Portfolio blogger

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Ever closer union - why and how?

Do not be deceived, I will not philosophise about federalism, power to the EU or power away from it. These are important questions and are dealt with on this blog several times, connected to concrete questions.
What I want to recall here, is just where this term comes from and how it became an obsession.
First of all, the reference is to the first recital of the Rome Treaty, creating the European Economic Community or simply said, the Common Market. Great, let's see whether the Rome treaty actually contains this formulation, or something else. We open EUR-Lex, look for the Rome treaty and find it - surprise, surprise, as the United Kingdom was not among the founding members - in Dutch, French, German and Italian (in alphabetic order of the name of the languages) - Belgium spoke French and Dutch and Luxembourg German and French, therefore four languages for the six founding states. No English, sorry. Here is the link: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:11957E/TXT - EN stands for the language of the interface, not of the text.
As a devout European and speaking some European languages (one from each main language family), I can try to find the phrase in the existing versions. In Dutch: "verbond", German: "Zusammenschluß". However, in French: "union", in Italian: "unione". So far tie.
The English translation is, however available on the Commission archives.
Let's see this text: it talks about: "lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of
Before continuing, a look at the Maastricht treaty shows a new text as the first recital: "to mark a new stage in the process of European integration undertaken with the establishment of the European Communities" while the last recital already continues the line of thought: " to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity,.

Some commentators conclude from the first recital, that it has nothing to do with political union, but targets to bring the peoples of Europe closer together. Reading the other linguistic versions, this interpretation seems close. The member states creating the European Union, however, saw their enterprise expanding co-operation to non-economic political areas, although at different depth - the famous "three-pillar approach" abandoned by the Lisbon Treaty -  as the further implementation of the original idea, thus giving it a more express political dimension retroactively.

I did not really hear any "federalist" to quite this passage to support any idea of closer co-operation while this was often quoted as the stumbling block by Britons - be euroskeptic or just opportunist like Cameron - hindering their country's commitment to the EU. The thoughts I outlined above are quoted in defence of loosening the union by Fullfacts, which calls itself "the UK’s independent factchecking charity" - and is actually fairly neutral

So what is left is to quote again the  final phrase of the already quoted recital of the Maastricht treaty: "...in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity". This can be seen as a limit, or even as a guiding principle what this ever closer union will really look like.

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