Apologies to the UK, but 'federal' is the only way

Taken from the speech on the future of Europe delivered by Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, at Berlin's Humboldt University
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The Independent Online

We must begin to think beyond the enlargement process of Europe and consider how a future "large" EU can function as it ought to function and what shape it must take. Permit me to remove my Foreign Minister's hat in order to suggest a few ideas on the nature of this so-called finality of Europe and on how we can approach and achieve this goal.

Enlargement will render imperative a fundamental reform of the European institutions. How, with the system of institutions that exists today, are 30 states supposed to balance interests, take decisions and then act? How can one prevent the EU from becoming utterly intransparent and the citizens' acceptance of the EU from eventually hitting rock bottom?

There is a simple answer: the transition from a union of states to full parliamentarisation as a European federation. That means nothing less than a European parliament and a European government that really do exercise legislative and executive power.

This simple solution is immediately criticised as being utterly unworkable. Europe is not a new empty continent, so the criticism goes, but full of different peoples, cultures, languages and histories. The nation-states are realities that cannot simply be erased, and the more that globalisation and Europeanisation create superstructures and actors remote from the citizens, the more the people will cling on to the nation states.

The existing concept of a federal European state replacing the old nation states as the new sovereign power shows itself to be an artificial construct that ignores established realities in Europe. The completion of European integration can only be successful if it is done on the basis of a division of sovereignty between Europe and nation state. This is the idea underlying "subsidiarity", a subject being discussed by everyone and understood by virtually no one.

A European parliament must therefore always represent two things: a Europe of the nation states and a Europe of the citizens. This will only be possible if this European parliament actually brings together the different national political élites and then also the different national publics.

This can be done if the European parliament has two chambers. One for members who are also members of their national parliaments. Thus there will be no clash between national parliaments and the European parliament. For the second chamber a decision will have to be made between the Senate model, with directly-elected senators from the member states, and a chamber of states along the lines of Germany's Bundesrat.

Objections will be raised that Europe is already much too complicated and much too intransparent for the citizen, and here we are wanting to make it even more complicated. But the intention is quite the opposite. The division of sovereignty requires a constituent treaty which lays down what is to be regulated at European and what has still to be regulated at national level. Matters which absolutely have to be regulated at European level would be the domain of the Federation, whereas everything else would remain the responsibility of the nation states. This would be a lean European federation, but one capable of action. And it would also be a union which the citizens could understand, because it would have made good its shortfall on democracy.

All this will not mean the abolition of the nation state. Even for the finalised federation, the nation state, with its cultural and democratic traditions, will be irreplaceable in ensuring the legitimation of a union of citizens and states wholly acceptable to the people. I say this not least with an eye to our friends in the UK - I know that the term "federation" irritates many Britons. To date, I have been unable to come up with another word. We do not wish to irritate anyone.

Even when European finality is attained, we will still be British or German, French or Polish. The nation states will continue to exist, and at European level they will retain a large role. In such a federation the principle of subsidiarity will be constitutionally enshrined.

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