It is easy to locate the articles in the series, because the blog entry about the European Federalist Paper number five offers links to the six earlier blog posts.
You can follow @europafederatie (Leo Klinkers) on Twitter and the European Federalist Papers on Facebook.
Number 6 – Klinkers (August 2012)
Through the homepage of the European Federalist Papers we can access all the available information, including the published papers. Here we move on to paper number six.
The firm statements by Tombeur in Paper no. 5 gives reason for Klinkers to dig deeper into the essence of the concept of ‘Federation’. Over four paragraphs he puts questions to Tombeur. In the first paragraph he enquires as to whether the Papers no. 4 and 5 express the personal opinions of Tombeur or whether these are generally accepted by experts in this field. In the second paragraph Klinkers asks how far back can we trace this thinking in terms of a federal organization? Is it a relatively new phenomenon or are its origins found centuries back? The third paragraph casts light on a topic that should be discussed later, namely the position of the United Kingdom in a federal Europe: would the United Kingdom, just as is the case in the present intergovernmental system, be a separate element within a European Federation? In the fourth paragraph he deals with the question of where the driving force is going to come from in order to turn the EU’s dysfunctional intergovernmentalism into a federal system.
The dialogue takes shape, when Klinkers returns with more exact questions to Tombeur, who had replied to his first outlines.
As examples from the history of the USA, Klinkers refers to the relatively short independence of Texas and to the secession by southern states, which led to the Civil War to preserve the union and eventually to the abolition of slavery.
These cases illustrate the question if states can unilaterally decide to leave a federation. He also asks about the status of the United Kingdom, if the rest of the EU decides to establish a federation.
If nine of the thirteen American states were enticed by Freedom – Federal Constitution – Republic, what could encourage Europeans to rise above their narrow-minded nationalist interests, in order to bring them determinedly and convincingly towards the construction of a federal Europe?
The Natural Law principles of the Declaration of Independence (1776) that ”all men are created equal” and endowed with ”certain unalienable Rights” were depreciated by the Constitution of the United States of America (1787), which left representative democracy in the hands of a minority consisting of white males, excluding black slaves, Indians and women.
I was tempted to recall and then dig deeper into the antebellum constitutional and political developments, but decided to return to the European continent.
Let us discuss secession, known as withdrawal in the current Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which clearly states that each EU member state has a right to leave the union.
This is not an ”academic” discussion, because the prime minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron wants to renegotiate Britain's membership terms and an In/Out referendum before the end of 2017, quite possibly leading to Brexit.
Once a member state has reached the decision to exit according to its own constitutional rules, it has an obligation to notify the European Council.
The TEU foresees a peaceful and orderly procedure leading to an agreement between the seceding state and the rest of the EU, but if this fails withdrawal takes place two years after notification, if the parties do not agree to prolong the period to reverse engineer membership.
Even if the member states of the European Union are mainly representative democracies, secession offers an opportunity to try to establish principles for when a (national) referendum is warranted.
Antipathy against the EU or scoring points with the public for being more democratic than political competitiors are not sufficient reasons in my view.
I suggest three different cases:
3. the quantum leap to a European republic with a Basic Law (Constitution), which ensures democratic rule and fundamental rights of the citizens
What does this mean in practice?
As far as I remember the latest countries to join the European Union have all approved membership (including future euro adoption) after national referenda.
No member state has seceded to date, but Greenland (part of Denmark) withdrew.
The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe remained a treaty among states, despite its hyped up name, so there were insufficient grounds for national referenda. Thus, there were not pressing reasons for referenda on the slightly weaker Lisbon Treaty in the first place, although politicians who had promised a plebiscite on the ”Constitution” acted disingenuously if they stressed huge qualitative differences between the two.
Legislation or constitutional interpretations forcing a referendum for every cessation of ”sovereignty” fail to internalise the dynamic character of European integration. It is unfortunate if veto powers of the electorate of one country block progress for the rest of the EU.
Therefore, Denmark, Ireland and nowadays the United Kingdom have, in my opinion, clearly gone too far in promoting a narrow and outdated view of ”sovereignty”, potentially harming the rest of EU countries and citizens.
The new EU Patent Court may become a testing ground for odd referenda in Denmark and Ireland, since mainly businesses are concerned with the real issues. The United Kingdom's ”referendum lock” merits discussion, despite the intergovernmental character of the agreement.
Anyway, both UK legislation and announcements from government ministers show that Britain is unwilling to improve European level democracy.
As I said, the question of secession is serious enough to merit a plebiscite. I do not see sufficient reasons to oppose an In/Out referendum on grounds of principle. There is a real risk that Britain leaves the EU and the Brexit solution would be stupid, but the essence of democracy is that a population lives with the consequences of its collective choices, good or bad.
One or more European countries should agree on a constituent assembly to draft a real European Basic Law (Constitution), to be adopted by the populations mature enough to join the new European Republic. In principle, even one country could become the germ, open for later accession.
The Basic Law should be short and clear enough to be understood by everyone. It needs to vest the power in the people, set out the European level powers and ensure fair ground rules for politics and the fundamental rights of every citizen.
I assume that the new European Republic would be intended to be permanent, but I doubt if conceptual analysis of a federation (or whatever) would do the trick. Abraham Lincoln preserved the American union and he is generally seen as the greatest president of the USA, but I imagine that a European Republic would not go to war to prevent secession.
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