The Morning After

In my last blog I refused to reply myself to the Gretchenfrage: Should I vote for Volt? The new kid on the block would have to gain at least one out of every 150 votes cast and, anyhow, should I change horses midway? And does Volt suit my preferences? Am I still as ‘EU-minded’ as I used to be? After all, I keep wondering about where the EU is heading.

Having gained a whooping three seats, Volt receives much acclaim now. There is even talk about their joining a government coalition that might be short of votes. But my purpose here is to discuss, not the conundrum this would pose for them if asked, but their electoral platform in view of evolving ideas about the EU as neither intergovernmental, as many want it to be, nor federalist as a dwindling group of enthusiasts (Volt included?) wish to see it. So, what is the EU?

Doing away with national vetoes, one of Volt’s planks, is relevant here. Vetoes have been the bane of federalists ever since the ‘Empty Chairs’ crisis of the early 1960s with De Gaulle blocking business until, not only France, but all member states retained the right to a veto. Later this would be known as the unanimity rule for important issues. Abolishing it, as Volt as a European party (now with a national branch in the Netherlands) proposes could mean going from the frying pan into the fire. It would replace state sovereignty and territorialism with their equivalents on EU level: maybe exaggerating, but only a little! Whenever talking about the EU having to act forcefully – also on a global scale – this is the imagery. What is needed instead is a reset of thinking sovereignty.

French philosopher Jean-Marc Ferry (2020) tells us that it can – and should – be shared. I have learned about him from Nicolas Leron (2021) reviewing his latest on ‘La vie des idées’, the website promoted by Pierre Rosanvallon. The argument rests on Ferry’s ‘cosmopolitan hypothesis’ coming from no less than Imanuel Kant. Applied to Europe, it leads to thinking, not about federation but about a cosmopolitan or transnational union where sovereignty is shared, for instance by networking the European Parliament with those of member states, much as  those between them. I am reminded of Blatter (2019) proposing for self-styled ‘associated citizens’ to become members of ‘associated parliaments’ dealing with issues common to two or more countries, an idea which he also applies to the governance of the Eurozone.

So Leron exonerates Ferry from the charge of advancing a supranationalism detrimental to the European project. (See also Zielonka 2014) If this sounds far removed from planning, then see Sylvain Kahn (2014) about ‘The nation state as a territorial myth of European construction’. Invoking amongst others an earlier book by Ferry, he says about het EU: ‘Each state willingly participates in the sovereignty that is enacted on other territories …. European construction therefore introduces a new concept of territorial sovereignty.’ (224) Even more poignantly, Kahn concludes that in the minds of Europeans ‘…the nation-state … becomes the keystone of the narrative behind the Europe they are really constructing: a voluntary co-operative process of mutual sharing of their national territories and of the sovereignty embodied in each of them.’ (227) Volt might see its task, not as promoting more Europe, but as making such sharing a reality. If so, there would be planning implications galore!



Blatter, J. (2019) ‘Kick-off contribution. Let me vote in your country, and I let you vote in mine.  A proposal for transnational democracy’, in: J. Blatter, R. Bauböck (Eds) (2019) Let me vote in your country, and l let you vote in mine. EUI Working Paper RSCAS 2019/25, 1-6.

Ferry, J.-M. (2020) Comment peut-on être européen ? Éléments pour une philosophie de l’Europe. Calmann-Lévy, Paris.

Kahn, S. (2014) ‘The nation-state as a territorial myth of European construction’, Espace géographique, 43(3), 240-250.

Leron, N. (2021) L’épiphanie cosmopolitique: À propos de : Jean-Marc Ferry, Comment peut-on être européen ? Éléments pour une philosophie de l’Europe. 

Zielonka, J. (2014) Is the EU Doomed? Polity Press, Cambridge.

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