Larry Siedentop

Larry Siedentop, page 2

The referendum is a device viewed with suspicion by those who believe in representative government.
Yet first the French and Dutch, and now the Irish, have used the referendum to defend representative government.
Larry Siedentop, Financial Times July 1 2008

The claim that "Enlightenment values" define the soul of Europe would be rather odd
We do not admire the Enlightenment for reasons of national spirit, but on the contrary for its universal worth.

Ian Buruma, Financial Times, 1/4 2007

EU Constitition

The question of a constitution for Europe is back.
A plan to solve Europe’s crisis of legitimacy
The writer is an emeritus fellow of Keble College, Oxford
Larry Siedentop, Financial Times 11/4 2006

The question of a constitution for Europe is back. German presidency of the European Union will see to that. The government of Angela Merkel, chancellor, is said to favour either resuscitating the constitutional treaty rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands or salvaging some of it. This is hardly surprising. Germany has long advocated at least a quasi-federal outcome for European integration.

I think there is a way. It is the only way that responds to the nature of Europe’s crisis, which is a crisis of legitimacy. Unlike democratic deficits – always to be found in systems of representative government, to a greater or lesser extent – a crisis of legitimacy occurs when there is no widely understood and accepted framework for public decision-making. That is Europe’s plight today.

Transfers of power to Brussels have weakened national political cultures and the fragile sense of democratic empowerment they sustained. This was a largely unintended consequence of integration. The European parliament has not succeeded in acquiring any hold over public opinion. So it is un­able to offset these national developments. The result is a threat to representative government and to a culture of consent across Europe.

Let me suggest some of the topics that might be put forward in the calendar. Should the role of national parliaments within the EU be strengthened – and if so, how? Can deliberations of the Council of Ministers be made both more efficient and more public? Should the European Commission retain a monopoly on legislative initiatives? What attributes of a state, if any, should the EU acquire? What rights are fundamental, deserving protection in all member states? How can the principle of subsidiarity be given real teeth?

The existence of the European parliament has served as an excuse for national political classes to distance themselves from the European project. That, in turn, has seriously undermined the legitimacy of the whole project.

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The future of Europe is Swedish
Larry Siedentop Financial Times September 15 2003

We the people do not understand
Larry Siedentop, Financial Times, 4/6 2003

The future of Europe is Swedish
Larry Siedentop Financial Times September 15 2003

The contrast between the referendum results in Sweden and Estonia this weekend is remarkable only at first glance. The outsiders want in, while the insiders want to keep a distance from the main project of the European Union: the euro.

One Swedish motive was the defence of self-government against integrationist measures that might threaten it. Swedes were clear-headed enough to see that concern about self-government differs from nationalism. Of course Swedish identity came into the picture. But it entered not so much as chauvinism but as pride about the tradition of representative democracy in Sweden. The other powerful motive at work was dissent from the neo-liberalism associated with Brussels - that is, anxiety about the implications of ceding control not only of monetary but also of fiscal policy for the Swedish welfare state.

For Estonia, emerging from the domination of the Soviet Union, must consider that membership of the EU is a necessary condition of securing self-government against possible threats from its powerful neighbour, Russia.

So the real question behind the weekend's results is about the future working of the EU. How will it be conceived by the people of different member states? What idea will they have of the Union? Here the contrast between Estonia and Sweden begins to weaken, if not disappear altogether. For it is clear to most observers that the new member states will be very assertive once the formalities of enlargement are over. We can expect an unapologetic defence of national interests, a suspicion of encroachments from Brussels and an intense dislike of what might be called lurking double standards in the EU. The sacrifices and changes that have been imposed on the applicant countries have made them keen students of the failures of the existing members to observe these standards.

That suspicion of double standards - closely joined to a determination not to become second-class members of the European club - has grown during the decade of preparation for enlargement. But it received a massive boost in the run-up to the Iraq campaign, when Jacques Chirac, the French president, berated the applicant countries for seeking an influence and a profile that their status did not warrant. It was as if the tutelle or tutorship that the French state has in the past applied to its own citizens was being extended to the rest of Europe.

A second ground for suspecting double standards in the EU is provided by the current struggle over applying the rules of the stability and growth pact. The sight of France treating those rules with contempt - and the unwise words of Jean-Pierre Raffarin, its prime minister, which suggested that France was not just another country - conjure up a vision of the Union that is anathema to the new member states. They will doubtless be applauding, even if only silently, the Netherlands' attempt to stand up to France and see the penalties applied.

Still another way in which the suspicion of double standards has been reinforced stems from the recent assertion by a number of leading intellectuals of a European identity and values that contrast sharply with those of the US. That assertion has not been entirely free of a sub-text - namely, that perhaps only the original core group of EU members can be relied on to articulate and promote that identity and those values. In that way, a line of argument at first directed against the US could almost be seen as turning against an enlarged EU, as being ideologically unreliable. Convinced that the US has historically been the more reliable defender of liberal democracy, the new member states will be hard to persuade otherwise, especially if they feel consigned to second-class status.

In consequence, the view of the proper workings of the EU emerging in the new member states will probably be quite close to that of the majority of Swedes. It will be a pluralist vision rather than a unitary one, a preference for something more like a confederation than a federation. For behind the quasi-federalist form projected for Europe that is promoted, at least intermittently, by France, such countries detect a wish to give the EU some of the attributes of a unitary state. Their contribution could decisively shift the balance of the debate away from that particular vision.



Federativ modell kan lösa EU:s demokratiproblem
Hans Ingvar Roth
är Master of Letters och forskare vid Centrum för multietnisk forskning vid Uppsala universitet
och vid teologiska institutionen i Lund.
Understreckare SvD 2001-03-23

Sverige har för närvarande ordförandeskapet i EU vilket har fört organisationen något närmare de svenska medborgarna. Under det halvår som Sverige har ordföranderollen kommer det att hållas en rad olika internationella möten och seminarier på skilda platser runt om i landet. Just denna fredag och lördag möts EU:s stats- och regeringschefer i Stockholm för ett stort möte där också Rysslands president kommer att delta. EU:s betydelse i Sverige har även givit sig tillkänna på flera andra sätt under de år som Sverige har varit medlemsstat. Olika myndigheter ägnar nämligen alltmer av sin tid åt de föreskrifter som i rask takt produceras av EU. Många privata företag och intresseorganisationer försöker också vara mer närvarande i Bryssel för att bevaka sina vitala intressen. För de forskare som har studerat EU:s ekonomiska och politiska integration är dessa sistnämnda förhållanden tydliga tecken på en stegrad maktkoncentration inom EU. I flera EU-stater finns det också en ökad skepsis hos medborgarna gentemot denna mer märkbara maktcentralisering. Uttalade EU-skeptiker menar att organisationen representerar ett politiskt elitprojekt som fjärmar sig från vanliga medborgare och därigenom hämmar deras politiska engagemang. Även hos dem som ställer sig positiva till EU på ett mer principiellt plan har Brysselbyråkratins växande inflytande betraktats med oblida ögon. Att Bryssel tenderar att lägga sig i frågeställningar som egentligen borde behandlas av de enskilda staterna uppfattas av dessa kritiker som ett hot mot EU:s demokratiska legitimitet. Att formulera och ge kraft åt anti-diskrimineringslagar skall till exempel vara en gemensam europeisk angelägenhet medan fastställandet av arbetsveckans längd knappast borde vara det. Den bristande offentliga insynen i EU:s centrala institutioner har vidare underblåst känslan av att EU-politiken är odemokratisk till sin karaktär.

Den amerikanske statsvetaren Larry Siedentop ansluter sig till denna sistnämnda mer “moderata” kritikerskara i sin nya insiktsfulla bok Democracy in Europe (Penguin Press, 254 s). Siedentop är verksam som lärare och forskare i Oxford och har tidigare publicerat en utmärkt introduktion till Alexis de Tocquevilles tänkande. Det är också Tocquevilles “De la Democratie en Amérique” som står som tydlig inspirationskälla för Siedentops kritiska granskning av EU. Den franske aristokraten Tocqueville (1805­59) företog en studieresa till USA i början på 1830-talet vilken resulterade i en av de mest betydelsefulla skrifterna om USA:s politiska kultur, en studie som närmast kan liknas vid USA-forskarnas “bibel”. Tocqueville skrev sin bok mot bakgrund av sitt stora missnöje med den centraliserade franska statsbildningen såsom den gestaltat sig under Napoleontiden. I USA fann han ett mer decentraliserat folkstyre som kännetecknades av ett rikt föreningsliv och en positiv skaparkraft. Amerikanen Siedentop gör en helt omvänd resa både geografiskt och mentalt. Medan fransmannen Tocqueville fann sin inspiration för ett nytt europeiskt politiskt tänkande genom positiva erfarenheter från USA är Siedentops ambition knappast att finna något konstruktivt i Europa för att ta med sig till Amerika. En central tes hos Siedentop är nämligen att USA:s politiska kultur fortfarande kan utgöra en idealbild för de europeiska länderna, speciellt då i samband med EU-projektets demokratiproblem.

Frankrike är inte bara närvarande på ett speciellt sätt i Siedentops framställning genom referenserna till Tocqueville. Landet lyfts också fram ur både negativ och positiv synvinkel i hans analyser, dock främst i en negativ betydelse. Man kan utan överdrift säga att Siedentops kritiska måltavla i stort sett är densamma som Tocquevilles, nämligen den franska centraliserade statsmodellen med sin starka tonvikt på den verkställande makten. Denna modell håller nu på att inkarneras i Bryssels EU-institutioner enligt Siedentop. Att förstå Frankrikes agerande inom EU är således helt nödvändigt för att begripa EU:s aktuella demokratiska problem. En ambition hos Siedentop är att slå hål på den spridda myten att EU i själva verket är ett stortyskt projekt. Han citerar med gillande president de Gaulles liknelse att Tyskland är hästen medan Frankrike är ryttaren i efterkrigstidens Europa. I ekonomiska och politiska termer är detta förhållande även idag en självklar sanning. Frankrike är utan tvekan det land som har varit den mest drivande staten i den europeiska integrationen bland annat genom Maastrichtavtalet 1992 och framväxten av en ekonomisk och monetär union (EMU). Landet har också bidragit förvånansvärt lite till EU:s gemensamma ekonomi. Tyskland är däremot den största bidragsgivaren medan Frankrike hamnar bakom mindre länder såsom Nederländerna i bidragsstatistiken.

Att Frankrike har haft en så stor roll när det gäller EU:s utformning är inte förvånande. Frankrike var ju mycket angeläget om att få till stånd Parisfördraget 1951 vilket lade grunden för Kol- och stålunionen som senare utvecklades till att bli EU. Frankrike lyckades också på ett tidigt stadium prägla den tjänstemannakultur som numera till stor del kännetecknar EU- kontoret i Bryssel. Den franska staten har under långa tider präglats av en effektiv ämbetsmannabyråkrati där flera av de högre tjänstemännen har haft samma utbildningsbakgrund genom sina studier på École Nationale d’Administration. Genom att den franska tjänstemannaeliten har kunnat röra sig på ett förhållandevis fritt sätt mellan den offentliga och den privata sektorn har dessa tjänstemän, enligt Siedentop, erhållit komparativa fördelar i jämförelse med sina europeiska kolleger. Den Europeiska unionen har med andra ord haft Frankrike som dominerande stat dels genom Västtysklands moraliska försvagande efter andra världskriget och dels på grund av att Storbritannien blev medlemsland först år 1973. Siedentop menar att Maastrichtavtalet och dess tydliga integrationsagenda framför allt var en konsekvens av Tysklands återförening 1990. Den tyska återföreningen betraktades med oro från den franske presidenten Mitterrands sida, därav också hans enträgna försök att få igång en accelererad integrationstakt inom EU. Tidigare var Frankrikes inställning mer inriktad på att EU skulle vara ett mer löst utformat statsförbund, alltså en närmast konfederativ lösning. Ett oroande drag i EU-politiken efter Maastricht- och Amsterdamfördragen är dock, enligt Siedentop, frånvaron av en djuplodande ideologisk och konstitutionell debatt om EU:s institutioner. Vad Siedentop efterlyser är en grundläggande teoretisk diskussion i samma anda som de diskussioner vilka fördes av de amerikanska grundlagsfäderna Madison, Hamilton och Jay i slutet av 1700-talet. En sådan debatt

skall inbegripa frågor om maktbalans, förhållandet mellan centrum och periferi samt definierandet och försvarandet av grundläggande mänskliga rättigheter. Den mest utbredda ideologiska tankegången hos EU:s politiker och byråkrater verkar vara att en rörlig och effektiv ekonomisk marknad i det långa loppet kommer att lösa de flesta av EU:s politiska och konstitutionella problem. Ökad ekonomisk tillväxt, stegrad konsumtion och en alltmer förfinad arbetsfördelning blir enligt denna “ekonomismens filosofi” det viktigaste kittet i det nya Europa. Medborgarskapsrollen inskränks till att vara konsumentens medan de politiska ledarna blir ett slags företagsdirektörer som på olika sätt försöker påverka medborgarnas preferenser. Den franske 1700/1800-talsfilosofen Henri de Saint-Simons förutsägelse att framtidens samhällen kommer att styras av bankmän, industriledare och ingenjörer verkar således till viss del ha blivit besannad utifrån Siedentops perspektiv. Som motvikt till denna “ekonomism” efterlyser Sieden-top en ökad medvetenhet om Europas kulturarv där den kristna humanismen och den västerländska liberalismen utgör några av de viktigaste hörnstenarna.

Bristen på en djuplodande ideologisk och konstitutionell debatt visar sig inte minst när de vanligaste argumenten för EU presenteras. Förutom att EU har ansetts bidra till en allt mer utvecklad ekonomisk marknad, vilken också kan stärka EU som global ekonomisk aktör, har det ofta framförts från olika håll att EU-samarbetet kan förhindra framtida krig mellan medlemsstaterna. Den europeiska integrationen kan vidare hålla ett starkt land som Tyskland i schack. Siedentop menar att av dessa fyra argument är det bara det sistnämnda som aktualiserar en seriös diskussion om den framtida maktfördelningen i EU, en diskussion som dock än så länge bara har förts på ett allmänt och ganska obestämt sätt med utgångspunkt i den så kallade subsidiaritetsprincipen. Denna princip har sin upprinnelse i den katolska socialläran och uttrycker att de gemensamma EU-institutionerna bara skall fatta beslut när uppsatta mål inte kan nås genom beslut på lägre nivåer. Siedentop ställer sig positiv inför subsidiaritetstanken men han menar dock att den för närvarande saknar en tydlig konstitutionell inramning. Vad som behövs för att ge innehåll och stadga åt principen är en europeisk högsta domstol som kan fälla avgöranden när skilda beslutsnivåer halkar in på samma områden. Förutom en högsta domstol med makt att granska de lagstiftande och verkställande institutionerna vill Siedentop ha en europeisk senat där senatorerna är utsedda av medlemsstaterna med syfte att just försvara delstaternas inflytande inom EU. (I Siedentops Europa utgör de enskilda staterna fortfarande de primära politiska aktörerna till skillnad från de transnationella regionerna då dessa ej uppfattas ha lika starka medborgarskapstraditioner.) Hans recept för en demokratisk utveckling inom EU är således en amerikansk federalistisk samhällsmodell med ett relativt stort självstyre för de olika medlemsstaterna. För att kunna matcha den franska ämbetsmannadominansen i Bryssel är det också viktigt att det växer fram en ny “politisk klass” inom EU som ger uttryck för ett aktivistiskt medborgarskapsideal i Tocquevilles anda. Denna grupp kan få demokratisk legitimitet om den är juridiskt kunnig och

öppen gentemot alla samhällskategorier. Lite karikerat kan man säga att Siedentops idealmedborgare är den stressade småbarnsföräldern som förutom sitt vanliga jobb hinner med ett politiskt möte på kvällen sedan barnen har hämtats från dagis och fått sin middag.

Siedentop är väl medveten om de stora olikheter som finns mellan USA och Europa vilket självklart problematiserar idén om ett federativt EU. Till skillnad från Europa med sin stora språkliga och kulturella mångfald har USA ett dominerande språk och en politisk kultur i form av den amerikanska konstitutionens rättighets-idéer. En framtida uppgift för EU:s medlemstater blir förutom det gemensamma institutionsbyggandet att komma fram till ett lingua franca-språk, det vill säga ett gemensamt officiellt språk för att underlätta kommunikationen och arbetet inom unionen. Siedentop menar att de flesta européer numera vet att det engelska språket är det naturliga valet inte minst på grund av det har en så stor internationell betydelse. Det land som dock speciellt har kämpat emot det engelska språkets inflytande är Frankrike. Engelska betraktas av Frankrike som en symbol för den amerikanska kulturella imperialismen. Vad fransmännen emellertid borde tänka på, enligt Siedentop, är att just Storbritannien har kunnat hävda sig mycket väl gentemot den amerikanska masskulturen. För att bevisa denna tes räcker det med att se en engelsk film på tv eller bio och jämföra den med en amerikansk. Siedentops studie är ett viktigt bidrag till Europas pågående demokratidebatt. Den kritik som dock kan riktas mot hans bok är att han nästan bara uppehåller sig vid de stora länderna Frankrike, Tyskland och Storbritannien. Länder inom EU som Italien och Spanien får en ytterst liten uppmärksamhet. Han behandlar heller inte de framtida demokratiproblem som kan uppstå i ljuset av en EU-utvidgning österut. Här möter vi nämligen länder med helt andra politiska och religiösa traditioner än de västeuropeiska. Vad som också är förvånande är att Siedentop förefaller vara så säker på vilken politisk modell som är den mest lämpliga för EU. Om nu EU i stort sett skall importera en federalistisk modell från USA, varför efterlyser han då samtidigt en mer förutsättningslös och dynamisk debatt om EU:s institutioner och framtida inriktning? Det som är fascinerande med EU är att organisationen verkar spränga ramarna för traditionella politiska styrelseformer. Vad som just nu pågår i Europa är ett bygge av något helt nytt, ett politiskt fenomen som vi på det här stadiet bara kan ana konturerna av.

Behind intervention in Kosovo and corruption in Brussels, behind the Beef War and the launch of the Euro, lies a single, simple question - what kind of Europe do we want to live in? Despite the profound hostility between sceptics and proponents of a United Europe, the outlines of serious public debate have barely been sketched.

While sceptics talk of national sovereignty and invoke the spirit of wartime resistance, europhiles embrace the idealism of eurozones and sound economic management. The choice, it seems, is between headlong retreat and acquiescence in a Franco-German fudge, Götterdämmerung in Hague's Britain, or absorption into a Greater Belgium.

Larry Siedentop begins afresh. Taking his inspiration from the heated but indispensable discussions that preceded the birth of federal government in the United States, he investigates what we can reasonably expect and what we have to fear from a United Europe.

He examines whether representative government is practically possible across the vast physical scale and human diversity of Europe. He explores, the threat to local autonomy and individual freedom posed by a necessarily distant central power and he anatomizes the widely different political economics of Britain, France and Germany.

He balances throughout an understanding of the great theorists of supra-national government, especially Montesquieu and De Tocqueville, with a deep, though critical, appreciation of contemporary Europe. It is the application of the principles of the one to the problems of the other which makes his book unlike any other which has appeared in the field.

From this level-headed assessment of the obstacles facing integration, Siedentop reasserts the vital importance of wider engagement in the fundamental political questions facing us. He argues that it is only on a publicly discussed and commonly agreed constitution that we can hope to build a Europe equal to the pressures it will have to withstand. The moves towards integration in Europe already in train, and those as yet only planned, will change us. It is up to us, says Siedentop, to ensure that we are changed for the better.

State of the union.
The European elite’s commitment to federalism is a smokescreen behind which lurks a bureaucratic state, writes Edward Skidelsky,
New Statesman, June 26, 2000

Democracy in Europe Larry Siedentop Penguin, 254pp,
£18.99 ISBN 0713994029

For most people, the British constitution is a subject on a par with heraldry or ecclesiastical law. ”Constitutional expert” implies a courtly and somewhat camp old gentleman, the sort who is occasionally wheeled on by the BBC to judge whether or not Camilla is entitled to be Queen. Constitutional reform, even that as serious as Welsh or Scottish devolution, is seen as a mere substitute for genuine radicalism. Our interest is aroused only by ”issues of substance”, which in practice usually means issues involving money. Constitutional questions are dismissed as an empty formality.

But constitutional questions are not irrelevant; rather, we are blind to their importance. The recent rumpus over snobbery at Oxford provided a good demonstration of this blindness. The newspapers all focused on whether or not Oxford is biased in favour of private school applicants. But that is, in fact, a trivial issue; the deeper question raised by the Chancellor’s intervention is whether universities should be considered as autonomous institutions or as departments of state. And that question is constitutional; it is a question about the way power is distributed. ”What is to be done?” matters less, in this case, than ”Who is to decide what is to be done?”

In the past, such problems were resolved with informal understandings. It simply wouldn’t have been ”done” for a Chancellor to intervene publicly in the internal affairs of a university. But these informal understandings were destroyed by Margaret Thatcher, and nothing has arisen to replace them. Our traditional constitutional blindness has never been more dangerous, because we can no longer rely on the tact of our rulers to protect us against despotism.

Democracy in Europe is a call for the revival of serious constitutional thought. Its focus is Europe, because it is in relation to Europe that the British indifference to constitutional forms has been most damaging. Larry Siedentop has a good deal of sympathy with the anxiety, strongest on the right, that power is gradually passing into the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats. But the standard response to this anxiety has been to fall back on an outdated legal punctilio - the absolute sovereignty of the ”Crown in Parliament”. This is indeed the only response available to our Eurosceptics, given their hostility to any form of constitutional federalism. A sound democratic instinct has been pressed into the service of jingoism, because there was no other language in which it could be expressed.

This leaves the field open to the enemies of democracy. The European elite’s commitment to federalism is a smokescreen, argues Siedentop, behind which lurks a centralised, bureaucratic state in the French tradition. This is a dangerous development, because such a state is unlikely to win the consent of peoples with long traditions of self- government. It will come to be seen as something alien and imposed, as ”government by strangers”.

A European state on the French model may bring in its wake another French tradition, that of revolutionary violence against the state. ”The tutorship of a bureaucratic state will be rejected from time to time by European citizens angry at being treated like children, but unused to the disciplines of citizenship.” Siedentop’s remedy is the creation of a European Senate, recruited by indirect elections from existing national parliaments. Such a body would, he hopes, restore legitimacy to the federal project by involving the nations of Europe in their own fate.

This is the political argument of Democracy in Europe. But the real novelty of Siedentop’s book is the way in which he weaves this political argument into a sophisticated historical narrative. The details of contemporary politics are juxtaposed with speculations on the progress of liberty over centuries, as well as sideways glances at theology, art and literature. This style of writing will be new to most English readers. It is not political journalism, nor is it academic philosophy. It is more profound than the former and less systematic than the latter. Democracy in Europe is a conscious revival of that almost defunct genre, the political essay. It is, among other things, a polemic against academic specialisation.

At the heart of Siedentop’s philosophy is a belief in the constructive power of political forms, in their ability to mould the character of society and the individual. This places him in the tradition of Continental rationalism, the tradition of Kant and Rousseau. The state, in his view, is not a mere mechanism for reconciling warring interests. Its influence reaches down into the depths of the self; it establishes us as individuals. In societies prior to the invention of the modern state, the individual was submerged in his various social roles. He was a father, a nobleman or a priest; but there was no identity common to all, no standpoint from which these social roles might have been criticised or rejected. The modern state creates such an identity. One is no longer just a father, nobleman or priest; one is first and foremost a subject or a citizen. Thus a radical break with tradition, or at least the possibility of such a break, is insinuated into the texture of social life. The individual comes into relief; he emerges from behind his masks. This is the great theme of Shakespeare’s plays, and it is no accident, Siedentop points out, that the writing of those plays coincided with the period of state formation in England.

But if the modern state finally establishes the individual in his entirety, the groundwork for this achievement was laid centuries before by Christianity. St Paul was the first to proclaim that the individual is more than whatever social position he happens to occupy, that the new life in Christ transcends social divisions. ”There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” But this ideal remained strictly heavenly. It was imperfectly realised in the Church, and not at all in the secular realm. Nevertheless, the seed was sown. There is continuity between the ideals of Christianity and the practices of modern democracy. The kingdom of heaven is the ghostly precursor of the modern state, and constitutional liberalism is the ”latest frontier of European Christianity”.

There is much here that will bemuse secularists and offend Christians. This whole manner of thinking about history has become strange to us; we are unused to such grand perspectives. Siedentop should be applauded for his boldness, for his disregard of conventional categories. But there is a lot that remains to be filled in. How, exactly, are the moral intuitions of Christianity translated into political liberalism? Weren’t other traditions also at work? Religious tolerance, one of the outstanding achievements of liberalism, received little encouragement from Christian tradition. A few remarks from St Augustine about ”Christian liberty” can be discounted; the revival of ancient scepticism, as well as sheer fatigue, was a far more important influence here.

Siedentop refuses to be pinned down on one crucial question: did Christianity invent the individual, or did it discover him? Is individualism logically parasitic on Christian theology, or is the relationship between the two merely historical? The same question can be repeated with regard to the state: do civic rights create the individual, or do they merely acknowledge his existence? In short, is the individual a natural or an artificial category?

Siedentop tends towards the view that the ”individual” is no more than a construct of European civilisation. But in that case, what sense can be made of the universal aspirations of Christianity and its secular successors? Liberty and equality are simply our inheritance; there is no point in holding them up as ideals to the rest of the world. Siedentop is in danger of reintroducing the ancient notion of liberty as a caste privilege.

Liberty as a universal ideal makes sense only if it has some basis in human nature. If there is no inherent bent towards freedom, then our espousal of it is mere self-aggrandisement. Siedentop is reluctant to adopt this position, perhaps because it would compromise the central place of Christianity in his narrative. But it has a basis in Christianity itself. St Paul holds the gentiles responsible for their moral failings, because even though they have been denied the law of Moses, they have the law of God ”written on their hearts”. Christianity did not invent the personal relationship of the individual to God - it discovered it already in existence. This relationship can exist outside the framework of Christian doctrine and Christian institutions. Otherwise, we have no right to promote principles that have their basis in Christianity outside the boundaries of the Christian world.

Edward Skidelsky’s reviews appear monthly in the NS

"I am in favour of building Europe slowly"
An interview with Larry Siedentop

About Democracy in Europe at Columbia University Press/p>

Europe's constitutional dilemma From Martin Wolf, FT, July 4, 2000

Reason, democracy and the dreaded F-word Democracy in Europe by Larry Siedentop
(Allen Lane, £18.99)
By Denis MacShane, The Independent, 29 June 2000
At last, a proper book on Europe. For a decade or more just about everything published on the subject has been relentlessly partisan. The Europhobes, the Eurosceptics and the Eurocynics are far more numerous in the political-media village of London SW1 than those who agree with Lord Carrington that "Britain's destiny is Europe".

We need vigour and rigour at the heart of Europe
Martin Woollacott , The Guardian, Friday June 30, 2000

The Franco-German manoeuvres of recent weeks do illustrate a matter of central importance, which is that Europe's political cultures differ greatly. These differences, charted perceptively by Larry Siedentop in his new book on European democracy*, can be seen as both difficulties and as assets. France's in stinct for responsive structures that can be controlled by a sharp elite, and Germany's instinct for the careful allocation of power to different levels and units are clearly at play in these proposals. Britain's pragmatic approach, with its attachment to informal consensus, in spite of the adversarial nature of the party system, represents another choice. Other European countries have other models still.

Such cultures, as Siedentop argues, cannot be wished away, but they could be damaged by the creation of the wrong kind of European institutions.,3858,4035209,00.html

Danger of a French Europe
French-style leadership will alienate millions, says Larry Siedentop
The Times, 2000-05-30

Three models of the state are in competition to become the model for the European Community as a whole
. The French model is essentially bureaucratic. The Constitution of the Fifth Republic gives a decisive advantage to the executive over the legislature. Policy is shaped by interests that are well placed to influence the executive, and formal checks and balances and publicity play little part. Because it amounts to little more than the formalisation of a centralised decision-making process, with a minimum of constraints, the French model can be exported relatively easily. Power is the name of the game.
The German model is at the other pole. Inspired by American federalism and the diversity of Germany before unification, the German Constitution takes enormous trouble to create different spheres of authority and to protect each from the others - minimising the risk of encroachments from the federal government, not least by means of a powerful constitutional court. For the Germans, therefore, talk of a "federal" future for Europe means a future with strict constraints on the growth of central power and adherence to the rule of law. Authority is the name of the game.
The British model is characterised by informality, precedent and custom. In effect, it relies upon the existence of a distinct political class which implicitly agrees about the methods, if not the goals, of government. Custom is the name of the game.

BOOKS: Putting the politics back into debate: Mark Mazower on a liberal with a rescue mission
Financial Times, Jul 29, 2000

DEMOCRACY IN EUROPE by Larry Siedentop Penguin Press Pounds 18.99, 254 pages

Were the ghost of Tocqueville to fly into Brussels, he would probably produce something like this stimulating analysis of the dilemmas currently facing the European Union. Siedentop's aim is the Tocquevillean one of recasting the debate over the future of Europe in specifically political terms.

This is badly needed, he argues, because after fascism and communism and the other horrors of mid-20th-century ideological strife, Europeans have abandoned the habit of thinking politically about their institutions. Instead, they have retreated into the kind of economism which makes them discuss the case for European integration in terms of what benefits will accrue from larger internal markets, from unfettered labour mobility, from protecting the continent from the ravages of global capitalism and the competition of low-wage Third World sweat-shops.

As a result, we have not had the debate we need in Europe about what sort of political institutions we want the EU to foster; in particular, about how to secure and deepen democratic values and patterns of association.

This creates the danger that over-rapid political consolidation will be pushed by elites ahead of any popular mandate, threatening the legitimacy of the European project itself.

The author's mission is to resuscitate the values of political liberalism, submerged of late under the wave of free market triumphalism. If the latter, thanks to Thatcher among others, has played an important part in shaping internal trade policy inside the EU, it is the former - argues Siedentop - that we need now, with its emphasis on the checks to central executive power, its reliance on habits of informal association, the primacy it accords to government by consent.

Without these values, the European project is likely to become increasingly divorced from the concerns of ordinary Europeans.

At times, it sounds as though this is a matter of Europe being true to its own historical traditions: following earlier theorists, notably Montesquieu and Guizot, Siedentop identifies European history with the emergence of freedom and a theory of democratic liberty. At others, it looks more like a blueprint for the process of constitutional reform and civic re-education that will ensure an active citizenry and a healthy democracy across the continent.

Along the way, Tocqueville's analysis of democracy in the US and Montesquieu's views of the virtues of the British political system are enlisted in the search to define how federalism and democracy can be made compatible in the EU. The result is a stimulating blend of contemporary political analysis and long-run historical sociology.

Festina lente is the watchword: success in Europe cannot be rushed. It will require the consolidation of currently weak checks to executive power, notably the legislature and perhaps an elected European senate; it will require cultural convergence and a shared language, probably English.

Multi-culturalism is a potential problem, because it can fragment polities instead of welding them, dividing rather than uniting citizens. So too is the kind of demagogic populism which over-rapid federalisation may provoke by way of backlash. But the main enemy is what Siedentop identifies as the driving force of the European project to date, namely the French administrative elite, with its tradition of centralised rule and its propensity for change through fiat.

In perhaps the strongest passages of the book, Siedentop explores the reasons for French success in Europe, and warns of the consequences if British politicians cannot import some of their own ways of doing politics into Brussels. One reason they have been so unsuccessful to date, he argues, is that the Thatcherite revolution in Whitehall destroyed much of what was valuable in the British political tradition: the crisis of constitutional government in Europe is thus connected with that in the UK.

There are some distinct oddities - the language of analysis often has, especially in the more historical parts, an antiquated air: Caesarism, despotism, tribalism are all words contemporary historians use with caution. Islam is, yet again, misleadingly identified with fundamentalism. Some of the history is pretty speculative, and Siedentop's desire to find a historical identity for Europe - which leads him back to Christianity and its supposed connection with democracy - takes him into murky waters.

It is all very well to take inspiration from the great French political theorists of the 18th and early 19th centuries, but our historical understanding of long-term social change has moved on a long way since their day. Stick to what he says about the last 20 years, however, and one has a first-rate piece of political analysis and a clear sense of the difficulties that lie ahead for Europe.

Copyright © The Financial Times Limited

The Guardian - United Kingdom, Jul 22, 2000

Democracy in Europe by Larry Siedentop 272pp, Allen Lane, pounds 18.99

The argument of Larry Siedentop's charming but superficial book is that because Europe is a state in the making, it deserves better than the 'impoverished' constitutional debate it has been getting.

His conclusion is that the right basis for the European Union should be 'liberal constitutionalism', something like the United States' pattern. It would be better, he says, than any of the three models available in Europe: the French one, which is about 'power'; the German one, which is about 'authority'; and the British one, itiated by its 'informality' and 'idiosyncracy'.

But is the European Union, in fact, a state in the making? Siedentop's fundamental mistake is to take for granted that what is emerging in Europe is a version of nation- state government. His explanation of why we should consider the EU as such a thing is embarrassingly thin - confined to a single page. The book asserts that debate about the EU's constitution is 'impoverished', but Siedentop's explanation - too much 'economics', not enough 'citizenship' - misses the obvious reason. The would-be European state is simply unreal.

Siedentop does not mention the judgment of the German Constitutional Court on the Maastricht Treaty, which argued that it was questionable whether an alternative European democracy was possible in the absence of a European 'demos' - a population which could act together.

The constitutional debates surrounding German federalism, the French Fifth Republic and the Spanish transition to a decentralised constitutional monarchy - none of them discussed by Siedentop - can hardly be said to be 'impoverished'. But then, Germany, France, Spain and Britain are real countries with real peoples and Europe is not.

What Siedentop describes as 'the rapid accumulation of power in Brussels' is not about making a new state. It is almost entirely related to a single project, now largely complete, of removing legal barriers to the free movement within the Union of goods, services and people. First, this project is largely a negative one - the removal of barriers. Second, with the possible exception of the creation of a single money, the powers accumulated in Brussels are all of the third or second order of political significance - trade, agriculture, business regulation. And third, real power in the 'integration' process (monetary union and the European Central Bank excepted) remains with the member states.

Europe's legitimacy, in short, is derived strictly from the legitimacy of the member states. That it will remain so seems confirmed by the response to Joschka Fischer's recent proposal for a European federal constitution - hostility or deafening silence from all quarters excepting President Chirac, who proposes as an alternative the intensification of the special relationship between the French and German states.

But will the creation of Emu lead to the creation of a European state? Siedentop assumes that it will - and many agree: both the integrationists, who believe that a single money cannot survive without an 'economic government', and the anti-integrationists, especially in Britain, who fear that this is true.

But both may be wrong. Beyond the elementary rules of the common currency's Stability Pact - ceilings on public deficits and public borrowing - the success of Emu does not depend upon the same level of direct taxes in member countries and a system of transferring resources from rich to poor.

History may well come to see Emu not as the decisive step towards European 'federalism', but merely as the final step in the creation of the European single market.

But that makes Emu nothing more than the Gold Standard in modern dress. And if, meanwhile, most of what 'Brussels' does is pretty small beer and the member states are always in the driving seat, what remains of Siedentop's emerging European state, crying out for its James Madisons, Alexander Hamiltons and Thomas Jeffersons? Precious little.

Having said all this, it is quite probable that, over the next few years, we will find ourselves called upon to agree to something which some may well call a European constitution. The 'competences' of the different levels of European government will be fixed. The treaties will be tidied up. All this will be greeted with fanfares in some quarters and loathing in others.

But the likely 'European constitution' will just be a decking out in 'European' clothes of what already exists. Meanwhile, the sinews of the European Union will be slackened by enlargement to 25 states, bringing with it another 100m 'European citizens'.

Running through Siedentop's analysis is the conviction that institutions build cultures. But what if the relation runs the other way - what if it is actually cultures that build institutions?

Might not Siedentop's 'idealism' then lead to the creation of institutions that are rejected by the cultures they purport to rebuild, or remain empty because they outstrip the reality of those cultures?

There is, however, little danger of this. 'Europe' will remain what it always has been - a projection of the interests and concerns of its member states. Whether because they lack 'idealism' or because they have had too much bitter experience of its dangers, there is, praise be, no sign of a people's revolt in Europe demanding that it become anything more.

Robert Jackson is Conservative MP for Wantage. To order Democracy in Europe for pounds 14.99 plus 99p p&p call Guardian CultureShop on 0800 3166 102.

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