Tuesday, 4 May 2010

My Europe Week: Quadrivium of European integration: European Union

In the 5th century the seven liberal arts were set as the basis for the new school curriculum, with first Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric (later known as the Trivium), then Music, Geometry, Arithmetic and Philosophy (or Astronomy) (the later Quadrivium). (Source: Keith Sidwell: Reading Medieval Latin; Cambridge University Press)



Quadrivium: Deeper integration

Perpetuating the ineffective models of intergovernmental diplomacy, which had failed to prevent previous warfare and two World Wars, the Council of Europe ─ which turns 61 on 5 May 2010 ─ was given only limited opportunities for deeper integration.

The integrationist countries had to embark on a new road, slowly winding towards the European Union, while the intergovernmentalist governments tried to counter by establishing the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Of these parallel further projects, the European Communities proved the more successful, which lead to the erosion of EFTA. As a consequence, the European Communities received members who were ready to sign on the dotted line for “ever closer union”, but without a real change of heart.

The Council of Europe continues to fulfil the Trivium function for European integration in the sense that no country has become a member of the European Union without being a CoE member.

In medieval educational terms, this would make the (revised) Copenhagen criteria for EU accession the equivalent of the Quadrivium for higher learning (Music, Geometry, Arithmetic and Philosophy/Astronomy).



Shortcomings

Even if the European Union is a unique experience internationally, its structures and powers seem only partly adapted to its primary tasks: enhancing the security and prosperity of EU citizens in a rapidly changing world.

Here are just two examples of critical views on EU failures:



Your Democracy in Europe sees intergovernmental diplomacy as a betrayal. Only democratic and supranational principles will do.



In an open letter to Michel Barnier, Nick Panayotopoulos shows how the internal market fails the basic needs of mobile Europeans.



Beyond the Quadrivium: Primary tasks

Instead of evaluating if the European Union is up to its primary tasks, our leaders have left us with the Lisbon Treaty (a treaty based organisation) and a Group of Wise Persons expressly forbidden to ponder institutional (constitutional) change.

The contrast could hardly be greater than to the main purposes of the United States of America and the US Constitution, clearly put by Alexander Hamilton 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.”



Instead of punching below its weight, the European Union should self-evidently act as one in an increasingly unpredictable world. For value added, we need to pool all foreign policy instruments at EU level, including defence, in alliance with the USA and Canada through NATO.

Since the days of Hamilton, the importance of budgetary issues, economic policy, the common currency, international trade, financial markets and administrative matters has grown enormously. A real federal budget is a necessity.

Naturally, important EU level powers require fully developed union level democracy: a federal Constitution based on the citizens of the union.

The citizens of the EU must be able to vote their heroes in and the bastards out of the government through federal elections to the European Parliament.

Given the cultural diversity of Europe, proportional representation and coalition governments have to be the norm. A second chamber would complicate legislation and scrutiny, but perhaps it is inevitable.

In short, the new European Union would fulfil the Copenhagen criteria for membership.

Replacing the old union of member states with a new union based on the citizens is one of the rare cases where a referendum is in order. The new Federal Republic of Europe would be founded by the citizens of the states where a majority of the voters approve the qualitative leap.



Ahead of Europe Day 9 May 2010, My Europe Week invites you to present your vision for the future of Europe.

If you find the vision of a federal Europe too audacious, I challenge you to explain how your preferences would enhance the security and the prosperity of EU citizens more effectively.




Ralf Grahn