Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

“Tidying up” vs. “Federalisation” and “anti-European” vs. “anti-EU”

A couple of posts on the two semi-official pro-EU blogs have once again attracted demands from Eurosceptics for explanations and clarifications. First, over at Commissioner Wallstr�m‘s place, someone asks:

“Here in the UK, our Labour politicians say that the European Constitution is only a ‘tidying up excercise’, while on the continent most politicians state categorically that it is the foundation of a Federal Europe. If one is right, then the other must be either lying or ignorant Where do you stand on this issue?”

As I know you’re all fascinated (and so I’ve got a record of it), here’s my wonderfully astute response:

Typically enough, both are (sort of) correct. It can happily be seen as either, depending on your point of view. It does tidy up previous treaties into one single document (notably sorting out some of the more useless parts of the shoddy Nice one), and introduces a few other areas where EU bodies can have some influence in the lives of the individual member states.

Some of these new areas could – eventually – lead to a more federal structure (after all, the EU is already federal in its loosest definition). Whether this will actually happen or not is another matter entirely. Considering each member state will retain their vetos in a number of important areas, and that new areas of Qualified Majority Voting require majorities of both member states and EU population, it is unlikely actually to lead to any kind of closer political federation unless all member states agree. As long as countries like Britian remain wary, it is highly unlikely.

It would, however, be foolish utterly to discount the possibility that at some stage in the future a closer federation may be a sensible move, so that is left as a vague possibility to appease that minority of European politicians who would genuinely like to see a “United States of Europe”.

In other words, the problem with the constitution is not that it’s a shift to federalism, but that it’s trying to appeal to everyone at once. The fact that it has aspects that can appeal to (almost) everyone naturally means that it can be interpreted in numerous different ways. In such an insanely long and complicated document, it’s hardly surprising that there’s a lot of room for interpretation – but it includes safeguards to help ensure that no member state will have an interpretation of the thing imposed upon them if they disagree with it.

Meanwhile, over at the Yes Campaign blog, someone suggests that rather than pro-European / anti-European, the terms “Pro-Political Union” and “Anti-Political Union” be used instead.

Again, here’s my brilliantly insightful take:

The trouble with that is that there would still be confusion over precisely what is meant by “political union”. If it means union in a European superstate along the lines of the USA, then many pro-EU people who would like to see more integration and cooperation (myself included) would be opposed. Just because you are pro-EU and want to see more cooperation does not necessarily mean that you want an utterly centralised federal state to emerge from the current system.

Personally, I normally go for “pro-EU” and “anti-EU” – but even they have their problems as terms. “Pro-EU” can easily be (and frequently is) mistaken for meaning “supportive of the current EU system, everything it does, and everything it seems to be wanting to achieve”. Many people (again, myself included) who would consider themselves “pro-EU” are actually highly critical of the current system. There are very, very few “pro-EU” people who would deny that the current EU has its flaws – many of them major. Nonetheless, they all think that these flaws can be rectified.

Again, however, they do not necessarily agree on what the best solutions to the current problems may be. What they do all share is a belief that it is in the best long-term interest of all European states to cooperate more closely. Quite what they mean by “long-term” is, however, yet another matter again…