Should the European Union become a federal superstate, with consequent loss of national sovereignty for member countries?
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A federal Europe would build upon the success of the EU and its predecessors in taming the nationali...
A federal Europe would build upon the success of the EU and its predecessors in taming the nationalism which brought so many horrors in the 20th century, realising the vision of its founders for an “ever-closer union”. Despite the EU’s relative success in this regard, while national governments still exist they will regard policy-making within Europe as a competitive business, using vetoes and damaging the potential prosperity of all of Europe’s citizens. A federal European state can build on the shared history and culture of its members to further the common good, while accommodating regional differences.
National identity and differences remain far more important than supposedly shared European values. Existing national governments operate on different models which recognise the historical, cultural and economic distinctiveness of each nation, and thus provide an important focus for the loyalty of their citizens (e.g. various monarchies, the French republican system, hallowed by successive revolutions). The further power is removed from a citizen, the more detached he is from the democratic process, the less accountable that power becomes, and the more likely it is to make decisions badly, damaging the interest of tens of millions of people.
Subsidiarity combines maximum effectiveness with maximum accountability, with decisions being made a...
Subsidiarity combines maximum effectiveness with maximum accountability, with decisions being made at the lowest appropriate level. Citizens gain the advantages of living in a large, powerful state in terms of international economic, military and political power, all available more cheaply in a state of 300 million people, and through their increased opportunities for work, study, etc. Yet the advantages of living in a smaller state are preserved in terms of connection to the political process, respect for local cultural traditions and responsiveness to differing economic and physical situations. Such checks and balances prevent tyranny and increase willing obedience to laws.
There are great dangers of forcing people in a direction they do not wish to go. An ill-advised dash to build a federal Europe could raise dormant nationalist feelings, promote the rise of populist politicians with xenophobic agendas and endanger the stability of the EU. A “Europe of Nations” (Jacques Chirac 1999) preserves the current benefits of EU without the risks of further unwanted political integration.
A federal Europe will be better equipped to promote the interests of its citizens in the world, carr...
A federal Europe will be better equipped to promote the interests of its citizens in the world, carrying more influence in the UN, WTO, IMF, etc. than the sum of its individual states do now. Furthermore, Europe has a lot to contribute to the world in terms of its liberal traditions and political culture, providing both a partner and a necessary balance to the USA in global affairs.
A federal Europe may damage the security of its citizens. It is unrealistic to expect Russia to view a new superstate combining its traditional enemies as anything other than a potential threat. A European state would mean the collapse of NATO, exposing current NATO members outside the EU to increased insecurity, and inevitably mean rivalry with the USA, rather than the current partnership (in which America pays a disproportionate amount of Europe’s defence costs).
The success of federal states elsewhere in providing peace and prosperity for their citizens, alongs...
The success of federal states elsewhere in providing peace and prosperity for their citizens, alongside democratic safeguards, point to the advantages of pursuing this model in Europe. The USA, Australia and Canada provide standards of living for their citizens which most Europeans would envy, while federal India is the best example of a long-term democratic success in the developing world.
Europe is not like America and Australia, which were founded by immigrants with considerable homogeneity of language and culture. Canada’s relations with Quebec show that where such differences exist they can be politically destabilising, while federal states such as Brazil and the USSR have not avoided dictatorship, human rights problems and economic backwardness. Within the EU there is often no commonality of interests on key federal issues such as defence and foreign policy. Even today there are big splits on major issues such as agricultural reform and trade policy.
Federalism and subsidiarity can allow for regional identities in a way national states cannot – e.g....
Federalism and subsidiarity can allow for regional identities in a way national states cannot – e.g. for Northern Ireland, Corsica, Basque Region, Lombardy. In a Federal Europe such peoples would not feel under threat from a dominant culture and long-running conflicts could be resolved, as issues of sovereignty become less relevant within the new political structures.
Devolution and subsidiarity can be applied by existing states, as Britain and France have both showed in the 1990s, and as Germany has done since 1945. Spain’s problem with separatist terrorists in the Basque Region shows that even a great deal of regional autonomy fails to satisfy extremists.
In a globalised economy, there is a need to tame multinational corporations, which would be otherwis...
In a globalised economy, there is a need to tame multinational corporations, which would be otherwise capable of playing national governments off against each other in search for low wages, social costs and state protection. A federal Europe would be powerful enough to demand high standards of behaviour from such companies, and would also be in a position to make a greater difference on environmental issues such as global warming. Sovereignty becomes less relevant when effective independence is lost anyway as the economy and the problems faced by all nations are increasingly globalised.
Europe should be wider, not deeper in its political development. Peace and prosperity can be most successfully enhanced by the accession of all European states to the EU. Given the former-communist, Soviet-dominated past of many of these states, it seems unlikely they would once again give their independence away. Enlargement has already been greatly delayed by the EU’s focus upon the creation of a single currency in the 1990s, it may be lost altogether if deeper integration becomes the new priority.
What do you think?