Jean Monnet Center at NYU School of Law

Previous |Next |Up |Title

II States and Nations

In spite of appearances, which suggest that the main issue at stake is the safeguarding of national sovereignty, the reasons accounting for the hostility of the powers that be to European statehood are in essence more down-to-earth than ideological.[20] Old hands identify them in the self-preserving interests of the political and bureaucratic élites in the fifteen states and, in a worthier vein, the awareness of the latter that, in the eyes of their constituencies, the national community remains the broadest focus for political life and group identity.[21] In recent times, however, the same élites have found an unexpected (and in this case unequivocally ideological) ally in those academic and judicial circles which only a few years ago drummed and fifed for the speedy political integration of Europe. Being myself a member of both circles, I am particularly interested in exactly what motivates these views and will seek in the following to identify their underlying causes.

To this end, a premise is indispensable. The new mood which pervades many of the courthouses and the law faculties of Europe (but also some of their offshoots in America) is far from homogeneous. These are intellectual worlds and accordingly the discursive scenery is host to a myriad of details and nuances. With a touch of simplification, however, two streams of thought may be discerned which are not only unlike one another, but also at odds with each other on most qualifying points. The first has thus concluded that `the safest ... option is simply to retreat to what we are familiar with, the nation state' and that any notion of democracy beyond this horizon is `at best sheer Utopianism, at worst downright dangerous.'[22] The second, in the words of its most prestigious spokesman, Professor Joseph Weiler, is opposed to a `statal Europe albeit of a federal kind'[23] because such a polity would assemble and perpetuate all that is `excluding' - or hindering outsiders from entrance, and refusing them participation - in both the history and the practice of the European nation states, and would thus betray the promises implicit in the vision of a merely supranational, rather than statal, Europe. In this respect, the Maastricht Treaty, `having appropriated the deepest symbols of statehood (citizenship, foreign policy, defence) was a deception.'[24]

On a first reading, it would seem readily apparent that these views are nothing if not highly contradictory. However, I intend in the next two paragraphs to delve deeper and argue that, differences apart, both theses stem from a common root: the inability to conceive of statehood in any terms other than nation statehood, or, in a nutshell, to divorce the state from the nation.

[20]See the eloquent examples which Newman, op cit, n 9 at 2 et seq. draws from the attitudes of the opponents of Norway's accession to the EU and of the Eurosceptics in the House of Commons' debate on Britain's contribution to the EU budget. In both cases, which took place in 1994, the slogans and the political priorities involved were quite different.

[21]Wallace, loc cit, n 10 at 55 et seq.

[22] This description of this first stream of thought is from, Curtin, op cit, at 13.

[23] J.H.H. Weiler, `Europe After Maastricht - Do the New Clothes Have an Emperor?' Harvard Jean Monnet Working Paper 12/95, at 13.

[24]Ibid., at 20; Curtin, op cit, n 6 at 16, referring succinctly to Europe as the first `post-modern, ` that is fragmentary and fluid, polity, seems to share, given the positive connotation usually attached to `post-modern, ` at least some aspects of Weiler's position.

Previous |Next |Up |Title



Questions or comments about this site?

Top of the page