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The issue of federalism and its relation to international democracy is the basic questioning that underlies the debates
among federalist activists. When we say “international”, we indeed essentially speak about two aspects of the relation
between nations: one that is our immediate concern, i.e. Europe, and another, which is in the interest of the whole
human race, i.e. the world stage. We live today in a world, which is not ruled by democratically enacted law, but by the
law of the strongest. Federalism may bring an adequate analytical framework to find the solutions to this lack of
A World without Democracy
Public disenchantment in Europe is undeniable. National governments give the feeling to the people that they do not
really have the choice of policies and the European Union has proved a convenient scapegoat for every unhonoured
electoral pledge. Often, parliamentary democracy has crippled in the recent decades: in many western countries,
national parliaments are no more than a confirmation chamber. Far from being weakened by European integration,
national governments have confirmed their grip on all the commands of power: matters that used to be dealt with by law
in elected parliaments are now decided by diplomats or ministers, hardly accountable to their Parliaments. Granted, with
the extension of the codecision procedure, the role of the European Parliament has brought increased legitimacy to the
European law-making process. However, media’s failure to inform properly and political spin tend to downgrade this
phenomenon: voters also need to feel that the decisions taken result from their own choice.
There is another level, where democracy is a foreign word: the world. The world order in which we live is the direct
inheritance of the Second World War and of the Cold War. How explain, otherwise, that developed powerful democratic
countries like Germany, Japan or South Africa have no place in the UN Security Council? The “Blue helmets” have a
very limited right to use their weapons, and are therefore unable to have any policing action in international conflicts. The
UN therefore has to rely on individual States to carry out its resolutions, which are often little more than an excuse to
legitimise unilateral action of some States. The UN also has to rely on its members’ financial contributions. Here again,
the force is on the side of financial power. How impose anything on the United States, to name them, when they threaten
not to pay their huge debt to the Organisation, putting at risk its whole financial balance? More widely, many multinational
firms, American and European alike can also be accused of abusing their power and political connections at the expense
of the poorest in the rest of the world. In a word, power and not democracy still very much regulates international
Federalism as a democratic answer to international anarchy
To be really democratic, the federal European Constitution must not only be the result of the converging will of the
national ratifying authorities. It must express the will of the European people. The only real way to achieve this is to hold
a Europe-wide referendum. The guiding line in the process of European democratisation is not only the creation of
accountable, transparent and efficient institutions. It is also the creation of a European demos. Only a breakthrough like a
Europe-wide referendum on a European Constitution, resulting in institutions that continue to regularly bolster supranational identification (Europe-wide party lists, European parliamentary system, publicity of debates) will create it.
Moreover, only a federal Europe will be able to act efficiently at world level and balance the forces of international
thraldom. By granting legal capacity to the European Union, abolishing the Council-nominated High representative for the
Common Foreign and Security Policy and giving its powers to the European Commission, by creating a real autonomous
European army, the Constitution will enable the EU to have its word on the world stage. Europe will then have the
greatest opportunity of all: that of campaigning for world democracy. Indeed, we need the rules on the free movement of
goods, services, capital and persons at world level to be adopted as democratically as they are or should be in the EU,
i.e. not by diplomats, but by representatives of the people, that reflects the interest of the whole World’s population, not
only that of the richest of its States. The Security Council should reflect the World diversity and have a permanent
representative for each region of the globe, instead of privileging five countries, two of which flout the basic principles of
democracy and human rights every day. We need to make sure that a Country like the US cannot escape the obligation
to protect the World environment or to put to trial those of its nationals that are suspected of war crimes. International
conflicts should be dealt with, not by individual countries, but by a world army, making sure the law and world interest are
obeyed. Those simple and not too radical demands are federal ones.
And who, better than a federal European Union, will be able to contribute to such a vision of the world? Our more than
fifty-year long experience of relations between nations have taught us how to base a system on the rule of law instead of
force. Once the EU is federal, that is, democratic, it will be able to promote a vision of the world that puts back the human
being at its very centre.
Emmanuel Vallens, resident in Brussels, is Secretary General of JEF-Strasbourg and member of the Federal Committee
of JEF-Europe
927 words (titles and signature included). Article published in the October 2002 issue of The New Federalist