Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Two basic approaches

Basically, you can approach the European Union from two different angles. You can try to ponder what the Union could do for its citizens: external and internal security as well as enhancing prosperity. Or you can reason from a domestic perspective.

A sincere form of ‘special relationship’ would be to emulate the United States of America. The main purposes of that Union were succinctly put in the Federalist, number XXIII:

"The necessity of a Constitution, at least equally energetic with the one proposed, to the preservation of the Union is the point at the examination of which we are now arrived."

"The principal purposes to be answered by the union are these – the common defense of the members; the preservation of the public peace, as well against internal convulsions as external attacks; the regulation of commerce with other nations and between the States; the superintendence of our intercourse, political and commercial, with foreign countries."

These core purposes are cross-border in character, and in my view in the 21st century even the greater European states are not able to tackle these problems effectively on their own, or even through inter-governmental co-operation.

Hugo Brady and Charles Grant of the Centre of European Reform singled out two areas where EU institutions and procedures work poorly: foreign policy, and justice and home affairs.

The Constitutional Treaty, agreed by all EU member states, and the new Treaty proposed on 4 June 2007 by the Action committee for European democracy, fall far short of ensuring effective common action by the European Union. But they would mean some progress towards more coherent decision-making, although key areas would still be hampered by unanimous decision-making = national vetoes.

Scaling down the new treaty would, in my opinion, harm the interests of Europe’s citizens.

Then there’s the domestic perspective – thoughtful or less so.

As an example of the thoughtful kind, I would recommend EUlawblogger’s writing; the latest posts are “The quasi-Constitutional Treaty: state of play”, 31 May 2007, and now “Proposal for a quasi-Constitutional Treaty”, 5 June 2007.

My perception is that EUlawblogger is an independent spirit and constructive thinker, but that his or her perspective starts from domestic concerns and limitations.

Europe-wide problems and challenges look different if your priority is to tend to national sensitivities. But there’s no denying it, national preoccupations flavour the so called European discussion rather strongly. As such, we should at least be aware of them.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. I just noticed that EUlawblogger has responded to my previous posts in “Response to the Grahnlaw blog”, which I am going to read shortly. Perhaps even an answer is called for. – I have chosen to use the name EUlawblogger in order to make it easier for readers to distinguish between EULAWBLOG and EU Law Blog. No offence meant.