Saturday 8 May 2010

My Europe Week: Transatlantic learning for better lawmaking

Share your Europe, say the editors of They have invited bloggers and non-bloggers to offer their visions for the future of Europe on the My Europe Week blog during this week until Europe Day 9 May 2010. A short while ago, there were 48 posts tagged #myeurope on the special page.

After a number of posts from an internal perspective, the time has come to widen our horizon. My question is:

Are we humble enough to learn?

Altiero Spinelli, Jean Monnet and ValĂ©ry Giscard d’Estaing are among those Europeans who have evoked the birth and the establishment of the United States of America as an inspiration for Europe, sometimes at a highly symbolic level.

However, the part vision I am going to offer here is more mundane.

When I read a Finnish Government Bill, there is routinely a discussion about the legislation and recent reforms in other countries. As in Sweden, the proposed changes are presented in detail.

When I turn to a Communication (proposal) from the European Commission, the contents generally feel more formalistic and less illuminating. There are seldom, if ever, arguments about how things are done elsewhere.

Is the European Union really so ‘sui generis’ that we have nothing to learn from the outside world?

Is it somehow politically incorrect to refer to the USA, which has a federal Constitution?

Is it more comfortable to entertain the illusion that we have invented the wheel, instead of openly admitting that we could learn from others and improve on what they have done?

One of the few exceptions I can readily remember were Mario Monti’s speeches about the need for convergence in competition matters, especially cartels (antitrust) where authorities on both shores of the Atlantic grappled with the practices of the same business Behemoths.

Despite the structural differences ─ the USA a federation, the EU a treaty based organisation ─ both are faced with similar challenges.

The USA and the EU are multi-level systems of governance, trying to facilitate life and commerce on a continental scale.

The terms in use are often different, but the underlying problems and challenges are more or less closely related, even if this is an extremely rough guide: Commerce Clause (internal market, external trade), Necessary and Proper (subsidiarity and proportionality), Full Faith and Credit (area of freedom, security and justice) etc.

However, we should routinely go beyond that to practical levels of application.

Do we have the humility to learn? Do we have the candour to admit it? Are we mature enough to move from furtive peeks to open discussion?

Better lawmaking is profiting from the experiences of others.

Is the European Union self-confident enough for a new level of transatlantic (mutual) learning?

Ralf Grahn

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