Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law

Symposium: Responses to Joschka Fischer


A Federation of Nation States or a Federal State?

French version

Charles Leben *

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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

It is rare for a major politician's thoughts to turn away from the immediate and pressing problems of his position in order to consider basic problems whose solutions cannot be immediate. When it does happen, the analysis brings out the capacity for long-term thinking, that is, the capacity to have a genuine vision of the future. This is just what makes the speech given by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer at the Humboldt University in Berlin, on 12 May 2000, so interesting.

We do not wish to pick up all the elements of this very rich analysis here, but to focus solely on the problems in the theory of the state that are at the core of Joschka Fischer's thinking. And just as he deliberately expresses himself in the long term, taking care to stress that these are only personal thoughts and that `no-one need be afraid of these ideas' (p. 8 of the English version), we shall devote ourselves to theoretical thinking `beyond the Intergovernmental Conference,' as he, once again, specifies.

Wishing to summarise the question that the German Foreign Minister asks both himself and his Union partners, one might put it like this: how can the Community institutions be made simpler, more transparent, more effective, more democratic, more welcoming to candidates, more effective with thirty countries, rather than fifteen, while enabling progress along the path of integration and maintaining the nation-states intact? This is a problem that looks rather like squaring the circle.

For Joschka Fischer, the solution is fairly simple: to move from the present state of the Union, which he, as we shall see, very rightly analyses as that of a confederation, to a higher stage which he calls a federation, whose features we shall have to examine. However, before doing so, it would be a good idea to clarify the source of the bulk of the Community's (or the Union's) dysfunctions.

* Translated by Iain L. Fraser.


© Charles Leben 2000


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