CMV: The EU cannot be saved without engaging national parliaments.

Sun May 20 2018 15:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)


University of Warsaw

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Correct me if I am wrong, but as I see it Europe seems to be caught in the circle of enthusiasm for pan-European ideas and the revival of nationalist feelings. Parties and politicians in the different EU-member states tend to blame the EU for all kinds of shortcomings in their states. Some try to convince voters that the strengthening of the nation-state is the right way to address those (see: Brexit). One could simply read this growing tension as a backslide into nationalist atavisms long thought overcome. Such a dismissive interpretation, however, does not help to overcome the depicted contradiction, but quite to the contrary plays into the hands of populist movements.

Instead, we should re-think the classical idea of the circles of solidarity. There is an old agreement between many theorists upon the idea that the notion of solidarity remains abstract and empty if it is not rooted in some sort of a learning process. This learning process starts in the family and expands via communities towards civil society, state, and finally structures which transgress the boundaries of the state. Seen from this perspective, the perceived contradiction between national and European loyalty disappears and is replaced by a concept of the growing scope of solidarity and responsibility. In this concept having duties towards broader communities does not imply a denial of duties towards the smaller, more intimate ones. Seen from this perspective, Europe is not a counterpart or even threat to national interests, but rather a greater community which demands to expand responsibility beyond the boundaries of the nation-state.

The concrete steps to be taken towards this broader understanding could consist e.g. in engaging national parliaments much more strongly in the process of running and re-shaping the EU. This could have a positive impact on domestic politics, forcing national parties to formulate not only inner-state political agendas, but also to propose solutions (e.g. successful social programs) that could be adapted on the EU level. Of course, this might weaken the position of European Parliament. Yet, in many states being a representative in the EP is seen only as a 'pause' in the 'normal' political curriculum as a nation-state politician. Moreover, people are used to address 'Europe' as something external to their own state, although this state is a member of EU. So, the main idea is to find ways to really introduce the interest in Europe into the domestic politics and not to let confront those two perspectives as something contradictory. Instead of the alternative: European – national, which seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, we should look upon Europe as a new objective of the nation-state-rooted responsibility.

Background Information

  • Calls for greater involvement of national parliaments in shaping the course and institutional layout of the European Union have been growing over the past years and both been voiced by select EU officials and independent NGOs (see below):

    • “National Parliaments have a great responsibility to discuss and to make fundamental choices in EU policy.”
      - Frans Timmermans (First Vice-President of the European Commission)

    • “Certainly, the more that national parliaments can scrutinise EU legislation, the better, and they should be given ample time to study commission proposals.”

    • “There should be a way for a group of like-minded national parliaments to make constructive suggestions for EU policy initiatives which may include reviewing existing legislation.”

  • Likewise, the issue of “democratic deficit” continues to be one of the most sensitive and controversial issues in the European Union

Further Reading

After Lisbon: National Parliaments in the European Union

EU Subsidiarity control mechanism

Debate Summary

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