Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The EU Constitution? I'll give it a try.

Ok folks, I'm taking the plunge. I will try and fit in and discuss the EU Constitution (sort of). Keep your fingers crossed!!!

My dear friend and co-blogger, Srdjan Cvijic wrote in an earlier blog post.
To criticize the EU for being a neo-liberal construction[], undermines the complexity of this polity but also implicitly advances a fallacious argument that nation-state (EU Member States) have greater legitimacy than the EU. This argument is based solely on theoretical prejudicing in favour of the nation-state centred classical political theory.

Srdjan then goes on to discuss how classical political theory considers sovereignty to be a product of democratic legitimacy.

I won't argue with Srdjan, who knows much more than I do, about classical underpinnings of sovereignty. I will quibble with him about what makes the EU different from a nation-state that can result in lessened legitimacy of the EU system...that is, a threshold level presence of sovereignty.

As Stephen Krasner very eloquently outlined in his book "Organized Hypocrisy", the concept of sovereignty is four-fold: interdependence sovereignty (influence of the globalized world manifest through dependency of nations on goods, services, etc. outside of one's own domain); domestic sovereignty (the "final source of authority" that exists in all polities); international legal sovereignty (recognition of the polity by other polities as possessing the ability to affect change within its borders and the ability to engage in international legal obligations); and Westphalian sovereignty (what is usually commonly meant by the "sovereignty", a principle of non-interference).

The ultimate challenge of the EU, in this case being addressed in the context of the formation of the EU Constitution, is how to empower the international polity without eradicating the member states. Clearly, this is the concern of many citizens of many of the nation-states. The crux of their concern is tied to the undebatable point that the further the citizen is from the decision-maker, the less likely that the citizen will be able to impose change. This concern does not necessarily impose the necessary governance of democracy, because even dictators are, to a degree, bound by their citizenry (arguably to a degree more than several EU institutions). But this point DOES tie to the sovereign underpinnings requiring that the nation-state be CAPABLE of imposing change within their own boundaries. As a result, the EU and the nation-states have attempt to strike a balance of power. But as Krasner noted in 1983, international arrangements among like-minded nations are easily "upset when either the balance of power or the perception of national interests...change among those states who negotiate them."

The ultimate point is that, the source of "final authority" remains with the nation-state. Similarly, the nation-state has required that it possess a right to withdraw from the EU. There are procedural barriers to such a withdrawal, but this formalized right demonstrates the presence of "final authority". Until the EU can match such authority, the nation-state DOES retain a heightened legitimacy to the EU...the type of heightened legitimacy that only final authority can provide.

1 comment:

ken said...

The problem with agreeing to the process of withdrawal, as stipulated in the Constitution, is that this is putting conditions on the final authority of the member states governments; hence it is removing or impeding sovereignty. There is nothing in the Constitution that will prevent changes to this clause in the future which could conceivable make withdrawal even more complicated, of course this would have to be agreed by the government of the day, but as is evidenced by last weeks decision by the British government, changes to the constitution can be affected without passing legislation through the full British parliament.

As to the “final source of authority" internal sovereignty the ability for the people to affect change within their own borders, this is totally eradicated by the international agreements made at the EU level, so the only way we can restore our sovereignty is to leave the Union. Of course until that is achieved there is a loss of internal sovereignty, the people cannot affect their laws or their government, by voting for this or that political party, or at least not one that has any chance of forming a government, until then we will find that we are taken deeper into the EU, until finally it may well be impossible for us to leave. So the withdrawal clause does not give the people any hope of re- establishing their sovereignty. Voting No to the Constitution is the only chance we will have to stop the further erosion of internal sovereignty, this is not really an external problem, we cannot blame the EU for taking our powers when it has been our own governments, that have freely given those powers to the EU institutions without a clear mandate from the people to do so, that is the battle we the people must win, so that in future no government can usurp the final authority of the people.