Dr Jeremy Kleidosty will be giving a lecture entitled ‘Constitutionalism as State Religion: A Comparative Analysis of American and Tunisian Political Culture’ on Weds 25 November in Seminar Room 2 at 4pm. All are welcome.
For PDF click here: Autumn Semester Schedule
We will be holding a meeting on Wednesday, 23 September at 3:00 PM in Room 243 of the Arts Building for students and postgrads interested in finding out more about the CGC internships programme. At the meeting, information will be available on the types of responsibilities an internship would entail and the application process.
More information on CGC internships can be found here.
An interdisciplinary workshop between the University of Hull, Remote Control and the University of St Andrews.
10th – 11th September 2015
Seminar Room 2,
Arts Faculty Building,
Contemporary Western narratives highlight and perpetuate the idea that war has no cost. Drawing on the legacies of the Kosovo war, it has become fashionable to argue that the Western dependence on aerial warfare has few costs for those involved. Indeed this narrative has been cemented in the Western press and government circles through the idea of ‘precision’ strikes, targeted killings of opponents and the all-pervasive myth that Western actions have few consequences on the ground. Using the ideas, narratives and cultures of those on the receiving end of Western strikes this workshop argues that Western narratives ignore the very essence, the substance and the timings of what constitutes opposition to aerial warfare by real people in real places. While it may be comfortable to argue that for example drone strikes have no negative consequences for the West this workshop explores the many ways in which resistance is formed, ferments and fuels counter Western narratives.
For more information on the programme please click here .
This article by David Miles was originally published by The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in Carnegie Ethics Online on 17 August 2015.
In Klaus Harpprecht’s 1995 biography of Thomas Mann, he highlights a statement which Mann wrote in 1947, which, as Harpprecht puts it, “one reads with a distinct shiver half a century later”:
In barely 50 years […] Germany will, in spite of everything, have all of non-Russian Europe in its pocket, as Hitler could already have if he had not been so impossible.
Less than 50 years later and the country was reunified, but it was a more restrained Germany on the European stage, deeply aware of its past and struggling to bear the economic burden of incorporating East Germany into the West German republic. Still, Mann was in many ways correct, for it is Germany’s financial might and its very deep resources which have so far kept the European integration bicycle pedaling forward. Yet as the recent negotiations over the third bailout of Greece illustrated, there are signs that Germany’s largesse and its willingness to sacrifice its own interests for the sake of the European project have definite limits.
Twenty-five years ago, everything seemed possible. “Do you realize that you are sitting opposite the direct successor to Adolf Hitler?” Chancellor Helmut Kohl said to an astonished Timothy Garton Ash shortly after re-unification. It was evident, said Ash, that as the first chancellor of a united Germany since Hitler, Kohl was profoundly conscious of his historical duty to do things differently.
Germany today is earnest in its desire to be a good European neighbor, but it does not believe that it can or should pay any cost as part of this role. One problem is that economic, not ethical values have become the lodestone of the European Union. As a hybrid construct, the EU lacks the societal dimension which, within the nation-state, is the critical element that allows one group of people to identify with another and which legitimize government actions designed to help one part of the community at the expense of another. People in London or New York accept, perhaps grudgingly, that their tax pounds and dollars may be used to fund projects for the benefit of people in Cardiff or New Orleans. They accept this because they recognize the others as being members of the same community.
Most liberal democratic states in the West succeed by having political and constitutional processes in place which legitimate policy choices that help one part of a society at the expense of another. Here, it is both the acceptance of the specific legitimation process by people (i.e. its constitutional and political processes) AND people’s recognition that they inhabit a common society that ultimately justifies taxation and spending decisions. As Keith Whittington of Princeton puts it, “constitutions cannot survive if they are too politically costly to maintain and they cannot survive if they are too distant from normal political concerns.”
This is a lesson which European, principally Franco-German leaders, often for the best of motives, have refused to take on board over decades. To understand their reluctance to consult with or seek to understand the opinion and belief of the people and the dilemma this has created for the EU, one must recognize the particular type of limited representative democracies which were established in Europe after the Second World War. If a constitutional system could bring the Nazis to power through a democratic election, as happened during the Weimar Republic, this was proof, especially to West Germany’s founders, that to prevent a country committing democratic suicide there had to be certain entrenched principles of democracy and of human rights that neither the people nor their representatives could change. At the state level these “highly constrained” democracies, as Jan Werner-Müller puts it, were characterized by unelected institutions (such as constitutional courts), while at the supra-national level European integration was meant to impose “further constraints on nation-state democracies through unelected institutions.”
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and faced with the prospect of a reunited Germany, French president François Mitterand sought to ensure that German reunification could only happen in parallel with the further integration of Europe, thereby binding Germany’s future to that of Europe. Mitterand told Germany’s foreign minister Genscher in November 1989 that if Germany did not commit itself to the European monetary union, “We will return to the world of 1913.” In Helmut Kohl, Mitterand had a partner who recognized that Germany would have to sacrifice its self-interest to reassure the rest of Europe. It was a policy, as Harold James put it, “derived not only from concern with foreign reactions to German power, and a French wish to harness Germany, but also from a German fear of German power.” This meant giving up the symbol of its post-war strength and stability – the Deutschmark – and committing the country to the European integration project by agreeing to monetary union (EMU). Closer union and EMU were the price that Germany had to pay to reassure its most important neighbor, France. In the heady days of German reunification the normative quest to be ‘the good neighbor’ in a new Europe had a special potency. But how much would Germany be willing to pay to play this role?
Those who criticize Germany for the ‘mental waterboarding‘ of Greece should recall the grumbling in the former West German states over the huge transfers of taxpayer wealth to the former East German states since reunification in 1990. Even today after approximately 2 trillion euros of investment in East Germany, German taxpayers still see a deduction on their paychecks for the so-called ‘Solidaritätszuschlag‘—the solidarity tax. If bailing out their own compatriots was done through clenched teeth, one immediately sees why additional money transfers to southern Europe to bail out Greece or other countries is for many Germans beyond the pale. Yet such fiscal transfers are seen by economists as the absolute pre-requisite necessary to make the eurozone work long-term.
The flaws in European monetary union that became so apparent at the start of the eurozone crisis in 2011 were to some commentators confirmation of just how ill thought-out it had been to allow different countries to share a currency without a political or fiscal union, and without any transfers of money from the stronger to weaker performing parts of Europe. Yet the flaws in monetary union were not just anticipated, but had been predicted from the outset. Far from being a project based on rosy expectations, those driving European integration embarked upon monetary union with the very belief that a crisis would develop at some point, since it was precisely through such challenges that the European cognoscenti in Paris, Bonn, and Brussels believed that closer political and fiscal union would develop. In a very prescient piece in Foreign Affairs from 1998, Timothy Garton Ash laid bare the delusion underlying the ‘crises will make Europe stronger’ fallacy: “It is a truly dialectical leap of faith to suggest that a crisis that exacerbates differences between European countries is the best way to unite them.”
Thinking Strategically, Thinking Morally
Supporters of the EU argue, often persuasively, that its success in promoting stability since World War Two can also be viewed as achieving a fundamentally moral purpose in preventing bloodshed and establishing the conditions in which societies might prosper and pursue policies that are both liberal democratic and ethical in nature. However, others like Robert Kagan have argued that Europe’s ability to operate and prosper in a post-modern utopia after 1945 was only possible because of the American-backed NATO security blanket which underwrote Europe’s capacity to pursue its liberal economic and social democratic policy desires, while safely being able to ignore thorny and usually scary geopolitical questions.
During the frantic negotiations over the Greek debt crisis in late June and July, the intervention by the U.S. government on behalf of Greece was noteworthy. The United States sees the geopolitical position of Greece between Europe and the Middle East as critical to the integrity of NATO’s south-eastern flank. Especially ironic was that it was the U.S., the citadel of free market capitalism and neoliberalism, that was having to remind social democratic European states about the risks of Greece crashing out of the eurozone due to a failure of European solidarity and compassion.
More problematic is whether most European leaders today are even capable of thinking strategically in geopolitical terms, given the dominant role of the U.S. in defending the continent during the Cold War. If thinking strategically can also involve acting (or appearing to act) morally, then the Marshall Plan after World War Two was certainly an example of how to turn bitter enemies into the staunchest of allies. It is far easier to turn so-called ‘solidarity’ into hostility or enmity, as eurozone leaders risk doing over Greece.
On one level, Angela Merkel is right to stress the importance of Europe getting its house in order to meet the economic and social challenges of the future. Her favorite statistic, as John Mickelthwait and Adrian Wooldridge note in their new book The Fourth Revolution, is that the European Union accounts for 7 percent of the world’s population, 25 percent of its GDP, and 50 percent of its social spending. Europe’s long-term crisis of a declining working age population and people living longer is indeed a serious one, and when the chancellor mentions this statistic, as she did at the World Economic Forum in 2013, it is intended every bit as much for a French audience as for any in southern Europe. The eurozone cannot work in the long-run unless France reforms its economy and introduces the same sort of efficient working practices as Germany, and increases its pension age further. Such French reforms seem unlikely at present, forcing Germany into the position of lobbying for institutions which will bring fiscal, budgetary, and, ultimately, political union closer, but knowing full well that such institutions will be impotent if France doesn’t or can’t play ball when it comes to enforcing rules. Germany, which agreed to monetary union to ameliorate French concerns over reunification, finds itself playing Oliver Hardy to the French Stan Laurel: “Here’s another fine mess you got us into.”
The conundrum which has thus far proved impossible for the EU (as it is currently constituted) to solve is that the bloodless grey institutions which might make Europe function effectively as an economic entity are likely to make it fail as a social democratic project. Reliance on economic orthodoxy at the expense of a set of values that European citizens could relate to has led to growing disenchantment with mainstream parties of the center-left and center-right across the EU. In their 2013 study “The ‘Bubbling Up’ of Subterranean Politics in Europe,” Mary Kaldor and Sabine Selchow found that those who have engaged in new forms of social mobilization and political activity across Europe have cited concern about the failure of democracy as the reason for the engagement and protest. The study found that Europe was ‘invisible’ in public displays of subterranean politics, and when it was visible it was generally regarded as part of the problem as much as part of the solution.
Part of the problem with the rationalist emphasis on process and rules is that the human dimension of Europe has got subsumed underneath the technocrat-heavy institutional architecture found in Brussels. As far back as 2005, well before the financial crisis and eurozone crisis hit, EU commissioner Joe Borg addressed the disconnect between the EU and its people: “As the European Union advances, it seems that we are losing the European citizen somewhere along the way.”
One issue is that until the 1990s, European citizens were rarely asked directly in the form of referenda whether they wanted the ‘ever closer union’ specified in the Treaty of Rome. Nevertheless, as Timothy Garton Ash notes, “for about 40 years, the project of European unification could rely on at least a passive consensus among most of Europe’s publics.” With memories of the Second World War still so vivid this was understandable. Equally compelling as a driver of European integration was the external threat posed by the Soviet Union, but when that began to dissipate in the late 1980s, and then German reunification became a reality, Europe had to discover a new raison d’etre for itself, and also find a way of incorporating a country the size of Germany (“too big for Europe, too small for the world” in Kissinger’s words) into a re-energized European integration project.
Reports of Europe’s Demise are Premature
European integration has revolved around firstly building an institutional framework for Europe, and then hoping that a European identity would develop in time alongside national identities. As former Polish foreign minister, Bronislaw Geremek observed, “Now that we have Europe, we need Europeans.” However, Rome wasn’t built in a day. As Walter Murphy observed, even 75 years after the establishment of the United States government, Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee still considered themselves citizens of their states first, of the South second, and of the “United States” last.
The European project, with all of its messy contradictions, is still better than any of the political alternatives. One need only look at some of the unappealing political figures (andPutin admirers) wanting the European Union to fail, such as Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, and Geert Wilders to recognize what a giant step back it would be economically and politically for Europe to return to a continent of feuding, self-interest, and parochial nationalism.
To find an antidote to these right-wing sirens of division and recrimination one need look no further than Eastern European countries such as Slovakia, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania—states that lived under the shadow of the Soviet Union, and now, Putin’s Russia. As important as NATO membership is to these countries, the values of the European Union are about more than pure economics. For many of these countries, the values of the EU also symbolize their own journeys towards liberal democracy. As one Polish politician put it to Gideon Rachman shortly before his country joined the EU: “Imagine there is a big river running through Europe. On one side is Moscow. On the other side is Brussels. We know which side of the river we need to be on.”
Issues like migration, terrorism, climate change, and drug trafficking cannot be effectively tackled by nation-states acting alone. The logical and practical reasons why everyone (except perhaps terrorists, drug smugglers, and Farage et al) should want the European project to succeed are manifest. Young people from every member state of the EU have benefited from the opportunities to work, study, and travel throughout Europe, often with the support of immensely successful cultural exchange schemes like Erasmus.
A more heartfelt attachment to the idea of Europe may still be some way off; but, as Robert Schuman put it in 1950, “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.”
The crisis of confidence in the EU since the eurozone crisis is more than simply a question of democracy, legitimacy, and allowing people more opportunities to participate in political processes. It also reflects a much more fundamental question about the type of society that people wish to live in, which, as we have seen with the independence movements in Scotland and Catalonia, is as much a challenge within states as for supra-state bodies like the EU.
The challenge for the European Union and its member states, particularly Germany, is in balancing the often incongruous demands of co-operation and self-interest, and thus demonstrate to their own citizens that concrete achievements can still create a Europe of solidarity and prosperity as Schuman envisaged.
David Miles is a Carnegie Scholar at the University of St Andrews researching the relationship between judicial review and majoritarianism within Anglo-American and German constitutionalism. He is an associate fellow at The Centre for Global Constitutionalism, and is managing editor of Global Politics Magazine.
Image courtesy of Marcio Cabral de Moura
Professor Nick Rengger of the School of International Relations hosted a roundtable discussion on Monday 18 May, Magna Carta: A Global Charter of Liberty for the 21st Century? Participants included Professor Thom Brooks of Durham University, Professor Malik Dahlan of Institution Quraysh (and executive committee member of Harvard Law School), former ECJ judge, Professor Sir David Edward QC of Edinburgh University, and Professor John Hudson. The event was jointly organised by the School of International Relations and the Centre for Global Constitutionalism to discuss the significance of Magna Carta in its 800th year.
Prior to the discussion the participants enjoyed a visit to Martyrs Kirk to view some of the oldest and rarest items in the University’s Special Collections, including the Papal Bull from 1413.
This article by Bennett Collins and Ali Watson first appeared in Carnegie Ethics Online:
The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner catalyzed discussions nationwide over race relations in the United States. Surely it’s time for some kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). But how would it work? This essay examines other TRCs–including two in the U.S.–and proposes a solution tailored to fit America in all its diversity.
Anne Peters , “Constitutional Fragments: On the Interaction of Constitutionalization and Fragmentation in International Law”, CGC Working Paper No. 2 (April, 2015) 1-42.
Click here for PDF: CGC Working Paper No 2 Constitutional Fragments
The Weimar experience in the 1930s illustrates the extent to which liberal-democratic constitutional systems can be undone as a result of severe economic collapse that destroys people’s livelihoods. One question for anyone interested in constitutionalism is whether any constitutional system can be designed which can make a society immune (or at least less susceptible) to extreme political shifts, either to the left or right. Equally, can we regard a constitutional provision such as balanced budget amendment as a reasonable attempt to make a country live within its means, or is it, in fact, a policy choice which politicians in the here and now have no right to impose on future generations?
Weimar is burned into the German psyche for very obvious reasons, but have the wrong lessons been learned? For Germany today, the dangers of getting into debt illustrated by the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the National Socialists was one reason for adding a balanced budget amendment to the Basic Law in 2009, which will become operative in 2016. The paradox, though, is that the anti-debt austerity medicine that Germany feels has worked for it, is causing severe socio-economic damage and political instability in southern European countries. When countries are being forced by other states to endure mass youth unemployment of around 50%, it is unsurprising that people will embrace more radical political options at home and see no value in an ever closer union within Europe.
What should a constitution do in times of extreme stress, and just as importantly, what should it not do? There ought to be enough flexibility in a system for governments to borrow money during a downturn to prevent it becoming a depression. Therefore, should a constitution which is intended to endure for generations to come bind those future generations and prevent them dealing adequately with the economic crises which will inevitably occur?
The concern is that the ‘fiscal constitution’ which Germany effectively imposed on southern Europe in 2011 in return for bailouts, and which it imposed on itself through the balanced budget amendment to the Basic Law, are causing huge deflation across Europe, and are preventing the countries in southern Europe from growing their way out of their debt predicament. The principle casualties so far have been centrist parties across the EU and particularly in southern Europe which have supported the fiscal straight-jacket approach favoured by Berlin.
Professor Keith Whittington of Princeton noted that “constitutions cannot survive if they are too politically costly to maintain and they cannot survive if they are too distant from normal political concerns.” (2007, p.26) For the countries and peoples of the eurozone, the constitutions which have to be maintained are not simply their own domestic ones, but the commitments arising from EU treaties and EU law.
A crunch is undoubtedly coming with respect to Greece and possibly some of the other indebted countries of Southern Europe which may well determine whether the benefits of remaining within the eurozone are worth the pain and political instability of maintaining Europe’s political and fiscal constitution. It may well be the case that Germany will blink first and do a deal to keep Greece in the eurozone to prevent the unpredictable consequences of a Greek default and exit which, as Barry Eichengreen notes, “would be Lehman Brothers squared” in terms of its likely effects on European and global financial stability. At that point money will likely flood out of all the banks of southern Europe, probably to the perceived safety of German and even UK banks. We’d then be back to the worst moments of the 2008 financial crisis.
This is where it is hard to see the logic of fiscal straight-jackets, whether they are imposed on southern Europe by Germany in exchange for bailouts, or by Germany upon itself through a balanced budget amendment. Germany is understandably wary of the dangers of debt because of its own history. However, Berlin’s ‘fiscal constitution’ is driving the PIGS states towards the exit and the eurozone towards a brick wall which may endanger the entire European project. Then, the political and economic cost of maintaining even the most well designed constitutions may just become too high.
David Miles is a Carnegie Scholar researching Anglo-American and German constitutionalism and is an Associate Fellow at the Centre for Global Constitutionalism. He is also Managing Editor of Global Politics Magazine and is a contributor for the Scotsman, the Daily Beast and Huffington Post.
Whittington, K, The Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.