List of Abbreviations
2 What is “the EU"?
3 What is "the United States of Europe (USE)"?
4 Current situation of the EU - “sovereign” or “united”?
5 How do TEU and TFEU view a “united Europe”?
6 How does the German constitution (GG) view a “united Europe”?
7 What are the advantages of establishing “the United States of Europe”?
8 What are the disadvantages of establishing “the United States of Europe”?
List of Abbreviations
BVerfGE Bundesverfassungsgericht [Federal Constitutional Court of Germany]
CFSP Common Foreign and Security Policy for the EU
EAEC (or Euratom) European Atomic Energy Community
ECSC European Coal and Steel Community
EEC European Economic Community [Treaty of Rom]
EU European Union
EUIPO European Union Intellectual Property Office
FRG Federal Republic of Germany
GG Grundgesetz [German Basic Law]
Margin no. margin number [law]
TEU Treaty of the European Union
TFEU Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
UK United Kingdom
UN United Nations
USA United States of America
USE United States of Europe
At the divorce drama between the EU and the British, all EU citizens have been watching in disbelief since 2016. The UK's exit from the EU (Brexit) finally took place on January 31, 2020. Great Britain has not been part of the EU internal single market or the customs union since January 1st, 2021. Nobody knows yet how things will go with European unification. Wouldn't it be nicer if everyone did not cook their own soup? Wouldn't it be useful if the other EU member states moved even closer together? Some people even want the United States of Europe (USE).
This desire polarizes the discussions about the future of the EU across Europe like hardly any other topic before. First, it should be stated that the European Project is a long process and a path full of obstacles without a finality. Second, it should be noted that the EU has gradually developed from an economic to a political union because of European integration. First the coal and steel union, namely the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), was founded in 1951. Next, the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) were arisen through the Treaty of Rome of 1957. Finally, this followed the establishment of the European Union (EU) by the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 as a roof organization for all these organizations.
Today the EU a political and economic union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe and act sovereign. Its catalog of objectives primarily includes maintaining stability and collective security in Europe as well as the principles of the UN Charter and international law (Art. 2, 3 TEU). Within the framework of these values, in addition to economic integration, the EU has always pursued the goal of expanding geographically on the one hand, and, on the other hand, to deepen legally and institutionally parallel to political developments.
Against this background, the following central questions are discussed and evaluated:
- Why there is a demand for the United States of Europe (USE),
- what the motives and arguments are for a common European federal state,
- what the current situation is and how strong the EU member states are currently united,
- what the EU Treaty (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) say about the United States of Europe,
- what the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) says about a united Europe, for example,
- what for and against the United States of Europe speaks - pros and cons.
- whether the further development of the EU in the form of a European federal state is recognizable in the near future.
2 What is “the EU"?
To better grasp the complex interrelationships of the topic, one must first deal with the characteristics of the EU system. What is “the EU”, and how does it work? What will the process of European integration look like in the future?
First, it should be articulated that the EU is a European project, namely an association of states. It has its own competencies and resources to act. The EU system is based on supranational integration, intergovernmental cooperation, and international cooperation in a multilateral world order system.1 This project is a unique economic and political partnership between 27 independent European states.2 In this context, the EU can be described as a family of liberal-democratic countries that act collectively through a legal and institutionalized system of decision-making. When the member states join the EU, they not only sign the entirety of EU treaties, laws, and legal norms to create order. They also accept a set of common values and principles based on democracy, human rights, the rule of law and principles of social justice, which are compatible with the principles of the UN Charter. Its member states and institutions emphasize the diversity of the Union - most clearly in cultural and linguistic terms.3 The central founding motives for the European unification can be cited as the reaction to the world wars and the desire for peace, security against the emerging Soviet (now Russian) threat, political readiness, and economic development.4
Next, it can be established that the EU's political system has largely evolved during the European integration.5 The Maastricht Treaty of 1992 is the founding treaty of the EU and is known as the Treaty on the European Union (TEU). The Lisbon Treaty of 2009 forms the cornerstone of the EU's legal and institutional structure. It should give the Union extensive powers and resources of its own. This allows the EU to represent the interests of its member states directly in other international forums.6 So the EU is currently based on two core functional treaties, the Treaty on the European Union (TEU), and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The EU is also based on the rule of law. This means that every action taken by the EU is founded on treaties that have been approved voluntarily and democratically by all EU member countries.7 These treaties are a binding agreement between EU member countries. They set out EU objectives, rules for EU institutions, how decisions are made and the relationship between the EU and its member countries. The aim of the EU treaties is to make the EU more democratic, efficient, and transparent, to prepare for new member countries and to introduce new areas of cooperation – such as the single currency.8
It can be also seen that the EU is not a federal state like the USA, nor is it just an international organization like the UN organization, which is just an institution for better cooperation between governments.9 The EU is such a unique political entity sui generis (“of its own kind”). This political system includes both supranational and intergovernmental elements. The member states of the EU give up part of their sovereignty to the common institutions of the EU to gain power and international influence together.10 These important joint bodies of the EU play a significant role as the central actors in the political decision-making process of the Union. They are primary: The European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU (“Council of Ministers”) and the European Council. In addition, there is the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for legal disputes based in Luxembourg, which consists of one judge per member state and who acts as the final instance.11
It is also important to emphasize that the population of the EU is about 445 million people after the UK left the EU in 2020 (“Brexit”). The EU internal single market knows no borders and is the largest common economic area in the world in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). The total GDP of the EU-27 was around 13.9 trillion euros in 2019. Even after the Brexit, the Union generated a higher GDP than China (around 12.3 trillion euros in 2019), while the GDP of the USA reached around 21.43 trillion US dollars in 2019. The EU remains the world's largest donor of humanitarian aid, too. With the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU has had its own legal personality since 2009, which gives it the right to speak and inspect at the United Nations (UN). This increases the international weight of the EU in the system of international relations.12
In summary, it can be said that the EU sought not only deep integration, but also deep reforms when new members joined the community. That is characteristic of the EU and probably even constitutive. The EU system has deepened itself through the reforms and treaties and was always ready to accept new members to expand the community. The Expansion and the deepening are not a contradiction, but complementary processes in the EU system. However, it is questionable how far the European enlargement and deepening process can go without the Union losing its ability to act and function.
3 What is "the United States of Europe (USE)"?
If you ask a German citizen about his or her national feeling of belonging: "Do you feel more like a German or more like a European?" He or she is sure to answer this question: "More like a German citizen."13 If you ask an Angeleno who lives in Los Angeles California: “Do you primarily feel like a citizen of the US state of California or more like an American? So, he will most likely answer: "I am American." What is the central reason for the feeling of national belonging in Europe? What does the United States of Europe mean?
Generally, the term “United States of Europe (USE)” means a federal union of European countries under one supranational umbrella, like the United States of America (USA).14 That would mean the following: There would still be a level of power over the nation states, and, for example, Germany would become a federal state like California in the USA. If it were up to the top German politician Martin Schulz, who was a member of the EU Parliament from 1994 to 2017 and its President from 2012 to 2017, it could be possible until 2025.15 But this only sounds ambitious and naive. The political reality is completely different.
It can be said that the culturally differentiated feeling of identification has primarily historical reasons. It can be noticed here that the wars and conflicts always shaped societies and their sense of identification. While the civil wars in continental America brought the countries together, the conflicts in Europe rather brought the states apart. Historically, the inner-European borders have repeatedly been redefined. The most recent examples of this are the civil wars in the Western Balkans (dissolution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) and the eastward expansion of the EU, which redefined the borders of the EU.16
In this context it can also be observed that after the Second World War the European states decided to achieve lasting peace in Europe through the supranational and intergovernmental treaties. The first great motivation for this purpose was to first build a stable economy in Europe. The second major motivation was the expansion of the Europe project, the finality of which is unknown. The third motivation was and is to create a sense of European community, in other words, a sense of togetherness in Europe. Finally, Europe's cultural heritage is a huge, multi-faceted mosaic that shows what Europe was, what it is and what it wants to be.17
The Concepts for the United States of Europe (USE), the Federal States of Europe (FSE), the European State, the European Superstate, the European Federation, Federal Europe, and a new world order are not a new idea at all.18 They are similar hypothetical scenarios of a single sovereign state in Europe. The call for the establishment of the United States of Europe extends to the history of European integration. Many proponents still regard this concept as a model for the future development of Europe.19 The ideas for the United States of Europe can be found in various political contexts since the end of World War I, such as in Pan-Europa of Coudenhove-Kalergi (1894-1972)20 or in the SPD's Heidelberg program of 1925 as a political goal in Germany.21
This idea was also historically shaped by various prominent people. For example, Victor Hugo already wanted the United States of Europe.22 George Washington, the first President of the USA, spoke about it as early as 1776. Benjamin Franklin, Konrad Adenauer, Winston Churchill, Franz Josef Strauss, Helmut Kohl and Joschka Fischer also mentioned the United States of Europe. In addition, the incumbent EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen advocated the concept of a European federal state. The former EU commissioners Viviane Reding and Emma Bonino, who was the former Italian foreign minister, also supported this concept.
On the other hand, it can be said that the Brexit process has damaged the trust that has been gained in Europe since the post-war period and the image of the EU as a peace project.23 According to forecasts, Brexit will not only affect political stability, but also primarily the economy of the UK. The British economy has already been in a serious recession since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, it is expected that this will also have a significant impact on the EU system. This applies to Germany and France as well as other EU states that are closely linked to Great Britain. In addition, it must be considered that the EU is currently in a very difficult phase due to the increase in right-wing populism, the euro and refugee crisis (migration). For this reason, the process of European integration and the further development of the EU, especially in a form of the United States of Europe, is unclear.
4 Current situation of the EU - “sovereign” or “united”?
What about the current situation in the EU? First, it should be noticed that the EU, like all other international organizations and associations, is primarily based on the international treaties and is therefore the bearer of its own rights and obligations under international law.24 It is also important to underline that the EU system is systematically designed for a certain period.25
The next point to be emphasized is that the European integration, namely the EU as an association of states in terms of its legal and institutional structure, is unique in its current situation (sui generis).26 This political and economic union of European states is characterized by the fact that its member states enter a close and lasting relationship without renouncing their own state sovereignty.27 The EU has no statehood and is not a nation state.
At first glance, the EU does not seem to have autonomous state competences and resources like a nation state. But a closer look shows that the latest EU treaties (TEU and TFEU) do not deny a certain tendency in this direction. The EU member states have common laws, legal norms and regulations that go beyond the national law, namely the national law of the respective member. This gives rise to the principle of the primacy of the Community law, in other words, of the European law or the EU law. At this point it must be pointed out that each member state is responsible for implementing this principle.
It can also be stated that the penetration effect of European Community law has a special feature. In this context, the EU, as an association of states, divides sovereign powers between the community and its member states.28 These sovereign powers in matters of European law are again transferred to the respective sovereign bodies of the Union. This shows that the separation of powers in the EU system is structured in legal and institutional cooperation. In summary, it can be said about the current situation of the EU that the EU member states are currently acting sovereign and are only partially united.
Finally, it should also be noticed that the Brexit is a very important event for the current situation of the EU.29 It should be used as an opportunity to seriously discuss the question of the final integration such as of the EU sovereignty and a complete united Europe.
1 Phinnemore (2016), p. 11.
2 The EU – What it is and what it does: https://op.europa.eu/webpub/com/eu-what-it-is/en/ [08.03.2021].
3 Cini/Borraga (2016), S. 3.
4 Foster (2014), p. 5 ff.
5 Fröhlich (2014), p. 39.
6 Ondarza (2016), p. 107.
7 Hix/Hoyland (2011), p. 12 f.
8 EU Treaties, EU Law: https://europa.eu/european-union/law/treaties_en [08.03.2021].
9 The European Union – How it works, and its history: https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-the-european-union-how-it-works-and-history-3306356 [08.03.2021].
10 Bekmezci (2021), p. 22 f.
11 Institutions and bodies of the EU, in: Official Website of the EU https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/institutions-bodies_en [08.03.2021].
12 EU Legi Editions (2019): Treaty of Lisbon, p. 105 ff.
13 Statista Research Department: https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/235690/umfrage/umfrage-zum-identitaetsgefuehl-der-deutschen/ [10.03.2021].
14 Vereinigte Staaten von Europa, in: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (bpb): https://www.bpb.de/nachschlagen/lexika/das-europalexikon/177332/vereinigte-staaten-von-europa [10.03.2021].
15 „Schulz will Vereinigte Staaten von Europa bis 2025“, in: Zeit Online of 07.12.2017: https://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2017-12/spd-martin-schulz-parteitag-rede-grosse-koalition [10.03.2021].
16 Schwarz (2013), p. 206 f.
17 Parzinger, Hermann: “Togetherness”: A new heritage deal for Europe: https://www.eib.org/en/essays/new-heritage-deal-for-europe [10.03.2021].
18 Janich (2014), p. 378 ff.
19 Schmale, Wolfgang: “United States of Europe”: https://wolfgangschmale.eu/united-states-of-europe/ [10.03.2021].
20 Pan-Europa – The parent idea of a united Europe: http://www.international-paneuropean-union.eu/#/EN/History_of_PEU [10.01.2021].
21 Guercke, Olaf: „Die Vision von den Vereinigten Staaten von Europa“, in: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung: https://www.fes.de/e/die-vision-von-den-vereinigten-staaten-von-europa [10.03.2021].
22 Tritschler, Günther: „Wir brauchen die Vereinigten Staaten von Europa“, in: Europäische Politik und Integration: https://www.treffpunkteuropa.de/wir-brauchen-die-vereinigten-staaten-von-europa?lang=fr [10.03.2021].
23 Hüttmann, Martin Große: Den Brexit-Prozess erklären: Neuland für die EU-Forschung, in: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (bpb): https://www.bpb.de/apuz/310571/den-brexit-prozess-erklaeren [10.03.2021].
24 Herdegen (2017), Völkerrecht, [International Law], § 10, margin no. 3 (p. 96).
25 Herdegen (2017) Europarecht, [European Law], § 5, margin no. 1 (p. 76).
26 Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet/Rüger (2015), p. 294 ff.
27 Kirchhof, NJW 2020, 2057, margin no. 1.
28 Kirchhof, NJW 2020, 2057, margin no. 1.
29 Haller, Max: The dream of the United States of Europe. An ambitious scenario challenged by the Brexit: https://www.oegfe.at/policy-briefs/united-states-of-europe/?lang=en [11.03.2021].