Is European Union Undermining the Sovereignty of Its Individual Member States?

Topics: European Union, Sovereignty, United States Pages: 8 (2499 words) Published: December 4, 2012
8. Is European Union undermining the sovereignty of its individual member states?

In order to give an answer to the question above, it is worth mentioning that the two key points that this essay will analyse [the EU and the notion of sovereignty] are both really hard to define from just one point of view, therefore different theories will be taken into account to give a complete and fulfilling outlook of the effect that the creation of the European Union had given to the concept of modern sovereignty among its member states. The essay will start with an introduction of the creation, shaping and then integration of the European Union, it will then move on trying to define what the EU and sovereignty really are, underlining the changes and innovations throughout history to eventually get to the solution that the answer can be found in the middle: yes, in some ways the member states are consciously letting the European Union undermine their individual sovereignty; but also no, because at the same time the EU is not a federation. So, member states are both sovereign and not (Hedetoft 2005). The United States of Europe imagined by Churchill is still a daydream (Pinder 2001:1). Plenty of writers and philosophers tried to analyse and give sense to the historical, cultural [and recently economical] links European states have always had [like Spinelli’s Crocodile Club] (Nelsen and Stubb 2003:91-92 and Bainbridge 1998:113). Churchill was definitely not the first nor the last one to believe in it and, as we can see, Victor Hugo anticipated him in his ‘opening speech of the Peace Congress’ saying:

A day will come when you, France, Italy, England, Germany – all of you, nations of the Continent, will, without losing your distinctive qualities and your glorious individuality, be blended into a superior unity, and constitute an European fraternity […]. A day will come when the only battlefield will be the market open to commerce and the mind opening to new ideas. A day will come when bullets and bomb-shells will be replaced by votes, by the universal suffrage of nations, by the venerable arbitration of a great Sovereign Senate, which will be to Europe what the Parliament is to England, what the Diet is to Germany, what the Legislative Assembly is to France. […] A day will come when those two immense groups, the United States of America and the United States of Europe shall be seen placed in presence of each other, extending the hand of fellowship across the ocean, exchanging their produce, their commerce, their industry, their arts, their genius […] (Hugo 1849).

European integration has always been in the great intellectuals’ minds, so the building up of the EU was just a matter of time and occasions given by the historical context. The process that led to the birth of the European Union as it is known today, has been long and, being such a recent event, is still shaping and laying the foundations for what the European Union of the future will be. The first official attempt to create a European community was made in 1929 by the French Prime Minister Aristide Briand. He had a plan: reach unification by presenting his ideas to the League of Nation (CLIOTEXT 2012). Unfortunately, the old continent still needed to get over the shock of the Great War and, due to long-standing controversies that still required drastic solutions, an agreement could not be reached. The end of the Second World War pulled the trigger. Peace and order had to be maintained -no matter what- because Europe [and the World] could not sustain the economic, social and moral burden that a hypothetical Third World War in the same century would have brought about.

The following definition of the EU can be found on its official website:

‘The European Union is a unique economic and political partnership between 27 European countries. It has delivered half a century of peace, stability, and prosperity, helped raise living standards, launched a single European...

References: Bainbridge, T. (1998) The Penguin companion to European Union. London: Penguin
CLIOTEXTE (2012) Discours d 'Aristide Briand devant la Xe session de l 'Assemblée de la Société des Nations [online] available from [20 March 2012]
EUROPA (2012) Basic information on the European Union [online] available from [20 March 2012]
EUROPA (2012a) Robert Schuman (1886-1963) [online] available from [20 March 2012]
EUROPA (2012b) Europe without frontiers [online] available from [20 March 2012]
EUROPA (2012c) Economic and Monetary Affairs [online] available from [20 Marc 2012]
EUROPA (2012d) The Treaty at a glance [online] available from [20 March 2012]
Goldstein (2001) Constituting federal sovereignty the European Union in comparative context
Jakab, A. (2006) ‘Neutralizing the sovereignty question’ European Constitutional Law Review 2 (3), 1-16
Keohane, R
Mccormick, J. (2008) Understanding the European Union: a concise introduction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan
Milev, M
Nelsen, B. F., Stubb, A. C. G. (2003) The European Union: readings on the theory and practice of European integration. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Newman, M
Pinder, J. (2001) The European Union: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Postnationaleu (2011) Post-national Sovereignty: The European path towards a political identity [online] available from [20 March 2012]
Weiler, J. H. H. (1992) The European Union: enlargement, constitutionalism and democracy [online] available from [20 March 2012]
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