|Thursday, 27 July 2006||
The political objective of establishing a supranational European Federal State has been central from the start to the various stages of the integration project: Coal and Steel Community, Economic Community, European Community, European Union.
“Europe Day”(May 9th) commemorates the Schuman Declaration on 9 May 1950, which stated frankly that the establishment of the supranational Coal and Steel Community was “a first step in the federation of Europe” and that “this proposal will lead to the realization of the first concrete foundation of a European federation.”
A Federation is of course a particular form of State, and yet for decades the champions of integration have sworn they have no such thing in mind. They have said this as the EC/EU has steadily acquired ever more features of a supranational Federation: its own laws, Parliament, Supreme Court, currency, foreign policy, battle groups, code of fundamental rights, flag, anthem, motto and now – they hope – its own Constitution and with it real citizenship and citizens’ obligations. If the EU Constitution were to be ratified, it would leave the power to levy taxes as the only major power of government still remaining at national level, and the advocates of integration clearly aspire to this in time.
The “ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe” which is referred to in the Preamble to the 1957 Treaty of Rome set no limit to the European integration process. What is interesting is how, as if to calm people’s fears and induce them to join unwittingly in the supranational State-building project, they are gulled into using familiar and seemingly innocuous terms to describe it for a period, whose legal meaning is then altered retrospectively in a subsequent European Treaty. Deception of this kind has characterised the integration project from the start.
Calling the European Union by the name “Europe” is the most obvious example, even though a dozen countries that are certainly European are not members of the EU at all, and the boundaries of geographical Europe are quite different from the EU’s. Another example is the name “European Parliament”. The idea of a supranational Parliament or legislature would not have been publicly acceptable at the time of the 1957 Treaty of Rome. The Rome Treaty called it an “Assembly”, and it consisted of politicians nominated by governments, with direct elections being introduced 20 years later in 1979. Then the Asssembly started calling itself a Parliament without any legal basis for doing this, and that term was generally applied to it for years before the name was formally changed, in the 1987 Single European Act, to make the term “European Parliament” legally valid.
Another example of deception is the three legally separate European Communities – Coal and Steel, Euratom and Economic – that were established in the 1950s. For decades these were referred to as one “European Community”(EC) in common Brussels parlance before this unified Community was actually established legally, which did not happen until the 1992 Maastricht Treaty on European Union. Most of the Maastricht Treaty, whose title introduces the name “European Union”, consists of amendments to the three existing community treaties “with a view to establishing the European Community” , even though simple folk unused to the ways of the EU federalists will have thought that this Community had been established years before in 1992.
The name “European Union” is itself a deception. Note that the proper title of the Maastricht Treaty, which gave us the term European Union and the notional concept of EU citizenship for the first time, is a Treaty “on” Union, not “of” Union. One can only be a citizen of a State, and what is called the European Union today is not yet a State. The present EU does not even have legal personality or distinct corporate existence, unlike the European Community which does. So at present being an EU citizen entails no legal obligations, but everyone has now got used to the term “EU citizen” and regards it as innocuous. So the Eurofederalists believe the time has come to give EU citizenship legal content and impose real citizens’ obligations on people, hoping they will not notice the drastic character of the change proposed, for after all are we not EU citizens already? This is the key political purpose of the proposed EU Constitution.
The name “European Union” today, stemming from the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, is a descriptive term for various forms of cooperation between its Member States – the supranational “Community pillar” on the one hand, where the Brussels Commission proposes the laws, and the “intergovernmental pillars” of crime and justice and foreign policy on the other, where Member States relate to one another as notionally sovereign entities. Thus, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as European Union law, for the EU is not a legal person, only European Community, or “EC”, law, for the Community does have legal personality.
The proposed EU Constitution, the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, would change all that if it were to be ratified. It would equip the legally quite new European Union it would establish with real teeth, but it is hoped that people will not notice, for there would be no change of name. The Constitution would repeal the existing EC/EU treaties, would abolish their three-pillar structure and merge them into one unified system, all governed by the supranational law of what would, constitutionally and legally, be a new and fundamentally different Union from the present EU.
This new EU would be founded like any State upon its own Constitution. The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe would therefore in effect be the”Treaty of European Union”, for it would establish the EU for the first time as a distinct legal entity, with the constitutional form of a supranational Federal State. A European Federation would thereby be born, stretching from Ireland to the borders of Russia. It would still lack some features of a mature, fully developed Federation, but it would have most of them. This after all is how such classical Federal States as 19th Century Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia developed – over a long period of time as the powers of lower units were gradually subsumed into higher.
This new European Union based on its own Constitution would thus become our real legal sovereign and supreme ruler for the first time, instead of our own national State or country. The Irish Constitution would have to be changed to recognise the constitutional superiority of this new European Union. That is what the necessary referendum would be about, although one can be sure that the leaders of our principal political parties will swear blind that nothing like this is at issue. The EU Constitution would make us real citizens of what in effect would be a United States of Europe, as such leading politicians as France’s Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Belgian’s Guy Verhofstadt, Italy’s Romano Prodi and Germany’s Hans Martin Bury openly and honestly acknowledge.
Under the proposed EU Constitution we would no longer be just honorary or notional citizens of an EU that has no legal personality or corporate exstence in its own right, which we are told we are at present. We would instead become real citizens of a real EU Federation and would owe it and its institutions the first duty of citizenship, which is to obey that State’s laws and give the new EU now founded on its own Constitution our real loyalty and inward allegiance.
The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe would thus be the fulfilment of the federalist dream of the 1950 Schuman Declaration which we are asked to honour on “Europe Day”, even though most people have no idea that this is what the Declaration being commemorated actually had in mind.
By Anthony Coughlan
Secretary of The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, 24 Crawford Avenue
, Dublin 9; Tel: 00-353-1-8305792