The Crisis of the European Union: A Response
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Translated by Ciaran Cronin.
In the midst of the current crisis that is threatening to derail the historical project of European unification, Jürgen Habermas has been one of the most perceptive critics of the ineffectual and evasive responses to the global financial crisis, especially by the German political class. This extended essay on the constitution for Europe represents Habermas’s constructive engagement with the European project at a time when the crisis of the eurozone is threatening the very existence of the European Union. There is a growing realization that the European treaty needs to be revised in order to deal with the structural defects of monetary union, but a clear perspective for the future is missing. Drawing on his analysis of European unification as a process in which international treaties have progressively taken on features of a democratic constitution, Habermas explains why the current proposals to transform the system of European governance into one of executive federalism is a mistake. His central argument is that the European project must realize its democratic potential by evolving from an international into a cosmopolitan community. The opening essay on the role played by the concept of human dignity in the genealogy of human rights in the modern era throws further important light on the philosophical foundations of Habermas’s theory of how democratic political institutions can be extended beyond the level of nation-states.
Now that the question of Europe and its future is once again at the centre of public debate, this important intervention by one of the greatest thinkers of our time will be of interest to a wide readership.
legal, but fundamentally moral matters is a deflation of the demands on legitimation of the world organization. For the relevant principles of distributive justice as well as the negative duties to refrain from justiciable human rights violations and wars of aggression are rooted in the core moral contents of all of the major world religions and in the cultures they have shaped. These intuitively known norms permit every world citizen to make a morally informed judgement about the work of the
to give oneself and to follow reasonable laws, reflecting generalizable values and interests. The relationship of rational beings to each other is determined by the reciprocal recognition of the legislating will of each person, where each individual should ‘treat himself and all others never merely as means but always at the same time as ends in themselves’.27 This categorical imperative defines the limits of a domain which must remain absolutely beyond the disposition of others. The ‘infinite
‘inherent’ rights which every person is supposed to possess by his very human nature: ‘Human rights are understood as conditions for inclusion in a political community’.40 I agree with that. The problematic move is the next one which effaces the 39 40 which must then assume the form of global police measures. On this, see Klaus Günther, ‘Kampf gegen das Böse? Zehn Thesen wider die ethische Aufrüstung der Kriminalpolitik’, Kritische Justiz 27 (1994): 135–57. Kenneth Baynes, ‘Toward a political
a huge population, but without institutions being established at the European level capable of effectively coordinating the economic policies of the member states. No one can write off any more the call by the president of the IMF for ‘European economic governance’ as unreasonable. The models of a ‘rule-compliant’ economic policy and a ‘disciplined’ budgetary policy that conform to the requirements of the stability pact do not meet the requirement of a flexible adaptation to rapidly shifting
permanent footing and to vet national budgets – even before they are submitted to the national parliaments. It is not that these proposals are unreasonable. However, it is outrageous to suggest that such an encroachment by the Commission on budgetary prerogatives of the national parliaments would not impinge on the treaties and that it would not represent an unprecedented exacerbation of the long-standing democratic deficit. An effective coordination of economic policies must involve an increase