Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law

Symposium: Responses to Joschka Fischer


Fischer's Move Towards a European Constitution

German version

Klaus von Beyme *

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This paper is a part of contributions to the Jean Monnet Working Paper
No.7/00, Symposium: Responses to Joschka Fischer

From August 1988 onward, we were harassed non-stop by foreign colleagues and journalists with the question of whether the erosion of the GDR brought the threat of German unity. I always dodged this question with a quotation from Joschka Fischer: `Shut your trap'. This boisterous utterance then meant that Fischer was evidently not-like the bulk of his party-strictly against the idea of unity, but that he felt it inappropriate for himself as a German to fly any kites on this open question. Today, with the question of closer unity of Europe being discussed, one might like to remind Fischer of his one-time reticence. His position has shifted. Even after only two years in office, he was confronted, during the media's `silly season,' with rumours how tired he was of it. So, the call for the great constitutional leap forward in Europe was not a bad chess move in order to give proof of his full presence.

Yet, he is still a German-and, instead of being in opposition, in a very exposed position. Germans who call for more European integration are under the compulsion to handle themselves with special constitutional patriotism. This concentration on the constitutional question is not, however, anything they are likely to be thanked for. Every advance in the direction of more European unification is immediately suspected of being a disguised German hegemony claim. Suspicion is strengthened by the fact that the old debate on a multi-speed Europe is being converted into one about the inner circle of powers ready for integration. The deepening of unity has, from its simultaneous amalgamation with the Union's Eastern enlargement, taken on a new dimension of mistrust: the Eastern European queue is tied more to Germany-particularly in economic terms-than to any other country in Europe. Nostalgias for the entente of the old `cordon sanitaire' times between the wars are occasionally still cherished east of the Oder and south of the Ore Mountains, in favour of a leadership role for France. But the response by the president, government and media in France to Fischer's speech allows doubt as to whether France is truly ready for this leading role.

All analysts agree that a European state-bearing people can hardly be brought into being even by a constitution. The stress on constitutional patriotism that Germans have rightly imposed on themselves because of their history, as an act of `inward asceticism,' has no counterpart in the other European nations which lack bad historical consciences. But they, too, ask themselves what the European citizen can expect from a constitutionally cemented unity of Europe, on discovering T.H. Marshall's threefold division into `legal citizens,' politically democratic `citoyens' and `social citizens'. The dimension of the `cultural citizen' which was subsequently added to this threefold division is irrelevant in the European context.

There are three areas where, in its fundamental documents, the EU undertakes to push forward the internal integration of citizens:

a) as legal citizens,
b) as politically democratic citizens,
c) as social citizens.

It is only the culturally national line that is not available to the Community for the promotion of emotional identification. This is true even without narrowing the concept to high culture. Culture necessarily includes football. But the European Cup is marked by fierce competition and a distinct absence of supranational alliances. People who claim not to give a damn for nationalism wax hysterical when the opponents come close to their own national team's penalty area. In this age of football, one whimsical definition defines the nation by the very existence of a national team. On this definition, Scotland is a nation and Bavaria not. Bavaria has compensated by having Bayern München often act like the national team, often also providing the bulk of it. Cultural identification with Europe remains vague even among cosmopolitans. For whether the references are to the `West' or to `European humanism,' the concepts are unsuitable for ruling out the US or New Zealand, and press beyond Europe's frontiers.

* Translated by Iain L. Fraser.


© Klaus von Beyme 2000


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