. To ‘govern’ this part of the world, political stability is vital, and the state of Israel has always been, and remains, crucial in this regard. 

While in the future the role of oil is destined to diminish as other forms of energy come into play, this remains a strategic hotspot: a crossroads between Asia, Africa and Europe, a key leg of the “Belt and Road initiative”,  characterised by one state equipped with nuclear weapons (Israel) and another that wants them (Iran): governing this area is therefore essential in terms of maintaining a global balance.

Attempts to stabilize the zone with a solution based on the “two peoples-two states” formula, with negotiations of various kinds, have proved unsuccessful. But even if this approach had been successful, it would certainly not have contributed to a “lasting” peaceful relationship between the two states. Borders are drawn based on power relations between states at any given time, and these can subsequently change, giving rise to new demands. 

As Alexander Hamilton writes in “The Federalist”, “To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighbourhood, would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages“.

An independent, entirely sovereign Palestinian state amidst other independent, entirely sovereign states would only generate increased conflict among states. This is the lesson that should have been learned from the history of the European continent through the centuries, and up to the tragedy of the Second World War. States with absolute sovereignty are by nature war-like (Kant).

We can therefore imagine that the Middle East peace process should involve:

  1. Putting an end to the Russian-American tug of war for (ultimately gaining) control over the area, by including the European Union as a power interested in political stabilization based on the economic development of the area, no longer in thrall to oil, but linked to the energy transition towards a sustainable economy, starting with agriculture. Israel’s technological capabilities would be made available to the entire area (which would benefit from them to develop), in exchange for gaining access to a large market, something that Israel needs.
  2. In this context we can therefore imagine an Israeli-Palestinian Federation as an initial nucleus of economic integration with neighbouring countries, thus also removing them from the interests of the regional powers in the vicinity.

All of this is based on the assumption that the EU, which stands to gain from a solution of this kind succeeds in exploiting this crisis, the umpteenth, to carve out a role for itself in foreign policy, thus discovering that the strategic interests of its main countries (Germany, France and Italy) coincide with European interests in  stabilizing the Middle East, which also borders on the Mediterranean.

Europe recently accomplished a quantum leap in budgetary terms to tackle the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic, by creating “European fiscal capacity”: common debt on future investments and increased budget, with a view to introducing new, additional own resources.

It is time for a quantum leap in European foreign policy too. The Middle East is the test-bed, right now.

It is up to the European Parliament to come up with solutions and not just “hope” that others will take care of it.

The European Commission has to take the initiative and lead the way, not wait for the European Council.

It is also up to European citizens to point out that political coexistence is possible, even between different peoples, religions and cultures. The construction of Europe proves it.

Religions tree

                                                           POLICY PAPER

…Perhaps it is from Europe that the message for coexistence and cooperation between different peoples, religions, cultures and ideas can come, for a more united world….

  1. A symbolic event

Should the measures to contain the Coronavirus pandemic allow it, the foundation stone for a temple that will combine a synagogue, a mosque and a Christian church in one building complex will be laid in Berlin before the summer of 2021. The idea dates back to 2009. Since then, a competition between Architect studios has been held and a winning project has been selected, which envisages a large central entrance and meeting space from which one has access to three separate but united spaces for prayer and meditation following the three monotheistic religions that have dominated the history of Europe for more than two millennia.

This event is bound to have great symbolic value, as religious beliefs in Europe have been a powerful factor of divisions and conflicts, between and within religions. The ecumenical movement has made considerable progress in recent decades, but the presence of a single temple where believers of different faiths can together, and at the same time each on their own, pray and celebrate their rites, is an event deemed to have great symbolic value, perhaps, we hope, marking a turning point not only for Europe, but for the whole world.

If we gave ourselves the task of arousing some form of “European nationalism” we would have no difficulty in recalling many elements in the history of the last 2-3 thousand years that make Europe, as we rhetorically say, a “beacon of civilization”. This is not the task we want to undertake. Rather, we want to shed light on those aspects for which Europe is, and has been, a negative example and in respect of which Europe can, perhaps, today, show the way to overcome them.

  • Religious wars

One of these aspects is certainly identifiable in the long history of religious wars. A history that starts from far away, at least from the events of the successive destructions and reconstructions of the temple of Jerusalem, from the history of the crusades to terrorism, and the attack on the Twin Towers that marked the beginning of the third millennium. It is significant that the Berlin Temple provides for the meeting, together but distinct, of the three great monotheistic religions. All three postulate the belief in a single god, but his word is manifested through prophecies and therefore conflicts arise around the question of what is the “true” word of God. What they have in common, starting from the belief in a single god, has not prevented in certain phases of history and in certain areas of the world their more or less peaceful coexistence, but more often they have produced wars of unprecedented violence. According to Jan Assmann, one of the major scholars of the origins of monotheism, people who recognize themselves in their belief in one god inevitably give rise to conflict, to violence, because “my” god cannot be compatible with “your” god, there is only “one” truth.

The history of relations between Christians and Muslims, between Jews and Christians and between Jews and Muslims, even without adhering to the theory of the inevitable “clash of civilizations”, is more a history of wars than of peaceful coexistence.

Religious beliefs are undoubtedly a component of the identity of the peoples of the earth, they are a factor of inclusion and at the same time of exclusion and therefore they can be both causes and consequences of conflict. Conflicts of the most bitter kind, however, have developed within each monotheistic religions and even within those that have preached universal brotherhood.

In 1598, King Henry IV issued the Edict of Nantes, which put a temporary end to the war between Catholics and Huguenots (Calvinists) that had devastated France for almost half a century, recognizing freedom of worship and other rights. A little less than a century later, the edict was revoked, this time at Fontainebleau, by Louis XVI, reopening an issue that would be overcome only with the Revolution. The history of Germany in the seventeenth century is also characterized by religious wars between Catholic and Protestant states: estimates say that the Thirty Years’ War caused from 3 to 9 million deaths in a population estimated at 15 to 20 million. The war ended with the Peace of Westphalia that sanctioned, on the one hand, the definitive affirmation of the principle that subjects had to follow the religion of the prince who governed the territory (“cuius regio, eius religio”) and, on the other hand, sanctioned the principle of absolute sovereignty of the state, cancelling any claim of a superior imperial instance. Even today, in German-speaking regions, the territorial distribution of religious practices between Catholic and Protestant regions reflects that which was established at that time.

  • The connection between religious and political conflicts

The wars of religion, as is evident, were not only motivated by religious reasons. In history, the relationship between religion and political power has passed through the most diverse configurations, ranging from coincidence, to commingling and mutual influence, to separation and mutual hostility. Sometimes it is the political power that uses religion for its own ends, sometimes it is the religious institutions that use the alliance with the political power to affirm and spread their faith.

One cannot fail to remember, for example, that the expansion of Christian religions, and in particular the influence of the Catholic Church, went hand in hand with colonial expansion of the European powers. Missionaries often accompanied or followed colonial armies, and many times the conversion of entire populations was forced and imposed at gunpoint. The memory of colonialism extends long after the era that marks its end and even today has left deep traces in relations, for example, between the West and the Islamic world.

If it can be said that the wars of religions in Europe ended with the Peace of Westphalia and that, with different times and forms from country to country, conditions of greater tolerance among the Christian religious denominations were affirmed in Europe, the history of anti-Semitism and anti-Islamism is by no means over, indeed it has had well-known dramatic developments throughout the 20th century and up to the present day.

Religious wars are not, however, a prerogative of Christian Europe. Even within Islam, armed conflicts of unprecedented violence have been fought, and are still being fought today. For example the war between Iran and Iraq from 2002 to 2011 that reopened ancient hostilities between Shiites and Sunnis dating back to the time of Muhammad’s succession, or even the war between Yemen and Saudi Arabia where religious motives, though not dominating, are certainly not absent. There have been no real religious wars within Judaism, due to the dispersion in the diaspora in scattered communities. The scattered diffusion has meant that sometimes followers of the Jewish religion belonging to states at war with each other have found themselves having to fight against their co-religionists. Nonetheless, tensions between orthodox, reformer and nonbeliever Jews are quite frequent in the state of Israel, where however the conflict with the Palestinian population of Islamic faith is the prominent trait.

There are not only monotheistic religions in the world. In Eastern religions we find polytheistic variants (for example, in Hinduism) and animistic and spiritualistic religions, such as Buddhism and Shintoism. Significantly, it has been predominantly contacts with peoples of monotheistic religions that have generated religious conflicts with religions of the East, although there is no shortage of examples, as recently in Sri Lanka, of conflicts between peoples of Buddhist (Sinhalese) and Hindu (Tamil) faiths.

  • Believers and non-believers

Since Europe has been the real theatre of religious wars, it is to be hoped that the new temple in Berlin may symbolically signify their end and at the same time the beginning of a new era in which the different religious faiths can coexist in mutual respect, but also in a non-hostile relationship and dialogue with the great mass of those who do not believe.

Europe, together with China and Japan, has the highest percentage of atheists and agnostics in the world. Many studies have tried to explain the reasons for the eclipse of the sacred, or the rise of the process of secularization, in modern and contemporary Europe. Some trace the disenchantment with religion in Europe back to the cultural currents from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, from the spread of scientific thought to the emergence of nineteenth- and twentieth-century ideologies (liberalism, Marxism, nationalism) as functional substitutes for religion, as secular faiths. Secularization would be an aspect of modernity. These theses, however, encounter a difficulty in explaining how the process has not reached in particular the United States, which, in many respects, seems to be an extreme example of modernity.

In a Gallup survey in 2009, the population of 150 countries around the world was asked whether they attributed importance to religion (“Is religion important in your daily life?”), and all the countries in which negative responses exceeded positive ones were, with few exceptions, European or Asian countries (Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Cuba, Canada, South Korea, and Taiwan). The only European countries where “yes” responses prevail are, in the order of frequency of positive responses, Ireland, Austria, Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Poland. With the exception of Greece, all the European countries where “secularized” orientations are in the minority are countries of Catholic tradition. It should be noted that in other Catholic countries like Spain, those who do not give importance to religion in their daily lives prevail only by a small margin. More recent research conducted within the EU by Euro-barometer confirms more or less the same picture.

The United States ranks just behind Austria and ahead of Croatia, thus, compared to Europe, among the countries with higher levels of religiosity. Scholars have wondered whether the anomaly is widespread European secularization, or the persistent religiosity of the United States. Religious pluralism, in a situation where there has never been a “state religion” and, on the contrary, where the separation between the two powers, secular and religious, has been established from the beginning, are factors that have undoubtedly contributed to the spread of tolerant attitudes towards those who believe and practice a faith different from one’s own. However there have been in the United States, especially in recent times, strong anti-Islamic movements and sporadic episodes of anti-Semitism.

From the religious point of view there is no doubt that pluralism significantly favors peaceful coexistence among different kinds of believers.

The panorama of religiosity in Europe, however, does not only concern the plurality of the faiths present, but also the great diversity of ways of approaching faith and practicing it. It is one thing to believe in God, quite another to believe that this belief is relevant to one’s daily life, and quite another to assiduously follow the prescriptions that religious practice entails (for example, attendance at Sunday Mass). Then there are those who do not believe in a specific divinity but recognize in themselves some form of spirituality, those who deny the existence of any divine/transcendent entity and finally those who are completely indifferent to religious issues.

For Christians, Mass attendance in Europe varies from countries where about a third of the population regularly attends Sunday services (Ireland, Poland and Italy), to countries where it is around a quarter to a fifth (Austria, Spain, Greece) and all other countries where it is less than 10%. The share of those who are and/or declare themselves to be atheists or agnostics also varies greatly. The line between atheism and agnosticism is difficult to draw, both conceptually and in the consciousness of individuals. Atheists are those who deny the existence of God and of any divinity, agnostics are those who claim that there is no proof that God exists or does not exist, but often believe in the existence of a dimension of the spirit that does not take divine form. Approximately one European citizen out of four belongs to these last two categories, with great variability from country to country: half of the Swedes, 40% of the French, 1/3 of the British, but only 13% of the Italians and 3.5% of the Greeks. Atheists and agnostics, however, are not to be confused with those for whom religion has no relevance to their daily lives, that is, with those who are indifferent to the religious dimension. Rather, the indifferent lurk among those, whether believers or non-believers, for whom religion is in any case irrelevant. Indifferent people cannot be counted on even in an ecumenical perspective, while dialogue is possible among atheists, agnostics and believers.

A very promising anticipation in this direction was the inauguration in 1987 in Milan of the “chair of non-believers” by Cardinal Martini, who expressed himself as follows on that occasion:

‘I believe that each one of us has within himself a non-believer and a believer, who talk to each other inside, question each other, continually send pungent and disturbing questions back to each other. The non-believer who is in me troubles the believer who is in me and vice versa’.

The fact of not believing in the existence of god or gods (atheist), or of not finding any reason to affirm the existence or non-existence of god or gods (agnostic) does not mean that those who belong to these two categories do not ask themselves what the meaning of life is, by what criteria we distinguish good from evil, why suffering is distributed unequally among living beings, where we come from (who was there before us?) and where we are going (who will be there after us?). These are all questions with respect to which human societies have often sought answers in religion.

Ecumenism is therefore not only a current of thought that promotes dialogue between different faiths, but also between believers and non-believers.

5.         Modern Science and Religion

It is true that religions have often been used to establish, reinforce and legitimize power relationships between the dominant and the dominated. There is a long tradition in European culture, from the Enlightenment to Marx and Nietzsche, that thinks of religions as forms of superstition, as “opium of the people”, but there are others that see religion as a factor of redemption and emancipation.

In Europe, the relationship between science and religion, between scientists and doctors of the Church has always been, to say the least, problematic. Everyone remembers the trial of Galileo, the controversies around the Copernican concept and the diatribes between heliocentrism and geo-centrism, the rejection of Darwinian theories of evolution and, more recently, the disputes around stem cell research and the end of life. The list could be lengthened at will. Science has certainly challenged and refuted many religious beliefs, but this does not sanction an irreducible incompatibility between science and religion.

Empirical research data tells us that scientists are one of the categories in which atheism and agnosticism prevail, yet there are many who do not consider religious faith incompatible with trust in science. These people believe, in my opinion correctly, that science is not able to answer all the questions to which religions, in historically different ways, have tried to give an answer. It is true that there are also those who have transformed Science, with a capital S, into a faith, who “believe” in Science. But often they are not real scientists. True scientists know the limits, the fallibility, the provisionality, the incompleteness, of scientific knowledge: they have confidence in science rather than faith in science. Those who want certainty are better off going to church, not to a laboratory. Science is a path of approach to a truth that can never be reached, on the contrary, the progress of knowledge continuously discovers realities (both in the extremely small and in the extremely large, both in the field of physics and psychology) which we were previously oblivious of, so science continually makes us aware of how ignorant we are. Think of quantum physics that allows us to cast a glance into the immensity of the cosmos or psychoanalysis that allows us, again, to cast only a glance into the depths of the unconscious.

6.         Conclusion

During the recent pandemic, policy makers have often hidden behind the supposedly objective judgment of science, but since science is never able to give absolute certainty and scientists themselves cannot often reach the same conclusions, people have begun to doubt, and trust in science and scientists has begun to be questioned. Even the “faith in science”, as well as the great ideologies that claimed to have an answer for all problems, have undergone the same process that happened to the great religions, they have been partially “secularized”.  But it is precisely because certainties have disappeared that dialogue between religions and between believers and non-believers has become not only possible, but also desirable. Dialogue is difficult among those who claim to have the “truth” while it is promising for those who only have the will to seek it. 

Europe has been the place where some of the most atrocious conflicts in the history of mankind have been fought, from religious wars to wars between nations and wars between ideologies. Perhaps it is from Europe that the message for coexistence and cooperation between different peoples, religions, cultures and ideas can come, for a more united world.

At the time of the discussions on the Treaty for a European Constitution (2003-2005) it was proposed to include in the preamble a reference to the “Christian roots of Europe”, arousing lively reactions from the representatives of millions of Muslims living in Europe as citizens of member states and the Jewish minority who survived the Holocaust and did not emigrate to Israel or America. In the end, a compromise was reached indicating “the cultural, religious and humanistic heritage of Europe.” As is well known, after the French and Dutch referendums, the Constituent Treaty was archived and replaced by the Treaty of  Lisbon which includes the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union where reference is made to the “spiritual and moral heritage” without expressly mentioning the religious dimension.

Jaap Hoeksma (1948) studied philosophy of law at the Free University of Amsterdam. He worked with the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Refugees and published on asylum and refugee law. In 1992 he focussed  his attention on the newly established European Union, turned the EU into a board game about European democracy and developed the theory of democratic integration as an explanatory model for the functioning of the EU as a European democracy.

The name of the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) does not figure prominently among the intellectual protagonists of European democracy. As a conservative by heart, he appreciated the value of national states and cultures. In his capacity of rector magnificus of the Leyden University he ordered a delegation from Nazi-Germany in 1933 to leave an academic meeting.[1] He actively participated in the transnational interbellum debate about the future of Europe and warned in an almost prophetic way against the impending dangers for European civilisation. After the invasion of The Netherlands by Hitler-Germany he was taken as a hostage to the hostage camp of St Michielsgestel and subsequently condemned to internal exile in the hamlet of De Steeg. Huizinga did not live to see the liberation of his country, but his legacy contained the blueprint for the construction of a post war-Europe, which was published after his death in 1945.[2]  

Curbing absolute sovereignty

The political will of the historian Huizinga contains a striking similarity with the Manifest, that was written eighty years ago in the Italian internment camp of Ventotene by Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi. The aged Dutch conservative and the young Italian communists agreed on the maxim that absolute sovereignty destroys absolutely. The conclusion, which the authors of the Ventotene Manifesto drew from this unsustainable state of affairs, was that the division of Europe in national sovereign states had to be abolished. They envisaged the creation of a ‘solid international state’. As a cultural philosopher Huizinga displayed a somewhat more cautious approach. He argued that the peacemakers of 1919 had missed a historic opportunity to secure a stable world order. ‘When they had the chance to renew the system of global governance, they failed to see that the concept of absolute sovereignty had become obsolete.’ As a result, the peace of Versailles had sown the seeds for politics of revenge, aggression and, ultimately, a second world war. Looking ahead in the final chapter, Huizinga suggested that permanent peace should be achieved through law. In his view, the only way for the small states of Europe to obtain safety and security was through integration in a new legal order with the larger ones. So, while the authors of the Ventotene Manifesto wanted to address the problem of absolute sovereignty by abolishing the sovereign states altogether, Huizinga preferred to reign in the sovereignty of those states by the creation of an overarching legal order in post-war Europe.  

The Kantian dilemma of statehood and international law

The differences of view between these authors concerning the strategy to curb absolute sovereignty illustrates the Kantian dilemma of statehood and international law. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was the first scholar to investigate the possibilities for states to create a situation of lasting peace. On the eve of the Napoleonic wars he suggested in his essay ‘Zum Ewigen Frieden’, which was forbidden by the Nazi’s in the Third Reich, that states wishing to attain perpetual peace could either merge into a federal state or agree to form a federation of free states.[3] In the first option, sovereignty would be transferred by the participating states to their common creation; in the second option sovereignty would remain with the states involved. As they would be guided by their shared desire for peace, war would no longer be justified as a last resort, but rejected as morally condemnable. 

            In his essay, which contained a severe critique on the Western norms and civilisation of his time, Kant explored the limits of the so-called Westphalian system of International Relations. The Westphalian system emerged in the aftermath of the Middle Ages as a code of conduct between modern states. Its name stems from the German region of Westphalia, which formed the scene of comprehensive peace negotiations in the 17th century. Ambassadors from almost all European states and the Holy See had gathered in the cities of Münster and Osnabrück with a view to bring an end to both the devastating Thirty Years’ War in Germany and the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and The Netherlands. The outcome of their deliberations, which were informed by the works of Grotius (1583-1645), constituted the basis for modern international law. In this system, war is the ultimate means of the resolution of conflicts between states. It may not be conducted at whim but requires both a formal declaration and a serious cause (casus belli).     

            At present, the Westphalian paradigm underlies the functioning of the Organisation of the United Nations, in which regional organisations of states are playing a more significant role than in previous times, notably with respect to the maintenance of peace. Two centuries after Kant, the dichotomy between sovereign states and organisations of free states has only sharpened. Seen in this perspective, the differences of view between Spinelli and Huizinga accentuate the Kantian dilemma of statehood and international law. Spinelli chose the federal option by transferring the sovereignty from the belligerent states to the new one, whereas Huizinga preferred to curb the absolute sovereignty of the European states through the voluntary creation of a new legal order. For theorists and politicians of the day, other options were not available. Tertium non datur![4]    

The Conference on the Future of Europe

The Westphalian paradigm proved to be so dominant that it has seriously hampered the evolution of the EU. Generations of students in Europe and abroad have been educated with the idea that its predecessors and the EU were an organisation sui generis, that could neither be identified nor categorised. The late Michael Burgess even coined the phrase that the EU works in practice, although it cannot function in theory.[5] Seventy years after the start of the process of European integration the Conference on the Future of Europe offers an excellent opportunity to come to terms with the own and distinct character of the European Union. The challenge for the participants is to demonstrate that the EU can work in theory and to improve its functioning in practice.  

            One of the greatest mistakes the participants in and stakeholders to the Conference could make would be to take the concept of EU democracy for granted. Quite some commentators and activists argue that democracy is under threat in various parts of the world, that the USA has narrowly escaped a coup d’état, that the military have staged a successful takeover in Myanmar, that several Middle-European EU member states are flouting the rule of law and that democracy in the EU itself is also under serious threat. Such an approach would give rise to major conceptual mistakes. It notably overlooks the fact that the EU is still a young and consequently imperfect democracy. In fact, the EU is giving the democratic idea a major boost by establishing itself as the first-ever transnational democracy in the world! In the process it has to overcome considerable hurdles. The most recent obstacles are Brexit and the EZB-Urteil of the German Constitutional Court.[6] In his notorious Bloomsberg-speech of January 2013, in which he announced his decision to organise a referendum about British membership of the European Union, David Cameron criticized the EU as undemocratic organisation since only the member states could be democratic. It followed in his logic that the EU should return to Westphalia and reform itself into a traditional organisation of states. In a similar vein, the German Constitutional Court has developed the view in a series of subsequent verdicts that EU citizenship is not a ‘real’ status, that the European Parliament is not a ‘real’ parliament and that it is also impossible for the EU Court of Justice to be regarded and respected as a judge of last resort. The EU needs to make a considerable theoretical effort to counter this kind of criticism, if it wants to establish and present itself as a European democracy. It is therefore most timely and appropriate that the signatories of the Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europa have expressed their determination ‘to seize the opportunity to underpin the democratic legitimacy and functioning of the European project’. The purpose of the present essay is to respond to the call of the presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission by

  1. identifying the EU as a new subject of international law,
  2. presenting an own and distinct political philosophy for the EU and
  3. demonstrating that the EU has replaced the Westphalian system of International Relations with an own model of governance, which will be introduced as the European Model of Transnational Governance.

The conclusion, which will be drawn towards to end of the essay, is that the combined endeavour of Spinelli and Huizinga to curb the absolute sovereignty of states in Europe has resulted in the emergence of the EU as a new subject of international law (a democratic regional organisation) with an innovative system of governance (the European Model of Transnational Governance).       

From union of democratic states…..

Looking through the lens of Spinelli, Huizinga and all the others who wanted Nie Wieder Krieg, the evolution of the European experiment may be described as a deviation of the Westphalian paradigm.[7] In contrast to the Council of Europe, which was established in 1949 with a view to promote human rights and democracy all over Europe, the six founding members of the present EU (France, the FRG, Italy and the Benelux-countries) agreed to make the renewed outbreak of war between them not only unthinkable, but also virtually impossible. The means through which they intended to achieve this goal consisted of the sharing of sovereignty. In order to ensure the prevention of mutual war, the participating states transferred their sovereignty in the fields of coal and steel to a higher authority. Although this decision implied a revolutionary rupture with the Westphalian system, the member states of the 1952 ECSC learned in practice that the sharing of sovereignty in a limited field was a reasonable price to pay for peace. 

            Encouraged by the success of their experiment the six decided to proceed on their path towards a new model of transnational relations by extending the practice of shared sovereignty to the whole of the economy. In 1957 they established the EEC with a view to further the prosperity of their nations and citizens. They expressed their determination to lay the foundations for an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe and aimed to create an internal market. The Court of Justice of the Communities found in 1963 that the member states had indeed created a new and autonomous legal order between themselves and ruled a year later that the law of the Communities has direct effect and – in case of conflict- precedes national rules and regulations.[8] Taking stock of the turbulent developments the newly founded European Council described the Communities after the first enlargement in 1973 as a ‘Union of democratic States’.[9]

…to democratic regional organisation

From a conceptual point of view the Communities formed a more or less regular regional organisation, albeit that the member states had to comply with certain democratic criteria and the organisation possessed an autonomous legal order. In hindsight, however, the qualification of the Communities as a ‘Union of democratic States’ implied the start of a paradigm clash inasmuch as the Westphalian system holds that organisations of states cannot be democratic, whereas the democratic principle suggests that there is no point in governing an organisation of democratic states in an undemocratic manner. In line with their aspiration to create an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, the members of the European Council decided to give their organisation democratic legitimacy too. Consequently, the first direct elections for the European Parliament were held in the spring of 1979. For the first time, the citizens of the member states were entitled to elect candidates from their country as Members of the European Parliament!

            The subsequent evolution of the EU can no longer be explained by theories embedded in the Westphalian system. The theory of democratic integration offers a fresh perspective by suggesting that, if two or more states agree to share the exercise of sovereignty in a number of fields with the view to attain common goals, the organisation they establish for this purpose should be democratic too. From the viewpoint, the decision of the European Council to establish a citizenship of the Union was of fundamental importance.[10] Although the Council envisaged to complete the internal market, the introduction of EU citizenship by virtue of the Maastricht Treaty laid the foundation for the emergence of a European democracy. After the Danish voters had made clear during their first referendum about the Treaty on European Union (TEU) that they did not want to give up their national status in favour of EU citizenship, the Council emphasized that EU citizenship is an additional status, which does not replace the national status of the citizens involved (art 9 TEU).  

            The 1997 Amsterdam Treaty formed another step away from the Westphalian system towards an alternative model of governance. It included ‘democracy’ in the core values of the Union proper and introduced a procedure to guarantee the respect for the EU’s values by the member states (art 7 TEU). In doing so, ‘Amsterdam’ accentuated the concept of dual democracy, which has become a hallmark of the Union. Meanwhile, the member states participating in the Economic and Monetary Union were preparing the introduction of the euro as single currency of the Union. This implied a major deviation from ‘Westphalia’ too as unions of states are not supposed to administer and support their own coins. The 2000 summit of Nice saw the proclamation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union, which was hailed as the ‘Magna Charta’ of the newly created citizens of the Union. It was integrated in the treaties through the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon, which came to replace the ill-fated Constitution for Europe after its rejection by the French and the Dutch electorates in the spring of 2005.    

            The novelty of the Lisbon Treaty is that it construes the EU as a democracy without turning the Union into a State. Title II TEU contains the democratic principles of the EU and underlines that ‘citizens are directly represented at Union level by the European Parliament’ (art 10, para 2, TEU).[11] The far-reaching consequences of the new construction were illuminated through the case law of the ECJ, notably with respect to the status of EU citizens, who are now entitled to say ‘Civis Europaeus sum’.[12] Moreover, the ECJ established in two recent verdicts that the EU has an ‘autonomous democracy’.[13] On the eve of the Conference on the Future of Europe it may therefore be concluded that the EU has evolved to a Union of democratic States, which also constitutes a democracy of its own. As a ‘democratic Union of democratic States’ the EU forms neither a state nor a union of states. Instead, it may be identified with a new term as a democratic regional organisation.[14]

The European Model of Transnational Governance

Although the EU has reached its constitutional destination as a democratic Union of democratic states, its evolution towards an ever closer union continues. The introduction of a rule of law mechanism in the granting of EU subsidies to individual member states may be regarded as the ultimate confirmation of the new model of governance beyond the Westphalian system, which has transformed Europe over the decades. The characteristics of the traditional Westphalian system and the emerging European Model of Transnational Governance may be contrasted as follows:

                                                           Westphalian system                    European model

Sovereignty                                      Absolute                                           Shared

War                                                    Not excluded                                    Impossible

Borders & Customs                        National                                            External

Market                                               National                                            Internal

Citizenship                                       National                                            Dual

Currency                                          National                                            Single

Democracy                                       National                                            Dual

Internal Affairs                                 Non-interference                             Rule of law Mech

Global stage                                     irrelevant                                          major player

Messages of hope

The transformation of Europe from a war-torn continent to a democratic regional organisation may contain two messages of hope for the global community. On the long run, the introduction of EU citizenship may inspire the United Nations to create a UN citizenship. In a comparable way as EU citizenship had laid the basis for a European democracy, the citizenship of the United Nations may result in the emergence of a system of democratic governance at the global level. In a more immediate future the evolution of the EU into a democratic regional organisation may serve as a symbol of confidence for other unions of states with democratic aspirations. Obviously, each continent has to follow its own path, but the emergence of transnational democracies in other parts of the world will not only contribute to the realisation of the goals of the United Nations, but also to an improvement of the present system of global governance.[15]

[1] A. van der Lem, Johan Huizinga, Leven en werk in beelden & documenten, Amsterdam 1993

[2] J. Huizinga, Geschonden Wereld, Haarlem 1945

[3] I. Kant, Zum Ewigen Frieden, Königsbergen 1796

[4] P. Magnette, What is the European Union?, London 2005

[5] M. Burgess, Comparative Federalism, Theory and Practice, London 2006

[6] J. Hoeksma, The Case BundesVerfassungsGericht versus EU Court of Justice, Oisterwijk 2020

[7] W. van Gerven, The European Union: a polity of states and peoples, Stanford 2005

[8] Cases Van Gend en Loos, ECLI:EU:C:1963:1 and Costa vs E.N.E.L., ECLI:EU:C:1964:66

[9] Declaration on European Identity, Copenhagen 1973, EC Bulletin 12-1973

[10] J. Hoeksma, The Theory of Democratic Integration, Oisterwijk 2018

[11] From the conceptual viewpoint, it should also be noted that the treaty gave the EU legal personality!

[12] K. Lenaerts, ‘Civis Europaeus Sum’, from the Cross-border link to the Status of Citizen of the Union, in: Constitutionalising the EU judicial system, Cardonnel, Rosas & Wahl, Oxford 2012

[13] Cases Puppinck and others, ECLI:EU:C:2019:1113 and Junqueras Vies, ECLI:EU:C:2019:1115

[14] J. Hoeksma, European Democracy, Tilburg 2019

[15] M. Teló (ed), Reforming Multilateralism in Post-Covid Times, Brussels 2020

In his memorable speech at the Sorbonne on 26 September 2017, the French President Emmanuel Macron presented a well-structured and convincing plan for relaunching the project of European unification, which has basically been on hold since the 2008 financial crisis. In this article I do not intend to discuss all of his proposals, which I myself agree with, but rather to comment on the concept of European sovereignty, which Macron indicates as an ideological objective for the future of the European Union.

In one part of his speech, Macron stated: “The […] key to our sovereignty is industrial and monetary economic power”, in short, the Economic and Monetary Union. At other points he proposes a “Defence Europe” and a “European defence fund”. Concluding, he summarizes his proposals as follows: “Finally, the essence of the European project is democracy. … For Europe, sovereignty, unity and democracy are inextricably linked. … We must promote this indivisible triangle”.

Here, I mean to show that while “unity and democracy” are two of the main pillars supporting the European project, the concept of European sovereignty is misleading: it would be more accurate to say “the powers and competences that must be entrusted to the democratic government of the Union by member states”. The concept of sovereignty is an ideological notion which is closely linked to the birth of the nation state and which cannot serve as a guide for the future of the EU.

I will present the reasons for this empirical approach in two stages: in the first I will indicate some contradictions between France’s foreign policy, still based on national sovereignty, and the notion of European sovereignty; subsequently, I will discuss the European Union’s foreign policy, a policy crucial to halting and reversing the trend towards growing international disorder, exacerbated by Trump’s nationalistic policies.

In a recent interview with Le Grand Continent (16/11/2020), Macron was asked “Can Westphalian sovereignty coexist with the climate crisis?” To which he replied: “Yes, because I have not personally found a better system than Westphalian sovereignty. If it is the idea of saying that a people in a nation decides to choose its leaders and have people to pass its laws, I think that is perfectly compatible because otherwise who is going to decide? How would the people get together and decide? … For decades now, Western democracies have been making their peoples feel that they no longer know how to solve their problems. …That is the crisis of democracies: it is a crisis of scale and efficiency. But I do not believe at all that it is a crisis of Westphalian sovereignty. … In everything I do internationally, for me what is paramount is always the sovereignty of the people”. There is no doubt that national democracies around the world are in crisis, but the answer cannot just be to boost the effectiveness of national democracies, because when the international order breaks down, as happened between the two World Wars, democratic regimes are no longer able to respond effectively to international challenges, be that economic security (as happened with the 1929 depression) or military security (to curb hegemonic projects like Hitler’s). Democracy becomes fragile when authoritarianism advances. Contemporary nationalism has emerged in increasingly aggressive forms since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the USSR. Macron does not understand the root causes of the crisis of the international order and therefore supports the foreign policy of France, as a national state, which actually prevents the construction of an independent European Union. French national policy has the effect of preventing the pursuit of “strategic autonomy” for the EU, a concept that was adopted many years ago as the basic orientation of the Union’s foreign policy.

We can observe the recent consequences of France’s foreign policy in two crucial areas, the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, including Russia. When it comes to Libya, France supported General Haftar against Al-Serraji, thus favouring the intervention of Turkey and Russia in the region; in Lebanon, he attempted to cast France – rather than the EU – in a peacemaking role, ultimately to no avail, and in the Nagorno-Karabakh War, between two states that belong to the EU-promoted Eastern Partnership (EaP) – the European Union stood out for its absence, thus giving Turkey and Russia an opportunity to further extend their influence in the Caucasian area. Why is the EU unable to act effectively in these regions? According to Macron: “We have built European defence capabilities, although it was thought unthinkable” (LGC). The reality is different, as Josep Borrell clearly demonstrates: “In conflicts such as Nagorno-Karabakh, Libya or Syria, we are witnessing a form of ‘astanisation’ (in reference to the Astana format on Syria) which leads to Europe’s exclusion from the settlement of regional conflicts in favour of Russia and Turkey. Nature abhors a vacuum: we risk now seeing Russian and Turkish military bases being established in Libya, a few kilometres away from our coasts. In order to emerge from this situation and to be able to settle our conflicts peacefully with these new empires built on values that we do not share, we must continue to fill the gaps in our common defence capabilities. This is the price which must be paid to give birth to the geopolitical Europe that President Von der Leyen and the European Commission have called for” (Le Grand Continent, 14/12/2020).

Now let’s look at the issue of the defence and security of the Union, which means talking about the future of NATO. In his interview with LGC, Macron was undoubtedly aware of the proposal from Germany’s SPD party to create a 28th Union Army, namely a European army at the disposal of the democratic organs of the EU. Yet he does not mention it, as if the question of European defence had already been solved. Perhaps Macron believes that French  defences, which also include nuclear weapons, are sufficient to guarantee the security of the other countries in the Union, a doctrine that goes back to de Gaulle. Yet this sentiment is not shared by Eastern European countries such as Poland or the Baltic nations, which look to the United States and NATO for protection. Macron criticizes NATO’s shortcomings, as he did in 2019 when he argued that the Atlantic Alliance was experiencing “brain death”.  This criticism is justified, but what alternative does Macron offer? The SPD proposal would effectively achieve the “strategic autonomy” of the EU. Here it would take too long to go into the details of an issue that is undoubtedly key to Europe and for world peace. I will merely recall the contents of a ‘Policy paper’ written by three federalists entitled A New Atlantic Pact. A Peaceful Cooperation Area from Vancouver to Vladivostok (The Ventotene Lighthouse, 7/10/2020), which considers – and updates – Gorbachev’s 1987 proposal for a “Common European Home”. This proposal was abandoned after the break-up of the USSR, because European and US policy for the eastward expansion of NATO – despite Kohl promising Gorbachev otherwise – ended up compromising relations with Russia: Russia had initially been invited to join NATO in the Partnership for Peace (PfP), to launch a more intense form of economic and military cooperation, later interrupted by the crisis in Ukraine, disputed between Europe and Russia. The paper argues for the need to resume peaceful cooperation with Russia, inviting it to participate in a free trade area from Vancouver to Vladivostok, and re-enter the PfP until the time is ripe for further steps. The paper also proposes creating a European security system based on a “dual army”, a proposal similar to that of the SPD. More peaceful relations between the EU and Russia would indirectly contribute to changing international relations between the EU, the US, Russia and China, and reducing the level of nationalistic competition between the great powers.

European foreign policy, however, is not limited to Euro-Atlantic relations. There are global political challenges which urgently need to be addressed. The mob attack on the US Capitol was not only a vulgar insult to democracy, but is also indicative of the further weakening of US leadership in the world, because in the coming years the US is likely to be divided internally by social and political rifts. The international institutions created after the Second World War were designed by the US to guarantee “a safe world for democracy”: the UN charter is based on “Westphalian sovereignty”, but contains rules to mitigate conflicts, through the Security Council, and a number of agencies to support economic stability (the IMF, the World Bank, the GATT), health (the WHO), agriculture (the FAO), human rights, etc. This architecture, which was based on multilateralism as the US wished, and was originally accepted by 40 other countries including the USSR – withstood the crises and turmoil of the Cold War. However the break-up of the USSR heralded an ongoing erosion of the post-war order, and the emergence of new global powers, such as China, Russia, India, Japan and Brazil, etc., was inevitable, giving rise to a multipolar system with no world government. Trump’s policies have shown that the US prefers bipolarism to multilateralism, an approach that benefits the stronger country. This return to conflicting international relations will continue in a different form even under the Biden administration, because there are currents in the Democratic Party that are in favour of protectionism and nationalism.

 If the European Union proves unable to contain the nationalist leanings of the major powers, it will face a global challenge which could have dramatic consequences. A relentless struggle for world hegemony would end up bringing down the European construction. Each European country that wants to maintain its sovereignty in foreign policy, as Macron does, will be drawn into the hegemonic orbit of one or another major world power. To face this challenge, the European Union must equip itself with effective capacity for foreign policy that goes beyond what is currently in place, as the EMU; i.e. a European defence force (the 28th EU army) and a reinforced European budget, because foreign policy also requires fiscal capacity. The European Commission, endowed with new powers, would be accountable to a two-chamber Parliament (the EP and the Council of Ministers voting by a majority).

 This reform is possible, but in the meantime some global challenges need to be addressed through the existing institutions. The first is the Glasgow Climate Conference on 1-12 November 2021. The EU will be appearing at this important event as a world leader, thanks to the launch of the European Green Deal which – in addition to the positive results achieved in the past (from Kyoto onwards) – represents a pioneering foreign policy initiative (global CO2 emissions: China 28%, USA 15%, EU 9%, India 7%, Japan 3%). Multilateralism can no longer be guaranteed by a hegemonic superpower, but will have to be built gradually through peaceful cooperation – a global governance by the major players of world politics. Among these, the EU stands out as the leading power in a select number of forward-thinking countries (about a hundred) in favour of a global plan for the sustainable development of the planet. Security policy in the twenty-first century – the century of the Anthropocene – no longer depends solely on the military might of each power, but on their ability to guarantee a sustainable future, as indicated by the Global Development Goals (UN 2015). Over the past decades national governments have passed the burden of the structural adjustments needed to combat climate change onto future generations. Now, the young people of Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion are demanding a sustainable future. The human species, like other animal species, could become extinct if we fail to meet the objectives agreed in Paris in 2015 (to limit the level of global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels). We are now approaching 2°C; if this trend is not halted by the end of the century we will be looking at an increase of 4°C, with devastating consequences for all forms of life.

 Preparing for COP 26 in Glasgow will not be easy. The major world powers need to accept strict limits. The new Biden administration is taking an ambiguous position in this regard: while it has declared that it is in favour of the Paris objectives, it has launched the idea of a summit of democracies that could end up having overtones of the Cold War, if understood as an anti-Chinese alliance. China’s environmental policy is also ambiguous: its commitment to achieving CO2 neutrality by 2060 is positive, but in the meantime the Chinese government is financing the construction of coal-fired power plants both in China (17 new plants) and beyond, with a few hundred in Turkey, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt and the Philippines, thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative. The negotiations ahead of the Glasgow conference will have to address these problems. The battle is on. If there is the will to do so, it will be possible to achieve the goal of CO2 neutrality by the middle of the century. However, past experience suggests caution. No matter how many promises governments make, without a binding form of coordination on a global scale it will be unlikely that national environmental plans are respected. The practice of passing the buck onto future generations could continue.

The European Commission has managed to relaunch European cohesion among the 27 thanks to the Next Generation EU plan, perceived by European citizens as a European public good. This initiative has beaten back national sovereignty in the various political formations. A similar proposal should be adopted in the run-up to Glasgow, so that international political cohesion is guaranteed by there being obvious advantages to cooperation, an added benefit that each UN country can acquire by signing up for a World Green Deal in good faith.The world plan should be based on the use of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), a kind of world currency issued by the IMF, as UN Secretary Guterres has proposed. This first initiative, crucial for economic stability, should be accompanied by a tax on the profits of multinational companies to finance the World Green Deal. Global sustainability will only become effective if poor and emerging countries can work harmoniously: the efforts of each single country should be teamed by collective hope for the future. More aid for development, a boost for renewable energies and strengthening the WHO to combat the pandemic effectively will help reduce the gap in wealth and well-being between the world’s rich and poor. Contrary to what Macron believes, the UN can and should be endowed with supranational powers. This is the first step towards a post-Westphalian order.

 The return to multilateralism is obviously about more than just environmental policies. There are other crucial problems, such as atomic and conventional disarmament, the regulation of international trade and finance, respect for human rights, etc. Ultimately, the goal should be to reduce nationalistic conflicts between the great world powers to create a global governance, a key objective when it comes to saving democracy threatened by national sovereignty in every country.

In this article I have deliberately avoided a doctrinal discussion of the relationship between the concepts of sovereignty, state and democracy. Treaties on international law and international relations devote much attention to these issues. I merely wished to show that we can tackle the problem of the European Union’s foreign policy and security without resorting to the hackneyed concept of sovereignty. In the century of the Anthropocene, what sense is there in striving to defend the sovereignty of a single nation, or Europe as a whole, when the future of humanity is at risk? Sovereignty is a political concept that came about to foster the creation and consolidation of nation states. Today this archaeological relic should be left in the hands of the nostalgic custodians of the past.

The economic crisis of 2008 has demonstrated the naïve simplicity of the view that, if the economic policies of individual economies are geared towards domestic economic stability, and private actors are allowed to operate freely in such an environment, the global economy would work well. On the contrary, the said event has clearly demonstrated, on the one hand, how the markets’ self-correcting power suffers numerous limits and, on the other hand, how the search for economic stability requires a joint effort  by states, international and supranational organizations like UE as, due to economic and trade globalization, financial crises such as epidemics no longer know borders.

In the Book Stabilità economica e sostenibilità (published by Giuffrè-Lefebvre, Milan, 2020,432 pp),  the conceptual category of economic stability in its different forms (monetary, fiscal and financial) is reconstructed within the regulatory framework of international economic law. It focuses,  in particular, on the relative legal nature of global public good for the supply of which a plurality of public and private subjects and actors (states, international economic organizations, rating agencies, sovereign funds, multinational enterprises, hedge funds) are involved, operating on bases, perspectives and aims that do not always coincide and sometimes are even in potential conflict.

A public good[1] that – because of the properties that characterise it and the positive externalities it is able to produce – is in the common interest of all the subjects of international law and its different actors that make up the international economic community to commit themselves to its pursuit and supply. This, thus, ensures its widespread enjoyment for the benefit of all, while at the same time preventing dangerous opportunistic phenomena of free riding and moral hazard, which are at the root of many of the situations of economic instability occurred in recent decades. This is the position clearly expressed in 1999 by United Nations Development Program with its Human Development Report, in which it was highlighted how ‘global public good’: it is a particular type of public good  which  share  two fundamental characteristics: non-excludability and non-rivalry, differentiating themselves from purely domestic ones in force of three criteria: geographic (their positive effects extend over more than one group of countries), socio-economic (the effects concern both “rich” and “poor” countries) and generational, since they involve the whole Humanity.[2]

But the policies and stabilisation mechanisms adopted both at international and European level to overcome the current serious economic uncertainty and so to restore economic stability have been essentially inspired by a strict conditionality. In other terms, we are in front of solutions that have entailed and still entail significant costs if we consider the social repercussions that those choices have determined. Inevitably (see the Volume Stabilità…), many doubts and critical issues have been raised not only about the effective compatibility of those instruments with regard to the protection of economic and social human rights, but also about the limitations they have imposed on States, especially those most in need of economic and financial support in terms of exercising their (economic) sovereignty. This has also raised the question of how to reconcile democratic methods and technocratic solutions, especially when certain choices, that have a decisive impact on the lives of individuals and the various national communities, have been taken – partly because of the urgency of the moment – within fora and decision-making centres that lack effective democratic legitimacy.

The burden-sharing which the production of the stability good imposes would require, instead of making recourse to the traditional international method based on multilateral or plurilateral cooperation, to adopt the supranational one, through which the member states of an organization, such as the EU, decide to limit their sovereignty, attributing to the institutions of the organization the power to take binding decisions for all states members. But, the european model represents an unicum in the international panorama although there are some legal entities like the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (see UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in its part XV), albeit with limitations, defines a system of mandatory jurisdiction, as occurs also in the case of WTO dispute settlement system that seems to go in that direction so as to be considered as “…a body of transition from international law to supranational law, because it obliges countries that are not in agreement to reach a compromise on the basis of a defined process…”[3]

So, at the moment, with the significant exception of EU, the “production” of GPG at global level can essentially take place through cooperative and multilateral strategies above all based on the principle of differential treatment between developed and undeveloped countries, a concept that strongly characterises international economic law and international development law. In fact, as examined in the Book Stabilità, it reflects the need to consider not only the different material conditions that characterise the numerous situations involved, through a “gradation” of the obligations incumbent on them or through a better contextualisation of these obligations, but also and it intends to recognise the different level of responsibility of the different countries and economic actors in determining the conditions of economic instability and the direct and consequential damages that can derive from the latter situation for the International Economic Order considered as a whole. A situation that could be partially resolved if there was the will by states to reform the International Monetary Fund or even better to introduce an international agency responsible for the solution of financial crises based on the model of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) by which it has been introduced a mechanism for the management and control of activities related to the exploitation of mineral resources in the maritime area (outside national jurisdictions) as considered a global public good which protection is in the common interest of humankind.

Succeeding in implementing this aspect and, at the same time, combining economic reasons – especially those related to the balance of public accounts – with social aspects related to the defence of human rights is a very important challenge for States, for the international community and for the entire humanity. The need to go beyond gross domestic product and other economic variables that work around that figure to measure economic growth, development in general and, above all, the well-being of a society, is becoming increasingly necessary without, however, chasing utopian models of happy de-growth. In fact, the use of new indicators and the achievement of new goals and targets as set out in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development go in this direction. For these reasons, as carefully analysed in the Book Stabilità, the implementation of the Principle of Sustainable Development can represent an opportunity for defining a new method that is used to achieve an effective balance between political and economic interests and social interests, in some cases, as noted, opposed to each other.

The said principle expresses not only a new vision in terms of behaviour and method of action, but, above all, it can be the means of reaching a fair compromise at international legal level between the need to ensure a stable economic and financial system and the defence of the economic and social rights of the person, at least of those rights considered essential. This is, as clarified in Book Stabilità, a good way for preventing new crises and above all protecting the interests of future generations, as the Brundtland Report – which has given impetus to the Principle of Sustainable Development – urges us to do.

[1] A public good is a good that is both non-rivalrous and non-excludable: that is, one’s use of a public good does not reduce the availability to others and one cannot effectively prevent the use by others. Consequently, two important features of public goods are that they will not be provided if left solely to the market, and that they tend to be consumed excessively when they are provided at all.

[2] The definition of global public good was then further clarified by the World Bank, with particular regard to issues related to the issue of development for which “global public goods are commodities, resources services and also substantial cross-border externalities that are important for development poverty reduction and can be produced in sufficient supply only trough cooperation and collective action by developed and developing countries” and subsequently in 2006 by the International Task Force on Global Public Goods, set up at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, for which global public goods are “issues that are boadly conceived as important to the international community that for the most part cannot or will not be adequately addressed by individual countries acting alone and that are defined trough broad international consensus or a legitimate process of decision making”.

[3] See Montani, Supranational political economy, New York, 2020, p. 26.

Did it go as we wanted, what are the benefits and how to continue?


“The peoples of Europe, in creating an ever closer union among them, are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values.”

What do you think, in pursuing an association treaty with Ukraine, has Europe respected this fundamental right to live in peace? If not, is it only Russia’s fault, or could the EU have prevented this war?

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, November 1989, conflicts surfaced all over the world that had remained covered until then. In 2014, an armed conflict began around the EU-Ukraine Association Treaty, 110 km from the western border of the Russian Federation, 1500 kilometers east of the EU territory. A consequence of the EU neighborhood policy in the case of the Ukraine is more than 10,000 deaths. This included 298 passengers and crew members of flight MH17, a KLM flight operated by Malaysia Airlines from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. It is only after this war accident that national air traffic control in Kiev closes the airspace. In addition to the dead, there are tens of thousands of injured and disabled, more than a million persons fled. Angela Merkel’s first reaction to the bad news was shocked: “We would not have expected to see something like this again in Europe”. But the coming decade might see a similar bloody transformation in Belorussia following  pro-democracy driven militant action backed by increasing Western political, diplomatic and military and civil society support.

The EU has long and short-term planning departments. They must have known about the likelihood of a civil war, or they did not do a solid and reliable job. The EU supported the demonstration on Maidan Square and strengthened the Association Treaty including military support and cooperation in the area of ​​homeland security and justice.

The armed conflict in South-Eastern Ukraine is an example of a failed implementation of the United Nations Charter. Failure by the North American United States federation, the Eurasian Russian Federation, the old colonial European states, the Ukrainian government and its divided population. Failure by a series of regional organizations as allowed by Chapter VIII of the UN Charter: the European Union, Council of Europe, OSCE, NATO, CIS. Fortunately, as aspiring world citizens, we still have the Red Cross, which actually provides humanitarian aid where governments fail.

Following the success of ‘EuroMaidan’ the civil war predicted by experts broke out. The lives of many people in Ukraine have been devastated, immediate living conditions degraded. That cannot be according to European values, is not in line with the lessons learned from the series of German – French wars. That should be done better.

Does the Association Treaty contribute to the development of Ukraine?

The current Ukrainian population lives in three areas: (A) Western Ukraine with Kiev as the undisputed capital, (B) Donbass and Luhansk region and (C) Crimea. A roadmap to peace is not provided by the EU Association Treaty, but crucial to a healthy development and a dignified existence of the citizens.

The EU contributes to positive development through its stabilizing influence, reduction of corruption and slow transformation of a corrupt oligarchy into an integer democracy. The US continues military support, such as the lethal anti-tank weapon “Javelin” in 2018 for Western Ukraine, more than a commercial arms supply[2].

Kiev and Brussels will normally take further steps in economic, judicial, police and military cooperation. Implementation of the current treaty helps to meet the Copenhagen obligations. EU standards are introduced into legislation and practice. The deep free trade area will make Ukraine more independent from Russia. There is also massive financial support. “Since 2014, the EU has contributed EUR 18 billion in loans and guarantees. We have opened our borders and enabled free trade. Ukraine’s exports have increased. That’s more than the US has done. ” says EU advisor Elmar Brok[3]. For the time being, these advantages apply only to area A.

Area C, Crimea, may present a similar situation to what existed between East and West Germany for decades. Military intervention could trigger a major regional war, taking that risk is unwise. We have seen in Syria what the Russian military was able to do after its Mediterranean base was attacked. There will be more casualties than the one killed commander in the Russian action of 2014 to take back the Crimean peninsula given away in the 1950s. Also, the large Russian-minded majority in Crimea will not change their mind and suddenly opt for the Kiev based regime. Why not respect the right of the majority in Crimea the country of belonging? Do we want to award nationalists and maintain an outdated Westphalian state system in a globalized interdependent world?

Area B, Eastern Ukraine, should be embedded in a new constitution as part of a sustainable peace settlement. This is a necessary step, the current, not really respected, armistice is an insufficiently stable basis to enable healthy and dignified development. Alternatively the Ukraine risks to split into a sort of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg of Eastern-Europe. If not ongoing low intensity conflict for years to come, devastating living conditions in that European region.

What does Ukraine offer the EU?

The major advantage for the EU is the expansion of the European area ruled from the capital, Brussels. Kharkov’s weapons factories no longer produce for the Russians. The trading volume is increasing in size and also in quality. Police and judicial cooperation offers more possibilities for the investigation and trial of offenders. Security cooperation covers partially the NATO military requirements. In theory, a corrupt olichargical society turns into an incorrupt transparent democratic society with a constitutional state incorporating the European values.

In 2014, a greater area of ​​freedom, security and justice was not created while preserving human dignity. Initially, the development of all of the Ukraine has fallen back. The main negative outcome is the unstable situation in Eastern Ukraine and the deterioration in relations with the EU’s large neighboring country, Russia. What went wrong is not only due to Russia, EU actions have also played a role in this. Current and future generations have to learn how to better implement the decision of the peoples of Europe to share a peaceful future based on common values ​​by establishing an ever closer union[4]. As an emerging power, the European Union can draw on a rich history. The experience of the reconciliation between Germany and France in the post-WW II reconstruction phase, including a large civil society of organizations such as Pax Christi and ARTE, can inspire community building on the Eurasian continent . Let us hope the peace negotiations in the Normandy format, with the help of France and Germany, succeed in the short term and are not stalled nor sabotaged by a Ukraine-US refusal to a peaceful settlement of the dispute.  This will be good for all citizens, from the Pacific Ocean to the Ural mountains.

[1] the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

OJ C 326, 26.10.2012, p. 391–407, first sentence proclaimed



[4] Similar to the original text in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

OJ C 326, 26.10.2012, p. 391–407



This paper[1] addresses two questions:

1. What is the European Union?

2. Did European Philosophy shape the creation of EU? If so, how?[2]

Despite the paradoxical status of a polity still floating between the ideal status of a Political Union, in the form of a Parliamentary Super-National Democracy, as stated by the Lisbon Treaty now in force, and the present reality of an inter-governmental organism which has been governed most of the time by national prevailing interests, the EU disposes of all the institutional means to stop the process of dissolution which has gone on for the last fifteen years or so, and to start a new phase of political integration. After the Covid19 Crisis we are witnessing rejoicing signals of a turn in the right direction: an opportunity which should definitely not be wasted, but accompanied and supported by all European citizen of good will. The two levers of this process are the constitutional principles embedded in the Treaty of Lisbon and the principle of participatory democracy, allowing new and compelling forms of citizens’ legislative initiative.

1. What is the European Union?

The Treaty of Rome (1957) is universally recognized as the act of birth of what we now call the European Union, but what is the European Union?

This is a very philosophical question, that requires a very philosophical answer.

“Nobody knows” is one possible (but false) answer. The true (though seemingly nihilistic) answer is that the EU is nothing, for it does not exist.

Understanding this point is important, so let’s clarify.

The name “European Union” first became the official name of the thing through the Treaty of Maastricht (1992), which is officially called the “Treaty on European Union.” Now, if we read the first article of this Treaty, we immediately come across the Paradox of the Nonexistent Object. Let’s call it the EU Paradox.

The original text of this treaty, which has since been replaced by a subsequent version and most recently by the Treaty of Lisbon (2007, enacted in  2009), is – with all the others– available on the official EU website: ) The Article reproduced belongs to Title 1, Common Provisions:

Article A

By this Treaty, the High Contracting Parties establish among themselves a European Union, heinafter called ‘the Union’.

This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen.

The Union shall be founded on the European Communities, supplemented by the policies and forms of cooperation established by this Treaty. Its task shall be to organize, in a manner demonstrating consistency and solidarity, relations between the Member States and between their peoples.

  1. Analysis of the opening text of the EU Treaty. 

First paragraph: the performative act, “instituting” the Union – the thing exists!

Second paragraph: a curious setback – this statement leads us back from the created thing to the process of creation. Now, the institution of the Union is only a “new stage” in the process of creating a union!

Third paragraph: this one is really amazing – it dissolves the unity into a plurality: the Union is redefined as just a set of relations among States!

Weird, right?

1.2. The State of the Art: The Treaty of Lisbon

The Treaty of Lisbon (2007) is, of course, a culminating synthesis of the many steps that preceded it in a very long process, so the question, now, is this: half a century after the Treaty of Rome, has the process come to an end? Does the Union exist yet?

Yes and no. It is true that if to have causal powers is to be real: the Treaty of Lisbon (for the first time) clarifies both that the Union has powers and what they are[3]. It also gives the EU full legal personality. The Union, for example, has the ability to sign international treaties in the areas of its attributed powers and join international organisations.

But the Treaty, once more, does not tell us what the Union is.

As you may know, the Treaty of Lisbon started as a constitutional project at the end of 2001 and was followed up in 2002 and 2003 by the European Convention, which drafted the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe.

This project was tragically rejected by the negative results of two national referendums in 2005 (two referendums whose necessity was and is utterly questionable, as suggested below). Consequently the thing which should have been born – the United States of Europe – was not constituted.

The Lisbon Treaty, however, quite particularly keeps practically all the features of a Constitution.

1. The Axiological Foundations. Differently from the Maastricht Treaty, it does not say that the Union is founded on the preceding (economic) communities, but instead:

“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail”[4].

2. The inclusion of a Charter of Rights, (like the Charter of Nice, approved in 2001),with its admirable table of 6 values articulating the four generations of civil, political, social, and cultural human rights: Dignity, Liberty, Equality, Solidarity, Citizenship and Justice.

3. The clear definition of the Union not as an inter-government organism, but as a super-national democracy, with a super-national citizenry expressing a super-national Parliament, which nominates a Commission (or an Executive Organ); and with an independent Judiciary Power (The European Court). The Council of the State and Governments Representatives is only one of the decision makers of the Union.

4. The endorsement of the principle of active citizenship. In fact, here Citizenship is explicitly mentioned as an independent value for the first time ever on a charter of rights. Compared to the classic values of the XVIII Century, Dignity is also new: but it had already appeared in the German post war Constitution and, of course, in the first Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

The Treaty of Lisbon expresses, in fact, the three fundamental principles of democratic equality, representative democracy and participatory democracy. Participatory democracy takes the new form of a citizens’ initiative[5].

1.3. Conclusions of the Ontological Analysis.

There is no nihilism in saying that the EU does not exist.

It does not (yet) exist as real, because it is (still) an ideal. Rivers of legal science have been spilt on the legal status of the EU, which is way less than a Federation and way more than a Treaty among national States. For the layman, however, a political union – as Altiero Spinelli has emphasized – is a Union only if it has a real sovereignty and a democratic polity only if it represents its citizens i. e., if it has a parliament and institutions of participatory democracy at a super-national level; if it is no inter-governmental organism (as the EU de facto is now) but a kind of State – a Federation of States, not necessarily with a common market and a common currency, but certainly with fiscal unity or at least the capacity to mobilize resources for common policy, and the normal institutions of a democratic (legislative, executive, and judiciary) State, plus a common military defence. The whole thing quite evidently does not (yet) exist. The EU does not exist as it should be, as it was born to be: as a Republic (Res Publica) or a political subject; a Federation of States or a Federal State.

1.4. Passage to the Second Question

The current state of affairs strikingly reflects the very nature of Europe, as defined by many philosophers, from classical Greece and onward.

Europe is not just a Continent, it is an idea. The Idea of Europe is the very tension between what is and what ought to be. It is the irreducibility of the Ideal to the Real, of Right to Power, of Values/Norms to Facts.

This irreducibility is definitely not a dogma – for it would be a false dogma, since the ideal has often been reduced to the real and the Right, or the Rule of Law, to actual, arbitrary power, or sheer force – as the tragic first half of the last century proves, as well as so many unbearable but absolute facts from the Near and Middle-East of present-day Europe.

“Irreducible” means “that it ought not to be reduced.” It is a moral stance.

But this “ought (not)” is the central tenet of Philosophy, from its very beginning. It is the moral stance of Socratic Philosophy, which defines itself as a request of reason or justification, questioning arbitrariness wherever it is found. Socrates questions the arbitrariness of power by arguing against Trasimacus or Callias on Justice, he questions the arbitrariness of faith or tradition by arguing against Eutyphro on the Good, he questions the arbitrariness of pure thought by arguing against Gorgias on Truth and Knowledge.

So, if this is Philosophy, a Republic of Europe is a product, an incarnation of Philosophy. (Not of Christianity, or not essentially). But how, concretely? For Ideas do not have any effect but through the will of persons. So Europe, much more than by geography, is defined by a movement of liberty in two main directions:

  • A “cognitive” direction: liberation from the bonds of tradition and the roots of inherited culture, towards critical thinking and quest for knowledge;
  • A “practical” direction: liberation from arbitrary power toward the rule of law.

Because of these two directions of its constitutive movement, Europe is more than a continent: it is the cradle of both science and democracy.

A short reminder of the axiological contents of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which was ratified in Nice in 2000 and went into effect with the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, will help us to grasp the very articulated structure of the Idea of Europe. Which, by the way, takes its name from that of a Continent just for historical, hence contingent, reasons: this Idea, and the whole of its articulated contents, being by definition in principle accessible to human sensibility, reason and experience, quite cross-culturally. In this respect, this Charter should be read side by side with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

The Charter  is organized around six chapters representing six different values—respectively, Dignity, Freedom, Equality, Solidarity, Citizens’ Rights, and Justice.

Between the “alpha” of the equal dignity of persons, the foundation of what is due to each one of them, and the “omega” of justice, what makes it possible for people to live together in society, we find the values of the beginning of the French Revolution: Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité. Like the Declaration of 1948, the Charter of Fundamental Rights represents an extension of the declarations of the 1700s, which inaugurated what Norberto Bobbio has called the “age of rights,” one that we can now see as perfectly positioned within the arc of exactly two centuries: from the Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1789 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. An extension, I said, because to the first two generations of civil and political rights that buried the Ancien Régime, the declarations of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries have added two more generations of rights carrying the weight of the history, the axiological thought, and the battles of the centuries following the French Revolution–that is, the battles for social rights, from the movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and for cultural rights, with complex issues emerging from our multiethnic, pluralist societies. Thus, the third value from 1789 re-emerges under the name of Solidarity, which brings to mind the long history of European (and not only European) communitarian and solidarity movements. Three values that are, as it were, completed or integrated in the Charter  by that of Citoyenneté[6]  (not yet named in the preceding declarations) that most directly leads back to the duties and virtues of active Citizenship and, therefore, to public ethics.

2. Did Europe as an Idea – or a Philosophy – shape the creation of EU, and HOW?

The answer is yes – at all times as the constitutional process toward the United States of Europe gained momentum.

The EU has many fathers, but in this particular respect (its ideal) the very father of the EU is a man who spent his youth in a Fascist jail meditating the greatness and tragedy of the whole European spiritual and political history, specifically the tragedy of “realised” Socialism in the Soviet Union. This man – Altiero Spinelli –  came out of prison with an idea of the future of Europe – and the world – which was not only prophetic, but harboured the deepest innovation in modern political philosophy and the theory of democracy since the French Revolution. Or so I will argue.

There are three periods in which the federalist idea of Europe (as opposed, and yet complementary, to the functionalistic idea[7] which prevailed then and is prevailing most of the time – but maybe not in this very moment) gained momentum in a spectacular way:

  • The very beginning: the direct or indirect influence of Spinelli on the political leaders which brought about the steps from the European Community of Coal and Steel (1952) to the Treaty of Rome: Churchill, De Gasperi, Adenauer[8];
  • The Midway Period: from the first democratic election of the European Parliament (1980) to the Single European Act (1986) and leading, finally, to Maastricht (1992). Spinelli died in 1986, but the constitutional process in view of the creation of a super-national democratic and federal State would not have even begun without the epic effort Spinelli made to have the Draft Treaty for the European Union approved by the Parliament, which happened in 1984. This victory was followed by a famous endorsement by France’s President Mitterrand. Spinelli wrote:

“Parliament recalls that the draft adopted is a Treaty in form and should therefore be adopted according to the proper procedure for treaties. But, in content, it is a Constitution, a fundamental law and should therefore be adopted according to the rules of the democratic assembly of the political body being created.”[9]

  • The final push for a Constitution. Spinelli was dead, but nothing better than the European Charter of Rights expresses his philosophy; we have seen that the “Common Provisions” of the Maastricht Treaty reflect the constitutional ideas rooted in his thought, and this is even more true of the Treaty of Lisbon. Not by chance, this part of the legacy of Europe is totally ignored today.

Thus we come to our last and most important point on the contents of Spinelli’s vision.

Here is the famous incipit of the Ventotene Manifesto:

“Modern civilization has taken as its specific foundation the principle of liberty which says that man is not a mere instrument to be used by others but that every man must be an autonomous life centre. With this definition in hand, all those aspects of social life that have not respected this principle have been placed on trial in the grand, historical process that has begun”[10].

This is another passage expressing Socrates’s spirit at its best:

“The permanent value of the spirit of criticism has been asserted against authoritarian dogmatism. Everything affirmed must have reason in itself, or it must disappear. The greatest conquests our society has made in every field are due to the methodicalness of this unbiased attitude. But this spiritual liberty did not survive the crises created by the totalitarian states. New dogmas to be accepted like articles of faith, or to be accepted hypocritically, are taking over all fields of Knowledge”[11].

A brief comment on these two passages will conclude this paper.

Spinelli had the best European intellectuals of his generation on his side. Not only the co-authors of the manifesto and co-founders of the Federalist Mouvement, such as Ernesto Rossi,  Eugenio Colorni,  Ursula Hirschmann, but also Luigi Einaudi, Albert Camus,  Ignazio Silone, Nicola Chiaromonte,  Denis de Rougemont, André Malraux, Jeanne Hersch, Czeslaw Milosz, Adriano Olivetti, Guido Calogero, Norberto Bobbio, Mario Dal Pra and many others in all countries.

The roots of his thought, however, go deeper into that same – albeit rare, isolated, and mistreated even today – living stream of European XXth Century Enlightenment, which had its best figure in Edmund Husserl (and his writings on the Idea of Europe[12]) and its basest adversaries  in Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt.

Tracing back Spinelli’s thought, nourished by his prisoner years, as he delved into the whole legacy of the humanistic tradition is no sheer scholarly worry. Europe has also provided the authoritarian and totalitarian states of the world with ideologies that have been revived, in recent times, by people capable of influencing the Present President of the US, evoking ghosts of a “Pan-European Union” based on traditional values and highly hostile to Modernity, Political Liberalism and Democracy[13]. Neo-Enlightenment, as a subtle thread in Early XXth Century Philosophy, defining itself against that kind of “dark and at times apocalyptic worldview” so popular in pre-Nazi Germany, has its theoretical core in Husserl’s thought and the early phenomenological circles dispersed by Nazism.

The Idea of Europe has two Pillars according to Husserl, that constitute the exact opposites to the two principles endorsed by Heidegger in his infamous speech in 1934, the Fuehrer Prinzip and the Community-of-Destiny Principle of the German People (the same principles still pervading the newly published Schwarze Hefte written until 1948).

Here are Husserl’s two neo-Enlightenment principles:

  1. The principle of the Individual Person’s Moral and Intellectual Autonomy, and more generally of his/her personal value-competence and value calling, source of human Dignity;
  • A Value Universalism resulting not only in Moral and Legal Universalism, but also in the idea of a “task” to embody Practical Reason into Institutions aiming to overcome a sociality based on common roots and cultural identity (including nationality) through a sociality based on face-to-face cognition-based discussion.

These two ideas are implemented in the subtle, still too-ignored philosophy of democracy that Spinelli –autonomously, but on the same wavelength as Husserl – came to theorize. Democracy, much more than a form of government, is a form of life feeding a civilisation founded on both axiological and scientific research. Where politics and the legitimate exercise of power are essentially subject to critical reason, in which no field of human concern is dispensed from the regime of free rational and value-confrontation and in which the institutions themselves, expanding this regime to all domains of human activity, can only survive if founded on the critical wakefulness and sensible attention of (super-national) “citizens”.

No theory can explain the meaning of these principles better than the inexhaustible work with which Spinelli was engaged from 1980-84 in order to have the Draft Treaty for the Constitution of the European Union discussed and approved by the European Parliament, as soon as it had been (for the first time) elected by the peoples of the Member States of the EC. This is the famous “Crocodile Initiative,” whose first precious text – a Newsletter published in the first issue of the journal Spinelli founded to this purpose – is now available[14].

The European case is an unprecedented example of a super-national democratically elected Parliament – the Chamber of a non-existing State – managing to write the Constitution of a State yet to be built. Where

“the paradox …is something which Spinelli feels the majority of parliamentarians do not fully understand: normally parliamentarians try to check the power of the executive, whereas the European Parliament seeks to increase it.”[15]

…or so it should. However paradoxical, this is an actual (and difficult) task of Pure Practical Reason. A task, so to speak, inscribed in the Treaty presently in force (Lisbon) and hence somehow embodied in an institution – the EU. Other democracies do not embody Pure Practical Reason. The EU has to – if it wants to survive.

We – the European citizens – do have the legal and institutional means to push in that direction. Are our reasons, and our wills, up to the task?


M. Burgess 1986, European Union: the EC in Search of a Future, in J Lodge 1986 (ed.), pp. 174-185

R. Cananzi (a cura di) 2004, L’Europa dal Manifesto di Ventotene all’Unione dei 25, Postfazione di R. Prodi, con un saggio di N. Bobbio, Guida, Napoli.

R. Cardozo, R. Corbett 1986, The Crocodile Initiative, in: J. Lodge (ed.) pp. 15-46.

J.P. Gouzy (2004), The Saga of European Federalists During and After the Second World War,

E. Husserl 1922–1937, Aufsätze und Vorträge (HuaXXVII) Husserliana 27. Edited by T. Nenon H.R. Sepp. The Hague, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1988.

E. Husserl 1976, Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie. Eine Einleitung in die phänomenologi-sche Philosophie. (HuaVI) Husserliana 6. Edited by Walter Biemel. The Hague, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff.

S. P. Huntington in his (1996) The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order, London: Simon & Schuster.

J. Lodge (ed,) 1986, European Union: The European Community in Search of a Future,  Foreword by A. Spinelli, St Martin Press, New York.

J. Monnet 1962, A Ferment of Change, in Brent and Stubb 2003, pp. 19-44; D. Mitrany, A Working Peace System, in Brent and Stubb 2003, pp.19-44.

D. Mitrany, A Working Peace System, in Brent and Stubb 2003, pp. 99-120.

B.F. Nelsen, A. Stubb (eds.), 2003, The European Union . Readings on the Theory and Practice of European Integration, Boulder, London.

A. Spinelli 1980 “Le Parlement Européen à la Croisée des Chemins” , dans : Phenomenology and Mind 8, 2015, « Philosophy and the Future of Europe », pp. 311-320

A. Spinelli, Forward to J. Lodge 1986  (ed.), pp. xiii-xviii.

A. Spinelli 1957 Une Constituante Européenne, Pensée Française – «Fédération » Nos 9-10, 1957.

A. Spinelli 1951 Pourquoi je suis Européen, « Preuves », No. 81, Novembre 1951.

A. Spinelli 1944, The Ventotene Manifesto, Pdf online at

P. Trawny (Hrsg.): Martin Heidegger: Überlegungen XII-XV (Schwarze Hefte 1939-1941). Gesamtausgabe Band 96. Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2014, ISBN 978-3-465-03838-2.

P. Trawny (Hrsg.): Martin Heidegger: Anmerkungen I-V (Schwarze Hefte 1942-1948). Gesamtausgabe Band 97. Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2014, ISBN 978-3-465-03870-2.

[1]  Roberta De Monticelli – Chair of Philosophy of Personhood, San Raffaele University, Milan;

2019-20 Fellow of the Institute For Advanced Studies in Paris

The basis of this paper is a draft for a conversation at the conference “The Eu at 60: Europe Since the Treaty of Rome” (European Institute at Columbia University, February 10, 2017). The term I had used in the draft was the more generic “polity”. I wish to thank Prof. Stefan Collignon of St.Anna  College (Pisa, Italy) for suggesting the more explicit and classic term “Republic”, as well as the other participants for precious suggestions.

[2] The reader might be interested in consulting one of the sources of this contribution:   Phenomenology and Mind, 8, 2015, “Philosophy and the Future of Europe”, (Habermas, Ferry, Glyn Morgan, Bauboeck, Bagnai, Bolaffi , Cacciari, Urbinati and Barbara Spinelli), with a reprint of Altiero Spinelli’s 1980 letter to the Members of the European Parliament which launched the Crocodile initiative. The online issue is  available here:

[3] The Lisbon Treaty for the first time clarifies the powers of the Union. It distinguishes three types of competences: exclusive competence, where the Union alone can legislate, and Member States only implement; shared competence, where the Member States can legislate and adopt legally binding measures if the Union has not done so; and supporting competence, where the EU adopts measures to support or complement Member States’ policies. Union competences can now be handed back to the Member States in the course of a treaty revision. For more information go back to the online version of the Treaty, or consult one of the numerous websites available, for example


[5] See the description of the ECI (European Citizens Initiative) act here:

[6] The French expression seems more adequate than the English (Citizens’ Right), for citizenship involves not only rights, among which that of proposing referendums, but duties as well, as electing one’s representatives,  and respecting all the EU norms.

[7] The functionalistic approach aims at a gradual integration of European States (and not necessarily only European states) by the adoption of common rules and institutions governing their economic activities. At a global level, it is mainly bound to the work of David Mitrany (1888-1975), who was very influential with his book, A Working Peace System (1943), and motivated several generations of “neo-functionalists” in the Seventies and Nineties, when the modern “disregard for constitutions and pacts” through “a spreading web of international activities and agencies,” predicted by this book, became evident on a daily basis. Yet the construction of the EU is more directly bound to the thought and activity of Jean Monnet (1888-1979), who – thanks to the unconditional support of the French Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Schuman – is the actual “father” of the first institutions of the EC (European Coal and Steel Community, European Economic Community, EURATOM), and the man who persuaded EC governments to turn their regular summits into The European Council. Differently from Mitrany, Monnet thought that the gradualist approach of functionalism, far from being incompatible with federal institutions, would foster the process of their construction. See J. Monnet (1962), D. Mitrany (2003).

[8] Even in the Treaty of Rome, which essentially institutes a common market (or rather the beginnings of it), the Preambles testify to the presence of Spinelli’s thought at least in the last clause:

“INTENDING to confirm the solidarity which binds Europe and the overseas countries and desiring to ensure the development of their prosperity, in accordance with the principles of Charter of the United Nations,

RESOLVED by thus pooling their resources to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty, and calling upon the other peoples of Europe who share their ideal to join their efforts

HAVE DECIDED to create an European Economic Community” (Nelsen and Stubb 2003, p. 17).

On the other hand, the idea of an European Constituency is quite clear in Spinelli’s printed works already in the early Fifties, not to mention the Ventotene Manifesto. Cf. following footnote. On the historical and ideal background of the first Treaties see J.P. Gouzy (2004).

[9] A. Spinelli, Forward to J. Lodge (ed,) 1986, p. xviii, our italics. Cf. A. Spinelli 1957; and Spinelli 1951.

[10] A. Spinelli (1944), p. 2.

[11] Ibid., p. 3.

[12] Especially the series of articles published in 1922-23 on the Japanese Journal « Kaizo » (Husserl 1922-37) and the Prague and Vienna Lectures of 1936, which constitute the early parts of his posthumous Crisis  (Husserl 1976).

[13] “Those trying to divine the roots of Stephen K. Bannon’s dark and at times apocalyptic worldview have repeatedly combed over a speech that Mr. Bannon, President Trump’s ideological guru, made in 2014 to a Vatican conference, where he expounded on Islam, populism and capitalism” (J. Horowitz, “The New York Times”, 02/10/2017, ). Mr. Bannon typically revives an obsession about civilizations and cultural identities which was typical for early XX century’s best sellers as Oswald Spengler’s Untergang des Abendlandes, a book recognized as a source even by S. P. Huntington (1996) – another favourite book of Bannon’s (“The New York Times” 02/02/2017)

[14] A. Spinelli (1980) “Le Parlement Européen à la Croisée des Chemins” , dans : Phenomenology and Mind 8, 2015, « Philosophy and the Future of Europe », pp. 311-320

[15] M. Burgess (1986), in Lodge 1986 p. 183