European Union: Federal Vs. Supranational Essay, Research Paper
Is it both likely and desirable that the European Union will gradually evolve into a full supranational federal state?
In order to elaborate on the statement above, one has to become familiar with the process of European Integration; therefore I would first like to show a quick overview of the history of the EU. After the WWII it has become clear that the best possible way to reinstate Europe?s leading position in the global political and economic arena was through some form of mutual cooperation amongst the leading European nations. In 1950 the French foreign affairs minister developed the plan of a possible European Integration. The Shuman-plan was to create a league of western urbanized societies for economic and political cooperation. In accordance with the ideas of the Shuman-plan, the treaty on the European and Steel Community was signed in 1951, by France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries. This early development has already included the formation of the Council of Ministers and the European Court of Justice. The aim here was to further promote economic cooperation among member states, naturally the development has not stopped here. The main economic aim of achieving the common internal market has begun to crystallize for the leaders of the western European countries. In 1957 the Spaak Report has developed a traite cadre which attributed law-making powers to different European Institutions, in order to realize the aforementioned common market. In the following years the European Steel and Coal Community started to evolve itself and through the propositions and initiatives of the European Parliament the Draft Treaty on the European Union was developed. From here it seemed only a step away to start up one of the most powerful international actor, the European Union. 1986 was the year of one of the main developments in the history of European integration. The Single European Act (SEA) brought about some significant changes in the internal structure of the European integration process, such as an institutionalized form of political cooperation and the deadline for the creation of the internal market (1 January 1992). Other changes brought about by the SEA include the possibility to use majority voting in some fields of policy making, and the formation of the First Instance Court. The next step in European Integration was the Treaty on the European Union. The Treaty of Maastricht has entered into force in 1993 and established the European Union with a structure of three pillars; The existing treaties (EEC, ECSC, EURATOM) constitute the first pillar for the EU. The legal and institutional framework is included into the pillar that most resembles the supra-national characteristics of EU, a point I shall return to. The second pillar established by The Treaty of Maastricht is the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is to ensure that the European Union appears as one global political actor in the future. The third pillar is the Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters (PCJ) will help to develop an effective legal control over the territory of the European Union. The unity between these pillars and the member states themselves is created through a single institutional framework that includes the existing laws, treaties and principles of European law and naturally the Euro, the single European currency that has been introduced by the Treaty of the European Union and will be in effect from 1 January 2002.
In order to be able to react to the original statement above, one has to distinguish between an international organization with an intergovernmental character and an international organization with a supranational character. The European Union is often regarded as an intergovernmental organization; often it is referred to as a supra-national organization. The intergovernmental character of the European Union can be argued through various methods. The mutual cooperation of governments of the Member States (MS) enable the MS to maintain their sovereignty on an equal basis. The MS establish their ties through treaties, treaties that might lead to the shift of sovereignty of a MS towards the central EU governance, however this applies to the same extent to all parties of the integration process. The intergovernmental side of EU enables its states to represent the interests of the governments and helps to promote economic cooperation and regional development. This encouraged innovation in and amongst the MS, creates strong and safe economic environment on one hand, but can also cause problems to small local industries, as they have to take on the challenges the global economic arena brings along.
On the other hand it can be well argued that the European Union has all sorts of supra-national powers that it exercises regularly. The European Union is a well-developed institution, that includes a powerful commission (led by R. Prodi), an effective court (ICJ, ECHR) and a parliament (EP) that has been elected directly by the citizens of MS. So in some sense the EU has already developed its organs to act as an independent federal state, however the accountability of these organs is not yet fully introduced therefore the EU can not yet be considered a federal state. The MS still have their full national governance only it is in accordance with the fundamental principles of the European Union.
To determine whether or not the EU will gradually evolve into a supranational state, one has to look at the current status of statehood. If the European Union is to become a federal (or supranational) state, it will have to meet the requirements for statehood. The principles of statehood were laid down in the Montevideo Convention of 1933. In examining the criteria it quickly becomes clear, that the European Union already has a core territory on which it can exercise full jurisdiction; the population of the EU is also permanently controlled by its government and the citizens of EU are distinguished from other nationals by passport. The existing government of the European Union has the capacity to develop and maintain social order internally , while being able to enter diplomatic relations externally .
According to the principles of the Montevideo Convention on Statehood the European Union under current International Law has already met the criteria of becoming a state. From these and other current developments it can be derived that the EU is moving towards the idea of a federation or maybe a somewhat looser confederation.
In conclusion it has to be said that there has to be many structural changes made before the current European Union can evolve into a federal state such as the United States of America. On one hand this development seems to be the right path in order for Europe to become one powerful global actor, both economically and politically seen. However the challenges that has to be dealt with are enormous. The difficulties of incorporating over 300 million people into one jurisdictional territory are not purely institutional, but cultural and philosophical. Whenever we think of the unified Europe, we tend project a likely and desirable picture of a federal state, in which economic prosperity, social security and political stability are the key elements. But is it going to be that easy?
I believe that the member states of the EU, as of today form a very strong economic alliance, with strict rules. In other words, it is still the cooperation of the independent western urbanized societies amongst each other, rather than an independent federation that consists of member states. These societies are largely based on the historical and cultural development of their own. The MS are not on the same economic, political and cultural level in most terms, therefore can hardly be regarded as one unit, even the countries within themselves show great deal of variance in economic development. The sovereignty of states in Europe has always been of main concern for all MS. It is clear that today or even in the near future it is going to be hard to strip the national feeling of the inhabitants of EU. If the European Union wants full out support from its citizens it has to show that the national sovereignty of states will not wither away in time and that the identity of the nations will remain. As of today the average citizen in the EU has hardly any idea of how the EU is governed. It is essential for the future that the EU becomes a whole lot more transparent, otherwise the simple citizen will get alienated from the developments of the integration process. The alienation from integration can also occur if the governments of the MS become less powerful. The governments of the MS already have to face double sided questions. The governments today get pressured from all ends. The ever increasing global interconnectedness of places poses a serious challenge to the local economies, and increasingly more to the governments, therefore the government has to act as a gatekeeper in order to defend the interest of its local businesses. On the other hand the citizens of a certain country pressure their government to further engage in integration policies, so that they can be the part of the global economy. European Integration will force the national governments to shift sovereignty to the central governing board, this shift will naturally create a notion amongst the citizens of the MS that their government is not powerful enough to defend their interest in the new European arena. This fear might reduce the popularity of the full federal integration amongst those who want a more transparent governing body ?ruling? them, not to mention the citizens who already oppose the EU for some reason.
In short, the development towards a fully integrated form of Europe is already on the way and can not be stopped. In order to make this desirable as well as likely, the EU has to take care that it remains sensitive towards regional and cultural matters, and that it channels the developments of integration through transparent, down to earth, personal relations.