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Monday, August 22, 2016

Altiero Spinelli's Ventotene Manifest

French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi met today on the Island of Ventotene near Naples, where Altiero Spinelli wrote, in 1941, Towards a Free and United Europe, published in Rome in January 1944.

See the full text of the Ventotene Manifesto
The collapse of the majority of the States on the continent under the German steam-roller has already given the people of Europe a common destiny: either they will all submit to Hitler's dominion, or, after his fall, they will all enter a revolutionary crisis and will not find themselves separated by, and entrenched in, solid State structures. Feelings today are already far more disposed than they were in the past to accept a federal reorganization of Europe. The harsh experience of recent decades has opened the eyes even of
(c) Wikipedia
those who refused to see, and has matured many circumstances favourable to our ideal. All reasonable men recognize that it is impossible to maintain a balance of power among European States with militarist Germany enjoying equal conditions with other countries, nor can Germany be broken up into pieces or held on a chain once it is conquered. We have seen a demonstration that no country within Europe can stay on the sidelines while the others battle: declarations of neutrality and non-aggression pacts come to nought. The uselessness, even harmfulness, of organizations like the League of Nations has been demonstrated: they claimed to guarantee international law without a military force capable of imposing its decisions and respecting the absolute sovereignty of the member States. The principle of non intervention turned out to be absurd: every population was supposed to be left free to choose the despotic government it thought best, in other words virtually assuming that the constitution of each individual States was not a question of vital interest for all the other European nations. The multiple problems which poison international life on the continent have proved to be insoluble: tracing boundaries through areas inhabited by mixed populations, defence of alien minorities, seaports for landlocked countries, the Balkan Question, the Irish problem, and so on. All matters which would find easy solutions in the European Federation, just as corresponding problems, suffered by the small States which became part of a vaster national unity, lost their harshness as they were turned into problems of relationships between various provinces. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Why Europe Must not Divide: History Repeats Itself

History tells us what may happen next with Brexit and Trump
By Tobias Stone, on 

"Brexit in the UK causes Italy or France to have a similar referendum. Le Pen wins an election in France. Europe now has a fractured EU. The EU, for all its many awful faults, has prevented a war in Europe for longer than ever before. The EU is also a major force in suppressing Putin’s military ambitions. European sanctions on Russia really hit the economy, and helped temper Russia’s attacks on Ukraine (there is a reason bad guys always want a weaker European Union). Trump wins in the US. Trump becomes isolationist, which weakens NATO. He has already said he would not automatically honourNATO commitments in the face of a Russian attack on the Baltics.
With a fractured EU, and weakened NATO, Putin, facing an ongoing economic and social crisis in Russia, needs another foreign distraction around which to rally his people. He funds far right anti-EU activists in Latvia, who then create a reason for an uprising of the Russian Latvians in the East of the country (the EU border with Russia). Russia sends ‘peace keeping forces’ and ‘aid lorries’ into Latvia, as it did in Georgia, and in Ukraine. He annexes Eastern Latvia as he did Eastern Ukraine (Crimea has the same population as Latvia, by the way).
A divided Europe, with the leaders of France, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and others now pro-Russia, anti-EU, and funded by Putin, overrule calls for sanctions or a military response. NATO is slow to respond: Trump does not want America to be involved, and a large part of Europe is indifferent or blocking any action. Russia, seeing no real resistance to their actions, move further into Latvia, and then into Eastern Estonia and Lithuania. The Baltic States declare war on Russia and start to retaliate, as they have now been invaded so have no choice. Half of Europe sides with them, a few countries remain neutral, and a few side with Russia. Where does Turkey stand on this? How does ISIS respond to a new war in Europe? Who uses a nuclear weapon first?

This is just one Arch Duke Ferdinand scenario. The number of possible scenarios are infinite due to the massive complexity of the many moving parts. And of course many of them lead to nothing happening. But based on history we are due another period of destruction, and based on history all the indicators are that we are entering one."

How Brexit can Boost European Integration

Much has been written on the Brexit referendum and its aftermath, and it is platitude to insist on what crisis this is for the United Kingdom, for the European Union and its Member States, and for the rest of the world. I have commented elsewhere (and in French) on legal implications and the need to have the British Parliament involved, in both the process of activating article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and repealing the European Communities Act 1972 (Le droit au Brexit).

Relying so heavily on direct democracy on such serious matters is foolish, especially when such a dramatic referendum is so ill prepared, with no provision as to its effect in the Referendum Act 2015, and no requirement of a qualified majority for the decision to carry some legal and constitutional consequences. That politicians take the result of the referendum as binding because it is the voice of the people shows how representative democracy has weakened, even in the country that invented it. But it is also symptomatic of the British attitude throughout the European integration process. Churchill’s call for United States of Europe in 1946 was an isolated voice. Great Britain never advocated for a continental polity and, year after year, negotiated a number of opt-out possibilities.

We are faced with the perspective of a European Union without the United Kingdom. No crisis must be wasted, as crises can trigger progress: whether we regret Brexit or not – and I personally deeply regret – we must use this as an opportunity for boosting political integration. It is a secret to none that the UK was an obstacle to it. With the UK sadly moving out, the debate on building a true federal state and adopting a proper constitution is to be activated and placed on the drawing board. This is a reason why this blog was created.

The European Union must move from painful puberty to confident adulthood. It had a difficult gestation and long childhood. As the Schuman Plan stated, the whole idea was to “make war unthinkable and materially impossible.” European integration was aimed at securing peace on the continent, which is and remains its main and most remarkable achievement.

A European Defence Community project, initiated in 1950, eventually failed. Economic integration projects were to be more successful, starting with the European Coal and Steel Community (Treaty of Paris 1951). The Treaty of Rome signed in 1957 created the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community, with effect on January 1st, 1958, in the six founding Members: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg, and the Netherland. On January 1st, 1973, Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom joined, after lengthy negotiations. Subsequent enlargements added Greece (1981), Spain and Portugal (1986), doubling the initial number of Member States. 1986 was the year of the European Single Act and the adoption of the European flag. The Maastricht Treaty signed in 1992 created the European Union as from November 1st, 1993, adding among others a European currency to the project. Three additional States joined in 1994: Austria, Finland, and Sweden, raising the number to fifteen.

Two principal factors triggered the adolescence crisis: firstly, the launching of a monetary union joined by some Member States and implemented before securing the creation of proper institutional support and implementing a common budgetary policy. Secondly, the largest enlargement of the Union, bringing ten additional Member States on May 1st, 2004: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Seven of these were part of the former Eastern Bloc, of which three were from the former Soviet Union.

This is the time when much of the European public started to worry and lose confidence in the project, as shown among other things by two founding Member States, France and the Netherlands, refusing to ratify a draft Constitutional Treaty, by referendums held in 2005. Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007, and Croatia in 2013, bringing the number to 28.

Enlarging the Union by nearly doubling its members (from 15 in 1994 to 28 less than twenty years later), with the addition of countries from the former Eastern bloc, and expanding the powers of the Union without significantly strengthening the democratic foundation, creates a sense of loss of identity, typical of puberty. Citizens in Member States view the Union as a larger and bigger bureaucracy. Politicians in Member States blame it whenever they feel forced to implement unpopular adjustments to a fast changing world. No new leading project comes to renew the attractiveness of the political integration.

2005 was a missed opportunity of moving from cooperation based on a treaty to a constitution, even if that one was to be constitutional treaty. Though a hybrid legal document – but is not hybridity in the DNA of the continent? – it was a major first step, which could have led to the adoption of a true and proper constitution. It did not happen because of the two unsuccessful referendums of 2005, though the overwhelming majority of Member States had approved it, by referendum or parliamentary vote. The Treaty of Lisbon signed in 2007 and in force since 2009 does not replace a constitution.

The Brexit referendum of 2016 must be used as an opportunity to reboot the constitutional process and the march to a proper federation:

(1) A federal constitution would stabilize the distribution of powers between those delegated to the Union and those left to Member States and their regions;

(2) It will secure and reinforce the democratic dimension of a Union that must move beyond reinforced intergovernmental cooperation: too many of the powers devolved to the Union are proper State powers, that cannot be moved away from the direct control by the European citizens.  

With the principal opponents to political integration gone, the march towards a federal Europe must resume. As will be explained in forthcoming posts, a federation has the effect of limiting the powers devolved to the federal State and strengthen the control by the citizens, who need to be re-empowered. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Our Philosophical and Spiritual Roots

Aware of the philosophical and spiritual heritage that freed us from tyranny and helped us promote the common good, government by the people for the people, representative democracy, the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law, habeas corpus, the elimination of discrimination…

Commenting on that one is intimidating for the layman I happen to be: the task is daunting. This paragraph addresses our philosophical and spiritual heritage, and is reminiscent of the debate as to whether the European Constitution should refer to the continent’s Judeo-Christian roots: remember that such reference was voted against in the European Parliament in 2003.

I am of opinion that such heritage should be referred to, but in a broader and more inclusive manner. Regarding philosophy, we should not forget that without the Moslems in Andalusia, the texts of Plato and Aristotle may have been lost forever. Averroes was no other than Ibn Rushd. Regarding religion, Spain, Italy, Greece and other parts of the Union have been marked by Moslem influence and today, Islam is at least the second largest religion within the EU. Medieval religious art fed as much on what was discovered in the Holy Land during the Crusades than on the Greek-Roman heritage. Religious toleration has been denied or practiced in all three monotheists religions. We owe them progress that has led to the development of human rights, even if such human rights have been denied by the dominating religions. It is a lot safer to refer to spirituality, supporting the good things, than religion, with its troublesome institutional element or sometimes lack thereof, which has been rejected as active participant to good government in most European regimes. Also, we rely on political thought that has developed on either side of the English Channel.

Freedom is a philosophical construct enshrined in European philosophy. Equality feeds both in philosophy and spirituality, and fraternity/sorority or brotherhood/sisterhood are spiritual in essence when extended beyond family relation.

The ideas of common good and good governance go back a long way. In the Republic, Plato taught us the five forms of government, naming them aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, told us that the tyranny is the perversion of monarchy: both are forms of one-man rule, but they are different. The tyrant regards his own interest, but the king regards that of his subjects.

Aristocracy, described by Plato as the rule by philosopher or wise men, deteriorates into timocracy, it is due to the corruptness of ministers, who distribute the resources of the state without regard to merit, and keep all or most of the benefits for themselves, and confine public appointments to the same persons, who take wealth only into account. Power is kept by bad men, instead of the best. It becomes an oligarchy when controlled by the rich.

Aristotle recommends a constitution:

[C]ontrolled by a numerous middle class which stands between the rich and the poor. For those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation find it “easiest to obey the rule of reason” (Politics IV.11.1295b4–6). They are accordingly less apt than the rich or poor to act unjustly toward their fellow citizens. A constitution based on the middle class is the mean between the extremes of oligarchy (rule by the rich) and democracy (rule by the poor). “That the middle [constitution] is best is evident, for it is the freest from faction: where the middle class is numerous, there least occur factions and divisions among citizens” (IV.11.1296a7–9). The middle constitution is therefore both more stable and more just than oligarchy and democracy. (

Democracy for Aristotle is a deviant constitution, to which a polity is to be preferred, as described in the paragraph above. The Americans used the term Republic, and devised a Constitution based on the rule of law and checks and balances to avoid the president to become a tyrant and also to avoid minorities to be oppressed by a possibly deviant abusive majority.

One Ruler
Few Rulers
Many Rulers

All Europeans aspire to government by virtuous men and women, and the European Constitution must protect us from deviant or corrupt regimes.

In their great majority, Europeans are attached to the promotion of the common good, government by the people for the people, representative democracy, the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law, habeas corpus (that part of the English heritage that all want to have), the elimination of discrimination…

We want to promote these in our local regimes and want to have them in our federal state, if it is to exist. If the federal state exists and meets these standards, then why don’t we want to be ruled by such a federal state? Mention of these formidable conquests of mankind feeding from our philosophical and spiritual roots is essential in the European Constitution.

Such mention states what we want our European polity to be and. It also claims our refusal and rejection of tyranny, oligarchy, and may be also some excesses of democracy where some politicians surf on people’s frustration to lead them to ill-conceived choices, as seen with the EU referendums of 2005 and 2016.  If our European polity does not meet all standards listed in this paragraph, it is our civic duty to reform it, rather than pulling out of it. We should work at improving our existing Union just as we have worked throughout history at improving our state institutions.  

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Let's keep exploring the draft Preamble:

We the People of the European Union,
Whether in Europe from times immemorial or recent immigration,
Aware of the fact that our continent is geographically open, wishing to keep it free from artificial boundaries, understanding that openness is of the essence of European identity…

The big anxiety of the European people is immigration, this at times of economic hardship. This anxiety largely feeds on the fear of the other. What is it that generates fear? Psychology knows the answer: we fear the unknown! If you keep people in ignorance and heat that ignorance with fear, you generate hate! People are largely ignorant of the dynamics of immigration throughout world and European history. They are told that others are coming in big numbers, taking their jobs and feasting on their limited resources. They are told that it is the State responsibility to protect them from invasion. People fear invasion and are consequently led to hate the invader.

We know the formula, it worked formidably well in Europe in the 1930s, and fueled the development of populist and fascist movements. This caused World War II, but history is quickly forgotten. The fact that the two nations that carried the banner of freedom and fought so hard to free the West from nazism (sorry, language check, but that one does not deserve a cap) and fascism (thank you for not imposing the cap on fascism) show signs of amnesia should be seen as matter of great concern. Britain with Brexit and the U.S. with the success of the Trump campaign show highly troubling signs of leaning towards fear, ignorance, and hate. Fear of immigration is central to these campaigns.

What is it that we must know or remember about immigration? Immigration is consubstantial with life, be it vegetal, animal, or human. We need it to prosper, and fight it once we prosper. We feel the urge to expand, expansion defining success, and try to resist the expansion and invasion of others. Mankind prospered by expanding out of Africa, where it is coming from. Remember, our ancestors were black! Europe was scarcely populated during the time of the Roman Empire. Significant migrations from the East populated Europe, causing the Roman Empire to collapse and reshaping the European people. These great invasions were at times hostile, at times peaceful, but never short of tensions. Examples of wars and successful mix abound. Vikings came from the North, Moslems from the South-East… A place like Sicily was shaped by all of the above. Europe is the product of a big mix. At all times it was shaped by immigration, assimilating outside influences and feeding from them. Much of our legal or culinary traditions, the languages we speak, were fed by the outside. We cannot undermine the part of violence and devastation in all this, but should not undermine the riches received from other peoples of the world.

Until the Treaty of Westphalia which, in 1648, started shaping what would become the modern nation states, people moved rather freely in Europe, to study, trade, worship, or fight in whatever army would pay best. Courts of law judged the ‘foreigner’ using wise restraint: on personal matters especially, they did not apply the law of the place, but the law and custom of the person. States did not claim to be sovereign.

National sovereignty is a recent phenomenon in human history. It is linked to ownership: the moment you claim ownership, you can exclude the others and decide who you allow in. The moment a state claims sovereignty, it makes a claim as to who can come in and who cannot. Either you accept, reject, deport, or kill. This raises a big question: do states own the territory? A ‘yes’ answer goes against natural law. Freedom of movement is a fundamental human right. Our modern states are committed to the protection of human rights. Under what law can we reject the immigrant, if the immigrant comes in peace and is willing to abide by our rules, pay taxes, contribute to prosperity, and sometimes serve in the police or army?

If resources get scarce, people should naturally come and go, and avoid overpopulating: watch the animals, they often know better than we humans.

Over-regulating immigration infringes with the fundamental freedom of movement. People do not own the village or the city they live in, their region, or their country. They have no right to decide who can come and go. Tough immigration policies are illegitimate as they infringe human rights and dignity.

People who come in peace and integrate are to be accepted and integrated. When they stay, they become members of our communities. European countries have a long history of open borders.
Do immigrants take jobs away? They primarily create additional economic activity. They school their children, and typically assimilate after a generation or two, also contributing diversity. People get more creative and efficient when leaving their comfort zone: I could speak volumes of experience on this. The more the host is welcoming, the lesser the tensions.

Problems arise when people are forced to migrate, or are invited in in large numbers. Europeans have drawn large numbers at times of economic expansion, often from former colonies, triggering tensions particularly in less affluent areas. Presently, Europe faces unsolicited immigration, of people fleeing war, threat of extermination, extreme poverty, or climate change. Natural law and the respect of fundamental rights do not allow us to protect behind walls or kill peaceful immigrants. This would deny centuries of European culture and tradition of open borders. Newcomers, when they decide to stay, join the European people, whether we like it or not.

Think practical: these people are mostly young, often educated, and help solve the formidable demographic problem that many European countries are facing. German leaders understood this, welcoming one million immigrants in 2015.

Nobody wishes massive immigration. Can we prevent it? It is our self-interest to mitigate its causes: limiting the effects of climate change and promoting sustainable development; cooperating with foreign people in hardship, particularly in Africa, rather than plundering their resources; working peacefully at conflict resolution rather than waging war or launching hazardous military intervention. If we do not act by pure generosity (some will, but generosity to people we do not know is not in the human DNA), we should be guided by self-interest. Borders cannot be closed, Europe is an open continent, in its geographic, historical, and cultural makeup. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Are We a European People?

One strong objection to European integration is the alleged nonexistence of a demos, of a European people. We are told that people are national or regional, but the idea of a European people would be an illusion or a makeshift. Constructing a Union on the basis of illusion would further weaken or erase local cultures and ways of life, downgrading them to folklore.

The French are good at portraying this scenario, which echoes French history. Before the French Revolution, the people of Gascony, Provence, or Burgundy did not share much in common, not even a national language, as French was only the language of the elite. The intellectuals of the time, Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau, convinced the bourgeoisie of the existence of a French nation. The Revolution, through Barère and Abbé Grégoire, tried to promote linguistic unification, but it took the generalization of compulsory schooling by Jules Ferry in the late 19th century to impose, partly by coercion, the use of French language to the whole people: kids would be punished if speaking dialect on the playground. Regional cultures were largely destroyed as an aftermath of the Revolution, only to survive on the fringe of the territory, in Alsace, Savoy, or Nice, or in former French colonies abandoned before or immediately after the Revolution, such as Quebec, Acadia, or Louisiana. No wonder French people resent the emergence of a broader culture largely connected with the new transnational language, associated with an ancestral enemy, and wrongly fear that English may be imposed upon them to eliminate French, just like they imposed the usage of French and eliminated first Latin and then regional languages.

Other European nations have a different experience. The unification of Germany, though violently oppressive at times, ended up to be respectful of regional identities. Today, Germany is a peaceful federation of largely integrated states that yet keep their education system, and sometimes local languages, such as in the South. South Germans are naturally bilingual. My wife spoke Swabian at home, on the market, and on school grounds, and high German in class, with the administration or with Germans of the outside. To date, the Bayerischer Rundfunk produces countless programs and series in the Bavarian language. To these people, accepting English as an additional language to communicate with the non-German speaking world is no trauma but additional enrichment. The same can be noted in Italy or in Spain, though these countries have been slower at using English. The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries are examples of large users of the English language, because they are smaller and few speak their language. They derive much prosperity from the use of English, which has not killed or weakened national language and cultures.

The European elites have long developed a European culture, and could claim from the Middle-Ages, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment to be European citizens. What is new, is that the European dimension, often combined with global culture, a point I will discuss some other time, is now accessible and shared by many. The development of the Erasmus program, to which I contributed when a professor in Lyon, is shaping a new identity. Young people cross the European borders and have grown ignoring the past existence of border controls in much of Europe. Whether the culture they share is properly European will be discussed further on that blog, but the fact is that these people have added to their local and national identity a broader one making them feel European and sometimes even citizens of the world, before claiming a national identity. Listen to these young Londoners taking the street after the Brexit referendum and claiming to be more European than British. This does not mean that all the Brits think that way, but this is a widespread development, that was barely in the making at the time when the European integration was launched, soon after the end of a very destructive war.

Who would imagine the French and the German going at war? Already in the early 1980s, my marrying a German woman did not cause eyebrows to be raised, except in a few bourgeois households in Lyon were some aging ladies complained: “don’t we have good looking young ladies in our circles, why looking that far?” Well, more and more young Europeans look elsewhere for jobs and partners, and it has become natural to them. Young educated people feel at home all over Europe, from Prague to Dublin and from Stockholm to Palermo. They are as European as the French were French at the time of the Revolution, as the Germans were German and the Italians were Italian at the time of national unification. Peoples are not static; they are in the making.

The European dimension just happens to be an additional identity layer: we got used to the reference to the European Union on our traveling passports. It comes in addition to the country we are from and does not remove anything of who we are. We are European in addition. The whole idea of a federation is to allow different people who share a common identity to live and prosper together.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

We the People of the European Union

The European project must be based on the people. The EU is based on a treaty between sovereign states. Though it has to be based on the union of existing states, we want it to be a union of the people, and for this we need a Constitution: the project of a Constitution for the European Union must be revived.

Let us start with a preamble, the most essential part of a Constitution, because it states who we are and what we want to achieve: d’où venons nous, où sommes nous, ou allons nous? Where do we come from, where are we now, and where are we heading to? The preamble defines the essence of the project. This is a first draft. I wrote it in Baton Rouge, this Saturday July 9th, 2016. Help me out, this must be the voice of the people.

Draft #1:

We the People of the European Union,
Whether in Europe from times immemorial or recent immigration,
Aware of the fact that our continent is geographically open, wishing to keep it free from artificial boundaries, understanding that openness is of the essence of European identity,
Aware of the philosophical and spiritual heritage that freed us from tyranny and helped us promote the common good, government by the people for the people, representative democracy, the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law, habeas corpus, the elimination of discrimination,
Understanding that human diversity can only be protected by unity, that unity must not oppress minorities nor be dissolved by faction,
Sharing a common heritage and history and willing to share with other people of good will,
Understanding that neither empires nor nation states can secure peace, freedom, and prosperity but have been the cause of division, war, and destruction,
Understanding that our future is in our hands provided that we cooperate with peoples of other continents,
Understanding that sustainable development may only be secured and promoted by proper management of natural resources and the environment in Europe and outside, by suitable cooperation and self-restraint, mindful of the interest of generations to come,
That such sustainability rests on strong regional organization and worldwide cooperation,
Mindful of our ambivalent propensity to create the worst problems and the most enlightened solutions,
Mindful that human generosity is limited by self-interest, that our collective future is linked to that of mankind as a whole,
Willing to be a beacon of human enlightenment rather than a decoy of decadence,
In order to ensure and promote freedom, peace, and prosperity,
Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the European Union.