By Philip Bobbitt
Published Thursday, May 26, 2005, in The Guardian Unlimited.
Reprinted with the author's permission.
Guardian Editor's Note: The polls predict that on Sunday France will reject the EU constitution. Even if it votes yes, some suggest the entire European project has been badly damaged. Is it possible to salvage the EU dream? [The Guardian] asked key thinkers from both sides of the debate how they would fix it.
UT Law Editor's Note: The below exerpt is Philip Bobbitt's contribution. Columns from other key thinkers can be found here.
Suppose the French referendum fails; should that be a cause for despair among those persons like myself who support European integration and are apprehensive about the possibility of a British refusal to ratify? Not at all.
The importance of the constitutional experiment under way in Europe is to see whether nation states can create an umbrella state - that is, a market state in which voluntary consent rather than conquest forms the basis for accession and from which secession does not mean civil war. Such a state would have a sharply limited central government. Its powers would be checked and balanced by countervailing institutions. It would have minimal fiscal control combined with a centralised monetary authority of less than complete domain. Its constituent democratic institutions by whom the functions of civil society are regulated would be decentralised and very largely beyond the control of the central government. This form of the state will be significant for the world because it will provide an example of governance beyond the nation state at a time when many problems - including climate change, terrorism, currency volatility, transnational epidemics, humanitarian crises and failed states - all require collaborative effort, often frustrated by national conflicts.
The EU will not match the military capability of the United States because armies are essentially national. At present the Europeans spend more and get far less because the aggregate of all their forces does not begin to approach the singular power of the American military arm.
Warfare in the 21st century - to forestall terror networks, WMD proliferation, and genocide - requires enhanced intelligence, humanitarian assistance, policing expertise, doctors, translators and union organisers as much as combat units. A European force that was complementary to, rather than in competition with, the US would be a positive part of a humane 21st-century world order.
Ordinary people in every European country are sceptical of the attempt to create a superstate. They know that a nation state inevitably requires a dominant national group - cultural, historical, linguistic, ethnic. An umbrella market state, as the EU is becoming (largely thanks to British leadership), allows the flourishing of smaller regional cultures that are not viable as nation states. The sort of European Union that Britain has advocated is one that provides for overlapping memberships, as for example in Nato, for different purposes. A French rebuff to the proposed constitution might actually encourage such overlapping memberships.
Philip Bobbitt is a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a former director for intelligence programmes at the US national security council.
Professor Philip Bobbitt's Web Page: http://www.utexas.edu/law/faculty/pbobbitt/