Letter:Confederal Europe needs time to evolve

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The Independent Online
Sir: Further to your extended editorial "Britain and Europe - a proposal" (3 June).

The first thing to understand is that constitutionally, the European Union is sui generis. It is unique. Nothing quite like this has ever been tried before. When I try to explain to my American colleagues the direction Europe is taking, the Continental Congress and the Federalist Papers fall readily to hand.

Historically the objectives were similar; how to avoid the effects of blocking minorities (Rhode Island) on issues which were to the (commercial) advantage of the other states. The result was a federation that, despite its written constitution, has in practice worked in ways which its own "founding fathers" could never have imagined.

This is one possible shortcoming of a written constitution, or "stated goals and objectives". Constitutional evolution (or "drift", depending on where one is coming from) is inherent in such institutions. It took the best part of 200 years plus one civil and two world wars for the American constitution to settle down in its "modern" form. Even though by its nature, the European project cannot arouse the intellectual ferment characteristic of revolutionary situations, and in years is hardly out of its cradle, much has been achieved in the last fifty. How much did the American Union achieve in its first half-century?

In all this, I recognise one great originality. Partly as the result of having to deal with recalcitrant nation states, the Commission has developed the concept of the "Europe of regions", appealing directly over the heads of the nations to the regionally governed. This in itself would take care of the cultural and "language" issue. For precisely this reason, the Council of Ministers must not gain (or regain) power at the expense of the Commission or Parliament. This island is fortunate in that (with one notable exception), its political unit corresponds with its natural geographical frontiers.Others are not so lucky, and it seems to me a logical solution to the problems of nationality (or nationalism) set out in the first part of your essay.


Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire