Klinkers and Tombeur explain why they find it necessary to start a dialogue on the desirability of a federal Europe. In broad lines they sketch shortcomings of the current intergovernmental operating system of the European Union. They explain why they put their dialogue in the form of American The Federalist Papers, a unique collection of writings from 1787-1788 on the draft of the Federal Constitution. Pro or anti federalists are invited to follow their series of European Federalist Papers and to respond on them.
European Federalist Papers © Leo Klinkers & Herbert Tombeur, 2012-2013
Since 1999 we, Leo Klinkers and Herbert Tombeur, exchange thoughts about the desirability of a federal Europe. We believe that the current intergovernmental governance of Europe – useful and necessary to create in the fifties of the last century the idea of a European Community – already has exceeded its life term by far. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century this operating system is damaging increasingly the idea of a common Europe. It has lost its instrumental function for European cohesion and cooperation and turns by its inherent nationalist interests ('own country first') against his original thought. We must go beyond this system. We cannot afford to linger in a State concept of about sixty years ago, a form of organisation that is no longer a quiet possession for the since then – internally – strongly changed Europe. A continent that in its form of Government urgently needs to adjust to the rapid – remote – changes in Asia, Africa and South America. Or, as the President of the former Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, once said: "He who is too late is punished by life."
The banking crisis, followed by the economic crisis, seem to offer a chance to think of an European Community in the form of a federal organization. Although the resistance of the people against a federal Europe is manifest in many Member States, European leaders seem to realize that the F-word can no much longer be circumvented. Without expressing in direct words the need for a political quantum leap – from intergovernmental to federal – government leaders in 2011-2012 are speaking regularly about the need for more political ‘integration’, to provide a better basis for the already realized economic integration. But they use often indirect, sometimes obscure words. What to say, for example, of a statement, sometime in 2011, by the Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker – also Chairman of the Euro Group, a team of experts that advises the EU Council of Ministers for economic and financial policy (Ecofin). In reaction to the harsh societal criticism towards the indecisive Europe, unable to jointly take solid measures to base the Economic Union on a Political Union, he said in about these words: "We politicians know exactly what we should do, but if we actually would do this, we would lose the next elections." A ruling that is symptomatic of the reluctance of European politicians to openly advocate federalisation, but also an omen of what is inevitable about to happen: the federalization of Europe.
There are of course politicians who already often and without restraint have advocated the federalisation of the European Union. For example the former Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, now Member of the European Parliament. And Alexander Pechtold, former Minister for Administrative Reforms in the Netherlands, now leader of D66 in the Dutch Parliament. And there are – while we write this in the summer of 2012 – certainly more overt political defenders of a Federation. But they are currently not in the engine room where they can push the buttons of the governmental system. So they cannot create a lever to turn the intergovernmental system into a federal system.
Moreover, it would be incorrect to assume that the idea of a federal Europe only in the last two years has been put cautiously on the European political agenda. Luuk van Middelaar describes in detail, in his 'Passage to Europe', how – even long before the creation of the European Community in the early fifties of the last century – philosophers and politicians brought into words the need for a federal Europe. In a sense the community started in 1951 even a little federally, because the then created High Authority – responsible for the implementation of the common mining and steel manufacturing policies of the six participating States – had a supranational jurisdiction. At least, that was the original idea in the proposal to set up such an Authority, based on the Schuman Plan of 1950, a plan with some federal aspects. In practice, this Authority was immediately controlled – even then, like the European Commission now – by the Council of Ministers, which only acquired its legally legitimate decision-making power by the Treaty of Rome in 1957. On that occasion the High Authority was abolished in favor of the creation of the European Commission, losing as the Executive Body of the Union its alleged supranational power.
But still, there were constantly federal initiatives. More than once we have noticed attempts to step to a fully federal system. That process stopped a few years ago, when, as from 2004, the actual decision-making power came in the hands of the European Council of Heads of State and Government. The – due to this measure increasingly nationalistic driven decision-making – has split so severely the thinking and acting in terms of one community, that the external incurred economic crisis has led to an internal economic crisis. The disappearance of the façade of a long cherished European economic miracle is now showing the cracks and especially the wrong construction of the European House. That, and only that, motivates some Heads of States to approach the necessary reconstruction of that House with the help of a federal concept. Would that crisis not be the case, then they would not ponder to give up the European Council as the overarching power center, something they would and will lose absolutely within a federal organization, in favour of restoring the sovereignty of the Member States.
We are convinced that a Federation Europe (ever) will come. The question is whether that is happening evolutionary, so involving many years to be accomplished. Or revolutionary, in the sense that a few new crises force the responsible Heads of States to realize eventually what has not been done in 1992 by the Treaty of Maastricht, namely to lay the foundations for a federal Europe.
Of course there can be a middle ground, that of reason. The cause of the manifest resistance in many Member States – strongly fed by national parliamentarians who know that it is easy to surf on the waves of anxiety of the people – is the lack of understanding of the power and potential of a federal organization form. Many politicians stir up feelings to that fear by characterizing a federal Europe as a juggernaut, a super State which swallows national sovereignties and destroys regional cultures, habits and customs. Nothing is less true. It is the current intergovernmental governance of Europe that is destroying these values by its inherent ‘eenheidsworst production’. This is the policy that anything upon which is decided commonly, should be implemented without exceptions in each Member State. Centrally imposed uniformity. In opposite, it is just a Federation that preserves sovereignty for the associated States. If there is one thing that a federal State protects and guarantees then it is the sovereignty of the parts that connect themselves to the Federation. Almost nobody knows that. The 'ordinary citizen' is fooled by people who let their provincial electoral interests prevail over knowledge and insight in the functioning of a federal form of Government. In the following we will present Papers to explain this, and in that course we tackle a number of other fallacies, taboos and misconceptions about a federal Europe.
The idea to put our European Federalist Papers in the form of a dialogue, an exchange of views on a federal Europe, is based on the American Federalist Papers. This is a series of 85 Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay in 1787 and 1788 about how the proposed Federal Constitution of the United States should be interpreted and why it should be accepted. They are known as the founding fathers of the American Constitution. It is a majestic piece in political science, a fruitful source for many federalists. We follow as far as possible, the form in which The Federalist Papers were written. Why? If you have to walk through a minefield it is wise to use the footsteps of the person who was not blown up and safely reached the other side. In contemporary management terms: learn from best practices.
The Federalist Papers were written at the time of a serious crisis. North America knew, at that time, the form of Government of a Confederation of States. From the Declaration of Independance (breaking the bonds with England) in 1776 thirteen States in North America formed a Confederation, slightly held together by a treaty under the title Articles of Confederation. Each State designed his own form of Government. A hodgepodge of very different models. After eleven years of being an independent State, and after many attempts to form a workable Confederation, without a superimposed authority above the States, the need arose to reflect thoroughly the strengthening of the commonality. That need was filled by a Convention of Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, producing a draft of a Federal Constitution. This was submitted in september 1787 to the American people with the intention to transform the Confederation into a federal State based on a Constitution. If nine of the then thirteen States would accept this design, the Federation would be a legal fact. But the opposition was strong. So it felt like a serious crisis in the survival of this recently acquired independency. The opposition was strongest in the State of New York, led by Governor George Clinton. To reverse this oppostion in that State, in favor of the Federal Constitution Alexander Hamilton began a series of Papers, in October 27, 1787, on the advantages and disadvantages, on the strength and weakness, of a federal form of Government. Along with John Jay and James Madison he published under the joint pseudonym 'Publius' until August 1788 no less than 85 Papers. In the newspapers of New York. With success. The Federal Constitution was adopted In 1789. From then on the federal United States of America grew gradually to the country that it is today.
We also know the feeling of a crisis in the present Europe. This can be put into words in many different ways. We choose a quote from the Magazine Knack, by Rik van Cauwelaert, director of strategy: "The current drama of the EU is that it is no longer carried by a binding idea. That binding idea was put forward and even funded, after the second world war, by the US. But once the cold war was settled, the European rulers believed the original project of Jean Monnet – an Atlantic community – could be aborted. Today, the EU is a notional Union, with many intergovernmental wrangling, which only seems to exist to maintain the Eurosystem and the banks."
Europe has to chose between either to perpetuate the current intergovernmental cooperation, or to opt for a federal form of Government. Of course there is a third possibility: dissolution of the European Union and then each State going forward alone. But we consider such a perspective unthinkable, because that return to State-nationalism cannot survive in a world of increasing globalisation. Although? The reality compels to note that at the start of writing these European Federalist Papers, summer 2012, the chances of survival of the European Union is estimated at fifty fifty. We will see.
It also remarkable that there is the need of a serious crisis before recognizing the errors of the construction of the European building. With a little knowledge of political forms and of history, the founding fathers of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1950 could and should have chosen for a full federal organization. If you want to preserve sovereignty for a variety of Member States and yet equally need unity that connects these States, then a federal construction is the only suitable form. That's no (party-) political position, this is science. How is it possible that Europe, which has produced many political wise men and women in twenty centuries, only at the beginning of the 21st century, understands what the North America of hardly three centuries after its discovery by Columbus, and without a substantial amount of political sages, at the end of the 18th century already understood: a Confederation creates a seemingly sovereignty of the whole, a Federation is actually guaranteeing sovereignty of participating States and of the whole. We will explain this in these Papers.
The similarity with the crisis of America in 1787 was the impetus to our already for many years shared dissatisfaction with the governmental form of the European Union to start writing these Papers. We feel legitimised to do so by a call from – former high official in the US Federal Government and best known of the War Against Poverty – in an article in the New York Times of 9 January 1999 under the title: "What the EU Needs Is a Copy of ' The Federalist Papers". Well, here they are. In all modesty. Because we do not have a well-considered opinion about everything, let alone the reflection level of the authors of The Federalist Papers, we will perhaps ask other writers to assist us.
The political reality of 1787 was not waiting for The Federalist Papers. But, during the intense debates they gradually grew as a major stepping stone to cross savely the river from the Confederal bank to the Federal bank. As a prestigious proposal for a Federal Constitution these Federalist Papers played the role, along many other publications, for a conclusive design of the Federal Constitution. The fame of this opus was established during the further history of the United States, because it gradually became one of the main sources for the interpretation of the Constitution.
Our Papers will drown – so we expect – in the sea of opinions about a federal Europe. And if they ever be a source for thinking about a federal Europe is a thought that we do not contemplate at this moment. Expressing our own responsibility is the only motive to write what we believe. Silence is consent, a consent that implies accepting that the intergovernmentalism will be leading Europe to his downfall. We do not want to be complicit. Therefore we oppose to the intergouvernementalism, supported by the ruling of the French scientist Henri Poincaré (1854-1912): "Thinking must never be subjected, nor to a dogma, neither to a party nor to a passion nor to a prejudice, nor to anything, but only to the facts themselves, as subjecting means the end of all thinking."
Just as the American Federalist Papers, we give each of the European Federalist Papers a number. But unlike The Federalist Papers we choose not for a joint pseudonym. The name of each author is mentioned. Also to avoid a curious debate after closure of The Federalist Papers: just before his death Hamilton claimed to have written 63 of the 85 pieces, which was clearly incorrect. The people, interested in this topic, debated for generations about the authorship of these Papers. There is now more or less agreement on who wrote what. To give the reader insight in the development of our Papers through the months of 2012, we put also the month on each Paper.
We would like to have our European Federalist papers published in news papers throughout the seventeen countries of the Eurozone (those are the States that carry the euro). Just as has been the case with The Federalist Papers of America: publication in the news papers of New York City. But that is not feasible. Therefore, we choose another low-threshold form of publishing: the Papers come one by one, or in small cohesive groups, on this website. We communicate through e-mail and other social media the presence of those Papers and hope that the readers – by forwarding our messages – create an increasing audience throughout Europe. Providing us by proposals for improving this line of thinking about federalising Europe.
Finally, to stress the importance of federalization of Europe we quote the final sentences that Clinton Rossiter writes in the introduction of his February 15, 1961 edition of The Federalist Papers:
"And the message of The Federalist reads: no happiness without liberty, no liberty without self-government, no self-government without constitutionalism, no constitutionalism without morality – and none of these great goods without stability and order".