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European "Constitutional Convention" begins Thursday

By imrdkl in News
Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 01:35:56 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

On Thursday, 105 European delagates will open a "Convention on the Future of Europe", to debate, argue, and perhaps even decide issues which are analogous to the the issues which were decided at the Continental Congress of 1787.


The International Herald Tribune is reporting that the heart of the debate will lie, much like it did in 1787, in States Rights, except that the "states", in this case, are already sovereign nations. (many will already know this :)

It is generally agreed, in any case, that some sort of a document will be produced by the convention, which is scheduled to last more than a year, although it is still taboo to talk about a "constitution" in Brussels, right now. The final document could redefine the relationships between member nations, or be a simple clarification of existing treaties.

Naturally, there are many proposals, documents, articles, and papers on the table for consideration in architecting the eventual document. This site contains links to several of them.

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European Constitution?
o NEVER 10%
o A loose confederation at best 27%
o doable, with the proper leadership 29%
o coming to your sovereign nation soon 22%
o Constitutions are overrated 10%

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European "Constitutional Convention" begins Thursday | 28 comments (22 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
State vs Nation (4.88 / 9) (#1)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 10:08:01 AM EST

except that the "states", in this case, are already sovereign nations

The States in the US were sovereign States. In that time (and even today to an extent) State meant Nation. Many had their own State churches, foreign policies, currencies, and other trappings of sovereign States.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"

Yes sovereign (4.75 / 4) (#3)
by imrdkl on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 10:13:08 AM EST

but the states were not nations, in the sense that the european states are nations. The differences in history, culture, politics, religion, race and government make for a rather significant contrast of the two, imho.

[ Parent ]
True (2.25 / 4) (#5)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 10:33:02 AM EST

A Country might not be a Nation, and vice versa.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]
Actually, they were. (4.66 / 6) (#8)
by UncleMikey on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 11:30:38 AM EST

With nearly 240 years separating us from the days of the Stamp Act (the real start of the American Revolution; the armed rebellion began in 1775), we are now a largely homogeonous nation. By and large, we think of ourselves as 'Americans'. We may also be New Yorkers and Californians and Minnesotans, but we're all Americans.

In 1765 -- even in 1787 -- that wasn't true. In 1765, most people thought of themselves either as British(!), or as 'Virginian' or 'New Yorker' or 'New Englander' or other etc. In 1787, the latter was still very much the case, and for good reason. Virginia was a totally different place in terms of economy, culture and religion, from New England. 'American' sentiment was something that was being consciously crafted by those who believed that the former colonies could not possibly survive without banding together. It was this notion that brought the colonies together in the Continental Congresses in the first place, and the Articles of Confederation were merely a codification of the way the wartime Congress had worked.

('Congress', by the way, is not synonymous with 'Parliament'; until 1787, it wasn't even synonymous with 'legislature'. Traditionally, a 'congress' is a gathering of diplomats from sovereign states!)

Over time, mobility and media have stirred the pot and homogonized the product, but at the time of the Constitutional Convention, there were very few people who didn't think that Virginia, for example, was a nation unto itself, which had voluntarily given up power over its foreign affairs and some other measures to the Continental Congress in the name of mutual survival.
--
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]

excellent points (3.00 / 2) (#11)
by imrdkl on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 11:46:28 AM EST

which I will not debate, except to point out that in the context of my article, the notion of foreign affairs takes on a whole new meaning.

[ Parent ]
Historically (none / 0) (#18)
by imrdkl on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 06:53:18 PM EST

as you point out, each of the states had it's own feelings, and manifestations, of sovereignity. I note that your explanation also touches on the fact that the "colonies" could not survive without each other. Now there is the crux. A colony, being largely an extension of one of the european nations (who we're actually talking about) could not survive on it's own, regardless of how strongly it believed that it could (and should).

Exactly.

But we're not talking about the colonies in this article, we're talking about the colonizers. Much has changed since their fathers (and ours) codified the reasons and justifications for sharing a land as equals.

[ Parent ]

Not all EU states are nations (4.33 / 3) (#10)
by am3nhot3p on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 11:45:37 AM EST

The United Kingdom is a state, but not a nation. In fact, it consists of either three and a half or four nations, depending upon whom you ask: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (the contentious one). There are significant cultural, political and religious differences between all of them.

[ Parent ]
Nations (4.33 / 3) (#12)
by Rand Race on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 11:50:17 AM EST

There was the short-lived Republic of Franklin (now western Carolinas and eastern Kentucky and Tennessee) as well as the Republic of Texas and the Bear Flag Republic (California) later. And there were mild historic, cultural, etc. differences between the colonies. But your point is still valid.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Bwahahahaha! (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by epepke on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 03:46:56 PM EST

And the people who colonized different parts America not only came from those separate nations, which had even more cultural differences back then, but many of them came over because of cultural differences. What, do you think they passed over some line in the middle of the Atlantic and magically became homogenized?

The Amish might seem like a bunch of quaint people today, but at the time of the convention to revise the Articles of Confederation, later known as the Constitutional Convention, those differences were way significant. There were even talks about whether English or German should be the national language!


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Yea, laugh it up (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by imrdkl on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 04:29:37 PM EST

I know my own history, pal. And a bunch of farmers with a bit of land who want to practice religion on their own terms does not a nation make. The United States are a nation.

[ Parent ]
State vs. Nation vs. Country (4.50 / 2) (#17)
by Wateshay on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 06:22:18 PM EST

From dictionary.com:

Nation:
1. A relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country.
2. The territory occupied by such a group of people: All across the nation, people are voting their representatives out.

State:
1. A body politic, especially one constituting a nation: the states of Eastern Europe.
2. One of the more or less internally autonomous territorial and political units composing a federation under a sovereign government: the 48 contiguous states of the Union.

Country:
1. A nation or state.

Because of the general homogeneity of the U.S., people tend to forget that the various states of the union are mostly sovereign nations beholden neither to the federal government (except where its powers supercede that of the state in accordance with the constitution) or any other state in the union.

At the founding of the U.S., that homogeneity most certainly did not exist, and each state was very much aware that it was a sovereign nation. As another poster has pointed out, they willingly gave up some of their sovereignty for mutual benefit when they joined the union, but each state government did so as a fully sovereign nation willingly entering into a contract. This was, in fact, the primary reason for the U.S. civil war. The southern states felt that their rights (mainly the right to hold slaves) were being trampled by the north, and that they had the right, having willingly entered into the union, to withdraw at any time. The northern states disagreed, and so the civil war was fought to retain the southern states in the union.

Hopefully, the European states will learn from the mistakes made by the United States when forming their federal government. If they don't, they will at best go the way of the Articles of Confederation (the first attempt at a federation of states in America -- the current U.S. government was formed after it failed), and at worst will end up in a struggle every bit as bloody as the U.S. Civil War.


"If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for everyone else."


[ Parent ]
State != Culture (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by wiesmann on Thu Feb 28, 2002 at 03:56:24 AM EST

The idea that european state reflect cultural or linguistic units is shaky at best. The current borders have been defined by wars an political arrangements, not cultural concerns. The idea that each european country has one culture and one language seems popular in the US but is simply wrong. Switzerland is one counter-example (seven millions people, four languages).

French is spoken en six countries (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy and Monaco) Italian in three (Italy, Vatican and Switzerland) German in six (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Lichtenstein). This is a simplified version, you have linguistic minorities all over europe. For instance the list of countries with german speaking minorities is quite long.

The linguistic lines are not clear borders and do not always follow political borders. In fact those lines even move, for instance in Switzerland, the line between the French and German speaking parts is slowly moving westwards.

Also remember that europeans do not indentify so much to their governement. Governement have changed a lot during the last centuries. If the US still has basically its original constitution, the French are now at their fifth form of republic (with 3 Empires and some Kingdoms in between).

As for ethicity, europeans are, for the continental part, mostly mixed blood. With all the war and turmoil, people have moved all around europe for the last centuries and it still goes on. While there are certains traits that are typical of a region, there are no clear "ethnicities".

[ Parent ]

Good points (none / 0) (#22)
by imrdkl on Thu Feb 28, 2002 at 05:47:40 AM EST

but I did not specify language in my list. I realize that some things are shared, but many things are considered quite unique, including monarchies and chocolate, for instance. :)

[ Parent ]
Awww... (none / 0) (#23)
by ti dave on Thu Feb 28, 2002 at 06:04:36 AM EST

Italian in three (Italy, Vatican and Switzerland)

San Marino is very sad that you've forgotten her...


"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
mutual survival (3.50 / 2) (#16)
by adiffer on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 05:31:46 PM EST

It has been argued that the separate American States banded together because many saw the advantage for their mutual survival. My understaning of this argument is that it implies political survival and not neccessarily economical survival.

As a US citizen, I don't come face-to-face with European daily issues much. Is there anything in current events that would count as threats to political survival? If so, I could see a drive to create a constitution as being inevitable. If not, it isn't so obvious.

Is economic survival seen as tied to political survival yet? It probably should be, I suppose. That is one thing a US citizen can understand quite easily since the one with the money tends to control the media and, therefore, the direction of the culture.
-Dream Big. --Grow Up.

More Details (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by the trinidad kid on Wed Feb 27, 2002 at 07:59:31 PM EST

The Financial Times has a special report on the subject. More detail than you can shake a stick at.


All I want to know.. (2.00 / 3) (#20)
by goatse on Thu Feb 28, 2002 at 12:08:16 AM EST

..is will I be able to get by in France without speaking French by the time I graduate. :)

[I suppose Europe will need to centralize control over broadcasting for that to happen.]


to what? (none / 0) (#24)
by PhilN on Thu Feb 28, 2002 at 09:13:43 AM EST

Sorting out a common language will be nigh on impossible..... Esperanto?

[ Parent ]
it isn't desirable either (5.00 / 2) (#25)
by Wateshay on Thu Feb 28, 2002 at 10:35:06 AM EST

As far as I'm concerned, it would be a tragedy for all of Europe to unite under one language. Much of Europe's rich cultural history is found in its language differences, and it would be a real shame to see that lost.

"If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for everyone else."


[ Parent ]
Language (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by bob6 on Thu Feb 28, 2002 at 12:28:25 PM EST

Which language will be used in which part of the world (EU or elsewhere) in the future ? I challenge anyone who claims to be able to answer this question, there is too much parameters at sake like : economics, culture, psychology and randomness.
However if all europeans speak the same language I am quite sure it will not be one like Esperanto which is not grounded by a significant cultural mouvement. Anyone bet a pint ?
BTW, the more you live in France the more you will learn French. Despite their reputation of being bad at languages, a good proportion of frenchies speak at least a foreign language, probably English.

Cheers.
[ Parent ]
Indeed (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by wiesmann on Fri Mar 01, 2002 at 03:37:57 AM EST

In europe, the common language is, for the moment very bad english. But this might indeed change, learning a foreign language is slowly getting popular - English is indeed learnt, even in France, but also other language. I've witnessed French people trying to learn spanish (not very surprising) or german (much more surprising).

The problem with english is nobody speaks it as a native language in continental Europe. Also if you want to have good contact with people speaking their native language is a much better way - if you speak like an american tourist, you will be treated like one...

Another idea for a future european language is Europanto a wild mixture of european languages that is actually understandable by many european. Actually a funny read.



[ Parent ]
Bon chance (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by qon on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 02:29:40 PM EST

My understanding is that the original point of what is now called the EU (nee European Coal and Steel Community) was to prevent another disastrous European war by creating common management of industries necessary to warcraft. I think it's performed that job well, and the expanding economic and political integration makes Europe more stable, prosperous, and united.

For all it's flaws and blemishes, the EU embodies a radical transformation of Europe from a land of monarchs and facists to a liberal democracy, in a mere 50-odd years. That's quite an achievement.

I hope the convention goes well; this is the sausage-making of history. From an interested American, cheers, and good luck.

q

European "Constitutional Convention" begins Thursday | 28 comments (22 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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