[Paleopsych] CHE Colloquy: The Future of Europe
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The Future of Europe
The Chronicle of Higher Education: Colloquy Transcript
5.7.17, at 1 p.m., U.S. Eastern time
[Target article appended.]
For more than 50 years, the nations of Europe have been creeping
toward economic and political unity. Last year, the European Union
unveiled a draft constitution that was designed to streamline and
harmonize the operations of the various bureaucracies in Brussels. But
this spring, voters in France and the Netherlands decisively rejected
the constitution in popular referenda. Two weeks later, a summit of
European leaders collapsed in acrimony.
Now a political theorist at Harvard University is weighing in with an
argument for a truly unitary European state. Glyn Morgan believes that
if Europe is truly serious about balancing American military and
diplomatic power, it should become a single sovereign state with a
single military and foreign policy. More generally, he argues that
most of the EU's supporters -- and most of its "Euroskeptic" opponents
-- must answer fundamental questions about sovereignty, the purpose of
the EU, and the costs and benefits of integration.
Is his argument persuasive? Would a single military and foreign policy
be beneficial, or even possible? What are the prospects for the more
immediate goal of European economic integration?
Glyn Morgan is an associate professor of government and social studies
at Harvard University. He earned a Ph.D. in political science at the
University of California at Berkeley in 1998. His forthcoming book is
The Idea of a European Superstate: Public Justification and European
Integration (Princeton University Press, September). He is now at work
on books about terrorism and anti-Americanism.
A transcript of the chat follows.
David Glenn (Moderator):
Welcome to the Chronicle's colloquy on European political
integration. Many thanks to Glyn Morgan for taking time to be here.
It's very nice to be here. Thank you for hosting me. I know that
this is a day, when for many people their thoughts are elsewhere. I
have lots of family and friends in London and I hope they are all OK.
Question from David Glenn:
The miserable news from London this morning is yet another
reminder of the power of (apparently) stateless terrorist cells. Some
international-relations theorists have suggested that threats like
these can't be analyzed or addressed within a state-centered, realist,
How do you reply to that line of argument? In terms of confronting the
perpetrators of the Madrid and London attacks, does it really make any
difference how Europe is configured?
The first few paragraphs of the conclusion to the book came back
to me this morning when I turned on the news. I'll repeat them here:
Imagine that on September 11 next year, terrorists based somewhere in
the Magreb fly hijacked passenger jets into the Westminster
parliament, the Reichstag, the Vatican, and the Louvre. These attacks
kill thousands. Let it further be imagined that the United States is
either preoccupied with China or, in the wake of the recent disasters
in Iraq, has lost all appetite for foreign military intervention.
After years of complaining about US unilateralism, Europeans now
fulminate against US isolationism.
It is worth bearing this scenario in mind, because given existing
military capabilities, Europes nation-states, acting either singly or
jointly, would be unable to conduct anything resembling the operation
that the United States conducted to destroy Al Qaeda camps in
Afghanistan in October and November of 2001. If terrorists based in
camps in the Magrebperhaps protected by a friendly host
government--promised to repeat their attacks, there would be little
that European powers could -- other than fulminate against US
isolationism -- do about it.
It is partly in recognition of Europes current military weakness and
its one-sided dependence on the United States that a number of
European political leaders have said that Europe needs to become a
superpower. Most of these political leaders want to see Europe become
a superpower without becoming a superstate. Some intellectual
proponents of a post-sovereign Europe believe that Europe could become
a superpower -- albeit a superpower of a new and different type --
while operating under a radically-decentered form of mixed government.
The arguments of the last few chapters have tried to show that when
situated in a context of violence, conflict, and wide disparities of
power between states, many of the prevailing assumptions about
European political integration look rather naïve.
I pretty much stand by that argument.
Question from Pete Mackey, at an educational foundation:
My wife and I lived in Ireland for two years, 2000-02. Like people
throughout Europe now, especially young people, we traveled widely,
thanks to the low airfares and easy border crossings that typify
today's EU. Does not the resulting level of interaction,
inter-marriage, and cultural and economic exchange this massive flow
of people across the EU countries is generating create a level of
integration that makes some of the more forcible bureaucratic
proposals moot, or at least less about integration and more about
consolidating political power in Brussels?
This is an interesting point. Clearly, Europeans today travel
much more within Europe. Perhaps we are on the verge of seeing
something like a European-wide common culture. I would not, however,
want to draw too sharp a distinction between the "voluntary" social
exchanges you describe and "forcible" political or bureaucratic
integration, simply because many of the social exchanges you describe
were made possible by regulatory measures adopted in Brussels.
Question from James S. Taylor, Univ. of Aveiro, Portugal:
Did the EU err by first moving forward economically with the Euro,
instead of advancing politically with the Constitution?
Yes. The Euro was established as much for political as for
economic reasons. I think Europe ought to have proceeded much further
politically and socially, before setting up a common curency and
monetary policy. I'm generally in favor of European political
integration. Yet, if I were to vote today in a British referendum on
adopting the Euro, I would vote "No." I still think the long-term
success of the Euro remains in doubt. Recent rumblings in Italy are, I
suspect, the first of many.
Question from David Glenn:
Could you briefly sketch your model of a "democratic model of
justification," and explain why such forms of justification are
important to the project of European political integration?
Im glad you asked that, because the Chronicle article gives a
slightly misleading idea of the focus of the book. I do have my own
highly opinionated views on how the European Union should be
organized. I think -- although admittedly hardly anyone else does --
that Europe should form a unitary sovereign state. But thats really
only part of what the book is about. Im a political theorist. And this
is a work of political theory -- applied political theory, as I like
to think of it. I think political theorists, if they are not to become
irrelevant, need to work with important real world issues. Peoples
positions on European integration are constructed from facts, values,
and arguments. The task of applied political theory is to probe those
facts, values, and arguments.
The central claim of the book is that the EU is less in need of an
institutional fix than a justificatory fix. The project of European
integration needs, if it is go any further, a debate about this
projects point or purpose. Europe has gone as far as it can as an
elite-led project. Europeans need to pose the question: whats the
justification for European political integration? Political theorists
can help them answer this question.
Unfortunately, political theorists have tended to ignore the issue of
justification in favor of a debate about Europes (alleged) democratic
deficit. The assumption here is that many of Europes popularity
problems can be attributed to the fact that Europes institutions are
insufficiently democratic. That argument always struck me as silly for
at least two reasons. One, Europes institutions are not much less
democratic than those of Europes member states. And two, Eurosceptics
tend to object not to the democratic failures of Europes institutions
but to their very existence. I think political theorists ought to
focus on the justificatory challenge posed by Eurosceptics. The book
makes a stab at this justificatory challenge. It does so in three
Stage one defends what I call a democratic theory of justification.
This part of my argument is indebted to the later work of John Rawls.
I argue that any fundamental constitutional transformation needs to
meet a stringent justificatory hurdle. Not just any argument will do.
I argue that a democratic theory of justification must satisfy three
requirements: (a) a requirement of publicity; (b) a requirement of
accessibility, and (c) a requirement of sufficiency. In working out
this part of my argument, Im indebted not just to John Rawls but also
to Gerry Gaus, Steve Macedo, Tim Scanlon, Chris Bertram and others who
have thought through the idea of public justification.
Stage two examines some of the most common arguments for European
political integration in the light of this democratic theory of
justification. I focus on two particular types of argument that have
been put forward by proponents of European political integration --
welfare-based arguments and security-based arguments. In my discussion
of welfare-based arguments, I focus primarily on the contrasting sets
of arguments put forward by Jv*rgen Habermas and Friedrich Hayek.
Habermas represents the social democratic perspective; Hayek
represents the classical liberal perspective. Broadly stated, their
arguments capture, if at a more sophisticated theoretical level, much
of whats at stake in the current debate -- thrown up by the French
referendum -- over "social Europe and liberal Europe.
Stage three defends a particular type of security-based justification
for European political integration. Security, as I understand it, is a
complex value that includes at its core a conception of
non-dependence. Here my argument is indebted to various contemporary
neo-republican political theorists such as Richard Bellamy and Philip
Question from David Glenn:
Could you flesh out your claim that the EU's institutions are not
much less democratic than the member nations' own governments?
Many scholars of the EU insist that Brussels suffers from a serious
democratic deficit. Alex Warleigh's recent book, for example, argues
that the democratic deficit is serious, and that it "arose from the
mistaken institutional design and developmental trajectory
respectively given to and hoped for the Union by its key founders, who
created technocratic structures that were supposed to create a federal
state by stealth (and thus in the absence of public engagement, or
The "democratic deficit" debate has, in my opinion, attracted far
more attention than it deserves. True, there are undemocratic features
of the EU. The same holds true for most "democratic" states--there's
nothing terribly democratic about the U.S. Supreme Court or the
Electoral College, for instance.
The more important point to recognize, I think, is that were the EU to
become much more democratic -- say, by empowering the European
Parliament -- the EU would immediately become even less legitimate in
the eyes of European voters than is now the case.
The EU suffers from a justification deficit rather than a democracy
deficit. Many ordinary citizens have no clear view of why it ought to
exist and why it ought to be granted more powers.
Question from Theodore Kariotis, University of Maryland:
When you are a family of 15 and you have major problems in the
family, you never add 10 more members in such a dysfunctional family.
Do you think that this large expansion was a fatal blow to EU?
If you are a family of 15, do you wish to have 10 neighbors who
are destitute and killing themselves? Almost certainly not. In other
words, I think European Enlargement was a necessary and desirable
step. I do, however, worry that the social and economic changes --
both in the former EU15 and in the new member states -- that
Enlargement will bring about are changes that many Europeans are
neither prepared for nor aware of. To reiterate an earlier point: I
think that Europeans are in desperate need of political education.
They need to understand why Europe added these new 10 members.
Question from David Glenn:
What do you think of the argument recently put forward by T.R.
Reid, Jeremy Rifkin, and other analysts, to the effect that Europe
already represents a powerful and attractive alternative to the U.S.
model of political economy and international relations?
I find this line of argument unpersuasive. Reid and Rifkin --
whose books, I hasten to add, I found very provocative and enormously
enjoyable -- both believe (to put it crudely) that Europe circa 2004
has reached the promised land. R. and R. seem to think, from what I
recall, that Europe (i) has established a more humane model of society
than the United States; (ii) is better prepared to meet the challenges
of the new century; and (iii) has wisely abandoned military power in
favor of alternative more useful forms of power. (Some of these
arguments have been advanced more recently by Mark Leonard in his very
interesting and quite splendid book Why Europe Will Run the 21st
I wouldnt endorse any of these claims. Europe, at the moment, does not
possess a single model of society; and to the extent that it does,
that model of society is neither more nor less humane than that of the
United States. More specifically, there are aspects of Europe that are
more humane -- it does not, for instance, rely upon mass incarceration
as a solution to its social problems. And there are aspects of the
United States that are more humaneit is generally more open and
accommodating to immigrants than Europe, for instance. Efforts to
construct a European identity on the basis of differences with the
United States -- a proto-European nationalism, as it were - have all
the drawbacks of every type of identity politics. It was disappointing
to see Jacques Derrida and Jv*rgen Habermas (in their joint letter) go
in for this sort of drivel.
Europe currently contains a variety of different models of welfare
capitalism -- Liberal, Scandinavian, Continental, call them what you
will. Europeans disagree among themselves about the merits of these
different models. That disagreement cropped up (for largely
unwarranted reasons) in the French referendum and led some people to
vote against the Constitutional Treaty. Europeans have yet to work out
which of these models they want to embrace and how much intra-European
variety they will permit. In my view, for what its worth, this
disagreement is best played out at the parliamentary level -- both
national and European -- and not cemented into place in a
The claim that Europe is uniquely qualified to run the next century is
also unpersuasive. Europe, if it continues on its present path, will
be uniquely well-qualified for nothing but global irrelevance:
economically moribund; demographically geriatric; and internationally
impotent. One of the gravest threats to the future of Europe comes
from the misguided notion that it can prosper as a non-military
civilian power. To rely, as Reid, Rifkin and others suggest, on
soft-power, would turn Europe into a superannuated version of
David Glenn (Moderator):
We're just about halfway through our hour. Please keep those
questions coming. . .
Question from Wes Teter:
Sitting in Brussels at the moment and having worked in the
European Commission, I find it sad that no one speaks about the fact
that previous agreements and successes among the member states are not
undone simply because a constitution is not ratified. Further, Europe
is unified politically, but chooses not to go as far as the single
superstate. I agree that the project has not yet reached the public
fully. How can the idea of Europe better reach its citizens do you
think? How can the idea of Europe better reach the U.S.?
I'm less sanguine than you about the claim that "Europe is unified
politically." I fear that the threads holding it together have now
become rather frayed. As for the claim "the project has not yet
reached the public fully" -- I'm not so sure that "reaching" is the
problem. One of the great mistakes of the EU Commission is to believe
that "to know us is to love us." It may well be that the more the
public knows about the EU, the less the public likes it. The answer is
to raise and debate fundamental justificatory questions, not simply to
conduct more outreach efforts.
Question from David Glenn:
In Prospect magazine, Andrew Moravcsik recently argued that
this recent constitution-drafting process has been a mistake. Europe
already has a perfectly workable constitutional order, he said, and
its policies and structure are generally popular.
He wrote: "So it was not the substance of the emerging constitutional
settlement that triggered opposition. The objectionable aspect was its
form: an idealistic constitution. Since the 1970s, lawyers have
regarded the treaty of Rome as a de facto constitution. The new
document was an unnecessary public relations exercise based on the
seemingly intuitive, but in fact peculiar, notion that democratisation
and the European ideal could legitimate the EU."
What do you think of that line of argument?
Complete rubbish. Europe was hardly in a very healthy state prior
to the decision to embark upon the Convention and the Constitutional
Treaty. It had recently experienced a number of embarrassing
referendum defeats; Europe's economy was (and still is) moribund;
transatlantic relations were at a postwar low; Europe's existing
institutional architecture was ill-suited to handling 10 new members;
and Europe's budget was--and still is--a disgrace. The recent national
referendums also make it abundantly clear that when given the chance
many Europeans attacked the very substance of the EU itself. If this
is a model of stability and legitimacy, I would like to know what my
good friend would consider a constitutional crisis.
Question from David Glenn:
Why do you believe that Euroskeptics, too, need to use a
democratic standard of justification when defending their proposals?
Can't they plausibly argue that pro-integration advocates should carry
a higher burden of proof? ("We're just defending the status quo. It's
the fools in Brussels who are trying to change things.")
I spend a lot of time in the book discussing the arguments of
Eurosceptics -- British Eurosceptics, in particular. I found, to my
surprise, that far and away the most cogent statement of the
Eurosceptic position is to be found in the writings and speeches of
Enoch Powell -- a highly controversial figure in the postwar history
of British parliamentary politics. Contemporary Eurosceptics tend to
rehash at a less sophisticated level arguments that Powell had made in
I think Eurosceptics need to use a democratic standard of
justification, because their proposals amount to a fundamental
transformation of the existing institutional status quo. Not happy
with the current intergovernmental EU -- still less happy with the
very minor changes envisaged in the Constitutional Treaty -- many
British Eurosceptics seek either the withdrawal of Britain from the
Union or the transformation of the Union into a free trade zone. These
are far-reaching changes. They need to satisfy the same democratic
standard of justification that applies to arguments for a single
unitary sovereign Europe or to a multi-level post-sovereign Europe.
Question from Daniele Archibugi, CNR, Rome, Italy:
If the demoi of two founding countries of the EU have voted
against the Constitution, isn't it the proof that the functionalist
approach of Jean Monnet is a more viable strategy than the Federalist
project of Altiero Spinelli?
Much depends here on what you mean by "a viable strategy." I think
the Monnet approach, which worked quite well in Europe's formative
stages, is now completely finished. Any further steps along the road
of European integration will now have to engage more directly with
ordinary citizens. That's why I think the question of justification is
so central. I think Europe, if it is to go any further, needs to adopy
something akin to the Irish National Forums, which were set up after
the Irish rejected the Treaty of Nice.
Question from David Glenn:
How do you reply to Richard Sweeney's argument that Europe does
not face any serious vulnerabilities, and therefore has no need of a
unitary military and security policy?
I find this argument unpersuasive for at least three reasons. One,
it rests upon a conception of security that is unappealing; two, it
fails to comprehend the threats that Europe now confronts; and three,
it is naïve about the military capabilities of highly decentralized,
Let me say something briefly about just the first of those three
points. It is important to recognize that people disagree about the
nature of security as a value. Some people certainly do think of
security in terms of the absence of immediate current military
threats. If thats your conception of security, then Professor Sweeneys
probably right to say that Europe does not face any serious
vulnerabilities. But thats not my conception of security. And I would
hope that thats not the conception of security adopted by Europes
political leaders. My argument works with a more expansive conception
of security, which includes adequate safeguards against serious harms,
even if they are currently of quite a low probability. The book spends
quite a lot of time defining and defending adequate safeguards,
serious harms, and so forth.
Question from Rich Byrne, Chronicle of Higher Education:
If Europe decided to pursue a more federal state, what immediate
or near-term steps should the Union propose to ease the way? A
mandatory euro? Creation of a standing multi-national army?
Let me be clear in saying that I do not think that Europe is
likely any time soon to become a more federal state. The twin
referendum defeats in France and the Netherlands bring to as close, in
my view, a familiar process of integration. This process often
involved -- as in the case of the Euro -- adopting a measure for one
ostensible reason (economic) while expecting that it would have an
additional (political) consequence.
The near-term steps I would be in favor of adopting all involve
engaging the citizenry in a debate about the desirability of European
Question from David Glenn:
Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution has argued that the
current EU crisis will almost certainly lead to a slowdown in the EU's
expansion plans -- and that that, in turn, will almost certainly slow
down the process of political reform in the countries on the EU's
He wrote: "Enlargement has proven to be the most successful strategy
of regime change ever devised. While NATO enlargement proved
important, for it provided security to countries living in the Soviet
and Russian shadow, EU enlargement was absolutely crucial because it
provided the basis for solidifying political freedom and enhancing
economic prosperity in countries that had known little of either."
What do you think of that line of argument?
I think that this is absolutely right. I've long been an advocate
of European Enlargement -- including the admission of Turkey and the
Ukraine. Ivo Daalder is absolutely right to worry about the
consequences of the referendum defeats on political reform in places
like Romania and Bulgaria. Hopefully, Europeans will come to their
senses and re-commit themselves to European Enlargement. Having said
that, I think it is important to recognize that European Enlargement
is likely to generate far-reaching social and economic changes
throughout Europe. We are likely to see a lot more mobility of people,
industry, and financial capital than many people will like.
Question from Russell Muirhead, Harvard University:
You put much stress on security and self-defense. But are the
humanitarian ideals so many Europeans endorse served by the sort of
superstate and common military policy you advocate?
Yes. You are right to say that I have a security-based
justification for European political integration. But I don't think
that Europe needs to become more centralized and military potent
merely for reasons of self-defense. Europe in its present form is
incapable of projecting significant power abroad. That means that it
is utterly incapable of autonomously intervening in any major
humanitarian catastrophes. Europe has to depend on the United States.
It makes little sense for a continent-load of people, more or less the
economic equals of Americans, to be this dependent.
Question from David Glenn:
What do you see as the weaknesses of political theorists'
celebrations of a flexible and "postsovereign" political order in
Europe? (In a 1999 book, for example, Joseph Weiler of NYU Law School
argued that the EU has transcended traditional forms of sovereignty
and federalism because its members accept EU discipline "as an
autonomous voluntary act; endlessly renewed on each occasion of
subordination, in the discrete areas governed by Europe, which is the
aggregate expression of other wills, other political identities, other
The book sets up the debate over the future of Europe as a debate
between three groups: Eurosceptics (who favor a Europe of independent
nation-states); Post-sovereignists (who favor either the current
intergovernmental EU or a more disaggregated multi-level
post-sovereign polity); and European Sovereignists (who favor a
unitary European Sovereign state). I chose, for reasons spelled out in
the book, to steer clear of the term Federalist, which means very
different things to different people and in different countries.
I came to spend quite a lot of time on the post-sovereignist position,
if only because it is extremely fashionable amongst contemporary legal
and political theorists. Post-sovereignists like to tell us that
sovereignty -- both internal and external -- is now obsolete. The age
of the sovereign state is now over and done with. The great difficulty
with this line of argument is that no one seems to have informed the
United States government of this fact. The US is a jealous guardian of
its sovereignty. This is not an invention of the Bush administration.
The Clinton administration was exactly the same. When the most
powerful entity in the international system is a sovereign state, then
it makes no sense to talk about the death of sovereignty. If
post-sovereignists wish to attack sovereignty, they must conduct the
argument in normative terms. Here their arguments become altogether
much weaker. I think post-sovereignists remain vulnerable to a
security-based challenge. If we care about security as non-dependence,
then it is not a good idea to adopt a form of governance -- as
post-sovereignists would have us do -- that is incapable of balancing
the power of the dominant entity in the international system. The
post-sovereignist vision of the EU would contribute to the
disappearance of Europe as an historical actor.
Question from David Glenn:
Would you be willing to offer any predictions about the future of
agricultural subsidies in Europe?
I think Tony Blair, even if he has recently lost a battle on this
front, will win the war. It makes very little sense to spend such a
large percentage of the budget on agriculture. Reason , I expect, will
ultimately prevail over current Franco-German intransigence.
Question from David Glenn:
In the recent volume Democracy and Federalism in the European
Union and the United States: Exploring Post-National Governance,
Robert Dahl argues that a Europe-wide democracy is unlikely, no matter
what sort of "federal" arrangements are used. Europe's population, he
argues, is probably too large and too diverse to sustain pan-European
What do you think of that line of argument?
I don't see any link between the geographical size or scale of a
state and its capacity for democratic institutions. I do, however,
think that a common language is necessary. That minimal form of shared
culture is absolutely indispensable particularly in the advanced
industrial democracy that Europe hopes to become. True, there are some
multinational exceptions to this rule -- Belgium, Canada, and India,
for instance. But Belgium and Canada are forever on the verge of
falling apart; and India is not (yet) an advanced industrial society.
If Europe is to become politically unified, it needs a common
language. I fully expect most Europeans to speak English (plus one
other language) within fifty years.
Question from David Glenn:
Could nationalism ever operate on a pan-European level?
I spend a lot of time in the book on nationalism, for the simple
reason that nationalism forms the ideological core of the Eurosceptic
hostility to Europe. One of the conclusions I have drawn about
nationalism is that this is a noun that always needs a qualifying
adjective -- e.g., ethnic nationalism, liberal nationalism, xenophobic
nationalism etc. I do some work in the book reconstructing the
historical genealogy of nationalism. Ive always found it perplexing
that the great modern sociological theories of nationalism -- that of
Ernest Gellner, in particular -- have had so very little contact with
the history of political thought. Thus Gellner defines nationalism as
a principle of political legitimacy -- indeed the modern principle of
political legitimacy. But neither he nor his students have had much to
say about how this principle of political legitimacy came to either
displace or coexist with earlier principles of political legitimacy.
Figuring out this puzzle about nationalism took me (via the work of
Istvan Hont) back to the writings of Thomas Hobbes, Abbe Sieyes and
some of the intellectual founders of the modern nation-state. Hobbes
is a particularly important thinker for me, because he envisages a
sovereign state, whose members lack any shared cultural or ethnic
characteristics. Indeed for Hobbes, the demise of the sovereign state
leaves nothing but individuals. Its interesting to ask why Hobbess
conception of the state -- a state without a culturally or ethnically
defined nation -- was an historical nonstarter. Why, in other words,
did the modern state require forms of horizontal and vertical
solidarityi.e. solidarity between citizens and their political
institutions and solidarity between citizens themselves -- grounded in
and sustained by common cultural and/or ethnic characteristics?
Much though Id like to think that a modern state could survive in the
absence of these solidarities grounded in at least some of these
characteristics, Im prepared to concede that no modern state could
flourish in their absence. Ideally, these characteristics ought to be
as nonexclusive as possible -- a common language, for instance. A
European State thus needs, if it is to flourish, a common language. In
all probability that language will be English -- which is already the
de facto lingua franca of Europe as it is. Is this thin nationalism --
if it even counts as such -- feasible on a pan-European level? Sure.
Why not? I dont think that national identities are fixed forever in
place. Of course many ethnic and traditional nationalists would
disagree. But their arguments -- to the extent that they have any --
are not consistent with what Ive termed a democratic theory of
One final point on this topic: I think it is especially important to
avoid efforts to identify a much thicker pan-European nationalism
grounded in a set of unifying values alleged to distinguish Europe
from America. Thats the trouble, I think, with the line of argument
taken by Derrida and Habermas in that letter I mentioned earlier.
Thanks everyone for the questions. They were all very challenging.
Special thanks to David Glenn- a real gent and a scholar. I now need a
David Glenn (Moderator):
Thanks again for taking time to be here on a grim day.
Making the Case for a United States of Europe
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.7.8
Even as the continental union falters, a Harvard professor says its
architects haven't been ambitious enough
By DAVID GLENN
When voters in France and the Netherlands rejected the proposed
constitution of the European Union this spring, the EU's architects
initially put on a brave face. The referendum defeats were a painful
setback, they said, but with another round of negotiations and some
redrafting, a constitution could still be approved within a few years.
And in any case, many of the draft constitution's less-controversial
provisions could be enacted by the European Union Council -- the
gathering of the member nations' ministers. The ship was battered but
Two weeks later, however, it sprang more leaks.
At a summit in Brussels, the EU's leaders failed to agree on a new
budget. Britain and France squabbled about agricultural policy. Poland
and nine other eastern countries attempted to broker a face-saving
deal -- even offering to sacrifice some of the subsidies they receive
from the EU -- but they failed. The prime minister of Luxembourg told
the news media that, no matter what the EU's bureaucrats might say to
the contrary, "Europe is in deep crisis."
So this might seem like an awkward time to release a book that makes
the case for a United States of Europe. But that is precisely what
Glyn Morgan, an associate professor of government and social studies
at Harvard University, is about to do.
In The Idea of a European Superstate: Public Justification and
European Integration (Princeton University Press, September), Mr.
Morgan argues that the European Union's designers have not been
ambitious enough -- that they should go whole hog and create a union
that usurps most elements of its member countries' sovereignty.
Mr. Morgan grounds his argument on questions of security and foreign
policy, using a classical balance-of-power framework. A unipolar world
system overwhelmingly dominated by the United States is bound to be
unstable, he says. If Europe is truly serious about balancing U.S.
power, he continues, it must evolve into a sovereign entity with a
single military command and a single foreign policy. The complex,
multilayered, "post-sovereign" model promoted by many of the EU's
architects simply won't do.
Mr. Morgan invites his reader to imagine that foreign-based terrorists
someday launch large-scale attacks in Europe, and that the United
States cannot offer much help, because its own military is bogged down
in China or Iraq or elsewhere. Without a unitary state and a unified
military, he writes, "there would be little that European leaders
could -- other than fulminate about U.S. isolationism -- do about it."
That model is unlikely to find many admirers on either side of the
usual Europhile-versus-Euroskeptic divide. The project of unification
is generally defended (or attacked) these days on grounds of trade and
economics, not war and peace.
"Europeans need to confront this brutal choice," the British-born Mr.
Morgan says. "Are they going to remain weak and dependent and maintain
their decentralized government units, or are they going to try to
become players in the world? And if they're going to become players in
the world, they need to centralize. I think presenting that brutal
choice is profoundly annoying to both sides of the debate."
The unpopularity of Mr. Morgan's scheme, however, is largely beside
the point. The true purpose of his book is not to inspire a movement
for a superstate, but to provide a model of how to argue about
European integration. Both the EU's architects and the EU's foes, he
says, have evaded certain fundamental questions, and they have failed
to justify their projects in terms that the broad European public
could conceivably accept.
It is no wonder, he says, that the EU's popularity has been slipping.
Mr. Morgan hopes that his book will provoke Europhiles and
Euroskeptics -- even if they reject his own prescriptions -- to adopt
clearer modes of argument. The two sides have generally failed to
squarely answer each other's longstanding claims, he says -- and that
failure has generated the present impasse. "People are starting to
demand answers to fundamental questions," he says. "Why are we doing
this? What are the costs and benefits? They're raising basic questions
about nationality and sovereignty, and not looking at the EU as a
narrow set of economic arrangements."
It's Not Just the Economy, Stupid
Indeed, economic arrangements are the questions that Mr. Morgan wants
to see less of in Europe's constitutional debates. The no votes in
France and the Netherlands were driven, at least in part, by popular
fears that the draft constitution would promote American-style
laissez-faire economics and erode the French and Dutch social safety
nets. Many of Britain's Euroskeptics, meanwhile, dislike the
constitution for the opposite reason: They believe that it would drag
Britain into a sclerotic social democratic economy.
Both of those camps, Mr. Morgan says, can point to various provisions
in the 349-page draft document that seem to bear out their fears. The
constitution is full of enormously detailed language about commercial
policy. (Article III, Section 221, proclaims that the EU will pursue
its economic objectives "by the action it takes through the Structural
Funds (European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, Guidance
Section; European Social Fund; European Regional Development Fund),
the European Investment Bank, and the other existing financial
Mr. Morgan argues that there is no good reason why these economic
questions should be so deeply embedded in the constitution. "The issue
of social democracy versus economic free markets should be played out
at the democratic level of the European Parliament," he says. "It
shouldn't be locked in place at the level of the constitution."
"The problem with Europe at the moment," he further argues, "is that
they've centralized the wrong things, and they've not centralized the
things that they ought to have centralized."
Mr. Morgan would prefer to see a much simpler, more streamlined
constitution that deals primarily with the question of how a
confederation with 25 members (and more in the pipeline) can formulate
a coherent foreign and military policy.
Other scholars of the European Union, however, insist that it would
not be so simple to remove economic language from the constitution.
Alex Warleigh, a professor of international politics and public policy
at the University of Limerick, in Ireland, says that certain economic
questions should be settled clearly now, at the constitutional level,
precisely because the public already distrusts the EU bureaucracy.
To do otherwise, he says, "would be to repeat the tendency that the EU
has always had, which is to obfuscate the real issues of power that
are brought into play by European integration. And that would be a
mistake because it lends credibility to those who say that Brussels is
simply a power grabber."
Mr. Warleigh, who is the author of Democracy in the European Union:
Theory, Practice, and Reform (Sage, 2003), agrees with Mr. Morgan that
the EU's architects should speak much more plainly about the
fundamental purposes of European integration. "To present it all as a
dry technical operation -- I just don't think that would be believed
anymore," he says. "You could get away with that back in the 50s."
Nonetheless, Mr. Warleigh says, the detailed commercial language in
the constitution is probably inescapable.
The Will to Power
Mr. Morgan's primary policy idea -- that Europe should become a single
sovereign state for foreign-policy purposes -- is not likely to be
embraced any time soon. ("That's the great thing about being a
political theorist," he says. "If an actual politician stood up and
said we should abolish Britain or France in its present form, it would
just be political suicide.")
Nonetheless, he firmly believes that many of the EU's advocates, with
their celebrations of post-sovereignty, multilayered arenas of
governance, and "soft power," are deluding themselves. Old-fashioned
Hobbesian sovereignty is still what makes the world operate, Mr.
Morgan says, and the United States is in fact powerful because it is
sovereign in the traditional sense.
"Imagine if the United States had to get approval from all 50
governors for a procurement bill for the military," he says. "Under
those circumstances the United States would never have been able to
fight the Second World War."
And yet that is approximately the cumbersome sort of arrangement that
the EU's architects have created, Mr. Morgan believes.
"Typically, Europeans will then say to me, Well, we don't want to
become like America," he continues. "To which I will then say, Fine.
But then you should shut up with whining and complaining that America
does all these things you don't like. As I said earlier, that's the
brutal choice that Europeans face."
Richard J. Sweeney, a professor of finance at Georgetown University
who recently completed a comparative study of the U.S. and draft
European constitutions, says that Mr. Morgan's proposal is "nonsense,
and it's a huge threat toward killing off the European Union."
In Mr. Sweeney's view, the nascent United States required a coherent
foreign and military policy because it was isolated and vulnerable.
Modern Europe, he says, faces no comparable vulnerabilities.
Shoehorning all 25 EU members into a single foreign policy would be a
recipe for divorce. "You can just imagine if a war were declared
someday," he says, "and some member countries said, Well, this is
It would be much better, Mr. Sweeney says, to continue with the
present ad hoc arrangement in which, for example, Britain and Poland
choose to send troops to Iraq, while France and Germany demur.
"Forcing these questions to be asked and answered when they don't have
to be," he says, "is just asking for trouble."
Desmond Dinan, a professor of international commerce at George Mason
University and the author of Europe Recast: A History of European
Union (Lynne Rienner, 2004), agrees with Mr. Morgan that there is a
tension -- verging on hypocrisy -- when Europhiles celebrate
post-sovereignty and at the same time talk about the need to balance
American power. But he also says that there is no prospect of the
unitary state that Mr. Morgan proposes. "National interests and
national identities are just too strong," he says.
A Broader Conversation
So what will happen next? Mr. Morgan expects that there will be a
cooling-off period, and that another constitution will be drafted in a
few years, as long as the core institutions stay in place. "The
nightmare scenario is that the euro fails," he says. (A few Italian
politicians have recently murmured about a return to the lira.)
Mr. Morgan is not particularly optimistic about his proposal for a
unitary sovereign state, but he is hopeful that this summer's crisis
will lead to a broader popular conversation about the European Union's
purposes. "All of these fundamental justificatory questions are going
to have to be played out in public now," he says. "I think the old
elite Europe where the demos was locked out is over now, it's
Mr. Dinan, meanwhile, believes that the talk of crisis is overblown.
"I saw a headline the other day that said something like 'Europe in
Crisis: Schroeder Flies to Luxembourg for Consultation,'" he says.
"And I thought, well, compared to Munich in 1938 or Europe in August
1914, this is really not too bad as crises go." It is a measure of the
European Union's success, he says, that peace on the continent is
taken so much for granted.
Not everyone is so comfortable. Mr. Sweeney, of Georgetown, believes
that the entire project of integration could quickly unravel, and that
that in turn could lead to a serious risk of war. "Could the EU
survive if Britain left?" he asks. "I don't think we know the answer
to that. The union may have gotten so big that they can't now shrink
without starting a process that sort of accidentally ends in
Mr. Warleigh, of Limerick, is more sanguine, and has an elaborate plan
for breathing new life into the union. He would like to see a new
constitutional convention whose mission would be to draft two
potential European constitutions.
One would be an intergovernmental model, in which the member nations
would have a good deal of power to shape and veto European
legislation. The other would be a more unitary model, in which EU
leaders would be chosen directly by the European electorate writ
large. The two draft constitutions would then be voted on in referenda
across Europe. If, say, the intergovernmental model won in most
countries, but the Polish public preferred the unitary model, Poland
would then hold a second vote about whether or not to remain in the
This is just the sort of fundamental debate -- a stark and clear
conversation about the EU's structure -- that Mr. Morgan hopes to see.
But he realizes that the most difficult arguments are probably yet to
come. "The questions of political and military policy touch on
questions of national identity," he says. "That's why this debate has
now blown up."
"The Euroskeptics have always said that sovereignty matters, and I
agree with them," Mr. Morgan continues. "I just disagree about how it
matters. Sovereignty ought to be located at the European and not at
the national level. But to get into that issue, we really have to have
a debate about nationalism."
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