Thursday, 6 May 2010

My Europe Week: Why not the United States of Europe?

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America are landmarks in human history. They attest to the continental vision and the political will of the Founding Fathers.

Still in the 21st century, Europeans cannot escape the example set by the innovative Americans at the end of the 18th century. For some visionaries the USA has been an inspiration. For others, tribal instincts are paramount, and they vehemently reject everything beyond classic international cooperation, even when sovereignty is turning into an empty shell.

When Jean Monnet became a free citizen in 1955, he named his NGO the Action Committee for the United States of Europe.

Why not USE?

Despite the inspirational value of the Founding Fathers and the subsequent development of the USA into the leading world power, it would be wrong to call the future European federation the United States of Europe.


The existing European Union is a treaty based international organisation. The EU has member states.

The coming European federation would be based on its citizens, with a democratic system of government.

Thus, the new union would primarily unite people, not states. This should be reflected in the name.

The distinction is not a new one. For instance, Umberto Campagnolo writing Repubblica Federale Europea in 1945 (new edition Rubettino, 2004; page 68) argued that the name United States of Europe would be wrong from a theoretical, historical and political viewpoint.

A federal Europe is based on representative democracy and an appropriate division of powers, based on a simple formula: How are the security and prosperity of its citizens best enhanced?

The USA became something of a melting pot of nations, but the cultural and linguistic diversity of Europe is based on existing states and linguistic communities. This is something the federation needs to serve and protect.

With regard to the daily lives of citizens, a federal system based on private initiative and complemented by local, regional and national democratic decision making would not be especially intrusive.

On the other hand, there is a need for more Europe. In fundamental policy areas our interests as citizens are best served by establishing sufficient powers at the European level according to a written Constitution, based on a principle of solidarity:

• Foreign policy, including defence
• Freedoms, justice and security
• Economic and monetary policy
• External and internal trade
• Research, communications, energy and the environment

It goes without saying that these powers require a real federal budget and that they have to be exercised through free and fair elections to the European Parliament, leading to accountable government.

If this vision seems too audacious, we can continue on the path towards decline and oblivion.

Ahead of Europe Day, your vision is welcome on My Europe Week. Share your Europe.

Ralf Grahn