European Citizenship and Cosmopolitanism in a Global Era
I am most grateful for the invitation to take part in this Conference, within the framework of the Kapittel 05 Book Festival. This is a great honour for me, and also a unique opportunity to meet with people, in this panel and in the audience, who share many common concerns concerning the present and the future of Europe, and its role in the so-called globalized world. I want to take advantage of the moment when this debate takes place to discuss once again some general problems concerning the political nature of the European construction, but contextualizing them as much as possible. Basically I will try to examine, at least partially, three series of related questions: the first addresses the issue of the situation, the realities that the fiasco of the European Constitutional Treaty (signalled by the victories of the No-votes at the French and the Dutch referenda and, immediately after, the decision of other governments to postpone or cancel their own ballots) has revealed; the second concerns the competing geo-historical models through which we connect different aspects of the political construction of Europe with the global environment, not only in terms of power equilibriums, but in terms of culture and democracy; this will require a philosophical detour, both conceptual and metaphoric that I will try to make as simple as possible; finally, I will address the question announced in my title, the question of Europe and Europeans as potential "cosmopolitical" agents in our insecure and troubled world, and, albeit with considerable precautions and qualifications, I will sketch what I consider to be a "neo-republican" problematic in this respect.
Before I embark on this journey, however, I have to briefly consider at least two preliminary issues. One has to do with the meaning of the name Europe. Another has to do with the meaning of the category "citizenship", and therefore, already, the paradox of a citizenship "without citizens" – or conversely: citizens "without citizenship". In both cases, as you see, questions of words, their use and their meaning. Philosophers are fond of semantic analyses, they want the definitions to be clarified, or if this goal cannot be reached they want to understand which difficulties the equivocity of words covers, and which effects (including political effects) it produces.
Let me start with "Europe". We are here in Norway, discussing the past and future of nations, the relationship of art, literature, and the promotion of human rights in a Festival closely associated with similar events in Edinburgh and Gøteborg. Who among us and around us would say that these two cities are in Europe and Stavanger is not? Who would say that Norway is not a "European" country? However, a political borderline (albeit easily crossed…) now separates Norway from a certain "Europe", just as political borderlines separate the E.U. from other countries in the traditional geographic and cultural European space, such as the Balkan states, or – on the contrary – associates the E.U. with neighbouring countries not usually considered "European", but whose history, culture, economy and population are profoundly intertwined with that of certain parts of Europe, such as the Northern African states, and generally speaking the South Coast of the Mediterranean. My point actually is twofold. One, the criteria after which, even politically, nations are located inside or outside Europe, are multiple, and they are not likely to become simplified in a predictable future. The E.U. with its institutional centres in Brussels, Strasbourg, Luxemburg, easily presents itself as the sole incarnation of the idea of a political construction of Europe, the endpoint of its whole history, almost a teleological result of its vicissitudes or a new foundation of its collective identity. But this is hard to admit. Second, if you take into account the various criteria which interfere in politics, economy, culture, relationships of dependency and communication, the meaning or reference of the term Europe is constantly evolving and oscillating in the history of this part of the world. This is not likely to be finished, especially not because an institution that was created 50 years ago on one side of the great post-war divide, and that, since then, has continuously but also unevenly integrated other parts of the continent, however important its role and desirable its development, simply declares that it is the case, and appropriates the name, by saying: We are Europe, or We are the Europeans…
In his famous book on The Economic Consequences of the Peace, written just after World War I (1920), John Maynard Keynes explained at the outset that Russia, Rumania, Turkey or Spain were parts or Europe, whereas Britain and its Empire were not, which in his view – he considered himself a "European" of culture and conviction - should not prevent Britain from engaging directly in European affairs, especially to prevent another catastrophic war. After the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the inclusion of some Eastern European countries into the E.U. did not take the form of a symmetric agreement, but rather – as already for the German unification – the form of an already existing entity (claiming for itself the name "Europe") progressively expanding its territory. But we see now clearly that this absorption of new member-states had only postponed the great debate over economic and social disparities, and how exactly different parts of Europe with specific histories and interests would contribute to its "idea". We can see that there are several territorial definitions of Europe, and several systems of "European boundaries", which sometimes are concentric, and sometimes overlap. Norway is not officially part of the E.U. (albeit it has many close cooperations with it), but it is part of the Council of Europe, as is Russia. It is an important member of NATO, which Russia is not, but so are also the US, Canada and Turkey. Britain is part of the E.U., and a prominent member, but it is not part of the so-called "Euroland" (whenever we hear saying that "Europe already has a single currency", we know that it is not true, and probably won’t be before long, if ever). Some members of the E.U. are part of the Schengen system, nicknames "Fortress Europe", others not. And there is also the problem whether and in which sense Israel is "European", with regard to which "Europe"…
My point is simply that this equivocity, which prevents us from delineating Europe on a map in any undisputable way, is anything but withering away. It is structural for any predictable future. It goes along with a "critical" status of the European construction, in the etymological sense, meaning an entity in a state of permanent crisis, which has both positive and negative aspects. But we must also recall that, generally speaking, institutions and political bureaucracies, and their ideological speakers, don’t like permanent crises. They tend to blur them, minimize their importance, anticipate their rapid termination, and sometimes artificially end them.
My second preliminary concerns the notion of citizenship. Here I have to bring in the issue of idioms, therefore translations between idioms. It concerns what Zygmunt Bauman calls "communities of sense", which are first of all communities build on the use of languages. I could almost devote my presentation entirely to the issue of translation. In a sense it concentrates all the determinations of our problem: "European citizenship and cosmopolitanism". But let me just recall that in different European languages, sometimes within the "same" language as it is used by different groups or within different boundaries, the words citizen and citizenship do not have the same range or hierarchy of meanings. I am considering here the various derivatives and accepted equivalents of the Latin word civis, which our political tradition took as a translation of the Greek politis. Since the generalization of the national form of the State, a basic equivalence has been established between the idea of nationality, or belonging to a nation, and citizenship, or enjoying the rights and performing the obligations of a citizen, participating in a polity. This is supposed to encapsulate the realization of democratic sovereignty, at least ideally. In his presentation yesterday, Benedict Anderson was explaining to us, with striking examples, that this equivalence is not exactly valid, and becomes today more and more displaced and challenged. But there are also more traditional semantic difficulties: where a traveller entering France is asked to declare his/her nationalité, a traveller entering the U.S. is asked to indicate his/her "country of citizenship". Which I find remarkable, because, for a Frenchman like me, the first reaction provoked by this difference is something like : for an American, to be a "citizen" simply means that you have a U.S. passport, that you enjoy a nationalité américaine; but on second thought, it has a hidden meaning which is both more political and more nationalistic : U.S. citizen is an individual who enjoys the rights of a citizen, those granted by the Constitution and its Amendments, within the U.S. territory, and "America" – meaning the U.S.A. – is par excellence the country where any individual can claim the rights of a citizen. If we move to Germany, now, we know that the term Bürger means two different things: a citizen and a bourgeois, which diverged since the time a bourgeois was a citizen belonging to a City-State, or simply an enfranchised town. Therefore a citizen of the Nation-State has to be called more explicitly a Staatsbürger, "citizenship" becomes translated as Staatsbürgertum, which has the effect of associating it with the idea of obeying the State and its laws. But as we also know, Bürgertum has managed occasionally to emancipate from this statist reference, and regain its civic dimension, particularly in order to express the idea of a political activity that is not initiated by the State or following its requests, but rather displayed within the "civil society". This was the case with the Bürgerinitiativen in the 70’s and 80’s :local democratic movements seeking autonomy from the state institutions.
How about Britain, then ? Some of us were accustomed to considering hastily that in Britain there were no "citizens" as in the US or in France, because "citizenship" is a "republican" notion. Rather, there were subjects. Which does not mean however that people in Britain are less (or more) free and equal than in France, but seems to be related to the symbolic fact that Britain has a Queen and a Parliament, but no written Constitution. This did not prevent Britain from contributing in a decisive manner (together with Scandinavian countries) to the development of "social citizenship" in the XXth Century. And apparently the language itself is evolving with the development of the European construction, albeit in a complex manner. This brings me quite naturally to the paradoxes involved in the notion of a "European citizenship".
Depending on the angle from which we observe it (and here I am restricting myself to a "Europe" centred on the E.U.), we are tempted to speak of a (Euro)citizenship without (Euro)citizens, or the reverse: (Euro)citizens without a (Euro)citizenship… But in any case we observe a discrepancy which is not easily resolved. Once again it displays the characters of a structural institutional and political "critical situation", or a "critical transition phase", whose rhythm and stages of development are, I am convinced, largely unpredictable. On the one hand, you have the fact that individuals, even groups, belonging to European nations, the E.U. member-states, maintain their historical rights and legal protections in the new framework, or even enlarge them to some extent. I am thinking here particularly of the judiciary institutions of the new Europe : the procedures are sometimes complicated, but basically you can now appeal before the European Court of Justice and have your "own" national state condemned, which is a significant enlargement of individual civil rights. The Draft Constitutional Treaty included additional dispositions in this respect, reinforcing the idea of administrative accountability, together with dispositions concerning the possibility for citizens of all Europe, again with some conditions, to initiate petitions before the Europarliament (which could be considered a reason why it truly deserved its name : "constitution"). But it fell very short of subjecting the institutions of Europe to any kind of direct democratic control, therefore of promoting any form of trans-national public sphere and political life, in spite of new possibilities for the Europarliament to initiate legislations. As before, the European administration and government remained a second degree instance of power, controlled by governments, not by constituencies. Inasmuch as a growing number of decisions affecting the whole population are now and will be made centrally, in Strasbourg and Brussels, this also means that they are out of reach of the popular control – not to speak of popular "sovereignty" at European level. This may partially explain why many citizens in Europe became anti-European. Governments rhetorically claim that this is part of the "democratic deficit" in Europe, but it could be suggested more plausibly that this was exactly their goal. Citizens without citizenship, then. But also: citizenship without citizens. And here I am thinking of the fact that, since the Maastricht Treaty, the E.U. has legally created a notion of citizenship that encapsulates the various national citizenships, where "citizenship" refers to a common membership, the belonging to the same supra-national ensemble. A new "European passport" has been created, which the Draft Constitution wanted to associate with solidarities or mutual protection when abroad. But the corresponding citizens do not exist in the strong institutional sense. For example, since the creation of the E.U. broadly coincided with the suppression of conscription armies in the member-states, which have not been replaced by any form of civic service or duty, there are no experiences of performing obligations in the common interest. The European elections are organized and campaigned at a pure national level. The Eurocitizens never meet as such, they never discuss, not even indirectly though their political parties or "organic intellectuals". And it is not possible to claim rights as an individual in Europe, as it is in the U.S. This has especially tragic consequences in the case of migrants and alien residents in Europe who remain second class citizens (i.e., no citizens at all), subjected to the arbitrary decisions of national governments. Eurocitizenship without Eurocitizens, then.
Clearly these two defects do not compensate each other; they are but two sides of the same medal. You will say: of course, this comes from the fact that the E.U. is not a State; and nobody wants it to become a State, because Europe is not a "nation". It is not even a Federation… I would reserve the term "Federation" for a longer discussion, because, as constitutional theorists know, it has itself a dual meaning. The emergence of a federation, or a federation of states, in a new sense, is precisely what is at stake in the European construction. As for the State, it would be more accurate to say: Europe is neither a politeia, a community of citizens, in any previous sense, nor a State (imperium), in the national sense. But still, if only to acquire legitimacy as a supra-national institution, and become able to make decisions, Europe must aim at becoming a polity, a political sphere, or body. And the idea of a political sphere goes along with the ideas of democratic decision-making, democratic conflict, democratic representation inherited from the history of the nation-states. Not by chance the project that the E.U. has set on its agenda and committed itself to is not a project of "spreading democracy around the world", but of incarnating a new stage in the long history of democratic institutions, becoming a "Europe of the citizens" (Europa der Bürger). There are profound reasons for this : a legitimacy of the European institutions, or if you prefer a loyalty of the Eurocitizens, a capacity to overcome crises through the recognition of common objectives, entirely depends on the fact that Europe as such add new democratic elements to those already existing in the national framework, or compensates for their loss. But if between Eurocitizenship and Eurocitizens there remains a permanent critical gap, this can mean either of two things. Either it will fail as a historical project, or collapse as an alliance as soon as the national and social interests which promoted it will disappear or become transformed, whatever the inertia of existing institutions. There have been other examples of this in history, even after long periods. Or that it has to go to the roots of the crisis, to live within the state of crisis, the "crucial state", so to speak, in order to extricate the elements which can give the figure of the citizen a new historical realization in Europe, or liberate the elements already existing and concentrate them into a new figure, whose relationship with the figure of the national citizen is still unclear. In fact, it can be neither its mimetic reproduction nor its simple negation.
Through these preliminaries, I have in fact already touched some of the issues that I wanted to discuss in the course of the main argument. I will therefore turn to the three points that I announced initially, but avoiding to repeat what has been already said. Among the three series of questions that I had announced, the first had to do with the failure of the constitutional project (at least a failure in achieving a continuous unanimous process of ratification and implementation) and the lessons we can draw from there. We meet again with a notion of "crisis" here, but in a more immediate sense, more "political" in the everyday sense of the term. It will be my contention, first, that the crisis was not created, produced by the fiasco of the Constitutional project in its current form, but was revealed by the rejections of the French and Dutch voters. It already existed, it was deepening, and could no longer be concealed, or perhaps was accelerated by an irrational and counterproductive attempt at concealing and diverting it. I am not claiming that the French or Dutch No-voters, themselves deeply divided about the kind of "Europe" they opposed (some opposed Europe as such, but they were not the majority, contrary to what has been feared or claimed : most opposed definite European policies), formed an avant-garde of the "European people" in the struggle against the so-called "liberal" or "Anglo-Saxon" social model, or the imperialism of the global market, or whatever. This was loudly said particularly by some French politicians, but it is ridiculous. What is true, instead, and was acknowledged by such good experts of European politics as Helmut Schmidt, is the fact that if referenda had been organized everywhere, in a majority of countries including Germany, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Britain, etc., if not all of them (we should certainly not forget the Spanish vote), the result would have been negative everywhere. Each time for specific reasons combining the reactions to domestic political issues and the judgment on the course taken by the European construction (but it is typically the case that domestic and common policies can less and less become isolated), the constituencies had shifted towards a negative attitude. At least with respect to the kind of institutional and political agenda that they perceived was embodied in the Draft Constitution, and illustrated by the utterly technocratic way in which it had been framed and offered for ratification.
And here is my second contention. I am not arguing for vox populi, vox dei. But I believe that the immediate political crisis is a symptom of a deeper problem, which had been ignored. Perhaps a symptom of the fact that, in he last years, the functions and objectives of the E.U. had changed without notice – perhaps as the globalization process passed a threshold after the end of the Cold War. Probably the a posteriori contest over the conditions and effects of the enlargement of the EU to ex-socialist countries reveals precisely that. Again I do not say that the symptoms clarify the issues at stake, but they reveal the depth of the crisis. This also means that the lessons of the constitutional fiasco become more ambiguous. By itself it certainly does not give any instrument to restart the European construction on new bases, much the contrary (in spite of what has been claimed by some politicians in France: I myself voted No, but I never bought that idea). Still, it could have a positive effect, by forcing us all to analyze the nature of the difficulties, and finally asking the essential questions concerning the nature of the political entity that we want to build, reflecting on the forces that can support it inside and outside Europe. This could not be done before, because only its development reveals the real nature of a political process, brushing aside its self-image or ideological justifications. This could amount to transforming a conjunctural crisis into a collective effort. It is an occasion that I hope – without any certainty – that we will be able to catch.
Allow me to elaborate a little more on this point. I would like to insist on several working hypotheses. As many commentators have insisted, the failure of the constitutional project has confirmed that a democratic gap, or "deficit", does exist at the core of the current European institutions, which tends to become an abyss dividing elites and masses, rulers and ruled. This is all the more spectacular because the draft Constitution on some points really worked in the direction of adding new democratic elements to the European construction – but not on others. It incorporated a Charter of Fundamental Rights into the very notion of the European community of citizens, but did not include in the Charter significant new individual or collective rights, not even all those that history had made fundamental, especially the social rights, which I think would have been a decisive condition for the peoples of Europe to view the supra-national or federal construction as an improvement on their past acquisitions in the national framework : one it could be worth struggling, if not dying for. And as I said earlier it fell short of really bridging the gap in representation and popular control at the level of the new government (or "governance", in the current jargon). As Jürgen Habermas has argued, fundamental rights and popular representation are not antagonistic notions; they go hand in hand in the definition of the modern democratic rule of law. To build another level in the constitution of the polity – a third or even a fourth one, beyond the nation –, cannot mean that this symmetry is destroyed. It means that it must be adapted, though the invention of corresponding forms of participation.
The structural democratic deficit can also not be attributed to the enlargement of the E.U. from 15 to 25 member-states and the corresponding growth of the bureaucracy by itself. It is rather a sign that Europe enters into a new historical era, where the European construction plays a new geo-political and geo-economic role. One of the most obvious aspects concerns the bringing together, within one single space of laws and rules, of countries and populations who had been located for a long period on different sides of the great socialist-capitalist divide, therefore do not have the same place in contemporary capitalist accumulation. There is no simple solution to these tensions, a fact which is clearly proved by the comparison between Germany, which has incorporated part of the ex-socialist empire in its national fabric, not without economic and moral difficulties, and the general consequences (sometimes destructive, sometimes constructive) of the competition between Eastern and Western European labour markets, in the absence of commonly accepted social standards.
Finally, it cannot be said that the democratic gap is simply a consequence of the bad will of the "rulers" who choose to push their unpopular decisions to the administrative level where they cannot be controlled ("Brussels"), and return to the traditional practice of arcana imperii, as is sometimes argued. Things are more complicated than that. To be sure, there is a perverse effect of the halted democratization, and the mutual paralysis of the federalist or supra-nationalistic and "souverainiste" or nationalist forces in Europe. It was perfectly illustrated in the draft Constitution, which, as I have argued in other occasions, leads to practically grant a monopoly of political initiative to an autonomous political class, having one foot in Brussels and another foot in the national capital, serving as necessary mediator, "translator" as it were, between the different sites of power. But this increased autonomy of the political class, providing for its members new possibilities to make a career, is largely self-destructive in the long-run. As good politologists have argued, it is not the case that the degrees of political participation and political legitimacy in the national and the federal realms are in inverted proportions, as in a zero-sum game, where you lose on one side what you win on the other. Just the opposite is true: these degrees decrease together or increase together, in other terms "citizenship" in the sense of political agency and capability either degenerates on the two levels, as "national" citizenship and as "supra-national" citizenship, or it will find a new vigour and figure on both realms, as it was already the case in the past with local and national democracy. Indeed you could argue that this is exactly what the ruling class wants to avoid, as a socially dominant class for which democracy is potentially a threat more than a support. I will have to return to this issue when speaking about the political forces that could "make" or "achieve" Europe.
The considerations concerning the reciprocity of democracy and political practice at different institutional levels are also important because they help us interpret the ambivalent effects of the No-votes on the European Constitution. On one side, we observed a very significant development, long awaited, of the citizen’s participation in debates concerning the European construction. It could be argued, not only in France or the Netherlands, that elements of the European public sphere had emerged on this occasion, even in a negative, or rather a conflictual form (but how could it be the case that a public sphere or debate be not conflictual?). On the other side, we observe that the immediate result is rather a de-coupling of national political agendas, elections, social policies, budgets, and European common politics, in spite of their being completely interdependent. An apparent exception for the time being is Britain, because of Tony Blair’s ambitions of European leadership, and perhaps the new (Eastern) European members. But we have yet to see how these intentions materialize.
To finish with these "lessons" of the Constitutional failure, I want to draw the attention to one aspect which also has an immediate global meaning. What the debate has revealed, and its aftermath seems to confirm, is the fact that there remain at least two different ideas or interpretations of the European construction, if not more. It would not be sufficient, I believe, to call them a "social" and a "liberal" one, or "federal" and "national", because precisely these characterizations do not coincide, they simply overlap. And it is also not correct to say that one is more economic and the other is more political, because they are both political, and other dimensions are involved, particularly a cultural dimension, which touches the way in which Europe’s historical identity is perceived and vindicated. We are thus taken back to the vacillation of the name "Europe", seen from a different angle. I suggested a perspective of transformation of a political crisis into a critical examination, or to take advantage of a dramatic clash of political orientations in order to reveal more lasting, structural reasons, looking directly into this "problem" or this "permanent crisis" that is Europe - since Europe is a problem, not a solution, or it will work as a solution for some of the issues of globalization, only if it is recognized as a problem itself. In that perspective the persisting conflict of opposite conceptions of the European construction, which seems hardly reconcilable, since they express different ideologies and are supported by different forces, acquires a paradoxical character. It does prove that a European political sphere virtually exists. Conflicts and contests, clashing interests and ideologies, are the very life of the political; they display what Michel Foucault and Chantal Mouffe call its agonistic essence.
The problem comes rather from the fact that our constitutional tradition poses as a democratic axiom that conflicts and struggles should take place after the juridical and political order, the Grundnorm, has been established : within its framework, and following its universally accepted rules, in order to avoid extreme forces and extreme antagonisms to prevail. But this is not, and probably will never be the case for Europe, whose very "identity" as a political constructs remains at stake in its internal conflicts. A "political system" whose nature and goals are permanently at stake in its internal struggles, with economic, social, and cultural dimensions overdetermining each other: this is the "exceptional", uneasy and unstable, character of the European construction – which seems to make it both necessary and impossible to write a Constitution for it. But after all, if we look back to the history of European nation-states such as France, Germany, Italy, and even Norway and Sweden whose peaceful separation took place exactly 100 years ago, we can see that such instabilities were not exceptional. It took decades, in most cases, to determine the frontiers and the political regime of the state, through permanent oscillations. This is not a very quiet comparison however: since we also remember that the process, with only a few exceptions, was marked by wars and revolutions : in short, by history and politics in the most tragic sense. Is this the kind of events that we are morally prepared to face, for which we may rally forces in the struggle for the future orientation and institutional shape of Europe? Perhaps not. Perhaps we are rather longing for the "end" of history and politics. But we should also not let us be fooled by the rhetoric over the European construction being per se a guarantee against antagonistic conflicts and violence, because it was launched after a century of bloodbaths, as an attempt to harness the extreme forms of nationalism and ideology. That the name Europe should now mean peace, just as it means democracy, economic development, and social justice, this is undoubtedly its official goal, to which we all adhere. But the more demanding these objectives will prove in today’s and tomorrow’s global politics, the more intense the struggle will be within Europe as to how to reach them, and in which form to implement them.
This brings me quite naturally to my second and third series of questions: I will merge them for the sake of brevity. There are different conceptions of the nature and future of Europe involved in its process of construction, expressed by diverging discourses or ideologies and supported b y antagonistic forces, whose conflict form the deep structure of this construction, and provides its dynamic : this is something that could not and should not be separated from the divergent, in fact antagonistic politics of globalization themselves. It has been frequently argued, especially on the left, that the European construction by itself was introducing an alternative within globalization as it runs now, or could become the instrument of an alternative globalization : less imperial and unilateral, more equitable and multilateral. I have supported this opinion myself. But now I want to reverse the point of view : not only such a function for the European construction would require that, in its own course, certain orientations and forces prevail, which is not inevitable, particularly with respect to the kind of relations and exchanges that should exist between developed and underdeveloped areas in the world (something especially difficult in a moment when ancient global powers are relatively declining and new ones are emerging - but the fact is that the very definition of political orientations within Europe will never and cannot be independent from the influence of different social, economic and cultural models of globalization. Their competition is increasingly shaping the structure of world-politics today. Ultimately, the various European "projects", drawn from inside Europe, will represent the "projection" of geo-political models.
In a previous circumstance, I had tried to summarize the existing alternatives by delineating four such models: I called them tentatively the model of the Clash of Civilizations (inspired by Huntington), the model of the Global Network, with its intrinsic ambivalence of post-modern de-territorialized Empire or Multitude (to borrow Negri and Hardt’s terminology), the Center-periphery model (in a Braudelian and Wallersteinian sense), whereby Europe seeks to become a strong competitor in the new global competition for power (including "soft power"), and finally what I called the model of "Europe as Borderland", or cross-over pattern, corresponding to a virtually open, or progressively opening space of multi-cultural negotiations. I still believe that such alternatives are involved in the current contests over the institutional future of Europe, including its democratization and citizenship. But in order to provide the discussion with a more specific object, I will now look at this issue from a different angle, focussing on the issue of cosmopolitanism.
It may be useful here to briefly refer to certain well-known ideas and formulations expressed in the recent years by Jürgen Habermas, at least since the essays collected in The post-national Constellation (2001). As you remember, Habermas argued that the constitution of a unified Europe, whose internal consensus and citizenship are not based on history, race, ethnicity, nationality, culture (in short an imagined community as described by Benedict Anderson), but on the idea of "constitutional patriotism" (Verfassungspatriotismus) – which is rather, in fact, a quasi-patriotism or a "post-patriotism" -, i.e. a "pure" recognition of democratic principles and acceptance of the rule of law, should form an intermediary stage and a useful instrument in the realization of a global political order, no longer obeying the rules of international relations where Machtpolitik prevails (in the sense shared with nuances by Bismarck, Stalin, Churchill, de Gaulle, Henry Kissinger…), but obeying the principles of Weltinnenpolitik, a universal politics of domestic affairs, where conflicts are always already subjected to the rule of law, where "police operations" would replace wars, but also the ultimate authority to enforce the law belongs to an international court of justice, etc. This would be the present form, and final realization, of the old cosmopolitan project (or utopia), as it was given its most elaborated formulation in Kant’s idea of the Perpetual Peace, and the emergence of Weltbürgerrrecht, the World-citizenship.
As we know this perspective, which I have recalled here in utterly simplified terms, has been criticized by many, not only those who believe that the Nation-State forms the ultimate unsurpassable form of the institution of the political, but also others who rejected its idealistic premises, whereby the objectives of a political process (or some of them), in this case a legal regulation of conflicts, a transformation of antagonism into communicative action, are seen as its very conditions of possibility. On my side, I was always impressed by the extent to which such a blueprint, however inspiring it can be, not only reiterates the linear notion of an irreversible historical progress, but also, somewhat ironically, reproduces or abstractly mimics some of the philosophical characteristics and functions that were attributed to the construction of the "socialist camp" in the old "dialectical" representation of history. Except that this time it is not a question of achieving the transition towards World-Socialism through the reinforcement of a supra-national State, but it is a question of achieving or accelerating the transition towards Global Citizenship through the local mergence of post-national institutions (since, however enlarged you imagine it, the E.U. remains local).
More recently, as you know, in the wake of 9/11 and the "War on terror" waged by the U.S. and its allies (most of them European), Habermas has admitted that there was an element of idealism in his views, and this has led him to courageous but also pessimistic declarations. I am certainly not much of an optimist myself, or I have always adhered to the more ambivalent attitude common to Max Weber and Gramsci: "optimism of the will, pessimism of the intelligence". I would not, however, entirely reject Habermas’ initial idea, rather I would reverse it, have it work in the opposite sense : not in order to consider an already given or virtually given European construction and constitution as an intermediary stage on the road toward an ideal cosmopolitan end of history, or a final settlement of conflicts; but rather in order to have a problematic, fully reversible and fragile construction of Europe as a virtual instrument, an active mediation of you like, operating in the real conflicts and current alternative of world-politics. This is what I sometimes call a "neo-republican" perspective (a term that I borrow from Arendt and her European disciples, such as my Dutch friend Herman van Gunsteren, author of A Theory of Citizenship, 1998). Whereby I do not propose a solution but difficult tasks, adding problem to problem and difficulties to difficulties, because I believe that the problems cannot be solved and the difficulties cannot be confronted separately.
The problem and the difficulties of a more stable, more just, more democratic global politics, what we might call a cosmopolitics of globalization (rather than a cosmopolitan legal order), are not to be tackled apart from the problems and difficulties of the local, continental, European democratization of politics, which might progressively fill the gap between a "Eurocitizenship without citizens", and "Eurocitizens without citizenship". The forces (social, cultural, intellectual) which can work on both frontlines will not crystallize separately, just as the obstacles are not separated. It is certainly not by chance that the current European constitutional project has stumbled in the same moment as the old system of international Law, centred on the mediating role of the United Nations, has virtually collapsed, with the UN practically deprived of their legitimacy and unable to achieve their own reform, in order to overcome and curb the pretensions of imperial powers (not only the US, which proves increasingly unable itself to frame world-politics, or only negatively). This indicates a number of objectives, which all have in common that, by pursuing them, in collaboration with others (i.e., not as an imaginary new centre of world politics, but as a progressive force among multiple other forces), "Europe" should not see the vindication of its own power or the conservation of the residues of its past hegemony as its most vital interest. Among such objectives for European cosmopolitics are the strengthening of international institutions, but also of the capacities to resist a global insecurity, and the capacity to resist the tendency to suppress insecurity at the expense of democracy and civil rights. I am thinking for instance of the suggestion by Bruce Ackerman (the prominent American Constitutional theorist) that Europe could show the way to set constitutional limits and guarantees against abuses within states of exception or emergency.
Such considerations in my opinion are all associated with the idea that the political construction of Europe is nothing irreversible; therefore remain permanently in the "critical state" where its future depends on renewed choices and decisions. No historical construct is irreversible – not even the Nation-States, and even less supra-national constructions, which are now more necessary than ever. It was not the case of the colonial empires, it was not the case either of the Soviet Union of "socialist republics". I would not satisfy or fool myself with the idea that these constructions proved unviable and reversible, more or less rapidly, because they were undemocratic, whereas the EU is a democratic construction. I would rather say : in order to add to its chances to resist destruction or collapse in its own inevitable crises, the EU has to become more democratic, invent new forms of democracy and preserve them, and join other forces in the world that also have their democratic agendas.