(of Giovanni Barbieri, member of the Scientific Committee of Cranec, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart)
Over the last few months, since the European continent experienced the virulence of the pandemic and experienced its negative and penalizing effects, the term sovereignty has been echoed many times. It was the European Institutions, indirectly through #NextGeneration EU, that brought the issue of European sovereignty to the attention of the public debate, as well as individual politicians such as Macron and Merkel, who in May 2020 also produced a joint document on the subject . The relaunch of the issue of European sovereignty was obviously stimulated by the difficulties the EU has had to face in recent months, caught totally unprepared on many fronts, primarily health and pharmacology.
A rude awakening but one that has highlighted an unequivocal basic fact, namely that the EU, in all its institutions, exists as an “object” of international politics and does not have the capacity to become an active subject. In this sense, the search and construction of its sovereignty as an international political subject should take place not in the wake of emotions, but on the awareness of what sovereignty as a political institution (and juridical cascade) contains and what it entails. A political institution such as that of sovereignty is nothing more than a strategic field within which the relations of power between civil society and political society are articulated.
With regard to European sovereignty, it is worth starting from the formulation that Emmanuel Macron offered in his address at the Sorbonne in Paris on September 26, 2017, and then try to compare it with the very essence of the concept of sovereignty as an institution. This is a digression which may seem excessively long and disorienting, but which is necessary since it constitutes the precedent of what is happening today.
Macron’s European sovereignty
In his lecture Macron wondered whether European countries, alone with their legal systems, could effectively face the challenges of the future (environmental, technological, economic) and defend their political and social peculiarities, unique in the world. His answer was no, since the only chance for success would be to “Re-found a sovereign, united and democratic Europe”, the only way that would have ensured the future of the countries of Europe. He then goes on to identify the six key areas for this ‘refoundation’.
The first is that of safety, declined in military and civilian terms. Sovereign Europe is the one capable of guaranteeing security in all dimensions, from that of the fight against terrorism through the creation of a European Intelligence Academy, to the dimension of the common European army, to be built through the establishment of permanent enhanced cooperation and perfect integration between all European armies. From a civilian point of view, the need to have ready, effective and effective European civil protection. To do this, he calls for the need to have a common budget for military spending and the elaboration of a European strategic concept.
The second key area is that of the government of migratory movements. In this context, European sovereignty is realized in the ability to create a European asylum mechanism through the creation of a specific European Office and to standardize legal and police regulations with regard to border monitoring. Furthermore, it identifies as a priority that of standardizing and integrating the registries of individual countries, to better manage the identification and, possibly, expulsion paths.
The third point is the reminder of the need for the EU to become a global model of developmentsustainable. Already in 2017 Macron recalled the need for the EU to become the leader of the ecological transition, through the decarbonisation of the economy and courageous reforms of energy policies. It also introduced the need for an industrial program to support individual mobility and the construction of infrastructures related to sustainable mobility. To conclude with the agricultural policy, which should have been deeply reformed to make the EU ‘sovereign’ from a food point of view.
The fourth key area identified by Macron is that of EU leadership in the field of transition digital. The EU should have dominated the field of innovation and adaptation to technological change, with a view to being able to exploit them and not suffer them. It is certainly an issue that, even today, is of primary importance, considering how much the absence of major EU technological players is one of the penalizing factors in the pandemic situation. Recently, Estonia, Denmark, Finland and Germany have also drawn the attention of President von der Leyen to this aspect, through a co-signed letter.
The fifth key area is that of European economic and monetary power. For Macron, the EU, in addition to national reforms, should have equipped itself with the appropriate tools to make it an area of growth and stability and, in particular, a budget capable of financing joint investments and guaranteeing stabilization in the face of economic shocks. All this making the Eurozone the beating heart of the European economy.
The last key area is that of relations with Africa and the Mediterranean, where the EU must be able to create and bring its own influence and leadership. However, Macron is no more specific than that.
As can be seen, Macron’s idea of European sovereignty followed in 2017 what actually started in mid-2020, in particular with the idea of making #NextGeneration EU the tool through which further European integration can be achieved. . An integration that will bring many of the achievements prefigured by Macron in his speech at the Sorbonne.
One wonders if ‘European sovereignty’ is something opposite to the so-called. national sovereignties which have arisen in many European countries in recent years and which have stimulated intense public and academic debate. To answer this question, one could attempt a path of differentiation and, that is, ask oneself in what European sovereignty would differ from national sovereignties. Without going into the merits of the definition of sovereignty, on which there are various and not always very accurate interpretations from a scientific point of view, it can be noted that the fundamental difference is that while national sovereignties aim to safeguard (or recreate) an existing sovereignty that is translates into the political order defined by the national state, European sovereignty aims to create a sovereignty that does not yet exist. Even better, it aims to complete a sovereignty which, for now, is unbalanced on the legal level (think of how much the EU system prevails over the national one) and rather fragmented on the political level (national states are rather reluctant to give up quotas. strategic residuals of exclusive skills). It is undoubtedly a pathological or anomalous condition, if we look at the processes of formation of national states, processes in which legal systems are formed and developed in accordance with the birth of a specific political order that is by the very fact sovereignty.
European sovereignty, therefore, would be nothing more than the creation of a new regional political order. An order, which, to date, does not exist. Jacques Delors himself defined the European Union as an “unidentified political object”. At present, the EU is a predominantly organized Union on a sectoral and functional basis, in which the link between people, territory and government is weak and where the monopoly of external and internal sovereignty is not clearly defined.
Macron’s idea of European sovereignty, recently revived and supplemented by the Commission’s recovery plans, is at least confused. It longs for the birth of a European political order but identifies practical and immediate solutions aimed at the creation of specific entities which, if nothing else, will strengthen the technical capabilities of the Union, always in the direction of functional and sectoral federalism, without however affecting the level in the least. politic. National civil societies will continue to exist which are reflected in the political societies of states and which will struggle to find a counterpart in the EU.
European sovereignty is far to come. At times when these should express the political society of the Union, they do not have the necessary strength to impose themselves on the political societies of the member states, which continue to be the main point of reference for their respective civil societies. In other words, the peoples of the Union continue to perceive their national political societies as supremely legitimate, net of the defects they present, and this has been clearly shown, in the past years, in the case of the controversy over the sustainability of the debt in the eurozone. Over the centuries, Europe has been the theater of war confrontation between the various national sovereignties that have clashed with each other for supremacy. The last case, in chronological order, was the Second World War, with Nazi Germany having a clear plan of establishing a new political order for continental Europe.
In the second half of the twentieth century the EC and then the EU owed their fortune to the merits they had in terms of economic growth, spreading well-being among the European peoples and improving their living conditions. The real challenge for the EU institutions today is therefore not to chase utopian sovereign formulations, but to consolidate the good things that have been built since 1957 and to profoundly review those mechanisms which, since the beginning of the 21st century, have enormously limited their capacity, compressing excessively the successes achieved in the second half of the previous century. The way is not sovereignty, but functionality.