Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law


3. Conclusions: Crafting European Integration

The argument thus far suggests that a neo-medieval empire rather than a neo-Westphalian state is in the making. This is bad news for supporters of a European federal state, but it is not necessarily bad news for supporters of European integration. There is no reason to assume that building a neo-Westphalian state is the only solution for the enhancement of European integration. In particular, there is no need to demonise diversity, overlapping authorities and multiple identities. Divergence is a normal state of affairs. Some would even argue that divergence is `pluralism' by another name, and that it is Europe's greatest historical and cultural treasure. Divergence is also a prerequisite of modernity (or, if one prefers, `post-modernity'), in the sense that only highly diversified and pluralistic societies acting in a complex web of institutional arrangements are able to succeed in conditions of modern competition. As Philippe Schmitter argues, effective governance requires `growing dissociation between authoritative allocations, territorial constituencies and functional competencies.'20 It requires an opening of the way for institutional diversity, `for a multitude of relatively independent European arrangements with distinct statuses, functions, resources that operate under different decision rules.'21 A particular form of territoriality-`disjoint, fixed, and mutually exclusive,' to use John Gerard Ruggi's words-is no longer the basis of political life, and the Union is, in fact, very good at `unbundling territoriality.'22 The Union is transforming politics and government at both European and national levels into `a system of multi-level, non-hierarchical, deliberative and apolitical governance.'23

All this does not necessarily mean that we are condemned to neo-medievalism. Nor does it mean that there is nothing wrong with the rise of a neo-medieval empire in Europe. Consider, for instance, two basic prerequisites of political legitimacy: democracy and cultural identity. Democracy can hardly work in a complicated, if not impenetrable, system of multi-layered and multi-speed arrangements run by an ever-changing group of unidentified and unaccountable people. Similarly, affection and identity can hardly develop in a complex system of open-ended arrangements with fluid membership, variable purposes, and a net of cross-cutting functional frames of co-operation. Cultural identity and democracy require transparency, simplicity and a sense of belonging to a defined community, and these are difficult to acquire in a highly diversified and open-ended environment.

We should, therefore, work hard to mitigate the negative effects of neo-medievalism.24 In fact, some of Fischer's suggestions could well be employed for this end. For instance, it would be good to clarify, possibly in the form of a treaty, what is to be regulated at European level and what is to be regulated at national level. It would also be good to codify a catalogue of basic human and civil, and possibly also social, rights of Europe's citizens. It would, furthermore, be good to clarify which applicant countries are going to join the Union, why and when. Such steps would inject a degree of order and predictability into a highly diversified, and sometimes chaotic, European setting. Such steps could also enhance the Union's legitimacy. The ambiguity of successive European arrangements prevents any democratic controls and makes it difficult for Europe's citizens to identify with them. However, efforts to create a core group of countries trying to construct a federal European state should be discouraged. In the long term, these efforts are probably doomed to failure, and, in the short term, they are doomed to produce artificial divisions and conflicts.

20 Schmitter (1996b:132).

21 Schmitter (1996b:127).

22 Ruggie (1993).

23 Hix (1998:54).

24 I suggested some specific ways of handling the issue of democracy and cultural identity in a complex and highly diversified European setting of today in Explaining Euro-paralysis (Zielonka 1998:82-85 and 152-156).



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