Newsletter February 2003



American Federalists and the European Union


It is ironic that as the political division between Europe and the United States over a growing number of issues increases, Europe, at the same time, is following the path of federalism inspired by the ideas of the American Founding Fathers. In the contemporary ideological opposition (some analysts go so far as describing it as the contours of the ‘cold war of the twenty-first century’) many Europeans as well as Americans seem to forget the impact that US federalists have had on the formation of the European Union, which is now moving towards the United States of Europe based on a Constitution for all European citizens.


The ratification of the US Constitution in 1789 and the creation of the modern United States defined the notion of federalism as it is understood today. The arguments in favor of a federal constitution made by Hamilton, Madison and Jay in The Federalist Papers, still represent one of the basic texts of federalist thought. All early European federalists were to a large extent influenced by the success of American federalism. Saint Simon, the great French enthusiast of an united Europe, inspired by the American example, wrote in the end of the 18th century: "Europe would be better organized if all its nations, though each ruled by its own Parliament, recognized the supremacy of a general Parliament; standing above all the governments and invested with the power to decide on their disputes." In the 19th century Alexis De Tocqueville introduced the American model of federation to Europe in his book De la Démocratie en Amérique. In the early 20th century Lord Lothian, together with his supporters and colleagues, established the Federal Union movement in Great Britain advocating the idea of a Euro-Atlantic federation. The famous Union Now! published by Clarence Streit in 1939 became the manifesto for federalists on both sides of the Atlantic. In a way Streit’s vision was somewhat more radical than that of his British and Continental colleagues. He believed in the creation of a union of 15 democracies which would include a common citizenship, a defense force, a tariff-free market, and a common currency as a result of a political agreement without transitional steps and half-measures. One could also say that Streit’s views were also more utopian, but in the end most of them have either been implemented in the modern EU or are currently in the process of implementation. This was probably the reason why American federalists were so vocal in the matters of post-war European integration; they simply often thought one step beyond.


Hardly anybody would question the great political and economic role that America has played in securing and supporting the future of post-war Europe. Without the Marshall Plan and NATO there would be no Europe as we know it today. But only few historians and enthusiasts know about the intellectual role that Americans have played in developing the European federalist movement. European thinkers who envisaged a federal European Union were strongly influenced by the US model. The ideas of Mazzini, the leader of Giovine Europa in Italy, Count Coudenhove Kalergi, the founder of the Pan-Europa campaign in France, or Lord Lothian in Britain would not be complete without the legacy of the Federalist Papers and the example of American federalists. Without Clarence Streit and the work of his followers the outcomes of the intergovernmental conference in Paris in 1950 establishing the European Coal and Steel Community would have been different from what was achieved.  


After the Second World War the ideas promoted by such American organizations as the Association to Unite the Democracies (AUD) facilitated the formation of the European Union of Federalists (UEF) in 1947 and the Young European Federalists (JEF) in 1948. Now these groups are the driving public force in developing an European Federal Constitution.


Today in the heat of the debate over Iraq and the war on terrorism some politicians would like to draw political borderlines separating the two continents along the Atlantic Ocean. However, disagreement over Iraq is not a sign of a new “cold war” but rather an example of a new mentality across borders in the era of globalization; both strong supporters and opponents of military action in Iraq could be found anywhere from Russia to France and from Britain to Turkey. Both groups exist in the US itself. As important as it is to resolve the Iraq dilemma it is vital to separate this debate from the future development of transatlantic relations. Those who try to capitalize on anti-American sentiment in Europe will try to prove that Americans have always feared a strong united Europe. But nothing could be further from the truth. The history of the federalist movement demonstrates that American support has been crucial for the success of uniting Europe.


The completion of European integration is not inevitable. The Union will need to be enlarged to include new members from the East; a Federal Constitution for the European Union linking all its countries should be written. Europeans have achieved a lot but the fact that the end of this process is in sight does not mean it is certain to be completed. American and European federalists should continue to work in solidarity drawing from the example of their predecessors in order to complete what Clarence Streit, Jean Monnet, Lord Lothian and Altiero Spinelli have started.


Piotr F. Kaznacheev


Piotr F. Kaznacheev, PhD is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association to Unite the Democracies residing in Moscow.