Jean Monnet (left) with Robert Schuman

I was at a meeting of the European Movement yesterday to discuss its internal rules. Not the best way to spend a day of glorious sunshine but sometimes an organisation requires attention for its own sake. It ought to be have been quite easy to get through (fear not, I won’t go into the detail) but in fact turned out a bit harder than that. It shouldn’t really have been a surprise: the whole organisation is founded on the notion that rules matter.

After all, Jean Monnet observed that “The life of institutions is longer than that of men, and thus institutions, if they are soundly built, can accumulate and pass on the wisdom of succeeding generations.”

I suppose it is only a mark of consistency that members of the European Movement think that their own rules matter. But, now that we’ve sorted out our own constitution, we can now focus properly on the campaign for the constitution of the European Union.

There is something inspiring about a gathering of members of the European Movement. So many different ideas and perspectives come together in one place. It gives life to the notion that the campaign for the democratic unity of Europe is based on the contribution of individual Europeans rather than on obscure and anonymous forces. The idea of Europe is a political idea that has to be argued for, here on this blog and elsewhere. We have to take on our opponents with their sacrosanct idea of national sovereignty and show where it leads. We can’t leave it to anyone else: we have to do it ourselves.

I am reminded of a story about the attempt to found an international Eurosceptic organisation. Delegates gathered in some north European city or other to try and agreed what they should do together. The British delegation was hoping that they could set up some form of informal cooperation between the different national groups, and departed in dismay at the ideas of the others. They wanted to set up an organisation with statutes, standing orders and so on. “How else are we to organise ourselves in Europe if we don’t have a constitution?” they said. How else, indeed?

This blog entry first appeared on The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union or of the Yes campaign.

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