Following the ratification by the European Council in Brussels of a document that goes by the name of constitution (even though in fact it does nothing other than formalise the existing divisions within the European Union), some have claimed that the summit, and the whole process that led up to it, was characterised by the emergence of opposing eurosceptic and federalist lines, and that the former has prevailed over the latter.
This is a false claim. Nowhere in the whole debate over the so-called constitution, either within the convention or among the governments, is there a trace of a federalist line to be found, given that no one has ever argued for the need to found a European federal state. In reality, what the eurosceptics have been facing is merely Europeanism in its Community mould, a Europeanism that has never really challenged the sovereignty of the states, always maintaining that the problem of European unity can be solved through modification of the regulations governing the working of the EU institutions.
As Tony Blair himself previously believed, the eurosceptics would, in theory, have best served their cause by allowing the text of the “constitution,” approved by the convention and supported by Community Europeanism, to go through unchallenged. Although adopting this line would have meant doing nothing to alter the status quo, it would have created plenty of scope for European rhetoric and for the setting up of false objectives that would have fuelled false debates and thus given public opinion the false impression that the process of European unification had regained its momentum. This, of course, would have had the effect of postponing, for a considerable period of time, any recognition of the true nature of the choice that now faces Europe.
But even shrewd and able politicians like Blair have opponents and public opinion with which to reckon. That is why in Brussels Blair could not content himself with winning: he was obliged to win a crushing victory. This has made European rhetoric more difficult to use for Community Europeanists and the impossibility of achieving gradual institutional advances through the reaching of a consensus among the twenty-five member states more apparent. Thus, in the face of evidence of Europe’s growing division, there have begun to emerge tangible signs of an awareness that, if the process of European unification is to be saved from definitive failure, a dramatic change of direction is needed, as well as an acceptance that some sort of rupture in the Union is inevitable.
This is still a very vague awareness, not strengthened as yet by any real understanding of the issue over which this split must come about, of the framework within which it might emerge, and of the way in which it might be pursued. For this reason it is essential to underline three points:
1) The issue that must give rise to the split is that of the relinquishing of sovereignty, in other words, that of the birth, within Europe, of a federal state. It is on this basis alone that the process of unification of the entire continent can be restarted. Any contraposition other than this would only be a further symptom of the Union’s disintegration.
2) The framework within which there will emerge a readiness to relinquish national sovereignty, and on the basis of this, a willingness to break away, albeit temporarily, from the rest of Europe, can only be that of Europe’s six founding member states, or even a narrower framework that may initially embrace only France and Germany, should any other founding state not be ready, at the outset, to form part of the vanguard.
3) The way in which the split will come about can only be that of a breakaway action, in other words, denunciation, or the threat of denunciation, or out-and-out violation of the existing treaties. It is certainly futile to hope that it might come about through the implementation of some sort of legal expedient, such as the mechanisms of ‘enhanced’ or ‘structured’ cooperation, imagining that the vanguard might be formed, as if by magic, through a smooth and painless transition from today’s feeble 25-member confederal framework to a narrower federal one.
The time has come to replace the dividing line that, in the recent past, has separated the openly declared eurosceptics from the Community Europeanists with a different line that sets anti-Europeans, however they are defined, in opposition to federalists. Community Europeanism has nothing left to offer. All it can realistically do now is attempt to manage the present through the adoption of increasingly anachronistic standpoints. Today, being pro-European can be synonymous only with fighting for a European federal state, and accepting all the consequences inherent in this objective.