The case for a Constitutional reform of the European Union: From the creation of a 'federal' budget to full co-decision between Council and Parliament

Termin: 08.07.2021 / 17:00 Uhr

Ort: Es handelt sich um eine reine Online-Veranstaltung. Zoom-Meeting beitreten:

Referent: Prof. Dr. Andrea Bosco, Director of the Lothian Foundation, Jean Monnet Professor on the History and Theory of European Unification at the University of Florence

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Meeting-ID: 690 3933 7388
Kenncode: 86840005

Dimitris-Tsatsos-Institut für Europäische Verfassungswissenschaften (DTIEV)

Prof. Dr. Peter Schiffauer, stellv. Direktor des Dimitris-Tsatsos-Instituts für Europäische Verfassungswissenschaften, FernUniversität in Hagen

Der Vortrag wird in englischer Sprache gehalten.

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The acceleration of the process of European unification, consequent to the significant increase in the Commission’s spending capacity, poses the question of the creation of a real federal budget, available to an executive responsible in front of two branches of a Parliament with equal powers. The fundamental issue to be faced, on which the entry of the unification process into its final phase – or its failure – depends, appears to be that of the full co-decision between the Council and Parliament.

Within the European Union, the Council embodies the confederal principle, while the Parliament embodies the federal one. In fact, the European Parliament historically played the role of the democratic transformation factor of the Union, developing the tendency to affirm a new principle of legitimacy – transnational democracy – together with the old legitimacy, which is based on established powers. In this regard, it is possible to compare the process of the democratization of the European Union to the historical transition from absolute monarchy to parliamentary and constitutional monarchy, which took place in Europe from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

The creation of the constitutional organs characteristic of a federation cannot however be achieved – as the functionalists and the theorists of spill-over advocated – by means of a gradual transfer of competences from the states to the Union, but by a constitutional act. On the other hand, the unanticipated results of integration through law have produced over-regulation, and an institutional framework which is too rigid to allow significant policy and institutional innovations. Thus, integration by spillover has produced sub-optimal policies, and a steady loss of legitimacy by European supranational institutions. Both the functionalist approach and the classic Community method are becoming obsolete. These methods are bound to fail, not just due to a lack of popular support, but because they are unable to deliver the public goods which Europeans expect to receive from a fully-fledged government. The growing popular dissent towards the European Union is in fact more concerned with the method by which decisions are being made, rather than the need to find common solutions to questions that can no longer be resolved at the national level. However, the transition from a mainly intergovernmental decisional level to a real governmental one could not be automatic or painless.

The completion of the process of European integration towards a democratic political union seems then to be no longer just one problem among many others, but the fundamental question of our time, on which depends the realization of democracy beyond the nation state or its defeat. There is a real danger that the European Union risks being delegitimized by the current democratic deficit. This deficit is not simply the effect of the limited role that democratic representation plays within the institutional mechanism of the Union, but of a certain indifference and disinterestedness by national leaders, and politicians in general, towards the complexity of constitutional policy. The Union has the institutions of a modern democracy, but it does not work as such. The growth of supranational activities and decision-making processes within it is also increasingly challenging the democratic legitimacy of its member states.

The complex of mechanisms, institutions, rules and practices which can be said to form the present ‘Constitution of Europe’ have not been, in fact, the object of sustained public discussion, nor do they seem to have affected national political cultures in a meaningful way. The ‘constitutionalisation’ of the European Union has in fact entered the scene through the back door, by the progressive creation of a single ‘legal order’ ex proprio vigore (i.e., a coherent, systematic body of legal norms with autonomous validity, coincident to a territorially bounded social and political entity), mainly intended to prop up the establishment of a common economic-monetary zone. Since the Rome Treaties, the European Court of Justice played, in fact, a major role of ‘constitutionalization’, i.e., of transforming the treaties into a ‘material constitution’. This process had a direct influence on i) regional integration; ii) the institutionalization of norms; iii) the institutional growth and expansion; iv) ensuring the effectiveness of law; v) the establishment and maintenance of boundaries; and vi) the creation of social solidarity.

Even though politics within the European Union has all the characteristics of ‘normal’ democratic politics, a constitutional moment seems to be required to help form the public space and commonality which make a democratic polity possible. Significant European political and constitutional discussions have taken place behind closed doors, with bargaining over national interests predominating over matters of constitutional principles. Some public debate has been generated by national referenda, but arguably something more is required if an informed discussion is to take place.

The lecture will outline a project for the creation of a study-group on the European Constitutional process in order to stimulate a wide debate within the European Union and have a direct impact on the present European constitutional process, bringing together distinguished academics (experts on the historical, economic, political, social and juridical aspects of the process of European unification) with members of the European Parliament (being the basis of legitimacy of European sovereignty and representing European citizens in their constituent capacity), policy-makers, and representatives of the European ‘civil society’ (representatives of trade unions, industrialists, the churches, and political movements), to discuss the constitutional character of the evolving European entity.

Andrea Bosco is Director of the Lothian Foundation. He has been Jean Monnet “ad personam” Chairholder on the History and Theory of European Integration at the University of Florence, and South Bank University, London. He has published extensively on the history and theory of federalism and European unification, and on British Imperial and foreign policy in the Twentieth century, with a number of books to his credit, including: The Federal Idea; A Constitution for Europe; Chatham House and British Foreign Policy 1919-1945; Lord Lothian and the Creation of the Atlantic System; Towards a Substantial European Union: The Euro and the Struggle for the Creation of a New Global Currency; June 1940. Great Britain and the First Attempt to Create a European Union; The Round Table Movement and the Fall of the ‘Second’ British Empire; and Democracy, Federalism, the European Revolution and Global Governance, among others.

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