Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law

Symposium: Responses to Joschka Fischer


A Constitution for the European Federation:
A Steady Development of Existing Achievements *

German Version

Katharina Holzinger and Christoph Knill **

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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

In the run-up to the Nice summit there is a sharpened tone in the debate about the future form of the European institutional system. The criticism centres around the vision of the German Secretary of State, Joschka Fischer, which he first presented on 12 May 2000 at Humboldt University in Berlin and recently repeated for the Belgian Parliament. What is surprising is not so much the sceptical reaction from Great Britain as the untypically sharp statements from the French Secretary of State, Hubert Védrine. Not only did Védrine attack Fischer for his visionary thought experiment, he also declined his proposal in Nice to summon a further reform conference.

Irrespective of this current conflict, which is to be viewed against the background of the French domestic policy, it can hardly be contested that the Union will be require further reforms, beyond the resolutions in Nice. If, like Fisher, we accept that it is politically imperative to expand the Union both towards the East and the Southeast, then it is necessary to accommodate the institutions and our view of integration to the new facts. The principles and maxims at the basis of Fischer's model will certainly find broad consent. The reform and the further development of European institutions must aim to maintain a functioning Europe when the Union encompasses 25 or 30 member states. In a federation of nation-states, subsidiarity must serve as the highest principle in partitioning sovereignty, the vertical partitioning of authorities between the nation-states and the European Federation. And finally, given the economic and cultural diversity of the future members, it seems to make sense to envisage the possibilities for a flexible integration, consequently to enable joint policies to be carried out in some areas without the participation of all of the members. This would be similar to common currency and economic union today, which excludes some members.

These basic principles allow for a great deal of freedom in concretely structuring institutions. Fischer's formulations of the proposals for the institutional system are very open, and they fail to offer solutions for numerous pressing problems in the Union, which must be approached at the next governmental conference. Thus, for instance, his proposal is ambiguous with respect to how the "European Government," be it "a developed European Commission" or a body of national ministers, is to be appointed, and it does not determine how decisions are to be made in the European Council or a federal second chamber. But both problems must be solved today to ensure that the Union will be able to function in the next rounds of expansion. Védrine has already drawn attention to this, too. Moreover, Fischer's model departs from the previous logic of the political system of the EU and partially turns back of some of the advances that have already been made. Some elements of Fischer's ideas, such as his view that there should be a directly elected President or a second chamber according to the US senate model, are reminiscent of the American presidential system. However, thus far the institutional system of the EU has operated according to the model of parliamentary democracy - like most of the constitutions in Europe. A parliamentary democratic system would thus have the advantage of being more familiar to the European citizenry. Fischer's proposal signifies a break with the institutional tradition of the EU.

* From: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11-29-00

** Max-Planck Project Group
Common Goods: Law, Politics and Economics, Bonn


© Katharina Holzinger and Christoph Knill 2000


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