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European Union 2: A Revolutionary Response to a British Coup d’état

European Union 2: A Revolutionary Response to a British Coup d’état

The antipathy towards the European Union reflected in the British Referendum of 23 June 2016 is shared by many people across the whole of Europe. As Jürgen Habermas has said: “the British vote also reflects some of the general state of crisis in the EU and its member states”. (Die Zeit, July 12, 2016.)

An unexpected moment of further European disintegration offers a unique opportunity to make the unloved EU into what it could be. The citizens of Europe should force the governments of Europe to make possible a European Union 2, an enterprise that a majority of British people might support, even if they were still not able to love it.

We are living through a time of exceptional disorder and danger throughout the world. A very bad time is a good time to plan a better future. In the dark days of the Second World War, governments were already planning new social security systems, new education systems, new public health systems, a new world financial system, and a United Nations to replace the League of Nations.

There are realistic principles underlying a project of European Union. It can be a close partnership of independent nations pursuing their unique and precious destinies, but seeking also the huge gains that come from acting together to serve a common interest. Their national interest contains also the common interest that they share.

Such a partnership is a sharing of the power of 500 million people. We have a common interest in responding effectively to a world that threatens our survival and prosperity, politically and economically and culturally, and even our physical survival.

But we also share a special responsibility to help to make the present chaotic and dangerous world into a better world. It is something that Europe owes to the world, a world that is very much the world that Europe made, for better and for worse.

The unity of Europe goes far beyond any European Union. It is an immense concentration of human energy and human potentialities developed over the course of millennia.  European Union 2 should be designed to make the most of our energy and our potentialities in the unprecedented circumstances of the new century.

Why is EU 1 unloved? In all our countries, there is a general disenchantment with politics and government. Impoverished politics, ineffective government, and economic anomie seem to be symptoms of a debilitating sickness within democracy and capitalism. A European Union cannot escape its effects. But EU 1 contains its own structural faults that weaken its response, and impede its future organic development.

EU 1 doesn’t feel like a liberal democratic society. It feels like a sophisticated machine. The citizens see it as an inter-governmental system, remote from the people, managed by civil servants and lawyers. There is a similar problem at the global level, where countless inter-governmental organisations are beyond national democratic control. New forms of despotism pose as benign agents of a common good that they themselves determine, manage, and judge.

The overwhelming structural problem of EU 1 is that there is no Europe-wide politics, in the sense of a never-ending day-to-day struggle about public policy and the use of public power – the struggle at the heart of true liberal democracy.

Liberal democracy is an amazing human invention. It is an ingenious way of turning private interests into common interest, through the medium of politics and public opinion – the common interest of a dynamic society with which the citizens identify themselves.

Politics helps to generate the self-consciousness of a society. The self-consciousness of a society makes politics possible. In EU 1 there is no self-consciousness of a European society. To create a reality of politics within a self-conscious European society-of-societies is a daunting task. But it is unavoidable if Europe is to become what it should be.

The main pillar of liberal democracy is ­representation. The citizens, through their representatives, have the first word, and the last word, on law-making and government. The citizens can call government to account for everything that it does.

In EU 2, national parliaments should be at the heart of an emerging form of all-European politics. The European Parliament might be replaced by a European Senate of 100 members, with two members from each member state, and forty-four eminent people chosen from across the whole of Europe, on grounds other than those of party politics or cronyism.

We Europeans have one very great advantage. We have unrivalled experience in creative constitutionalism. Over the course of three thousand years, Europe has spawned countless new forms of polity, permutations of the organisation and justification of public power. To talk in terms of old categories of federalism, or even of old ideas of democracy, is to constrain our imagination unnecessarily.

The revolutionary transformation of the European Union will produce an entirely new form of polity, to solve an interesting new problem. How can the fabulous success of the most advanced modern societies be expanded to the level of a society that includes those societies? EU 1 offered one solution – creating a parallel external system partially internalised in national societies – a solution that has reached the end of its usefulness.

European integration was a brilliant achievement in the 1950’s, negating the horrors of recent European history. The world has changed fundamentally. The shared strength of Europe needs a new purpose and a new form. We need a new Europe for a new world.  The young people of Europe want a Europe that is a beacon of the future, not a relic of the past. Let a great debate begin!

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