Comparative Federalism: The European Union and the United States in Comparative Perspective

By Anand Menon; Martin Schain | Go to book overview

7
Comparing Constitutional Change in the
United States and the European Union

Paul Magnette

While claiming to be building a sui generis polity, European political leaders simply cannot help looking at the United States each time they contemplate a reform of the institutional arrangements of the European Union. Frequent outbreaks of anti-Americanism notwithstanding, European elites remain fascinated by this country, the pioneer of the science of federalism—and the godfather of European integration.

Small wonder, then, that the inaugural session of the European Convention, held in the Brussels building of the EP in February 2002, was hailed by a unanimous European press corps as 'Europe's Philadelphia'. Finally, the European Union seemed to have arrived at its 'constitutional moment'. After half a century of piecemeal and restless European integration, after twenty years of uninterrupted and evermore tricky treaty reform, the leaders of the EU seemed to have reached the conclusion that the time had come for a profound and enduring rationalization.

Two years later, the enthusiasm had faded away. The Brussels summit of December 2003, where the Heads of State and Government failed to agree on the Convention's constitutional draft, was described in the press as a 'fiasco'. National politicians—motivated by the need to defend narrow national interests—and diplomats only too happy to prove that a Convention from which they had been excluded had proved less efficient than classic intergovernmental conferences—had apparently reasserted their rights as 'Masters of the treaties'. The example of Philadelphia, this time, shed a cruel light on the European experience. In the Federalists' rhetoric, the comparison with the American achievement dramatically highlighted Europe's failure (Lamassoure 2004).

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