Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


2. Neo-Westphalian State vs. Neo-Medieval Empire

Fischer assumes that exclusion of Eastern European nations from more advanced forms of integration is only a temporary phenomenon. In due course, they are also likely to join the European federation. My argument is that a level of diversity in a broader pan-European setting prevents the creation of such a federation, thus exclusion would need to have a more permanent character. However, I will go a step further and argue that Fischer's vision of a European federation is not even possible in a narrower setting confined to only the Western part of the continent. This is partly due to the persisting divergence among the EU's existing Member States, and partly due to the forces of interdependence and globalisation currently at work in Europe and elsewhere.

Fischer's term `European federation' has alarmed most Euro-sceptics. But the key element of Fischer's vision is not so much a European federation, but a (federal) European state. As Tanja A. Börzel and Thomas Risse show in another contribution to this volume, there are already plenty of federal elements within the current Union despite the strong positions of individual Member-States. The point is, therefore, not whether the Union will transform itself from a confederation into a federation, but whether it will become a federal state. At present, the Union is anything but a state: it has no proper government, no fixed territory, no army or police, no constitution, nor even a normal legal status. And the federalist argument is that integration should produce most, if not all, of these characteristics. In short, the final state of integration would be the creation of a post-Westphalian type of state with clear borders, hierarchical governing structures and a distinct cultural identity. A contrast to this Westphalian model is provided by a neo-medieval model in which the borders are soft and never fixed, authority is dispersed, and multiple cultural identities co-exist. Table 1 illustrates these two possible extreme outcomes of the current political, economic and cultural developments in Europe.Of course, abstract models cannot but oversimplify complex processes and structures.12 But if the current trend suggests that there is a neo-imperial empire rather than a post-Westphalian federation in the making, then it is difficult to reverse this trend by a simple act of institutional engineering.

Table 1: Two Contrasting Models of a Future EU

Westphalian super-state

Neo-medieval empire

Hard & fixed external border lines

Soft border zones in flux

Relatively high socio-economic homogeneity

Socio-economic discrepancies persist without consistent patterns

A pan-European cultural identity prevails

Multiple cultural identities coexist

Overlap between legal, administrative, economic & military regimes

Disassociation between authoritative allocations, functional competencies and territorial constituencies

A clear hierarchical structure with one centre of authority

Interpenetration of various types of political units and loyalties

Distinction between EU members & non-members is sharp & it is most crucial

Distinction between the European centre and periphery is most crucial, but blurred

Redistribution centrally regulated within a closed EU system

Redistribution based on different types of solidarity between various transnational networks

One single type of citizenship

Diversified types of citizenship with different sets of rights and duties

A single European Army and Police force

Multiplicity of various overlapping military and police institutions

Absolute sovereignty regained

Divided sovereignty along different functional and territorial lines

The key variable in determining the future course of developments is the degree of convergence and divergence in Europe. A neo-Westphalian European state could only work in a relatively homogenous environment. Free trade zones can, admittedly, operate in a vastly diversified setting. However, this does not equally apply to more ambitious projects of political, economic and military integration. Common laws and administrative regulations cannot cope well with a highly diversified environment, and consequently various complicating opt-outs and multi-speed arrangements are required. A degree of common values and habits is also needed for a system to function efficiently and legitimately. The existence of largely incompatible members multiplies the EU's internal boundaries, however informal, and creates incentives for some smaller groups of countries to `go it alone'.13

From a broader historical perspective, Western Europe certainly shares some important common cultural, economic, and political characteristics with Eastern Europe. However, crossing the East-West divide during the Cold War was like entering a totally alien, if not hostile, empire with different laws and a different economy, education, ideology and culture. Bridging this gap is seen as crucial for the EU's enlargement policy to succeed. Without closing this gap, the creation of a Westphalian type of state is virtually impossible. The EU accession strategy is based on a strict conditionality principle. Applicant states are confronted with an ever-growing list of conditions that would make them compatible with the current members and fit them into the existing system, and the Union does its best to help the applicant countries to meet these conditions by providing financial help and human expertise.14 However, the process of adjustments cannot but take many decades. Economic discrepancies between the Eastern and the Western parts of Europe are great. Although some applicant states from Eastern Europe are currently enjoying much higher rates of economic growth than are the existing EU members, catching up with the affluent West will take at least 15 or 20 years, even according to the most optimistic scenarios.15 The adoption of an 80,000 pages long acquis communautaire should also be counted in decades not years, especially if we expect Eastern European countries to adopt not only the letter but also the spirit of Western European laws and regulations.

Moreover, the progress of adjustment is doomed to be unequal for different countries and in different functional fields. This will create a very complex map of divergence and convergence that defines geography, history and existing cultural patterns.

Finally, the Europeanisation of post-communist countries will go hand in hand with Americanisation and globalisation. In other words, some of these countries might, in due course, come to resemble less and less a `European model' in a given functional field. In the field of social policy, for instance, countries like Hungary have already adopted a system that more resembles the United States of America than Germany or Sweden. The US also has much more influence in shaping the police and military forces in these countries.

Divergence is also significant among current EU Member States, and this possibly explains why the federal project has not `got off the ground' before now.16 In many respects, Great Britain also resembles America more than Germany or France. Average support for democracy in Finland is much lower than in any other EU Member State (and lower than in some applicant states), while in Spain the average rejection of violence as a political instrument is strikingly below the EU average.17 Austria's GDP per capita is more than double that of Portugal: $25,666 compared to $10,167 (figures for 1997). Slovenia's GDP per capita ($9,039) is nearly as high as that of Portugal. In fact, the lines of divergence in various functional fields of the economy, law, and culture do not correspond with the Cold War divide between the East and West. These lines run across the continent in chaotic zigzags and create a very complex picture indeed.

But what about a Westphalian state confined only to a hard core of the most developed and compatible countries? If one looks at the historical process of state formation, success has largely been determined by the degree to which states were able to assure overlap between administrative borders, military frontiers, cultural traits and market fringes.18 As Stefano Bartolini put it: 19

Nation states of the European type are characterised by boundaries which are simultaneously military, economic, cultural and functional. By crossing the boundary of the state, one passes, at the same time, into the imperium of alternative extractive agencies, into a different economic market, into a different community and into a different set of functional regimes such as educational systems, welfare state, legal jurisdiction, and so forth. This (territorial) coincidence of different type boundaries has been their distinctive trait-which distinguishes them from earlier or different forms of politische Verbände-and their legitimacy principle.

If the core group of the EU is serious about constructing a Westphalian type of state, it will also need to provide an overlap between different the types of borders, frontiers, fringes and triads. However, this will not be easy to accomplish. The Union currently acts in concentric circles and variable geometric patterns due to various opt-outs negotiated by individual Member States in the areas of foreign, monetary or social policy. At the same time, its laws and regulations are increasingly being applied beyond the EU's borders, particularly in Eastern European applicant states. The Union also lacks a strong and coherent sense of cultural identity, let alone a European demos. In short, there is a significant disjunction between the Union's functional and territorial boundaries, and it would be difficult to overcome this disjunction by the creation of a core group. In fact, the creation of a core group is likely to complicate, rather than simplify, relations between individual EU's Member States because an additional set of co-operative frameworks would be added to the existing ones.

Moreover, and probably more crucially, globalisation has eroded the capacity of any integrated political unit to maintain a discrete political, cultural, or economic space within its administrative boundary. Economic sovereignty, in particular, has been eroded by massive international labour and capital flows that constrain individual abilities of governments to defend the economic interests of their units. Territorial defence along border lines has been made largely obsolete by modern weapons technology. Migration and other forms of cross-border movements are on the rise, despite all the efforts of border guards and surveillance technology to seal the frontiers. Normative models and cultural habits are spreading via satellite television and the internet in a largely uncontrolled manner. Both the Union and its Member States are losing control over the legal and administrative regimes within their respective borders because they are increasingly being defined by supranational bodies such as the WTO.

In short, the instruments of a Westphalian type of state are no longer available to contemporary territorial units. It is no longer possible to control trans-border flows, suppress multiple cultural identities or defend particular lines of demarcation. It is difficult to regain an absolute form of sovereignty even among a largely compatible set of states. A core group would find it difficult to build up a Westphalian type of federation in a post-modern environment of cascading interdependence and globalisation.

12 For more about the use of models in analysing the future of European integration, see, Munch (1996) or Caparoso (1996).

13 For an analysis of the problem of managing diversity in the European Community in the early 1980s, see, Wallace & Ridley (1985).

14 The 1997 EU's document entitled Agenda 2000 envisaged an `enlargement package' of assistance to the applicant Member States of no less than ECU 75 billion: see,

15 See, for example, Vaughan-Whitehead (2000).

16 As Fritz Scharpf points out, (Scharpf 1994), the current EU lacks three of the crucial attributes which confer a degree of policy-making autonomy on federal states: relatively homogeneous political culture and public opinion, political parties operational at both levels of governance and a high degree of economic and cultural homogeneity.

17 For detailed data, Fusch & Klingemann (forthcoming).

18 See, Rokkan et al (1987:17-18); Kratochwil (1986:25-52).

19 Stefano Bartolini, `Exit options, boundary building, political restructuring,' paper presented at the Departmental Seminar, European University Institute, Florence, October 28, 1997, p. 27 (unpublished).



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