News and Research on Europe highlighting Robert Schuman's
political, economic, philosophical contribution from the independent Schuman
Project Directed by David H Price.
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Europe's democratic institutions
Is the European Union a federal
The Schuman Proposal announced that the European Coal and Steel Community is a 'first step for the European federation'. The pooling of basic industrial production and the setting up of the European Community 'will bring into reality the first solid groundwork for a European Federation vital to the preservation of world peace.'
But it is a union quite
different from federal unions known so far in history.
It would make plain that war between
France and Germany was not only unthinkable but materially impossible.
Was the aim to create a
It provided a new innovation, a new instrument in political science. It encourages the traditions, culture and flourishing of national interests except those that might lead to antagonism with neighbouring states and to war. The national flourishes within the supranational.
Is the word 'federal' in the founding
Treaty of Paris for the European Coal and Steel Community?
How do classical federalism and
supranationalism differ in conception?
Will the European Union develop federal
institutions like the USA?
Will nation states lose sovereignty?
How does the supranational guarantee real
Supranational law is a law binding democratic states by majority vote of democratic government ministers meeting in Council. It is a democracy at a higher level than the state or the nation. It is very limited. A supranational community acts only in certain sectors such as coal and steel or the internal market. Furthermore, its action is confined generally to commonly agreed law in existing areas of common interest.
A SUPRANATIONAL COMMUNITY IS A DEMOCRACY OF DEMOCRACIES. It is aimed at supplying all citizens with a maximum of liberty. It has already opened up freedoms to citizens, associations and firms to an extent undreamed of just a few short decades ago. It is a SUPERPOWER OF DEMOCRACIES.
Supranational law has a democratising
effect in improving national democracies
In the USA -- to quote Woodrow Wilson-- 'The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit; and if Congress be overborne by him, it will be no fault of the makers of the Constitution. ... The initiative in foreign affairs, which the President possesses without any restriction whatsoever, is virtually the power to control them absolutely.' (W Wilson's book: Government of the United States). The US relies on checks and balances; the European Community relies on mutual democratizing control, democratic refinement of legislation and several types of safeguard.
The European Union is in the process of transformation to a more just form of democracy.
The European Community safeguards Europeans from demagogic or populist control. Decisions of the EC bodies are generally in the form of specific law. Two separate bodies at the very least are required to make the decision based on independent logic. These involve both European values and national values. At the highest European level it is not the states that take the initiative for joint action but an independent body equivalent to an arbitrage and strategic planning group: the European Commission. Its purpose is to analyze impartially Europe's requirements and propose solutions. Its proposals can be modified and possibly rejected by the Council of Ministers, based on a legal Opinion, usually in the form of communique or other written form. In the treaties the Council of Ministers is not alone with this power. Civil society has full right to the same type of Opinions in its own domains. Equally the Committee of Regions must also give its Opinion where appropriate. This is shown by the fact that the European Commission must submit its proposals to the Council, Parliament and EcoSoc and Committee of Regions where the treaty specifies. It does not have to submit the proposal to any particular commune or golf club even though they may be affected. That is because the four bodies (Council, Parliament and the two Legal Consultative Committees) are the legally charged bodies to investigate repercussions for all citizens. Governments of European democracies have not yet ensured that the Parliament, the Committee of Regions, the Economic and Social Committee (which the treaties say should be the democratically elected body of 'organised civil society' are legally, fairly and democratically elected.
The Commission is obliged by law not to act until it has received the Legal Opinions of these bodies (Council, Parliament and the two Legal Consultative Committees). It does not have to wait for any comment from any borough, commune or golf club, nor any small company or major multinational company, even the largest in the European Union. It can institute legislation on software without asking Microsoft. Why? Because Microsoft and all other software companies should be engaged in a permanent dialogue through the appropriate body. In this case the most appropriate body is the EcoSoc, a body for economic and social interests, not the Parliament or the Council, which deals with national matters.
What happens if the Commission proceeds before it has received the Opinion of the EcoSoc? If any of the procedures of justice in the treaty articles are not respected, these institutions have access to the European Court of Justice to modify or overthrow any such faulty and incomplete legislation. European law is defined by the act of publishing in the Commission's Official Journal. So far the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions have not reached the level of maturity of the Parliament. In the 1970s the Parliament took the matter to Court because its was being ignored by the Council and a subservient Commission. This resulted in direct elections being implemented. Treaty articles had been ignored for some three decades. Parliament has still a long way to go before it fulfills the democratic requirements of the founding treaties.
Note that this analysis describes how the treaties say the Community should work. In practice States have yet to unblock what are probably illegal constraints on full democracy in the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions to allow these key institutions to play their allotted democratic role. The Maastricht process also provided a mechanism for States to make intergovernmental decisions without adequate democratic control in areas such as justice and home affairs and external relations. A proper functioning Community system would have a much more powerful, just, balanced and coherent internal and external policy. The Maastricht three pillar system can be seen as an attempt by governments to retain central powers that they do not wish to place under democratic investigation and supervision.
The democratic wellspring that Schuman opened in the Community system will make it inevitable that eventually governments, that is party politicians, will have to cede the new areas of democracy that they are presently blocking. Eventually there will be proper Europe-wide elections for the EcoSoc and the Committee of Regions with a subsequent increase in their moral authority and influence. This will increase the efficiency of the whole EC, boost the economy and save millions of Euros. It will also vastly improve Community coherence through enhanced mutual understanding.
What is the goal of a supranational
Was the Community directed against the
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe?
How can the supranational method help
central and eastern Europe?
Schuman spoke of 'reconstituting' the
European Community after the fall of the Soviet Union. Why?