Nation, State, Nation-State

The Future of Europe

Dr. Theo Waigel


The process of European cooperation and unification seems at regular intervals to run into crisis. And yet the European Economic Community (EEC) and its successor institutions have so far withstood all critical tensions. The Treaties of Rome were signed on 25 March 1957. That was the starting signal for a unique historic development towards a federation of states, or – in other words – a union of independent nation-states. The question arises of what holds the whole thing together.

The question of identity

Considering what holds Europe together means posing the question of identity in terms of political science. National identity is usually used to describe the ties which bind together the citizens of a state. Today, national identity again means the ties which come from a common language, common history and common culture. Love of one’s country or patriotism must not be confused with nationalism.

European identity?

At the level of the European Community or Union, an identity in that sense does not exist at all, or it exists at best in an early form. Jürgen Habermas wrote in that regard: “The question is not whether a European identity exists, but whether the national arenas can be opened to one another in such a way that the intrinsic dynamic of common political beliefs and intentions on European matters can develop across borders”. An alliance of autonomous nation-states cannot, of course, develop a national identity. And yet this alliance has become a successful Union. For 70 years it has become, to a large extent, a continent of peace and freedom, literally an area without borders for people, goods and ideas, and a practical understanding between peoples. A historically unique interweaving of economy and culture was created. One can describe it as the most successful peace and democracy movement in recent history. The signing of the Treaties of Rome on 25 March 1957 was at the time a revolutionary act. The following questions arise in this context:

-            How did this Union come about?

-            What fuels the ties between members of the Union?

-            How far has this Union come?

The foundations of European unity

Europe’s founding fathers learnt their lessons from history. If the old continent wanted to preserve its political-historical weight, then it had to move from confrontation to cooperation. The future of Europe depends irrevocably on the acceptance of shared responsibility. This acceptance characterised the political actions of important figures such as Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Alcide de Gasperi and Konrad Adenauer – who were all Christian democrats. Winston Churchill went so far as to call the construction “United States of Europe”.

This meant an insight into the boundaries of the nation-state. In the course of European reconstruction, the limits of national freedom of action became increasingly evident. A nation-state cannot by itself guarantee its external security – only great powers can do that. Cross-border problems drastically increase. Examples are transport, environmental protection or immigration, internal security and terrorism. Smaller nation-states can only survive as part of a supranational structure. Finally, the development of the EEC in the course of globalisation became an important pillar of European cooperation. Maastricht and the single economic space were a response to globalisation. The European common currency forms a monetary roof over the economic space.

The intellectual superstructure of European unity

Europe as community of values: today’s Europe is the product of a common historical heritage. As a community of values, Europe is characterised by Christianity and enlightenment. It consists of the formation of democracy as a system of government and the development of the rule of law as the basis of civil society. The state guarantees inviolable human rights and freedoms. The community of values is characterised by the democratic state, pluralist society and social market economy.

From Rome to Lisbon

The development began with the European Coal and Steel Community (Montanunion), which first culminated in the founding of the EEC. At the core of the common market lay the removal of customs tariffs, the establishment of a free-trade area and the introduction of the common market in agriculture. Further stages were the expansion of the Community and the establishment of the European Parliament. Helmut Schmidt and Giscard d’Estaing endeavoured to coordinate the currency initially to the European Monetary System. Kohl and Mitterrand advocated the creation of the internal market, which finally led to the Maastricht Treaty. The Maastricht Treaty, signed on February 7th, 1992, was the foundation of a political union with a single economic area and a common currency. The European finance ministers agreed to my proposal to name the currency “Euro” instead of “ECU”. I had a good argument against conservative Catholics in Germany who opposed the new currency because the Vatican had also introduced it. The Euro was the monetary superstructure of the Union and an irreversible event in the process of further unification. Under the Schengen Treaty, the last remaining border controls disappeared. The treaties of Amsterdam and Nice were further steps towards deepening the Union. The great eastward expansion of the Union took place in 2004. The Treaty of Lisbon provided a provisional conclusion.

Europe in crisis

At present, contemporary critics see the European Union in a state of crisis. There are concerns about the threat of centralism and bureaucracy in Brussels. National representatives criticise unclear decision-making and a lack of democratic legitimacy in decisions taken at the European level. The rights of the European Parliament have been strengthened. Local authorities are represented in the Committee of the Regions. The Principle of Subsidiarity is enshrined in the treaties.

The Euro and the sovereign-debt crisis

The “interim balance”, so to speak, of the European Monetary Union has been extremely positive. Indisputable advantages have been achieved through the removal of transaction costs, planning security in external economy, and, last but not least, an ever-closer approximation of the financial markets. Talk of an alleged euro-crisis is completely without foundation. Throughout the whole economic and financial crisis and since the beginning of the crisis in Greece, the external value of the Euro remained above the rate on its introduction. At just about 1.5 at the beginning of May, the Euro achieved a value against the US Dollar close to the all-time high of the Deutsche Mark against the Dollar. The Euro has proven to be an anchor in recent crises of the world financial system. Without the Euro, national currencies would have been subject to significant revaluation pressure in the global recession. What we were seeing was not a Euro-crisis, but a debt crisis in some of the Euro-countries. Thanks to the constitutional “debt brake”, savings measures and the increase in income as a result of economic conditions, the debt ratio is again falling.

European solidarity

The sovereign-debt crisis has, no doubt, caused serious tensions across the whole EU. The solution to existential tensions requires a minimum level of solidarity among member states. Solidarity must, of course, be linked with subsidiarity, so that states in crisis can contribute to a solution through tough consolidation measures. The earlier EMS could only be maintained through massive intervention by the central banks (300 Billion Dollars in 1992 and 1993). A return to the pre-Maastricht situation would have fatal consequences – for example: interest rates in Italy would increase (the benefit of low interest rates in Italy amounts to more than 30 Billion Euro).

There is not only bad news in Europe. Positive results are coming from recovery programs in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Cyprus which have successfully finished their reform package and are able to access financial markets.

Greece is now trying to come back. For the first time they have a surplus in their budget. Growth in Portugal, Spain and Ireland is higher than average in Europe.

Brexit and its consequences

1945 - Churchill lost the elections to the House of Commons. As leader of the opposition in 1945 Churchill made a passionate plea for a common Europe with GB as a leading nation.

1946 - he gave a great speech in Zürich with the demand to establish the United States of Europe. Later on he added: naturally without the UK.

1963 - De Gaulle vetoed against the entry of the UK into the European Union.

1972 - nearly 10 years later George Pompidou was ready for the accession of the UK with PM Edward Heath.

1974 - 2/3 of British Voters voted pro EU.

The UK was part of the European Monetary system from 1990-1992. In 1992 the Pound got under pressure in the markets. The UK had to leave the system. That was a trauma for the UK. In the Maastricht Treaty the UK required an exemption clause not to join the common currency. They did not want to take part and Tony Blair claimed to have a say in the Euro Group but this was not possible. I do not share the hope of some observers that there could be a reversing from the referendum. Such a constellation or a great political figure is not on the horizon. The UK faces dramatic consequences in financial services and products. For financial operations you need a “European Financial Passport” to use the passporting regime of the EU to conduct business in any other EU country. Until now London was a hub for the entire European banking market. A licence in one EU country is entirely sufficient in every EU country responding to supervision. You can work Fly In-Fly Out without establishing subsidiaries. Similar instructions can be found for insurances, payment service providers and bonds.

Jean Claude Juncker:

“Towards a better Europe – A Europe that Protects, Empowers and Defends”:

·     A Europe that protects;

·     A Europe that preserves the European way of life;

·     A Europe that empowers our citizens;

·     A Europe that defends at home and abroad; and

·     A Europe that takes responsibility.

“What about the Dollar?”

Alan Greenspan’s answer to my question: “It’s my currency and your problem”. The answer today is different. The world currency system has changed. The Dollar remains the most important currency. But we now have a multilateral situation. The Euro is in second place with 23% of the world’s currency reserves. The Renminbi will become the third important currency. China has decided to make its currency convertible.

Europe as a historic opportunity

Project Europe extends far beyond markets and currencies. The European Union must be seen primarily as a historic and political project. The attraction of this community made a decisive contribution to the tearing down of the Iron Curtain. Europe is now a model of peaceful cooperation between “tamed nation-states”. Europe today is facing new challenges. Europeans must now demonstrate a sense of responsibility to the outside world as well as solidarity among themselves. Europe has to make decisions, sometimes with a measure of countries. Decisions should be made faster, if necessary, with those countries that are willing to cooperate. In the age of globalisation, Europeans must develop their own social model. Europeans must initiate dialogue between the great cultures.

Pope Benedict XVI, as cardinal at a conference of the Catholic Academy in Bavaria on April 1979, expressed deep thoughts: “Only if the term Europe is a synthesis of political reality and moral idealism can it become a formative force for the future”. Cardinal Ratzinger emphasized the need for supranational political, economic and legal institutions, which, however, cannot mean building a super-nation, but on the contrary should increasingly give back to the individual regions of Europe their own face and weight. Crucial for Ratzinger is the unconditionality with which human dignity and human rights stand as a value that precedes any state regulation. These superordinate values, the validity of human dignity preceding all political actions, ultimately refer to the Creator. In this respect, essential Christian heritage is here codified in its particular kind of validity. “That there are values that cannot be manipulated by anyone is the true guarantee of our freedom and human greatness”. So, this sentence protects an essential element of Europe’s Christian identity in a formulation that is understandable even to the unbelievers. With this, Ratzinger builds a bridge to the agnostics in the European constitutional debate and tries to create a common ground between Christians and nonbelieving humanists.

A similar idea was developed by Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger on June 3, 1992 in the Catholic Academy in Munich. Europe is Christian, in Lustiger’s opinion, as long as it always tries to self-criticise and self-create. Christians do not claim a monopoly of the European idea. The freedom that the Church demands of the communities and states for herself and for her members, she also requires for every human being. This is positive tolerance. It teaches openness to others and dialogue as a testimony to the truth.

What does Europe need? Ideas, perspectives, concepts

1.      The goal is “The United States in Europe”.

2.      Politically and legally, this Europe consists of concentric circles: the innermost circle forms the Economic and Monetary Union with its members. In the next circle are the members of the European Union. EU candidate countries are located in the third circle and the outermost circle is formed by partner states such as Turkey and Russia. The focus is on the United States in Europe, which is more than a confederation of states but not a federal state of former times.

3.      The principle of subsidiarity must finally be brought to life.

4.      The consolidation of households in all countries is in line with the principle of sustainability. It depends on friendship between generations and must be made a constitutional goal nationally and supranationally.

5.      There are important and approvable projects such as better education of young people and the resolute fight against youth unemployment in some countries.

6.      Only Europe is able to curb tax evasion and tax avoidance.

7.      Europe needs a common refugee policy, especially a development policy for Africa to solve wars and the refugee situation.

8.      The European idea needs renewal. For this purpose, an “Alliance for Europe” should be created, with churches, businesses, trade unions, farmers, youth, cultural workers and foundations, cities, communities. They should form a constructive network for the irreversible path to a common Europe.



Nazione, Stato, Stato Nazione

Sessione Plenaria 1-3 maggio 2019 | Nota concettuale – Oggi il mondo si trova ad... Continua

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