Asserting federalist Europe internationally

Tassos Giannitsis

By John Williams

The immediate unavoidable question of European politics, namely: What does the European Union constitutionally require to assert Europe’s international identity? The answers to this question crystallise what federalism offers Europe. These answers set the agenda for responding to the question: Who should represent a genuine European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy?

It is a basic question that Euro-federalism has yet to fully resolve. Born in the same circumstances as Atlanticism and adopting Atlanticist concepts of international relations cold-war conduct, Euro-federalism has yet to develop its own potential in the post-cold-war era divorced from this Atlanticist frame of reference. Its failure to make this adjustment stems from failing to realise the underlying dichotomy between European and American global interests.

A Chicago Global Centre survey of American public opinion pinpoints this. Although Americans rated Europe as possessing greater importance to the United States than Asia (42% versus 28%) in 1994, a year later there was a fourteen point shift in favour of Asia. These statistics cannot be dismissed as exceptional. Hence, despite imminent economic depression, the Republican mid-term success stemmed from the American electorate’s empathy with the Bush Administration’s conduct of foreign policy. Contrasting substantially from the anti-war European consensus on Iraq, this foreign policy bi-partisanship that Bush has achieved highlights the gulf between American and European global perspectives which get mirrored in more fundamental spheres of international affairs.

This reflects the diminution of Euro-centric content in Washington’s foreign policy-making elite. This is inevitable. The pressures of American domestic politics upon Washington’s foreign policy elite are the ultimate determining factor in Nato’s, and consequently European security’s, decision-making. Posed in such a context, the question that federalists need to ask should be: Is the implementation of Europe’s security by Nato compatible not just with Europe’s security needs in terms of democratic federal accountability, but also compatible in terms of achieving a democratic global balance-of-power along federalist lines?

It isn’t. Nato’s democratic inadequacy as Europe’s primary security system stems from it being unrepresentative of Europe’s geo-strategic security needs. Ostensibly representing of Europe and its citizenry together with those of the United States and Canada, in reality Nato is governed by the United States and the ultimate democratic will of its citizenry, not Europe’s. If Nato had to choose between saving Manchester, Bonn or Chicago, Nato would opt for Chicago, a legitimate decision given Washington’s sense of democratic priorities. Far from being cynical, this ultimate reality affirms Washington’s legitimate right to make that choice. Even if all member states had genuinely equal decision-making influence, Nato’s decision-making, the mere fact that Nato’s decision-making structures are strictly inter-governmental, based on consensus rather than on procedural voting moreover, makes it unsatisfactory from a federalist perspective.

This doesn’t just militate against federalist logic; it also militates against medium to long term European security. Russia’s apparent acquiescence in Nato’s expansion is a hostage to Europe’s security fortune, not pragmatism’s triumph. Thus Vladimir Putin’s secrecy over the components of the nerve gas to resolve the October 2002 Moscow siege, brutal in its detachment from humanitarian considerations though it was, had an undeniable logic in response to Washington’s global hegemony consolidating itself by Nato’s expansion. This response legitimatised itself almost immediately after the event by the Guardian’s revelation of Washington’s massive development programmes in bio-warfare and chemical weaponry.

Such developments, stemming from European insecurity generated by an outside power, bring the relevance of federalist democratic principles to post-cold-war European security into harsh geo-political focus. According to these principles, each level of government has its own direct relationship with the citizens. Its laws apply directly to the citizens and not solely to the constituent states. Thus, quite apart from its decision-making structures and processes being inter-governmental rather than supra-national, Nato’s lack of geo-political coherence invalidates it as a unit of democratic accountability.

It is in this context that federalists need to propose democratic decision-making structures and processes to replace Nato’s consensus driven decision-making infrastructures devoid of democratic accountability. These proposals need to be formulated strictly according to federalist principles rather than in terms of accommodating Atlanticist preconceptions.

Placed in such a context, the Draft UEF contribution to the European Convention is perhaps wanting in not posing the required conceptual challenges. These challenges demand a clear-cut choice between cold-war and post-cold-war international relations logic. For instance, in Part 2 it states:

‘Whenever possible, the EU should act in close partnership with the US and its other friends and allies world-wide. The EU needs access to NATO assets to avoid duplication of equipment and structures, but should also, when necessary, be capable of acting independently of NATO in the interest of peace and human rights.’

This statement, reflecting current euro-federalist convention, accommodates Atlanticism at the expense of both federalist principles and geo-political logic.

In terms of asserting the medium to long term federalist logic of establishing Europe as the initial counter-balance to the United States as the basis for achieving world government, the statement should read:

Whenever within Europe’s best international interests, the EU should act in close partnership with the US and its other friends and allies world-wide. In the short to medium term, EU needs access to NATO assets to avoid duplication of equipment and structures. In the medium to long term, the EU, together with Russia, must activate and transform the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe as the post-cold-war European Security framework replacement for Nato. Transformed and institutionalised thus, the OSCE should be offered to the United Nations as the basis for developing a global security system.

Excessively idealistic though this revised statement might appear, it is one that takes into account ultimate federalist goals. Such a revised statement, detaching the European Union’s CFSP from its ingrained Atlanticist frame of reference, would give the UEF’s contribution to the European Constitutional Convention added coherence.

Far from being politically unrealistic, such a revised statement of euro-federalist goals would re-enforce euro-federalist influences within the European political establishment. A European Voice interview with Greece’s Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Tassos Giannitsis substantiates this. Rejecting such questions as “WHERE is Europe heading?” and Where are Europe’s borders?, Giannitsis opts to pose the question “What kind of Europe do we want?” Concluding the interview, he replies:

The values we wish Europe to express set the foundation of “the kind of Europe we want” and also signpost “where Europe ends”. Europe ends at the point where policy choices start jeopardizing its consistency and its appeal as a model of economic, social, and political organisation.

It is a conclusion that European Federalists need to increasingly reflect upon in the context of Atlanticism’s influence on European political integration.

This article was contributed by John Williams, member of the Federal Union committee, who may be contacted at [email protected]. The opinions expressed at those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union.

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Time to choose? European foreign and security policy

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