As Jürgen Habermas’ new book "The Crisis of the European Union: A Response" arrived at bookstores, The Global Journal asked Francis Fukuyama to interview the German philosopher, one of the most influential thinkers of our time. In a highly relevant and exclusive discussion, Professor Fukuyama and Professor Habermas articulate Europe’s most pressing issues, such as the building of a more integrated political Europe, its democratic foundations, the role of its citizens and Europe’s future. This unique interview also leads to global governance issues; Europe is still a promising laboratory for ideas on new political orders.
My first question concerns the meaning of European citizenship. Of the two constitutive legs of your new Europe, the one of peoples is at this moment far better constituted, and in fact has been greatly strengthened due to the animosities aroused by the current crisis. The abstract ideal of European citizenship, on the other hand, has always existed since the early days of the EU and finds expression in voting for the European Parliament. But it has very little emotional or substantive content at this point. You speak of “the expectation that the growing mutual trust among European peoples will give rise to a transnational, though attenuated, form of civic solidarity among the citizens of the Union.” (p. 29). But on what will this trust be based?
Allow me to address the normative and empirical aspects of your question separately. The idea of “shared sovereignty” – shared between Europeans in their role as EU citizens and these same people in their role as members of one of the participating nation states – must be developed from the roots of the constitution-building process. This idea has an important implication for how we should conceive of the future shape of a democratized Political Union. If we are to cease shirking the question of the “finalité” of the unification process, we must lay down the correct parameters. A federal state on the model of the United States or the German federal republic is the wrong model; for that would be to set an unrealistically ambitious goal – one more ambitious than is necessary or sensible. There is no need to introduce a new level of federal administration; almost all administrative functions can remain with the member states. And a Commission that would have been transformed into a government would not have to be predominantly responsible toward the European Parliament, as required by the pattern of a federal state. For the purpose of democratic legitimation it would be sufficient that a European government be responsible in equal measure to the Parliament and the Council in which the national governments are represented. From an empirical perspective, your question puts a finger on a sore point. It is true that the citizens will always have closer ties to their nation state than to the European Union; however, the fact that, to date, insufficient mutual trust has developed among the European peoples is also a consequence of the failure of the political elites. The latter have so far evaded all European themes; in their national public arenas, they make “Europe” responsible for unpopular decisions in which they themselves have participated in Brussels. Even more important is that, to date, a European election or a European referendum worthy of the name has never been conducted in any member state; citizens have only voted on national themes and made choices among national politicians, while European issues and tickets were hidden away, as it were. As a result of this irresponsible behavior, the politicians are now facing a dilemma. As soon as the citizens realized in the present crisis how profoundly the political decisions taken in Brussels already impinge on their everyday lives, their interest was aroused. If that suspicious attention to European issues were interpreted in the right way by the citizens, they could become equally aware of sharing a common fate.
Haven’t we been going backwards very rapidly?
One must distinguish the longer-term dispositions from the current events that stirred up emotions. The two-faced way in which the European governments have dealt with the financial crisis over the past two years is scandalous. They negotiate behind closed doors and doctor the results arrived at in Brussels for domestic consumption, out of fear of their own electorates. That foments mutual national prejudices and has corresponding effects on the public moods reflected in opinion polls. On the other hand, Europe has long since become a matter of course for the younger generations. What do you think the opinion polls would look like if the monetary union were to be dissolved? The young people would be flabbergasted if they suddenly had to show their passports and change their money again sixteen times when hitchhiking across Europe.
You place your constitutional project in the context of “a democratic legal domestication and civilization of state power.” This has of course been key to the European project from the beginning.
That’s perhaps too easily said. Here we are dealing with the very first instance of an accommodation of sovereign nation states – moreover, the first generation of particularly self-confident nation states with their own imperial pasts – to the postnational constellation of an emerging world society.
But isn’t the weakness of current European identity due to the fact that it has been described in such largely negative terms, i.e., to be a European means to be against war, against national selfishness, etc., instead of in positive terms, e.g., “I am proud to be member of a European civilization that represents X or Y” as positive values? And if so, how do we define those values and what kind of education project is necessary to give them meaning?
Jan Werner Müller, a younger professor of political science at Princeton university, recently rebutted the frequently heard accusation of the “failure of European intellectuals” with an argument that I find convincing. The expectation that the intellectuals should construct a “grand European narrative,” a European “identity,” with the aid of a new founding myth remains captive to a “nineteenth-century logic,” he argued. After all, the now well-studied history of the “invention” of national consciousness by historiography, the press, and school curricula during the nineteenth century, in view of its horrible consequences, does not provide an inviting example. We in Europe are still coming to terms with forms of ethnonational aggression – as is shown, even within the EU, by the example of Hungary. This is why I think it is sufficient to cite a couple of concrete demographic and economic statistics to remind ourselves of the diminishing weight of Europe in the world and to ask ourselves whether we must not pull ourselves together if we want to remain in a position to defend our cultural and social forms of life against the leveling force of the global economy – and, most importantly, to maintain a certain amount of influence on the international political agenda in accordance with our universalistic conceptions.
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