Friday, May 10, 2013

Hitting the European nail on its head

I've been considering writing up about what I have been recently up to with these European Federalist Papers for a longer time, but this Friday, a day after this year's Europe Day, is the first convenient moment. It is no secret that I am a great supporter of the concept of strong and united Europe, but no, I am not entering politics or spreading the official Brussels "propaganda" as some of you might be wrongly suspecting. As you will see, it's something rather different.

Instead, I became interested in a private undertaking of three European citizens - experts in the fields of law and administration, and federalists at the same time - who decided to try to do something about the current state of things in Europe. Before I write more about what these three men did, let me make a short historical stop in North America at the times of the Philadelphia Convention, i.e. the end of the 18th century.

In 1787, when there was a danger of State of New York rejecting the new federal Constitution of the United States, three other men - Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, all Americans and federalists for that matter - wrote and published 85 newspaper essays explaining and promoting the new constitution. The high quality and a tremendous pace of their work helped to reverse the negative development in favor of New York's ratification of the United States Constitution.

The essays - collectively known as The Federalist and later also as the Federalist Papers - have become a kind of a legend of their own. They still are, more than 220 years after being written, used by the US authorities to reason about the meaning of the US Constitution and the intentions of the America's Founding Fathers.  When I read the first dozen of them during the last summer, I had wished something like that had existed for Europe.

At that time I could not have known that, alarmed by the worsening Euro crisis, Leo Klinkers, Herbert Tombeur and Fernand Jadoul already started writing their European Federalist Papers. Inspired by the American version and knowing that the skeptics all around Europe have become very busy advocating for disunion, I was even considering and wanting to write something myself, but something much better and more fortunate happened: on January 14 of this year I randomly ran across a tweet announcing the series of 26 European Federalist Papers. As a reader, I have been following the Papers ever since and what I learned from them made me step out from the passive role of a mere reader. Read on to know what exactly I did, but first, let me say what I find so great about these Papers.

First, the Papers make a direct comparison between the USA under the Articles of Confederation and the EU under the Treaty of Lisbon. I was previously laughed at by the illiterate when I tried to compare these two systems and draw any conclusion from the striking similarity of their respective crises and ways out of them. So starting from this position immediately gained the Papers my sympathies.

Second, the Papers are a real eye-opener. I must admit that before reading the Papers I probably could not see that federal Europe cannot be achieved by adjusting the intergovernmental treaty, from the will of the heads of governments. Which is worse, I did not understand what a federal Europe means. I had just a rough idea of European mutuality, but didn't really make any difference between a genuine constitution, an intergovernmental treaty or a constitutional treaty. My thinking in this area was locked inside of a box.

Third, the Papers show no restraints to criticize the current malfunctioning intergovernmental system of the European Union, personified in the European Council, and don't go far to denounce the Treaty of Lisbon. This makes the Papers totally independent and no-one can say this is some paid propaganda from Berlaymont. The papers are concluded by a draft European Constitution. The constitution starts with the words "We the Citizens" and has only ten articles that fit on a couple of pages, strongly contrasting with the 400-page-or-so Treaty of Lisbon.

Lastly, the European Papers are trying to follow the American best practice as closely as possible. This includes the emphasis on the tremendous citizens` role in the process of forming the federation, in a bottom-up manner. This effort is also apparent from the fact that the European Federalist Papers are not an official EU memo, they do not represent any Member State's position, they were not created by any unelected officer in Brussels, no head of government is responsible for them. Instead, it is pure citizenship and passion for the idea of federal Europe which lead to the creation of these Papers.

This citizens` dimension - everything comes from the citizens: the European Federalist Papers themselves, the Draft Constitution and the prospective convent and ratification reminds me the workings of an open source software community. And that's the reason I wanted to start contributing myself, to become one of the active community members.

I realized that the Papers, until then available only in English and Dutch, do not reach out to all the potentially interested people as there are many people who do not speak any of these two languages. So I offered my help and to this date, I translated Papers 0 - 3 into Czech. I also encouraged and organized others to translate the Papers into their own language or to help the existing translators to share the massive burden of translating by parallelizing their efforts. So far, there should be several other translations in progress.

At the same time, the authors of the Papers realized the power of the modern social media and instead of choosing the classical newspapers, they chose Web and Twitter as means to spread the federalist message. This was, of course, an idea that I appreciated too, even though it was clear that its implementation can be improved. Using my experience with community building, I started European Federalist Papers pages on Facebook and Google+. And that's probably how you learned about my involvement with the European Federalist Papers.

Now, my countrymen, when you know what I have been up to, you may as well consider supporting this noble idea of true federal Europe. If nothing else, I kindly ask you to read the papers as that's where everything begins. The rest is up to you.


Ralf Grahn said...

I read your post with interest and published an entry on my blog:

MaDarmell said...

Very good post