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A union of sovereign states

Posted by Richard Thursday, December 16, 2004

One of the more egregious lies set out in the FCO’s "Explanatory Memorandum on the EU Constitutional Treaty" is the claim that the new treaty "makes clearer than ever before" that the EU is "a union of sovereign states which only exercises those powers given to it by its members."

In context, this is part of Blair’s general defence to the charge that the EU will, with the advent of its own constitution, become a "superstate". But, leaving aside that defence, one cannot allow the lie of "a union of sovereign states" to rest unchallenged.

The simple rebuttal can be summed up in a single argument. Essentially, with the advent of the constitution, the EU acquired its own legal personality (Art. 1-7). With that, it is a legal entity in its own right, with its own set of rules, its own governing bodies, and entirely autonomous powers. It is not a union of states. It is an autonomous government.

The member states may have given birth to this "Union" but in the same way that a child once born forges a life independent of its mother, so too is the EU an entity in its own right.

For sure, it can only exercise those powers given to it by its members, but those powers, once given, are absolute - there is no provision for their return, no mechanism for scrutiny by the member states, and no check on how it uses those powers. The EU can use them entirely at its own discretion, without further reference to the member states and, in fact, is superior to the member states in the exercise of those powers.

But to claim that the EU is, or was ever intended to be, a union of "sovereign states" is to misunderstand the nature and the history of the project. To find out what was originally intended, all they have to do is read the very first lines of preamble to the original 1957 Treaty of Rome. This states, bold as brass:

Determined to lay the foundations of ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe.
This is not a declaration of union between governments, much less states. The union of peoples means what it says; the aim was always to bypass the national governments, to remove the evils, as the founding fathers thought, of nationalism.

Their whole objective was to create citizens of Europe, with their rights stemming from their new government of Europe, to which they also owed duties. And that much is set out in the new constitution (Art. 1-10):

Citizens of the Union shall enjoy the rights and be subject to the duties provided for in the constitution.
As to the union of peoples, nothing of that original intention has changed and although, for pragmatic reasons, the phrase "ever closer union" has been removed, the preamble to the constitution keeps the original intention clear with the statement:

Convinced that, while remaining proud of their own national identities and history, the peoples of Europe are determined to transcend their former divisions and, united ever more closely, to forge a common destiny.
That point is then reinforced in Art. 1-1 of the constitution – the very first line of the damn thing: "Reflecting the will of the people…". Only then does it add "…and the States of Europe", going on to say: "…to build of common future". In that context, states are secondary to the people.

One can only conclude, as we have done before, that either the FCO is lying through its teeth, or it simply does not know what is going on. Either way, by act, default or sufferance, it is perpetrating a lie.