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«De Europa»: Understanding and Making European Integration


L’Europe se construit. C’est une grande espérance. Elle ne se réalisera que si elle tient compte de l’histoire: une Europe sans histoire serait orpheline et malheureuse.
Car aujourd’hui vient d’hier, et demain sort du passé. Un passé qui ne doit pas paralyser le présent, mais l’aider à être différent dans la fidélité, et nouveau dans le progrès. Notre Europe, entre Atlantique, Asie et Afrique, existe depuis très longtemps en effet, dessinée par la géographie, modelée par l’histoire, depuis que les Grecs lui ont donné son nom, toujours repris depuis. L’avenir doit s’appuyer sur ces héritages qui, depuis l’Antiquité, voir la préhistoire, ont fait de l’Europe un monde d’une exceptionnelle richesse, d’un extraordinaire créativité dans son unité et sa diversité.

Jacque Le Goff, 1993

Why start a new journal? The European Union at risk of collapsing

Within the international publishing scenario, there is no shortage of journals on Europe. So why start a new one?

First of all, I expressed my intention to publish a journal on Europe as one of the initiatives foreseen in application of the Jean Monnet Chair at the University of Turin; and thanks to this financing the journal is now being published. The main purpose of a new journal on Europe is to address the current state of European integration. A cultural effort is required in this problematic, unclear scenario so we can redefine and revitalise the underlying reasons for unification.

Europe has been experiencing a crisis for a long time now, a crisis that not only concerns the economy and migration, but that is mainly existential, affecting the very nature of the European Union (EU), its ubi consistam, its aims.

This crisis has been manifesting itself blatantly through the spread of Eurosceptic and nationalist movements, which in some cases even call for exiting the single currency, if not the EU itself. In its nearly seventy-year history, the EU has got far stronger, although without ever reaching the point of no return. However, more than ever before, it has had to face such incredible difficulties and challenges that have put its very existence and the results achieved by integration (in particular peace, democracy and well-being) at risk. The intense flow of immigrants has challenged the principle of the free movement of people within the EU, one of the four freedoms of movement guaranteed under the Treaties, and has generated serious political and social tension. The former German Minister of Finance’s request that Greece be excluded from the euro, and the desire of several Eurosceptic leaders to have their own countries leave the single currency have compromised the principle of the indissolubility of monetary union, already threatened by growing economic, social and territorial imbalances. Brexit undermined the idea of the irreversibility of EU membership. International events have confirmed, if ever proof were needed, the weakness of EU foreign policy, its little weight in the world and its vulnerability in the face of threats to global security. Terrorism has fuelled people’s fear of the other, of difference, and fostered a closed, nationalistic and xenophobic attitude towards the outside world.

This has led to a serious weakening of the European Union, the loss of its appeal and a change in the public’s attitude towards integration. There has been a shift away from rather broad consensus, albeit general, poorly informed and motivated (the so-called “permissive consensus” typical of the first decades of integration, an overall widespread yet passive Europeanism), to a form of disaffection that sometimes morphs into the rejection of integration. The resurgence of nationalism and aspirations to restore full national sovereignty that are being advocated by populist rhetoric provide a glimpse of the dream of the return to a mythical golden age of self-sufficient nation-states. The latter are supposedly able to meet citizens’ needs and continue guaranteeing an extensive social security system, which in recent years, according to populist propaganda, has been scaled down by austerity policies imposed by a technocratic caste rooted in the EU. This attitude results in demands to reduce the EU’s powers, re-nationalise some of its policies and regain the sovereignty surrendered to Europe.

 

The culture of the nation-state: An atavism

What inspires Europhobic and nationalist positions, regardless of the specific root cause (the economic crisis, unemployment, terrorism, immigration, the alleged threat to national identity, etc.) is a cultural factor that lies not in the outer world or in the problems that need to be solved, but in ourselves, in the conceptual categories we employ to understand, interpret and change the outside world. This factor is an atavism, a legacy of the past, a remnant of the culture of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century that resulted in the two world wars and the crisis in Europe: the myth of the sovereign nation-state, self-sufficient and sufficient unto itself. Since the birth of the nation-state during the 19th century, we have got used to considering political, economic and social problems as national problems. We see reality from the point of view of our nation, which we believe is a fixed point around which all other events revolve (Morelli 2018, pp. 47-50).

By 1945 Emery Reves had already begun arguing that this method of analysis was inadequate:

Nothing can distort the true picture of conditions and events in this world more than to regard one's own country as the center of the universe, and to view all things solely in their relationship to this fixed point. It is inevitable that such a method of observation should create an entirely false perspective. Yet this is the only method admitted and used by the seventy or eighty national governments of our world, by our legislators and diplomats, by our press and radio. All the conclusions, principles and policies of the peoples are necessarily drawn from the warped picture of the world obtained by so primitive a method of observation. Within such a contorted system of assumed fixed points, it is easy to demonstrate that the view taken from each point corresponds to reality. If we admit and apply this method, the viewpoint of every single nation appears indisputably correct and wholly justified. But we arrive at a hopelessly confused and grotesque over-all picture of the world… And the citizens of every country will be at all times convinced - and rightly so - of the infallibility of their views and the objectivity of their conclusions. It is surely obvious that agreement, or common understanding, between different nations, basing their relations on such a primitive method of judgment, is an absolute impossibility. A picture of the world pieced together like a mosaic from its various national components is a picture that never and under no circumstances can have any relation to reality… The world and history cannot be as they appear to the different nations, unless we disavow objectivity, reason and scientific methods of research… our inherited method of observation in political and social matters is childishly primitive, hopelessly inadequate and thoroughly wrong. If we want to try to create at least the beginning of orderly relations between nations, we must try to arrive at a more scientific, more objective method of observation, without which we shall never be able to see social and political problems as they really are, nor to perceive their incidence. And without a correct diagnosis of the disease, there is no hope for a cure… For many centuries such an approach was unchallenged and unchallengeable. It served to solve current problems in a satisfactory way and the existing methods of production, distribution, of communications and of interchange among the nations did not necessitate nor justify the formulation and acceptance of a different outlook. But the scientific and technological developments achieved by the industrial revolution in one century have brought about in our political outlook and in our approach to political and social phenomena a change as inevitable and imperative as the Renaissance brought about in our philosophical outlook.

Reves came to the following concise conclusion:

Our political and social conceptions are Ptolemaic. The world in which we live is Copernican… There is not the slightest hope that  we can possibly solve any of the vital problems of our generation until we rise above dogmatic nation-centric conceptions and realize that, in order to understand the political, economic and social problems of this highly integrated and industrialized world, we have to shift our standpoint and see all the nations and national matters in motion, in their interrelated functions… without any fixed points created by our own imagination for our own convenience (Reves 1945, pp. 22-23, p. 27, p. 29).

This does not mean that there is no point to the nation-state; its functions are still indispensable to ensure the well-being and security of its citizens, although some of its powers have been shifted upwards (to international and regional organisations) and downwards (to regional and local authorities thanks to decentralisation). This means overcoming the culture of the nation-state, i.e. the belief that all problems can be solved within the nation-state itself, ignoring the ever-closer interrelations that have been forged with other countries as a result of economic, social, cultural and technological evolution. We no longer live in a world of independent, self-sufficient sovereign states. Globalisation (in its many forms: political, economic, financial, social, cultural, legal, ecological, health, linguistic, etc.), regional integration and international organisations have restricted state sovereignty. The world has become interdependent, related, globalised: it has become a global village. In a global world we need to realise that things are interdependent and admit that states alone are no longer able to solve problems that go beyond their borders, taking on an international dimension. We must abandon 19th century nation-centric categories that distort our vision of reality and use global paradigms that make it possible to grasp the interdependencies that bind states and face contemporary challenges with the appropriate tools.

In 1918 Luigi Einaudi wrote against the dogma of absolute sovereignty:

The dogma of perfect sovereignty must be destroyed and banished forever… because it is false, unreal. Truth is the unifying bond, not the sovereignty of the States. The truth is the interdependence of free peoples, not their absolute independence. Countless signs give evidence of the truth that peoples are dependent on one another, that they are not absolute sovereigns wielding absolute and limitless power over their own destinies, that they cannot make their own will prevail with no regard for the will of others. The truth of the national idea ‘we belong to ourselves’ must be accompanied by the truth of the commonality of nations: ‘we belong to others as well’... The isolated state, enjoying full sovereignty because it deems itself sufficient in its own right, is a figment of the imagination; it cannot be a reality. Just as there never lived an isolated individual, save in the idyllic depictions of a poetic golden age, so also the good primitive man perverted by society was part of Rousseau's fantasy, whereas in actual fact there live only men united in society with other men; only a man linked to other men by the tightest of bonds can aspire to a truly human life… Likewise, there exist no perfectly sovereign states, but, exclusively states that are servants of one another; equal and independent because they are aware that their very life, indeed their quest for perfection, would be impossible were they not ready to perform services for each other (Einaudi 2014, pp. 89-90).

National sovereignty is an illusion arising from the cultural approach of past centuries. Sovereignty is construed as the ability to make decisions autonomously and implement what has been decided with no external constraints. Is there a country today that is so sovereign it can decide and act without constraint and without taking into account its interdependent relationship with other nations? Stubborn demands for sovereignty and disregard for the relationships that link each country to the rest of the world prevent countries from being autonomous in their decision-making and achieving greater independence and make them unable to act or to act effectively, thus resulting in their further loss of sovereignty. The only way to recover lost national sovereignty is to build shared European sovereignty.

In order to also orient ourselves in the contemporary world we need a sort of “Copernican revolution” in our way of thinking and acting, replacing the nation-centric approach with a global approach. Building walls to prevent migration is a Ptolemaic way of thinking and acting and does not solve the problem of human beings having to flee war, hunger and underdevelopment to seek better living conditions. Addressing the issue of migration at the European level by employing European resources and supranational instruments is a Copernican way of thinking and acting and is the only way to resolve this issue in a democratic and supportive manner. Responding to the threat of terrorism at the national level is a Ptolemaic way of thinking and results in failure; responding at the European level by creating effective European intelligence is a Copernican way of thinking that helps combat this threat more effectively. Crime is organised internationally; fighting it at the national level is ineffective.

The market is global. Yet politics, which should regulate the market, has remained national, still seduced by the myth of national sovereignty, and hence inadequate to govern it. Globalisation, rather than being a resource for everyone, has turned into an advantage for the rich and has increased inequality. If there is no Europe, i.e. no supranational institutions endowed with adequate powers and resources, balance cannot be restored on the continent between democracy and the market, something which has been questioned at the national level by the international scope the economy has taken on.

For decades unification was based on economic convenience: integration had limited objectives (the common market), did not impose costs and sacrifices on citizens and trade liberalisation generated positive effects. From the Maastricht Treaty onwards, i.e. from the creation of the single currency, the situation changed. The sacrifices required to participate in the monetary union, then the economic crisis and austerity policies have affected the public’s perception of how convenient it is to be part of Europe. For citizens of the weaker countries, the sacrifices imposed to remain in the Eurozone seemed unbearable and for citizens of the stronger countries, the transfer of resources to the weaker ones was unacceptable. One of the fundamental principles of living together has thus been betrayed: the principle of solidarity, laid down in 1957 in the Preamble to the EEC Treaty and reasserted in the 2009 Treaty on European Union1.

Economic convenience obviously remains a core factor of integration, but it is no longer perceived by public opinion, which does not consider the EU an advantage, but rather an unbearable cost. This is therefore no longer enough to hold Europeans together. Public awareness of “being European” should be increased, a reasoned and convinced adherence to the ideal, and the necessity, of being together. Over the past decades, Europe was created without Europeans, there was no phenomenon of public Europeanisation, with the exception of the elites, that was comparable to the process of the nationalisation of the masses in the 19th century (Majone 2010, p. 604, p. 608), which integrated the peoples of Europe within their respective nation-states. The fact that the citizens of West Germany financed the economic reconstruction of East Germany, evidently convinced that they shared the same identity, that they were all Germans, is paradigmatic. The feeling of identity did not arise instead towards Greece and other countries in difficulty, although the Maastricht Treaty established European citizenship. Sharing European identity, feeling European, is an attitude that is still uncommon on the continent.

Just as a European public space has yet to be created; information has remained national and continues to be circulated through national channels.


The topic of De Europa

Faced with the resurgence of nationalism, which seemed to have been defeated after the Second World War, and Euroscepticism, there is clearly a need to extend scientific research on Europe aimed at stressing the reasons underlying its integration: is a united Europe only a specific economic need arising from the enlargement of the market, or is it also supported by a common identity or the sharing of common values? Is Europe essentially just a market or is it also a cultural koine? Is there a collective European memory or are there only national memories? Can European places of memory be identified? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, and the journal is oriented towards this answer, although we are aware of the problematic nature of the topic, De Europa strives to identify manifestations of what Europe shares in past centuries as well as the present one, underlining the existence of a European identity, which has however been expressed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and in the values common to the peoples of Europe, listed in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, both unanimously approved by the member countries. Beyond Europe’s differences, which are the assets of Europe and must be safeguarded, the continent appears to be substantially united, something which is rooted in past centuries. Cultural movements (the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Romanticism), political ideologies (liberalism, democracy, socialism, nationalism itself), artistic movements (Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque), beyond being mere national expressions, were European events and involved the whole continent. The peoples of Europe have common roots, starting from classical antiquity and Christianity, and aspirations towards unity and other related union projects date back to the Middle Ages. It is no coincidence that the title of the journal, De Europa, is in Latin: a language that for centuries was the common language of European culture.

The topic of this journal is Europe, not only the Europe of Brussel, but Europe in its various manifestations in time and space: an immeasurable and ambitious topic. The journal’s common thread is to underline the shared features of Europe, which are at the heart of the unification process, in order to outline, in a critical and challenging way, the presence of a European identity and common values and roots, to make the peoples of the old continent more aware of them, to stress the need for unification in order to respond effectively to the challenges of today's world, to counter the advance of Euroscepticism and nationalisms through the dissemination of research on Europe.

To this end, this journal is not monodisciplinary, but multidisciplinary in nature and include contributions from different disciplines in order to embrace the complexity and richness of Europe. This multidisciplinary nature is reflected in the composition of its Scientific Board and Editorial Board. The focus is on Europe and the value of its unification, the goal is to identify and highlight European identity, shared values, the need to find common solutions to meet the challenges posed by globalisation.

This journal will publish essays that specifically concern:

  • how the idea of Europe formed and its evolution over time, changes in its scope and content up to the still-debated problem of the existence of a European identity;
  • the various different features of the civilisation européenne resulting from exchanges and contaminations between European civilisation and non-European civilisations: politics, economics, law, religions, culture, cities, the landscape, the environment, places of memory, the contributions that Europe has provided to humanity and those it has received from non-European civilisations;
  • the birth and evolution of European integration, its institutional system and its policies;
  • EU relations with the rest of the world and international and regional organisations and the especially delicate topic of whether the Union can serve as a model for the other forms of regional integration that have developed throughout the world; also the relationship between the European Union, regionalism, globalism and the role the Union could play at an international level without degenerating into new forms of Eurocentrism, but rather presenting itself as a kind of stabilising, pacifying power and the creator of an innovative, non-colonial relationship with developing countries;
  • analyses of the complex phenomenon of Euroscepticism by distinguishing the prejudicial rejection of the integration project and the demand for the restoration of national sovereignty from criticism of the EU’s current configuration and its policies aimed at creating a more inclusive and democratic Union and modifying its policies;
  • the European public sphere and the process of the Europeanisation of citizenship;
  • the narratives and discourses of Europe, the creation of Eurolects and contaminations between national languages.

Articles will be published in one of the journal’s four languages: English, French, Italian and Spanish. Two issues will come out annually, that may be supplemented with special issues. Theme-based issues will alternate with open issues.

Conclusions

As Jacques Le Goff wrote in the Preface to each book in the series The Making of Europe2, the future is built on the legacy of the past. Europe builds itself starting with its history, with an awareness of its achievements whilst not forgetting the contradictions and conflicts that it has had to face on its path towards unity:

Dans ses efforts vers l’unité, le continent a vécu des dissensions, des conflits, des divisions, des contradictions internes. Cette collection ne les cachera pas : l’engagement dans l’entreprise européenne doit s’effectuer dans la connaissance du passé entier, et dans la perspective de l’avenir … Et notre ambition est d’apporter des éléments de réponse à la grande question de ceux qui font et feront l’Europe, et à ceux qui dans le monde s’y intéressent: «Qui sommes-nous? D’où venons-nous? Où allons-nous?».
 

Umberto Morelli
Editor

 

May 2018


References

Junius, Luigi Einaudi’s pseudonym, (1918), “Il dogma della sovranità e l’idea della Società delle Nazioni”, Corriere della Sera, a. 43, No. 362, 28 December 1918, p. 2; reprinted in 1986 in Luigi Einaudi, La guerra e l’unità europea, Il Mulino, Bologna, pp. 29-36. English translation, Luigi Einaudi (2014), Selected Political Essays, volume 3, Domenico da Empoli, Corrado Malandrino, Valerio Zanone (eds.), Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Majone Giandomenico (2010), “Integrazione europea, tecnocrazia e deficit democratico”, Rassegna italiana di sociologia, No. 4, pp. 599-619.

Morelli Umberto (2018), “Euroscepticism, the Highest Stage of Nationalism”. In Guido Levi, Daniela Preda (eds.), Euroscepticisms. Resistance and Opposition to the European Community/European Union. Bologna, Il Mulino, pp. 47-60.

Reves Emery (1945), The Anatomy of Peace, New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers.


1Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, Preamble: “to strengthen the unity of their economies and to ensure their harmonious development by reducing the differences existing between the various regions and by mitigating the backwardness of the less favoured”. Treaty on European Union, Art. 3: “It shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States”.

2The series, edited by Jacques Le Goff, was created in 1993 and published simultaneously by five European publishers (Beck Verlag, Blackwell, Editorial Crítica, Laterza, Éditions du Seuil).