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Progress in Europe ... At last!

Europe is on the road to progress... isn’t it? No?! You disagree? Really? There has been a long-standing criticism of the “democratic deficit” plaguing European institutions. This term was introduced in the 1970s, by English political analyst David Marquand, as a way of drawing attention to the lack of representation in the European Parliament regarding the will of European citizens. At the time, the parliament was made up of national members of parliament, dispatched by their respective governments, who had no specific or explicit mandate for parliamentary representation in Europe. The text in which Marquand summarized his criticism was published in 1979 (Parliament for Europe, London: Jonathan Cape), the same year of the first elections in the European Parliament. His thesis became a sort of a standard critique, designating the gap between the powers held by European institutions (first those of the “European Community,” then beginning in 1992, those of the “European Union”) and the lack of political legitimacy (and control) of these institutions. Unlike the members of the European Parliament, whose competencies still remain fairly restricted, even after the acceptance of changes outlined by the constitutional treaty, the leaders of other European institutions, especially those of the European Commission (sometimes labelled the “European Government”), are still nominated by member country governments and, in the end, accepted (or rejected) through various proceedings, although never through universal suffrage.

Here lies the basis behind criticism that has existed for more than a quarter of a century which targets the lack of political representation for Europeans within their “community” institutions. Yet, when public servants, officials and spokespersons, otherwise known as the “eurocrats,” create and propose a set of regulations for advancing their vision of Europe, which some Europeans reject, everyone bemoans a failure of European integration. I beg to differ! Why not look at the situation from another perspective, in fact the opposing one, by recognizing that the European cause is beginning to raise questions surrounding debate and decision making in Europe? Don’t the outcomes of the French and Dutch referendums support the argument that advocates increased resources for legitimizing European integration, as they express their desire to redesign and improve upon the constitutional project? Aren’t their votes heralds of an important step in the democratization of Europe? In other words, shouldn’t it be acknowledged that the French and Dutch citizens, despite the internal factors influencing their decisions, exhibited great responsibility, even wisdom, in regards to the European cause? Their wisdom recommends patience when making historic and global political decisions that demand prudence and circumspection.

At the moment, all that is certain is that how the European cause will mobilize its citizens and which direction the integration process will take remain entirely undetermined. It is an “open” process in many ways and the undetermined aspect is part of the reason it is so interesting. The future evolution of Europe and the European Union depends on a series of factors and issues, which are political, economic, legal and cultural, in the general sense of the word. This is precisely the raison d’être of this journal, which will delve into the heart of the European integration question, fuelled both by theoretical curiosity and political interest.

However, at the same time, we have become accustomed to hearing what some readers are surely thinking now: “Not another European Studies journal...” And they are right. There exist many already, maybe too many, from both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere. But do they all approach the issues from the proper angle? Do they grab the bull, which according to Greek mythology carried Europa away, by its theoretical horns?

There is room for progress, even in spite of all the useful research in the field, which represents a wide spectrum of the issues related to the European integration process. However, this research is too often constricted by the division of labour that increasingly dominates contemporary academic pursuits. With very few exceptions, we are witnessing a separation between, on one hand, a more or less empirical research of the political process in Europe (EC/EU Studies) and, on the other hand, a “basic reflection” on a so-called Europeanness or “European identity.” Unlike these attempts, which endeavour to pinpoint the real Europe, grabbing the bull by its horns means, above all: stimulating, encouraging and leading both empirical and conceptual research in the field. However, rather than conducting these studies within the safety of proven methods and always sticking to the well-beaten paths of their respective disciplines, it is crucial for researchers to aspire toward an advanced understanding of European integration through mutually interpreting in a systematic and methodical way relevant empirical discoveries on the one hand, and joining in the discourse on Europe’s cultural dimension on the other. The question of Europeanness must be interpreted in the light of carefully selected empirical data and vice versa. The two examples below illustrate what this type of research might entail.

a) The “sovereignty crisis”: It would be difficult to deny that one of the most palpable aspects of European integration is the delegation of certain responsibilities and sovereign rights of member countries to the European level. This, by the way, is a seldom contested fact among the various schools and approaches that attempt to explain the complex phenomenon of European integration. They are distinguished by their respective theories on the degree of this delegation and their provided explanations. Some refer to a deep erosion in the foundation of the legitimacy of the nation state (Habermas), while others believe that the latter is maintaining its role and they interpret Europeanization as a complex process of self-affirmation for nation states (Moravcsik). However, thinkers such as Carl Schmitt, in the 1920s, have already exposed the profoundly paradoxical character of state sovereignty, characterized as a source of civic order for the state of law but positioned outside this order. An examination of this inherent conceptual tension within the notion of sovereignty, in correlation with empirical findings about European integration, may be particularly enlightening vis à vis both aspects of the issue.

b) The “representation crisis”: A century ago, thinkers from various schools reflected on problems that were deeply entrenched in the philosophy of consciousness and the capability to “represent” one’s thoughts in an accurate way. Bergson did this implicitly by conserving the terminology of “consciousness” but not without inserting some neutrality to the topic. Heidegger opted for a more explicit method, as did others, following Marx or Freud, in terms of Critical Theory, without even mentioning structuralism. However, as mentioned above, the process of European integration destabilizes the very basis of political representation: as this process advances and gives birth to political entities that include hundreds of millions of individuals (450 million in the case of the European union of 25 countries), the limits of democratic representation will appear to be reached (they already are in the eyes of some as soon as “mass democracy” is established). Herein lies the significance of determining if the two methods (the study of the “philosophical representation paradigm” and the true study of political representation) have something in common and, if they do, how a reciprocal analysis of their similarities might lead to a better understanding of politics and the human condition at the dawn of this 21st century.

In terms of the production of this journal, we foresee publishing two thematic issues per year, which will be devoted to a specific topic and general point of view. The second edition will cover “The Idea of Europe: Historical Sources, Political Questions, Cultural Values” and will be available in the fall of 2005. It features contributions from Pim den Boer, Alain Deneault, Robert Dion, Jérémie Griard, Denis Guénoun, Dieter Haller, Alexander Hanisch-Wolfram and Matthias Schulz. The third edition (spring 2006) will deal with the “Political Meanings of Europe - Between Universalism and Realpolitik” (guest editors: Jens Badura, Paris, and Andreas Niederberger, Frankfurt/M.). The fourth edition (fall 2006) will present an analysis of arguments about the concept of sovereignty, both in terms of its function as a basic notion in political philosophy and the various models of federalism (“The State(s) of Sovereignty: The European Union and Canada”).

In conjunction with these special editions, EUROSTUDIA will contain two sections that cover specific aspects of European integration in greater detail. The first, on “European Current Events,” will provide relevant information as it informs readers about important events in the European political process or about related issues (with automatic updating of the archives). The second section will deal with “Selected Topics,” which are or have been raised in EUROSTUDIA and which seem particularly pertinent in terms of the European integration project. I would like to conclude by expressing my gratitude to all those who contributed to bringing EUROSTUDIA to fruition. As the “Body” page shows, a project like this one cannot survive without the support of many individuals. Without naming everyone again, I would like to express my deepest thanks all the members of the editorial office, the editorial committee and the international advisory board. They all contributed in many ways to the completion of this first edition. Even if in their eyes a contribution seemed minor, and they did not necessarily realize its value, the encouragement I received from both sides of the Atlantic gave me the strength to accomplish this initiative. I extend my deepest thanks to all those who contributed, by writing or by any other way, to this first edition.

I must mention the team from The Canadian Centre for German and European Studies (CCGES): Brigitte Boulay and David Ouellette, whose individual assistance was highly appreciated, the webmaster, Jonathan Stoikovitch, and aides Jennifer Hille and Jean-François Mongrain. As for our partners, I am grateful for our collaboration with the Goethe Institute in Montréal and especially with its director, Mechtild Manus, as well as with Caroline Gagnon. Their support, both financial and practical, especially in terms of planning and hosting a conference in Montréal in October 2004 on “Cultural Identity in the Enlarged European Union” has been most helpful. The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst/DAAD) sponsored our contact with other colleagues around the world, which proved to be a very advantageous way of enlarging our network of contributors. The advice we received from the Centre d’Études et de Recherches Internationales de l’Université de Montréal (CÉRIUM), especially from François Crépeau, Jean-François Lisée and Benoît Dubreuil, was instrumental in getting this project off the ground.

It would be unimaginable to conclude without mentioning the extraordinary support I received from Philippe Despoix. As director of CCGES, his generosity and determination were and remain the most precious gift. What is most valuable is that, from the beginning, I have been able to rely on his solidarity regarding the fundamental idea behind this publication. There is nothing like always having the feeling of speaking with the ideal reader, the one whom this journal is targeting and will continue to target: a reader who enjoys a genuinely transatlantic perspective on Europe.

Dietmar Köveker (Editor)

(translation: Zoé Blowen-Ledoux)