“The paradox of Europe is that its most spectacular invention, the nation-state, is also what prevents it from existing as such.” – Françis Furet quoted in Paul Sabourin, The Nation-State Versus Europe.
“Nations are not eternal. They are born, they die. The European confederation, probably, will replace them.” – Ernest Renan in What is a Nation?
Reason or nation? One must choose!
Europe will never be a nation. This would imply a European nationalism, which in itself would be detrimental to the federalist project. The founding fathers did not endeavor translating multiple forms of nationalism into one on the continental scale. Such a perspective would be totally irrational and would come from the same xenophobic and draconian attitude that we condemn in nation-states today.
Under these conditions, it seems that the European Union will need to find another political foundation, more rational than nationalism, by which it can transcend the multiplicity of cultures. Only constitutional patriotism corresponds to this need. The aim is to base European political society on liberal values such as constitutionalism, democracy and human rights, all of which are non-partisan, universal, and dedicated to serving individual liberty.
Immediately we see that this ideology has no chance to prosper on the continental scale if it is not applied beforehand on a national level in each of the EU member states.
The abolition of nationalism is indispensable for the prosperity of federalism
It is impossible to construct a Europe founded on rationality if the entities that compose it subscribe to irrational ideologies. The nation is indeed an ideological construction with a goal to establish a community whose cultural and historic heritage must justify the establishment of such a state as an umbrella. Such an approach is obviously irrational for a number of reasons. Firstly, determining the content and legacy of a historical heritage is an arbitrary practice. The reason is that all civilizations have (developed) varying degrees of historic and cultural interdependences lining them. Secondly, such a vision tends to portray the state as an end in itself so that it is nothing but a vulgar tool in the service of individual liberty, and the usefulness of such a system is completely relative. Thirdly, nationalism is equal in many ways to xenophobia in its ability to legitimize civil and political discrimination against the cultural identity of an individual. All of these elements taken together reveal that nationalism is an insult to reason.
The abolition of nationalism will dissolve European states
European nations today are irrationally based. It is then probable that introducing rationality into the political debate (the same which can justify European federalism) will alter the authority of the so-called “old states,” thus inevitably leading to their dissolution – given that they would in all likelihood have no true reason to exist anymore.
Let us return for a moment to constitutional patriotism. Rational and liberal values – liberty, democracy and human rights as well as everything that follows from these principles – are a good foundation for a society.
But the fact is that the persistence of the “old” nations undermines the effectiveness of the aforementioned principles. It is apparent that the fragmentation of these states into smaller political communities would reinforce the effectiveness of democratic values. The smaller a political community is, the more respectful it is of a diverse range of individual and social realities and of key democratic principles. The fragmentation of the European states would bring the nations closer to the international institutions and would therefore reinforce the liberties of their citizens. This is why a rational political foundation will signal the inevitable death of the nations that we know today. One thinks of Rousseau’s discussion of the size of a democracy: he says that the bigger it is, the lesser an individual’s influence on decision-making, whereas it is enshrined in the law that everybody is equal.
This reinforces the need to implement strictly a system of subsidiarity, without which our continental democracy, still in formation, would have no interest in protecting individual liberties.
The dissolution of European nations is essential for the prosperity of federalism
To summarize: Europe cannot apply any principle but reason if it wants to acquire a proper legitimacy. This process is only possible if the nations that comprise this union decide on their own to introduce rationality into their political systems, and yet the act of introducing such rational ideas will inevitably dismantle these irrationally founded nations from within. The federalist project, therefore, will cause the disappearance of the “old” entities that we know today.
One can say that this process has already begun when one notes that most of the parties pushing for regionalism, autonomy and independence are generally Europhiles. The European Free Alliance, a confederation of political parties who sit with the Green Party, implicitly call for a federal Europe in their manifesto by, for example, supporting greater powers of transnational institutions such as the Parliament. Most of these parties understand the influence of such constitutional questions. Faced with this perspective, Euro-conservatives panic and make misleading generalizations, such as saying if Europe could not handle crippling regionalisms which have only weakened the nations for two centuries – a statement that is insignificant when viewed next to the history of the old continent.
Nation-states are in no way essential to the future of the EU and are in fact far from the foundation of European construction. Successful unification will come from their dissolution. Consider the words of Jean Monnet: “We are not forming coalitions of states, we are uniting men.”