Ditchley Foundation Annual Lecture XXXII
Inter-Governmental Co-Operation and Integration in the European Union
Professor Giuliano Amato.
President of the Italian Antitrust Authority and of the Aspen Institute Italia, Professor of Italian and Comparative Constitutional Law, University of Rome. Formerly Prime Minister of Italy (1992-93) and Vice-President, Council of Ministers, and Minister of the Treasury (1987-89).
A French historian, J Le Goffe, has written: “Europe received its name twenty-five centuries ago. And yet it is still at the stage of a project”. This assessment of the present state of the Union may, at the same time, satisfy the eager supporters of a federal Europe, who keep expecting their dream to come true, and reduce the anxiety of those Eurosceptics who see the D-Day of a federal Europe not as a dream but as a dreadful future.
My point here is that both of them are wrong. I shall argue throughout this lecture that future historians will see federalism as one of the engines that have set the European train in motion, not as its final destination. And for this very reason I do not think that the above assessment by Le Goffe is as sharp as it may seem at first glance. Europe is much more than a project. You might say that its real features are the outcome of many unaccomplished projects, but not that such an outcome is still no more than a project itself. During a seminar at Columbia University on the same topic months ago I said that if you compare Europe with the traditional models of Nation State, Federation, Confederation, International Organisation, in the end it remains a sort of Unidentified Flying Object. But it is an object that does fly, and it makes a lot of sense to understand, with an open mind, why and how it does.
Fifty years ago Europe was the theatre of a war which Europeans were fighting against each other. Behind the war lay a long tradition of conflicts and other wars among nation states, each of them speaking a different language, defending its national sovereignty, protecting its domestic economy. Today Europe is different. None of us today deems it conceivable that any conflict between one European country and another could be solved by using weapons.
The history of Europe is still described as the history of an unconquerable continent, because no single king or emperor could have the strength effectively to impose his unified control upon our cultural, economic and even geographical fractures. Since these qualities of ours were also considered the source of Europe’s vitality and of the high spirit of competitiveness in our citizens, Europe was the anti-integration continent by definition. Today it is no longer the anti-integration continent.
During another seminar, last April, this time at New York University, I had a pleasant surprise. We were discussing the need for harmonisation of legal rules in the present globalized economy, where multinational companies may easily be obstructed by differences in national legislation which affect their cross-border activities. Facing the first steps of their newly-born NAFTA, some of the American participants pointed to Europe as an admirable example of integration: no more trade barriers, free movement of capital, goods and persons, common institutions which, at the same time, are above national governments and the expression of their continuous negotiations and co-operation. Upon this platform rest uniform regulations in some areas, mutual recognition of compatible national rules in others, and enforcement of common principles accepted throughout the Union through the binding decisions of a European judiciary.
It was highly rewarding for a European to hear such an assessment of Europe, such a reversal of the traditional image of Europe. But this is Europe today, rightly perceived as a multi-level system in which integration and co-operation continuously appear as two sides of the same coin. This might be a first definition of the unidentified flying object that makes our common architecture even more remarkable, and precious, at a time when opposing trends and forces run across our countries, one against another. On the one side, the demands of our ever- expanding markets, of our companies, of our consumers, increasingly incompatible with national borders. On the other side the growing “passions identitaires”, as our French friends call them, which are causing pre-existing unified systems beyond our eastern borders to disintegrate and are already a temptation even in Western Europe.
To understand the process that has brought us where we are now and the tracks that such a process has prepared for our common future, a good starting point is an opinion of the late Aitiero Spinelli. Spinelli, I take it, was a much more fervent federalist than the average UK citizen. Well, by the end of his long and highly-deserving life at the service of European integration he drew the following conclusion: “The European architecture we have built has been the product of the tension between the radical vision of the federalists and the pragmatic approach of the statesmen. Without this tension, nothing would have been accomplished. The vision of the federalists would have remained an utopia. The substantially conservative pragmatism of the statesmen would have got nowhere.”
You may not share this conclusion entirely, or at least the bias you perceive in it. And yet, if you consider the source, it is an illuminating warning, a good start, as I have said, for the short flash-back on our process of integration into which I ask you to follow me with patience for a few minutes.
In the late 1940s it was the voice of the federalists, headed by Spinelli himse1f that proclaimed the necessity of a politically united Europe for the sake of a peaceful future which might be endangered once more by national sovereignty. It was, after all, a favourable moment: the war had been terrible evidence of the clash of nation states: the international community was reinforcing its instruments of co-ordination and co-operation; Western European countries had a new reason for unity in the fight against communism.
Despite all this, the first element of European integration had a totally different inspiration. It was the functional approach of Jean Monnet that convinced an initial group of European States to join sectoral “communities” aimed at a gradual integration, first of their basic industries and second of their overall economies. If we consider the European Coal and Steel Community, and even the European Economic Community as it was originally devised, as two examples of federalism, this would certainly not be the political federalism preached by Spinelli. It would derive rather from the quite different brand of a prestigious Englishmen, Harold Laski, who in 1948 had launched “functional federalism”, to be implemented - he had said - “through supranational planning in fields like electric power, transport, or an integrated economy of coal and steel”. Moreover, the extent to which national interests were relevant in the creation of the Coal and Steel Community is well-known - the concern of France over the future role of Germany, and the desire of French steel producers for privileged access to German coal. Whatever the motivations, however, the organisational outcome was new, original and far-sighted: a High Authority with members appointed by national governments, a Council of Ministers where Ministers of the member states sat, and a common Assembly the members of which were chosen by the national parliaments.
After many years, the ECSC appears as a first test, limited but essential, of the much more creative evolution that we have since experienced. Essential, because the organisational model gave the member states initial training in the exercise of negotiating common positions through their own Ministers and leaving the final decisions to an institution, the High Authority, appointed by national governments but not directly dependent on them. Limited, because the jurisdiction of that Community was limited and also because of the nature of the founding Treaty. It was - as the experts say - a law- treaty, not a framework-treaty, not a traité cadre. In other words, it did not indicate broad goals to be reached in the future through such measures as the new institutions deemed necessary and proper in the course of time. It enumerated in detail the specific decisions to be taken and so ruled out any expansion of the initial jurisdiction.
The stream of continuously renewed and expanded European life as we have experienced it in the recent decades had its magic source in the combination (and correction) of the organisational model of that first test with two new ingredients: the wider field of the European Economic Community as it was defined by the Treaty of Rome of 1957 (“the harmonious development of economic activities”) and the different nature of that Treaty, which was precisely a traité cadre. As such, it provided for a gradual unification of the European market, to be reached in three stages, and gave the Community institutions all the necessaiy, but not narrowly defined, decision-making powers in order to reach the third and final stage. It was like a rope coiled up in a small box, which could be unrolled to become longer and longer in time. Consider for instance that - whatever its present condition - what is one of the main achievements of the Community, the European Monetary System, was decided upon without there being any specific provision for it in the Treaty; but by the end of the l970s it was considered an appropriate measure for the integration of our market.
The arrangement that member States had already tested in the ECSC became the engine of a much wider transformation, aimed at a much more ambitious goal. The Council of Ministers, in the new Community, was conceived as the main decision-maker, and around its table member states had all the necessary opportunities not only to raise issues of conflict but also to reach compromises and common positions. Against this background the Commission acquired reputation and authority because of its technical and impartial roles of proposal and mediation, while the European Parliament echoed and amplified the first hints of European sentiment and opinion. Meanwhile, separately, a new institution, the Court of Justice, was able to reach the point of asserting the strongest principle of all, the supremacy of European rules over national legislations. In legal terms, it was the same principle one finds in federal systems. Politically, however, it was much easier for the member states to accept because the supremacy recognised was not of decisions imposed from above but of decisions that they themselves had taken from above.
The delicate balance of the Community powers underwent its first crisis in the mid-1960s when the third stage was due to start. During the first two stages the Council of Ministers reached its decisions unanimously, while in the third stage the majority principle was due to be introduced. All of you remember the French opposition to it under General de Gaulle, the policy of the empty chair and the Luxembourg compromise, according to which, if conflict arose, no decision would be taken for a reasonable time until unanimity could be achieved. Historians cite the Luxembourg accords as the source of a previously unknown disease, called “Eurosclerosis” - years and years of delay in adopting the necessary measures for the complete integration of the market. Growing scepticism around Europe as it then was. A turning point came in 1984 when a forceful and convinced European, Jacques Delors, became head of the Commission. He wanted the “costs of non-Europe” to be demonstrated, and wrote a White Paper which restated the horizon and the measures of the integrated market. Eventually the European Council at Milan in June 1985, where the White Paper was translated into decisions, put an end to the sclerosis. By a majority vote which caught the British Prime Minister by surprise, an Intergovernmental Conference was summoned to amend the Treaty. By the end of that year the Single European Act was ready for signature, which happened at the beginning of 1986. The majority principle became the rule and was excluded only from the areas of fiscal harmonisation, free movement of workers and social policy.
The federalists celebrated these new events as a victory for their principles, as a strengthening of Europe against the obstructive selfishness of national governments, which, according to the federalists, were anti-European by definition. I have however many doubts on the soundness of their position and even on their interpretation of the relevant facts as a whole.
I will tell you in a few minutes how and why the majority principle cannot be considered in isolation in assessing the turning point of 1985. However, were we to limit ourselves to its introduction, I would suggest that at that point it served a functional need, but that it was also a high risk precisely in that delicate area of political legitimacy pointed to by the federalists: a risk that needed to be offset and that, as we will see, actually was offset.
Why was it a risk? Because the majority principle is not the natural vehicle of democratic decision under all conditions. It is such, and it is accepted as such, only when the legal voice of the majority is the voice of the majority of the political community we belong to; when each of us identifies the others as equal members of the same political community. Can we say that in the 1980s a European political community (and I am talking of a community among the citizens) had already taken shape? Here I detect the ideological bias of our federalist friends and the risk they run of misunderstanding the facts because of that bias. We had directly elected a European Parliament at that time; but this was not enough to establish that a European people already existed. That Parliament was the symbol of a community that might be seen in the future, rather than representative of an existing one. We were, and still largely are, divided into national public opinions. Our national governn5 do not represent their own interests only, but very frequency we do see them as essential representatives of vital interests of ours. The risk therefore was, and is, high that a majority in the European Council is perceived not as the voice of the majority of our European Community, but as the voice of the strongest national interests against the others.
Must we then reach the conclusion that Europe, far from being strengthened as the federalists proclaimed, was dangerously wounded? My answer is No, even if I frankly admit that the disaffection for Europe that grew in some of our countries in the late 1980s might be explained in part by the majority principle. Despite this, my answer is No for two reasons. First, as I have said, because Europe had been agonising for years in a deadlock, while now it is still alive and indeed well advanced in the process of integrating the market. Second and more important, because in 1985 the majority principle did not arrive alone, but was accompanied by another change, which was no less innovative and such as to make the majority principle itself much more acceptable - and in fact accepted - by our national governments. I am not referring to the co-decision of the European Parliament, which is usually considered as the institutional balance of the majority principle in the Council of Ministers. It might have been so in the minds of some of the authors of the Single Act. In fact, however, the real and most effective balance is due to another innovation of that time, following the European Court’s indications and a specific proposal which an extraordinary British Commissioner, Lord Cockfield, wrote into the White Paper: the shift from harmonisation of national laws to mutual recognition as the basic means used by the Community to set the uniform legal framework of the integrated market.
Let me explain in a few words why this shift is so important - not a mere technicality, but an operative translation of Lord Cockfield’s vision of the relations between the Community and the member states. What is the difference between harmonisation and mutual recognition? Harmonisation was a two-step procedure that reached the states through binding uniform rules established at the European level. Sector by sector of the market an agreement was needed at the Community level on any single rule that we wanted to harmonise and, inevitably, on the detail of every single rule. When agreement was reached, the Council of Ministers issued either a regulation or a directive. In the case of a regulation, national states had no residual power at all and the new regulations superseded their pre-existing laws. In the case of a directive, the member states had only the power to implement it by issuing consequent rules. With mutual recognition the procedure is much lighter and its product much more flexible and much less restrictive for the member states: agreement at Community level refers to the basic standards only, and all national legislation which complies with those standard stands and must be recognised by the other
member states, whatever the remaining differences. Moreover, the definition of the standards themselves is frequently left by the Council of Ministers to technical committees, the members of which are representatives of the relevant interests of all member states.
You can readily understand how differently these two principles work. Harmonisation required an enormous amount of time at the highest political level, the Council of Ministers. Each Minister was eager to see his arguments accepted on every detail, and compromises and agreements were therefore much more difficult and cumbersome. In the light of all this, one might argue that the Eurosclerosis before 1985 had been due equally to the principle of unanimity and to harmonisation as such. Mutual recognition is much more flexible and much less hierarchical, and the variations it initially allows among national laws will either remain or else be eliminated not as a result of decisions from above but gradually, through competition.
It is a fact that in the few years after this shift many more directives were issued for the completion of the internal market than, in the previous two decades; and many more times the necessary decisions were taken by a majority vote, without producing major damage to relations among member states. How can we explain this new and welcome efficiency on the part of the Community? Because of the end of the unanimity principle, or because of the introduction of mutual recognition? The only reasonable answer is because of both - or, more precisely, because of the combination of the majority principle and mutual recognition, with mutual recognition working as an insurance policy from the viewpoint of the member states against the risks of the majority principle.
Here again we have renewed evidence of the peculiar nature of our unidentified flying object, and a renewed opportunity to understand how it does succeed in flying. From its birth and throughout the decisive turning points of its life it has always succeeded in keeping integration and co-operation together, in keeping the arguments for European uniformity and those for national diversity on a substantially equal footing by devising institutions, rules and procedures in which all these aspects are melded and a common tissue created, where you can still recognise all of them and their respective influences. Even the last and most important product of our common venture, the Treaty of Maastricht, is frilly consistent with this character. The Treaty creates a Union, and a Union seems to be something more than a Community. But in what respect? By calling it Union, instead of Community, the Treaty gives birth to the citizenship of Europe, a citizenship under which a limited number of individual rights are recognised and protected. The Union however does not have legal personality; it is not a legal entity above the states and consequently is of the same nature as the Community: a joint venture with a common voice, not a newly-born federal state.
Even more important, according to the Treaty the Union is based on different pillars: the previous Communities, Foreign and Security Policy, Justice and Home Affairs, each of them with its own rules, which provide sometimes for common action decided upon by the European institutions and sometimes for pure intergovernmental co-operation. This distinction is there, but it is not at all rigid. The Treaty also provides for bridges allowing passage from intergovernmental cooperation to common action. And it is by the unanimous will of the member states that the decision may be taken to cross the bridges.
Now we have enough elements to make our assessment of the real Europe of today, and possibly of that of tomorrow.
Let me say frankly what I think. I do not know whether there are still supporters of a federal Europe who really believe in the feasibility of their goal. I have doubts about it, and I could cite Aitiero Spinelli (remember the passage I quoted some minutes ago) as evidence for my doubts. What I am sure of is that to pursue that goal today is totally unrealistic. Europe is firmly based on the mix of integration and co-operation that I have described, and this meld does not produce a federal state.
What does this mean for the opponents of federalism? It means that while their fight against the enemy might have made sense in the initial decades (when it was useful to preserve the balance of countervailing influences that Spinelli described), it makes less and less sense today. Much more useful than to fight against an ideology of the past is the exercise I am proposing to you: to understand where we are now and where we must go, responding to the real demands of our time. In other words, given the description I have offered to you of the features of our European flying object, this means identifying its nature and its desirable future route, going beyond the conceptual framework imposed upon us by the dream, or the nightmare, of the federal outcome. Wrong conceptual frameworks can cause disasters and have caused disasters in the history of humanity, because if you look at what you have in front of you with eyes that can see only the past, you do not understand where you are going.
From the interaction between integration and cooperation we are forced to draw a surprising but inevitable conclusion. Our national states are not totally sovereign any more, and yet nobody else - certainly not the European Union - has inherited the share of sovereignty they have lost. This is inconceivable under the traditional conceptual framework that all of us have had in our own mind : that sovereignty is something that exists uniquely and undiminishably, so that if you divide it up what you lose in one place has to appear somewhere else, because the quantum of sovereignty is a fixed amount. This what we learned through long experience of nation states, but we have to understand that this is part of history : it is not necessarily true for all the past, nor for all the future. It is unavoidably true that the legislative rues which have binding force on territories of member states need come not exclusively from them, but also from the Union, which to that extent “interferes” in their domestic affairs. It is also true that the European judiciary adopts decisions which immediately affect their citizens, without any intermediation by national courts. On the other hand, while there are theories which seek to preserve the sovereignty of member states despite all this, no-one has yet made the case for the Union as a sovereign entity. It is not a superstate, it is not a federal state, it is the organisational product of the accepted and practised interdependence of national states. And here the main point emerges. The European flying object remains unidentified as long as we stick to the idea that sovereignty is an indivisible quality, or, at least, that whenever it is eroded somewhere it has to appear again somewhere else; or to the idea that interdependence among states is only a political concept, without legal consequences. The fact of the matter is that this is no longer the case; co-operation and co-ordination among national states have invented new institutions and procedures, whereby the borders themselves between domestic and international jurisdictions are becoming blurred, to a greater or lesser degree, in many areas. And this is precisely the framework into which our Union has to be inserted.
It is a framework that goes back to that “Liberty in the Modem State” by Harold Laski, and to the functionalist federalism he explained in that work. It is a framework that a contemporary author, Philippe Schmitter, calls “the post-Hobbesian order”, where “there is no single identifiable sovereign, just a multitude of authorities at different levels of aggregation, territorial or functional, with ambiguous or shared competencies at the head of overlapping and diverse organisational hierarchies. Policies are not definitively enunciated and vertically administered; they are constantly negotiated and indirectly implemented There are several centres with differing degrees of coercive power.... and not all of them are public and governmental”. This is something that the world had already experienced in public institutions before the nation state had been invented. It is something that technology today is introducing almost everywhere : the model of the net, the net with many, many knots but now, as we are told, even without a single central knot. Why should public institutions remain immune from this?
For Schmitter the European Union “is likely to be an extreme case of post-Hobbesianism”. Along the same lines Neil MacCormick writes: “Can we think of a world in which our normative existence and our practical life are anchored in, or related to, a variety of institutional systems, each of which has validity or operation in relation to some range of concerns, none of which is absolute over all the others? It would depend on a high degree of relatively willing co-operation and a low degree of coercion. It would create space for a real and serious debate about the demands of subsidiarity. If it were possible, it would be better than either a European megasovereignty or a return to the polycentric sovereignties of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries”.
Well, if you share my analysis thus far, you are forced to conclude that such a multi-level system of government without sovereignty is not only possible, but real - because this is the Europe we have built.
Having reached this first conclusion let us now ask ourselves what it implies for the future of Europe and for our main concerns about it. MacCormick indicates two negative alternatives: a European mega-sovereignty or a return to the polycentric sovereignties of the past. In my view we should all be aware that the real danger is the second one, certainly not the first. And I wonder whether behaviour aimed at preventing a European megasovereignty which I consider impossible may have the sole result of paving the way to a ruinous return to the past.
The European platform that has been the theatre of our intra-European conflicts during the life of the Community is not as firm and solid as it was years ago. The “passions identitaires” are running not only around our borders but also deep within them. I am not saying that our well-tested talent may not exploit this too as an opportunity for new positive balances inside the European architecture - after all, as somebody has written, if a European identity exists, diversity of traditions and of historical backgrounds is part of it. And Maurice Duverger foresees regional communities inside the future Union, along the lines of the “passions identitaires”: among them a Scandinavian one, a central European, even a Balkan one. I would not be frightened by these developments, I would welcome them.
What has to be avoided however is any setback that might destroy what we have been building throughout the decades. And the main reason is that our architecture, whatever its initial motivations, whatever the short-term political interests that may have influenced its evolution over time, is much more consistent with the profound trends of our economic life and organisation than the narrow architectures of our national states.
The three centuries behind us may have created the illusion that nation states are and are due to remain the main institutional counterparts of economic activities. But that is an illusion, due to the fact that for a prolonged period the expansion of economic markets, one of the most profound forces of history, happened to coincide with the boundaries of states. Unification of nation states and unification of economic markets appeared as two aspects of the same reality. National policies became pivotal in promoting (and sometimes obstructing) economic activities. But the coincidence is over; throughout the twentieth century economic expansion has been leading to a globalized market, and today nation states are more in a position to obstruct economic activities than to promote them. The European Union has been one of the most far-sighted answers that the world has given to this new development. And this is why even the Americans admire the integration we have achieved. Let us not undo what we have been doing. Let us look at the further steps that are needed in this light, and in the acquired certainty, like it or not, that there is at the end of the process no federal Europe but a continuous rearrangement of the multi-level system of government into which our interdependence has been so admirably translated and organised.
More than other systems, the flexible architecture we have built through the years has the inner resources necessary to absorb and satisfy the demands of subsidiarity, of diversity, even of local democracy that seem to be growing as we come to the turn of the century. We should not forget that these trends co-exist with continuous, vigorous and un-interrupted growth of economic markets beyond all pre-existing borders. The other and no less essential task of the European architecture is therefore to adapt itself to the needs of this growth.
Is the free flow of capital, goods and services throughout a single market compatible with different currencies and with flexible rates among those currencies? Do we not overload the market with a potential for instability, the outburst of which, as we have already experienced, may have disruptive effects? Even independently of this, are not variations of parities a renewed and unfair barrier that distorts competition?
If the answers we give to these questions convince us that a single currency is the solution, we should not feel hampered by fears and concerns that are now groundless.
Our only concern should be: by the decision we take - to accept or not to accept the single currency - are we promoting or obstructing the free and beneficial flow of economic activities? Historians tell us that the magnificent development of commercial and industrial activities in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was a European phenomenon and, even more, a British one. Earlier than any other country, as early as in the seventeenth century, it was Britain that removed legal obstacles, exclusive rights and intricacies through which economic activities could hardly find their way, and at the same time gave companies the legal certainties - protection of innovation and of contracts, for instance - which they needed in order to take risks. If historians tell us the truth - and it is a truth - Europe has a tradition and a high record to defend. In Europe, Britain has a historical role of front-runner that is still part of British identity and do we not all want to preserve the best of our identities in the new “competition identitaire”? Allow an Italian, who has no reason to be satisfied with the performance of his country in this race, to remind a British audience of what is at stake: Britain continuing to play a role in Europe, or risking its historic role of front-runner by standing aside from the development of Europe in the future.
Vote Of Thanks Moved by
The Rt Hon the Lord Howe of Aberavon, PC, QC.
The Rt Hon the Lord Howe of Aberavon, PC, QC.
Chairman, Professor Amato, Ladies and Gentlemen,
To have heard such a marvellous address from a distinguished Italian academician, who is at the same time a notable European statesman, has been for me an experience that is moving, comforting and exciting. It does not really echo the description that Professor Amato gave of one of the moments at which we first confronted each other (at the Milan EC Summit, in June 1985), where, as he put it, the British Prime Minister was “surprised” - a marvellous understatement. I checked the account in my own memoirs of the occasion. Conflict of Loyalty (Macmillan, 1994) pp. 409-10, 447, 457. 1 will not bore you with all of it, but you will get the flavour from this:
“Milan had in truth been a miserable experience, hugely typical of the switch- back emotions of European Community politicking Bad temper on all sides, some poor judgement on our part, even more selfishness from the Italians had us now on course for what looked like a bruising, open-ended battle all the way to Luxembourg. Who could know where and how that would end7 One was tempted almost to turn one’s back on the whole thing. But it was too important for that. Europe, like Parliament, even like democracy itself, had this ‘unique’ capacity to infuriate and yet to keep one ensnared. Downcast and dismayed I might feel today, but duty would call again tomorrow”.
And a few pages later:
“Soon the irritations of Milan faded into history We were in truth eager to hammer into place the Cockfield single market programme, along with our own proposals for closer political cooperation.”
and then, miracle of miracles:
“Reactions to the Luxembourg agreement, to the Single European Act, were generally favourable - certainly at home Our success in winning ‘all the points which were of real importance’ was a ‘remarkable achievement’. The Prime Minister had no anxiety, and we had no difficulty, about securing the passage of the ratifying legislation.”
So all’s well that ends well. But it is an interesting insight into the description of the Community which Professor Amato has been giving us. Not so much a project, I think, as a process. I admire and shall always cherish his description of the “Unidentified Flying Object’. As a lawyer myself, I have always been rather more prosaic and described it simply as sui generis. But I agree with his central insight: the tension between economic integration on the one hand and the contrasting impact of the unruly horses of democracy and nationalism, the passions identitaires which pull in the opposite direction - I admire this very much because I share exactly the same perception. We have to dismiss the idea of sovereignty as an indivisible commodity. To put it more crudely (perhaps I may be permitted to repeat a phrase I have used often in the past?) sovereignty is not like virginity - now you have it, now you don’t. It is even more advantageous than that, because it doesn’t even have to be deployed monogamously. That is why the European Union is a unique application of that insight. For it has enabled us to share sovereignty in a diversity of ways without destroying the nation, to find ways of taming nationalism without suppressing patriotism.
I am delighted also to find Professor Amato coming to another similar conclusion: that neither will we, nor should we have to, contemplate the prospect of a federal Europe, or, in his marvellous phrase, “a European mega-sovereignty”. I think it is most important that that insight should come with such clarity from an academic of Professor Amato’s distinction and particularly, if I may say so, from an Italian academic. For it is a specific offset to words that we have heard so often - from Signor Spinelli, for example. It echoes one paragraph from a speech of my own, which I hope I may be forgiven for quoting. Hansard (House of Commons) 13 November, 1993 Col.463:
“We must at all costs avoid presenting ourselves yet again with an oversimplified choice, a false antithesis, a bogus dilemma, between one alternative, starkly labelled ‘cooperation between independent sovereign states’ and a second, equally crudely labelled alternative ‘centralised federal superstate’, as if there were no middle way in between.”
That is the essential insight of the Professor’s talk. And so I loved his phrase “a joint venture with a common voice, not a new-born federal state”. I was struck also by his insight into the fact that we still live with largely divided national public opinions and thus quite legitimately see national governments not as obstacles but as essential representatives of vital national interests. So too we see the European Parliament (which I cherish and admire and which I proclaim during every European election campaign, and above all to young people) as a symbol of a community that might be foreseen in the future and as the place in which we are hammering out our ideals and helping to shape that future.
I differ from the Professor, I think - perhaps increasingly to my own surprise - in the implications of his analysis for the speed at which we may progress towards a single currency. The economic case for a single currency over as wide an area as possible, certainly over the European Single Market - as the answer to Soros-led speculation - is conceded even by George Soros himself. The economic case for a single currency over that area is of enormous importance. But is this not an area where Professor Amato’s own phrases begin to have a legitimate echo - for example about the identity of the political community to which we belong, within which each of us identifies the others as equal members of the same community (again his phrase)? So too I think of the workability, the acceptability, of the single currency in the United States of America. In that great nation, for all the troubles they have faced in the last ten or fifteen years, not a voice has been raised calling for the devaluation of the Texas dollar, or for the withdrawal of the Californian dollar from the Union - because the coherence and identity of their wider community is beyond question. I believe that we shall be able to move towards a similar solution in our own Europe - but that this is an area where we shall need to respect the yearning of people for a common identity, as we try to judge the pace at which we may move in that direction.
So, with my apologies for some dissent on that point, let me come back to common ground on which to close. I do so much agree with the Professor that the real hazard of our Union today is the risk of a resurgence of competitive nationalism, the “passions identitaires”, which could all too easily, in his phrase, “pave the way to a ruinous return to the past” - a setback that might destroy all that we have been building through almost four decades. As we look at the miseries of the Balkans today, we forget at our peril that Balkanisation is not a disease which is safely confined to the Balkans. Balkanisation is the classic European disease of competitive nationalism. If you want the most astonishing and dramatic illustration of that, look at the impact in North America of four little words echoed by a Frenchman whose name for the moment escapes me: Vive le Québec libre. Consider the impact of that phrase on the stability of that part of the North American continent.
So I am grateful, as I think we all must be, to Professor Amato for having reminded us so simply what is at stake. I described him at the outset as a distinguished academician and a notable statesman. I should have added another thought: He is disconcertingly young: already an ex-Prime Minister at the age of 53. So we can all share two sentiments together: first, a deep sense of gratitude to him for his talk this evening and second, a profound hope that, before many years have passed, he will return in a prominent role to the European public arena, where his wisdom will be so vitally needed and so warmly welcomed.