GHDI logo

Europe and the United States (May 31, 2003)

page 3 of 6    print version    return to list previous document      next document

In this world, the reduction of politics to the stupid and costly alternative of war or peace simply doesn’t pay. At the international level and in the framework of the UN, Europe has to throw its weight on the scales to counterbalance the hegemonic unilateralism of the United States. At global economic summits and in the institutions of the WTO, the World Bank, and the IMF, it should exert its influence in shaping the design for a coming global domestic policy.

Political projects that aim at the further development of the EU are now colliding with the limits of the medium of administrative steering. Until now, the functional imperatives for the construction of a common market and the euro zone have driven reforms. These driving forces are now exhausted. A transformative politics, which would demand that member states not just overcome obstacles for competitiveness, but form a common will, must connect with the motives and the attitudes of the citizens themselves. The legitimacy of majority decisions on highly consequential foreign policies has to rest on a basis of solidarity of out-voted minorities. But this presupposes a feeling of common political belonging on both sides. The population must so to speak ‘build up’ their national identities, and add to them a European dimension. What is already a fairly abstract form of civic solidarity, still largely confined to members of nation-states, must be extended to include the European citizens of other nations as well.

This raises the question of ‘European identity.’ Only the consciousness of a shared political fate, and the prospect of a common future, can halt out-voted minorities from obstructing a majority will. The citizens of one nation must regard the citizens of another nation as fundamentally ‘one of us.’ This desideratum leads to the question that so many sceptics have called attention to: are there historical experiences, traditions, and achievements offering European citizens the consciousness of a shared political fate that can be shaped together? An attractive, indeed an infectious ‘vision’ for a future Europe will not emerge from thin air. At present it can arise only from the disquieting perception of perplexity. But it can well emerge from the difficulties of a situation into which we Europeans have been cast. And it must be articulated from out of the wild cacophony of a multi-vocal public sphere. If this theme has so far not even got on to the agenda, it is we intellectuals who have failed.

The Treacheries of a European Identity

It’s easy to find unity without commitment. The image of a peaceful, cooperative Europe, open toward other cultures and capable of dialogue, floats like a mirage before all of us. We welcome the Europe that found exemplary solutions for two problems during the second half of the twentieth century. The EU already offers itself as a form of ‘governance beyond the nation-state,’ which could set a precedent in the post-national constellation. And for decades European social welfare systems served as a model. Certainly, they have now been thrown on the defensive at the level of the national state. Yet future political efforts at the domestication of global capitalism must not fall below the standards of social justice that they established. If Europe has solved two problems of this magnitude, why shouldn’t it issue a further challenge: to defend and promote a cosmopolitan order on the basis of international law, against competing visions?

first page < previous   |   next > last page