La R?volution continue.

Edward has already pointed to an interesting post by Henry Farrell regarding European politics in the last post, but I think the argument is important enough for a separate pointer and a little more explanation.

Henry Farrell believes that

“that the constitution [does not have] much chance at all of being ratified. If it somehow gets over the French hurdle, it?s going to come a cropper at the British one.

But just as well that

“the European Union may be on the verge of acquiring real political legitimacy for the first time, exactly and precisely because of the vociferous debates which are starting to get going.”

Counter-intuitive as this argument may appear at first sight, he does have a point. The Maastricht treaty came too soon after the Iron Curtain came down to profoundly influence institutionalized myths of rationality about Europe. The ten years thereafter where spent quietly preparing the big changes that we’re now approaching but national politcal discourses weren’t reconciled with the new European reality perceived by most people.

I think Henry is right to argue that institutional Europe is by now an inherent part of European identity. The debate is, exceptions notwithstanding, not questioning the European Union as such, but rather the ways it works, or doesn’t. Just this week, I’ve exchanged emails with French friends that very much support this thesis: some will vote “non” on Sunday because they know and value the EU. Just not the one they believe is going to emerge according to the Constitution.

However, I don’t agree with Henry’s assumption that killing off the treaty will create a lot more of beneficial debate. While national electorates needed a long time to understand the changes, now it is important that more politicians attempt to reconcile national political discourses with their Europeanised reality.

I don’t think that this will be more successful following a failed campaign for the European Constitution.

10 thoughts on “La R?volution continue.

  1. “However, I don?t agree with Henry?s assumption that killing off the treaty will create a lot more of beneficial debate.”
    I disagree. The EU is a product of the cold war era. America pressed Western Europe to form a close alliance. France was interest to neutralize Western Germany. Western Germany was interested to get back a chance to act – if not as a nation, than as part of a collective. Political union was the final perspective of that entity, under French and German leadership, to be sure.
    Than came the nineties. EU became a big successful machine to transform Eastern Europe into liberal states. With the strong support of America.
    Today, the EU has lost it’s compass. The old project doesn’t works any more. The shared leadership of Paris and Berlin doesn’t works. There is no political unity. Most governments are not interested in a EU that is an instrument for French “Grandeur” – a “counterweight” to America. Most European governments don’t want the socalled European social model, where the state is the major player. They want free markets, they want capitalism.
    So there are very different visions of the future of EU. Heterogenity rules, not homogenity. France has lost the game, they cannot master Europe. Game over.
    That’s not the moment for a “constitution” which is anything but a constitution. A constitution only works in a state, and EU is not a state. The whole enterprise is an error.
    I think that, when the constitution has failed, there will be a discussion on the EU. Finally. At least I hope so. It’s overdue. We cannot continue to let our governments to to whatever they want in Brussels.

  2. >The whole enterprise is an error.

    See, Ulrich, you are entitled to your opinion. But if you believe that, what would be the point of a discussion about different possible modes of the EU? I think you missed the point Henry made about the institutionalised acceptance of Europe by its people – it wasn’t just the cold war. Try this – No, Europe is not a state, and it will never be one. But the era of “statehood” in the classic sense is likely over anyway. Coordinational hybrids are advancing all over the world. And the EU is their “mothership”.

    >Most European governments don’t want the socalled >European social model, where the state is the >major player. They want free markets, they want >capitalism.

    Which so-called European social model are you talking about? There are at least three of them, one (the so-called continental European one) is currently becoming a combination of the other two, the Scandinavian one, and the anglo-saxon one.

    And in which European country is the state “THE major player”??? Certainly not in Germany, certainly not in France. Don’t confuse corporatism with a “state-run” country. In Scandinavia, most people seem to be happy about what they have at the moment. Just looking at the health sector, I think Britain is one of the countries where the state is a major player – isn’t the NHS the world’s biggest employer?

  3. I quite agree with you!If (unfortunately)the no outnumber the yes in France on Sunday night, there are two kinds of explanation : the one, seemingly the most obvious, is the easiest to draw (“the Europeans have had more Europe to eat they could digest”), the other is exactly the other way round (“they did not get enough”). I favour the second: a Constitution means a State, and there is no State. Basically, there was a lie in the packaging: the product inside was not there. But, as nobody has ever bothered to explain to the people which product was to be sold (namely a sovereign Federation of states : what would it be like?),we cannot say how this new “political entity” would be welcomed. That is the blatant emptiness which is to signal. And that is the answer we will have to give in the coming months (and years).

  4. On whether the state is becoming more or less important in the EU, let us have a look at what has been happening to total tax revenues as a percentage of GDP.

    “Total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP followed a slow upward trend in almost all OECD countries during the 1990s. However, in 2000, the upward trend stopped and, in 2001, tax revenues as a percentage of GDP fell in the majority of OECD countries.”

    Data for a longer span 1975-2003 (provisional) is here:

    When tax revenues as a percentage of GDP are 40 per cent or more, I think it fair to say the state is the major player in its national economy.

    How about state aids to industry? From the official EU scoreboard for spring 2005:

    “Slight decline in level of State aid in relation to GDP but the underlying trend is more stable than downward

    “The overall level of State aid2 granted by the fifteen Member States was estimated at Euro 53 billion in 2003. From the relatively high levels of State aid in the early and mid-nineties, the overall volume of aid3 fell dramatically from Euro 74 billion in 1996 to Euro 55 billion in 1999. Between 1999 and 2001, total aid hovered around the Euro 55 billion mark, rising to Euro 57 billion in 2002 but then falling in 2003 by some Euro 4 billion to Euro 53 billion.”

    On the update for spring 2005, Britain seems to have been bottom of the state aids (excluding railways) league table for the EU:

    Should we be worrying about that?

  5. That total tax revenue as percentage of GDP is down is not that surprising. You have the USA and its taxpolicy and the rest of the OECD had low growth and total tax income grows/declines faster than the growth of GDP

  6. Tobias, thanks for allowing me to disagree. I will use that opportunity once again.
    Some points:
    1) When I refer to the “European social model”, I do it in the vague sense that, for example, J?rgen Habermas does in his articles. It’s what the leftists in Europe and US oppose to capitalism. When we are in acadmics, we might find out that there are typ I-VII of European social states. But I guess that we are here is a political discourse where you sometimes need to get to the point.
    2) “But the era of “statehood” in the classic sense is likely over anyway.” Sweet dreams are made of this. Sure, the states are changing their role. But the idea of “postmodern” government, all these fantasies on “governance” and so on are merely academic. It’s the dreaming nineties. 9/11 has brought back the state, in a classical, Weberian sense. To fight the terror you cannot simply use transnational networks. You need a state that is using it’s legitimate monopoly of force. Another example, look what’s happening with common European foreign policy. Blown away. Schr?der is seeking a national seat at the security council. The negotiations with Iran are not lead by Brussels. It’s the three major players in Europe, EU-3, who have agreed to pass by the postnational Brussels.
    3) Wheter the state is the major player in Germany, in France or in the US is a endless discussion. At least, the government gets most attention. What happens in Berlin, Paris or Washington is of greatest importance for the citizens, and also for the economy.

    Recently, there has been some hype about EU, as the model for the future. I would be happy to agree. But unfortunately, what we see is an old architecture which has lost its sense. Even the French will vote “non”.
    So the European dream is more for some NYT-type east-coast elder intellectuals who are seeking for an alternative to their own American politics. They use Europe as an argument in their domestic debate. This hype has nothing to do with European reality. Instead of glorifying “us”, we should start a tough, realistic analysis of where we are and a debate of where we want to go.

  7. I don’t see a big difference between the EU-3 and the EU with respect to Iran. Their interests are inline with that of the rest of the EU so i would expect the same endresult.

  8. It’s wonderful to what degree we can apparently tell what ‘the people’ want. The people want very different things. Generally, you can be certain about only a few things.

    With regard to matters politics can influence, they want a good job with a good income, but also some degree of security, a say on the things that affect them, and perhaps some green around them, and not too many homeless. It ends about there.

    By and large the people are not ideologues who want ‘capitalism’, ‘corporatism’ or ‘socialism’.

    The Constitution will be rejected (probably…) by some because they find it too neo-liberal, and by some because they find it socialist. Others will not look at this ideological debate and reject it for other reasons altogether.

    The talk in the Netherlands is not much about how Europe works, but rather about slowing the whole project down. Many Dutch want less rules from Brussels and no more enlargement. Pollster Maurice de Hond has found that approximately 1/3rd of the Dutch population has this general stance wrt the EU.

    Of course they’re also angry about single topics, but this is not about what kind of Europe do we want, it’s about less Europe, or at least a slower-moving Europe.

    The debate that is now raging may be beneficial, if it lasts. You need some kind of setting to keep it going on, people’s attention is rather quickly diverted these days.

    Tobias’ point about the national political discourses is key, though. Parliaments need to start paying attention to what goes on, and politicians need to stop saying ‘we have to do this because of Brussels’, complaining about regulations and claiming petty victories in negotiations for the home audience.

    We also need to make clear that it’s the Member States themselves who create the most red tape. More supranationalism might do much to clean it up, more veto points in the Council won’t. That’s for the next round.

  9. “The debate that is now raging may be beneficial, if it lasts.”
    Exactly. I am not overoptimistic on this:
    “The leader of the political party that is most strongly opposing the constitutional treaty (the SP, socialist party) mr Jan Marijnissen has his own weblog.
    Dutch pm dared him to tell what should be changed in the treaty. Marijnissen came up with this:
    “1. Voorlopig een moratorium op verdere overdracht van bevoegdheden aan Brussel.
    2. Geen standpunten in de Grondwet die daar niet thuishoren, zoals ‘de vrije markt’ en de ontwikkeling van Europees leger.
    3. Een Conventie waarin iedereen kan meepraten over hoe we de toekomst van Nederland in Europa zien. Meer concreet: welke bevoegdheden geven we aan Brussel, en van welke vinden we dat we die beter zelf kunnen houden?
    4. Een Grondwet die te behappen en te begrijpen is voor iedereen.
    my translation:
    1) A moratorium on shifting any more power to Brussel.
    2) No items in the constitution that do not belong in it like the ‘free market’ and a European army
    3) A convention where everyone join the debate on how we see the future of the Netherlands within Europe. To be more precise: which political powers should be on the European level and which should remain national?
    4) It should be understandable for everybody”
    (from my comments on the CT-post)
    Basically what the guy is saying is: let’s start all over.
    Maybe he is right. But if you read what his fans are shouting and insulting to the Dutch government all elites etc in his comments which is never countered by this politician himself I do not see much reason for optimism.
    This goes for the yes-camp as well no signs of interest in serious debate but maybe this will change after June 1.

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