The Emergence of a Europe-wide Public Sphere: Slow But Surely.
Implication of the European Constitution/Treaty of Lisbon o...
Introduction
Following the rejection of the constitution of Europe by the Dutch and French citizens in 2005, the
expectati...
that followed the constitution’s rejection and its latter fruition. According to Habermas (2001) the
conceptualization of ...
Coal and Steel Community of 1951 and the subsequent formation of the European Economic
Community of 1958, as more and more...
citizens manifest. The EU governing machinery had not anticipated the rejection from any quarter.
One unique consequence o...
The Treaty of Lisbon defines what the EU multilevel government can and cannot do, and what
means it can use. It alters the...
(iii) On common penal code: EU citizens that breach EU laws will be prosecuted under a common
EU penal code on the basis o...
I dare say the future of Europe belongs to the citizens of EU and not the prevalence of national
citizenry prototype as we...
take part in European decisions. All these effort by the Treaty of Lisbon is geared toward bringing EU
citizens closer to ...
EU government to deciding the destiny of EU citizens in previous policy projects, the European public
sphere has not found...
sphere will grow in geometric progression to form platforms (albeit in national or transnational
dimensions) where they wo...
REFERENCES
BBC News Online (2007) EU leaders agree new treaty deal,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7051999.stm: Retriev...
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The emergence of a europe wide public sphere slow but surely

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The emergence of a europe wide public sphere slow but surely

  1. 1. The Emergence of a Europe-wide Public Sphere: Slow But Surely. Implication of the European Constitution/Treaty of Lisbon on European Citizenry By Austen Uche Uwosomah Erasmus Mundus Master: Media systems & Journalism within globalization: the European perspective European public sphere Instructor: Dr. Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw Winter Term, University of Hamburg 14th February 2010. 1
  2. 2. Introduction Following the rejection of the constitution of Europe by the Dutch and French citizens in 2005, the expectations of those who pushed for a more viable democratic Europe via a consolidated constitution was dashed. That realization brought the EU governing institution to realize that it would be better to the circumvent the collective cooperation citizens of member states if they are to forge ahead with pre intended goals for the European Union. This is even so because the advocates of the constitutional rejection only considered stalling the constitution because of perceived national biases. The rejection of the constitution amplified to large extent a deficit of democracy. Consequent upon that, it became necessary for EU governance machinery to circumvent the collective EU citizens’ democratic rights for the constitution to be brought to fruition. Nonetheless, the fruition of European constitution following the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 is surely going to boost European citizens’ participation in EU affairs. This is because the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 which also, is a rehash of the EU constitution gives the new EU supra governing institution right of political powers over sovereign EU member states. As corollary, this implies that the future and fate of EU citizens will be steered to a large extent by the EU government. Against this backdrop, citizens of EU are likely to be more concerned in EU policies and less of their respective national governmental policies which had always been the case. Moreover, with the introduction of the new right of citizens’ initiative that will allow people to call for new policy proposals if supported by at minimum of a million signatures of Europeans without recourse to nationality of member states, the emerging European public sphere that had before now failed to converge in thronging manner may blossom in the nearest future. This is as a result that more European citizens would come together in a Europe-wide platform to discuss and participate in the policy proposal initiative so as to contribute to the development of their future. Against this backdrop, this paper proposes that the emergence of a vibrant Europe-wide public sphere in Europe’s future history is surely. The Constitution of Europe: The question of why Europe needed a constitution needs to be examined at the beginning of this paper so that I can establish the logic of this paper and for me to be able to reiterate the aftermaths 2
  3. 3. that followed the constitution’s rejection and its latter fruition. According to Habermas (2001) the conceptualization of the European Constitution by its founders was a push to cater for two objectives vis-à-vis “(i) immediate political goals, and (ii) dilemmas stemming from irreversible decisions of the past” (Habermas, 2001). In the first case, the constitution is needed to provide the key to conserving the democratic achievements of the European nation-state. These achievements include not only formal guarantees of civil rights, but levels of social welfare, education and leisure that are the precondition of both an effective private autonomy and of democratic citizenship (Habermas, 2001). The idea of the constitution therefore was to circumvent deadlocks of intergovernmental bargaining and to prepare institutional reform through inter-institutional and inter-parliamentary deliberations (IGC, 2007). The process of European constitution making that was initiated with the Laeken summit of December 2001 was thus to innovate a design from Treaty reform to constitution making (Bonde, 2008). The Laeken Convention’s aspiration was to elaborate a new legitimacy basis of a democratically consolidated EU signified by the promulgation of a constitution (IGC, 2007). The document was meant to be a generous offer to enhance citizens’ rights and participation (Vetters, R. et al, 2006). Furthermore, as a political collectivity, Europe cannot take hold of the consciousness of its sovereign member nations simply in the shape of symbolic crystallization of a supra political body; the continental nations of Europe having been able to establish peacekeeping and economic integration needed to be sustained via principled classical international laws in order for the fabrics that hold European states together to be consolidated. Thus, transforming those classical laws into some sort of cosmopolitan constitutional principles exemplifies the rationale for developing the constitution for European Union (Waterfield and Helm, 2007). Besides the foregoing, the challenges brought about by the differences in the way the continental nations of Europe justified humanitarian intervention which resulted to precepts of traditional power politics during the Kosovo war encouraged the rationale for a constitution capable of binding EU member states to speaking with one voice in matters of foreign and security policy, and bringing a stronger influence of its own to bear on NATO operations and UN decisions (Habermas, 2001). The strengthening of an economic unified Europe was the surest path to growth and welfare since the 3
  4. 4. Coal and Steel Community of 1951 and the subsequent formation of the European Economic Community of 1958, as more and more countries became integrated through the free exchange of people, goods, services and capital between them (a process brought to bear by the single market and single currency adoption) was yet another goal of the constitution (Habermas, 2001). Ultimately, in a constantly changing, ever more interconnected world, Europe is grappling with new issues such as globalization, demographic shifts, climate change, and new security threats, and need for sustainable energy sources (Bonde, 2008), these are the challenges facing Europe in the 21st century. Moreover, borders count for very little in the light of these challenges and the EU countries cannot meet them alone (Habermas, 2001). By acting as one, Europe can deliver results and respond to these concerns that means rethinking some of the ground rules for working together. Consequent upon that, the rationale of a constitution provides mutual grounds for legitimation for making allowances for conscious compliance from the sovereign member states to sustain an ever-closer Union (BBC Online, 2007). Rejection and Failure of the Constitution The Leaken Convention of 2001 that initiated the constitution for Europe had as its aspiration to elaborate a new legitimacy basis of a democratically consolidated EU. The new EU constitution was designed as an extended problem-solving framework for the protection of fundamental rights and the promotion of transnational citizenship. Thus in October 2004, the heads of states and governments put their signature on what they presented as the first Constitution for a united Europe, the document was meant to be a generous offer to enhance citizens’ rights and participation and only awaited to be approved by the people and their representatives in the member states (Vetters, et al, 2006). The failure of ratification came as a surprise. As it turned out, the constitution failed to get the support of the collective EU citizens particularly of citizens from the Netherlands and France. The responses from the Dutch and French citizens brought to light the deep gulf between the elites and the European citizens (European Commission 2006, cited in Vetters, et al, 2006). As a political construct, putting the constitution into the laps of EU citizens for general consensus the constitution was a conscientious effort by the EU governance to allow collective democratic approval of EU 4
  5. 5. citizens manifest. The EU governing machinery had not anticipated the rejection from any quarter. One unique consequence of the constitution debate is that in ideal terms, the constitution making was fixed up to come across the emerging polity of EU’s social constituency. This social constituency transformed into plural voices and debates that spread across the national public and media spheres of Europe. And for the first an EU related issue was debated by a cross section of a Europe-wide public thereby establishing a European public sphere of some sorts. The way the discussions were handled by European citizens across Europe showed that EU citizens, could converge into a Europe-wide public discussion forum to give opinions on the constitution albeit in favour or against the constitution idea. Nonetheless, the kind of concerns and excuses that were put forward by the different actors and parties within the debates particularly from the Dutch and French which catapulted the first failure led to the tactical political strategy of Treaty reform that was later employed by the EU government under the German Presidency of the Council of the EU for bringing it to fruition following the complete ratification of Lisbon Treaty at the turn of 2008. The Fruition of the Treaty of Lisbon (2007) According to Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, former French President and President of the Constitutional Convention, and supported by Giuliano Amato, former Italian prime minister: “the Treaty of Lisbon is the same as the rejected constitution. Only the format has been changed to avoid referendums” (Giscard d'Estaing, 2007; Amato, 2007 cited in BBC Online, 2007). These two political juggernauts of the EU government say so due to the contextualization of the treaty. Against this backdrop, the rationale for the treaty of Lisbon, among other things, not only aimed at amending earlier treaties, notably the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community on the one hand, but as well on the other hand, aimed to reinstate the constitution of Europe via treaty reform. The treaty initially failed to hit its mark for enforcement due to the initial rejection in 2008 by the Irish electorate in a referendum, however, this decision was reversed in a second referendum in 2009 by them. After that, following the last deposition ratification instrument from Czech on 13 November 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2009 and sets out new rules for the political, economic and social changes for the EU landscape with indented adherence to live up to the hopes and expectations of the European public. 5
  6. 6. The Treaty of Lisbon defines what the EU multilevel government can and cannot do, and what means it can use. It alters the structure of the EU’s institutions and how they work. As a result, the EU is more democratic by giving more powers to the European Parliament than ever before. The Parliament contains representatives of the Union’s citizens. What is referred to as “high representatives’ (see Articles 189-190 T EC as amended by the Treaty of the Nice).This development makes the EU institution more accountable to the EU citizens (Eur-Lex, 2008). The foregoing statement notwithstanding, the focal point of my paper does not centre on whether the Treaty makes EU governance more accountable to the EU people. Rather, it is on the precept that the Treaty of Lisbon forces some of the laws and conventions of EU states at national level to be submerged by the constituted common European laws and conventions. This development was exactly what the constitution had entrenched that made it fail in getting ratification earlier. However, the Treaty of Lisbon reenacted it via treaty reform bringing it into force. The Treaty interpreted common grounds for EU as “samarbejde (a cooperation), lighed (equality) and has become ligestilling (equal status). The equality status makes the various peoples in EU member landscape joined together into one common people. This new common people, as mentioned earlier, acquires common additional citizenship with common legally binding fundamental rights (Bonde, 2008) Under the Treaty of Lisbon, international agreements can be concluded by majority decisions where the internal rules can be decided by majority vote. The agreements will be binding on a member state, even if its representatives voted against the contents of an agreement. Agreements entered into by the new EU will also take precedence over the member states’ own laws and agreements. The member states at national levels will lose the power to preside over laws and agreement taken up by the EU. Such laws and agreement among others include; (1) On common borders: that the Union will have common external borders controlled by everything from common border troops to common rules on immigration and asylum and who may enter and settle in EU states. (ii) On security and crime control: that there will be common armed forces, military cooperation, common intelligence service (Sirene), common defense policy, common weapons market, common military agency (already in place since June 2004) and joint police cooperation (Europol). 6
  7. 7. (iii) On common penal code: EU citizens that breach EU laws will be prosecuted under a common EU penal code on the basis of lay down sentences for breaches of all EU laws. Member states will adopt the laws with penalties for infringement so that citizens may be punished for infringing EU laws at national level. Under the European Arrest Warrant some member states may be forced by EU to extradite a citizen to other for something that was not a crime in his or her country of origin. (iv) On common fundamental rights: the supreme interpreter of fundamental rights will now be the EU. The Union will accede to the European Convention on Human Rights, just as its member states have already done and if there is conflict between national and EU principles, the EU’s shall take priority. Thus the EU will thus get real powers over its citizens. The glaring implication of the foregoing new laws and agreement is that the EU will unite citizens of it states into a centripetal community of transnational people who will be bound by a common yearnings and aspirations. Without mincing words I think in time to come, there will tend to be a prevalence of a common superstructure citizenship over and above national citizenships. I assert this because going by the new EU formula as encapsulated in the Treaty of Lisbon, if there is a clash between EU citizenship and national citizenship on matters of judiciary precedency, it is the EU’s rules that will apply. Furthermore, with the new EU formula as encapsulated in the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU parliament members from respective member states will no longer be representatives of the peoples of the member states, but of the collective citizens of the European Union (EurActiv, 2007). As corollary, the new citizens of the EU have an obligation of obedience to EU’s laws and loyalty to the EU institutions and authority (Bonde. 2008). It is against this backdrop, I argue that EU citizen will in future be more responsive to taking active part in discussing EU policies more than ever before. This is even so if we consider that national policies in the EU states are being gradually tailored to resemble EU policies. The EU citizens have no alternative now but to worry about EU plans and policies knowing that they are as accountable to EU’s governance as they are to their national governance. Consequent upon that, 7
  8. 8. I dare say the future of Europe belongs to the citizens of EU and not the prevalence of national citizenry prototype as we had have in recent past. European Citizenry and the European Union: With the Treaty of Lisbon new power structure, the European Parliament’s powers is extended in the legislative domain to be in co-decision ranking with the Council of Ministers in nearly 50 new areas (see Treaty of Lisbon Annex 4 – List of the articles under ordinary legislative procedure). As the Treaty of Lisbon amplified the accommodation for the Parliament to be more active in power plays of the EU, this provides grounds for participation from a cross section of EU citizens. How is this so? For instance, by strengthening the role played by the European Parliament by way of more empowerment in influencing the legislative domain of the Council of Ministers, citizens’ powers in the European Union are thus strengthened. The logic behind the foregoing premise is that the Parliament is a constituent of representatives from member states that are selected via election from their respective national citizens. Against this backdrop, citizens across EU states can exercise their democratic franchise. Moreover, as this is the only point where democracy through citizen initiative is still possible, EU citizens are likely going to get involved in voting in and voting out parliamentarians who they feel have not represented their citizenry interest well. Besides that, because the Parliament now has the task to elect the President of the Commission (on the proposal of the European Council), the Parliament has to take the results of the European elections, along with the majority that won into account. This will lead to a politicization of the European elections and thereby give weight to the vote of European citizens who may now influence directly the political bias of the president of the Commission and his team of European political affairs (Fondation Robert Schuman, 2007). Apart from coaxing the EU citizens to getting more democratically involved, the treaty also creates the right of citizens’ initiative. European citizens may ask the Commission to propose a ‘draft law’ if they gather at least one million signatures from a significant number of member states. In this way, I think this will motivate EU citizens to converge for the purposes of influencing the EU institution to go in their favour. Additionally, the treaty acknowledges the importance of dialogue between citizens, civil societies. This to a large extent increases the possibility on the part of EU citizens and civil societies to 8
  9. 9. take part in European decisions. All these effort by the Treaty of Lisbon is geared toward bringing EU citizens closer to the decision making process in Europe by participation in the EU's transparent democratic procedures. With the new phase in the definition of European citizenship as being defined in the Lisbon Treaty, a central gateway in creating citizens’ participation in EU affairs could ensure in two ways. These are vis-à-vis through representative democracy by way of citizens’ votes of ‘national Parliamentarians’ and through citizenry initiative in policy proposals by way of ‘collection of one million votes’. Although taking effect in 2014, the enhancement of civil rights of the EU citizens provides grounds for European population to be active in the activities of EU governance. If this comes to bear, then likely that the emerging European public sphere, which had not been able to blossom due to multiple reasons of national drawbacks will grow and assume a cosmopolitan dimension across Europe. The Future of Europe-wide public spheres in Europe: With emergence of the European Union (EU), which brought about the emergence of a European supra territorial government and transnational citizenship. It was normal for a European public sphere to emerge shortly after that would generate public opinions needed to legitimize and moderate the authority of EU governance. Scholars and commentators on European audience studies have averred that no meaningful European public sphere has emerged since the emergence of EU and concluded there is no European public sphere (Baisnée, 2007). However, according to Habermas (2005) “European public sphere is a social group actively involved in the debates over the EU and EU policies”. Therefore, European public sphere is a converging individuals including actors from various professional and policy areas that have, in common, a strong interest in EU matters. Going by the foregoing definition, it will not be right to suggest that there have not been forums where EU citizens come together to discus EU matters. A case in mind is the constitutional debate that got wide patronage in the discussion by EU citizens across Europe. However, just because the deliberations were tabled within the hemispheres of national public spheres, the status of public opinion discussion in a Europe-wide basis thus failed to be accorded to those Europeans who took part in that episodic debate. So a European public sphere has been said not to be able to thrive. It is for this reason that many years after the amalgamation of European states into a union and with all effort by 9
  10. 10. EU government to deciding the destiny of EU citizens in previous policy projects, the European public sphere has not found need to be bothered with EU governance. The European Union albeit regarded as a leading example of cosmopolitan citizenship. Moreover, before the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU governing institutional rules were integrated into the national policies and depended on sovereign member states for implementation. Thus, whatever directive came from the EU government were tilted towards national perspective by t respective national media for the EU citizenry. Subsequently, EU issues are taken to member states and moderated in national public spheres. As a consequence, an EU centered agenda for a Europe- wide debate is almost never possible because EU citizens discuss EU issues in connection to their national affectations. This results a supplanting of European identity over national identities. EU citizens are more directly focused on local issues and perhaps are more concerned with their national issues. This is why there seems to be very little number of Europe-wide media institutions and generally low profile of European news in national media outlets. Nonetheless, a minor European public sphere emerged within political and business elites. This civil society consist of economist-reading transnational European political and business elites. This handful of EU elites, from critics view, does not fit a proper definition of what a European public sphere should be. However, it indicates that a European public sphere albeit minimal, has emerged and only needs time to become bountiful. The signing of the Treaty of Lisbon is a sure way of enhancing the bountiful growth of a Europe-wide citizens’ participation in EU affairs. The treaty’s encapsulation of laws and conventions that take precedency over member states’ vis-à-vis the exercise of citizens’ civil rights by way of voting in and out their ‘national Parliamentarians’ and policy proposal initiative right by way of ‘collecting one million votes’, is an assuring grounds for hope. Since the public opinion of the European public sphere is centripetal to European Union, the Treaty of Lisbon has helped to pay a great deal of attention to what is going on in Brussels. By so doing, political and civil participation from the media and citizens across EU landscape is likely to increase. With that, I propose that the emerging European public sphere that is yet sectoral, highly selective and a socially stratified within EU landmarks will blossomed into a Euro-wide community in the nearest future. In my opinion, I perceive this social group, which are already emerging as European public 10
  11. 11. sphere will grow in geometric progression to form platforms (albeit in national or transnational dimensions) where they would debates over EU policies. This is despite that not all the social groups within the EU participate in European political processes and debates. Nevertheless, fortunately, with the fruition of the Lisbon Treaty, more individuals are encouraged by the European institution to see themselves as belonging to European community. I believe the time is not too far away for the much sought Europe-wide public sphere to arise and bask within and beyond the geographical terrains of EU states. Conclusion: The fruition of European constitution which came back via treaty reform and manifested in the Treaty of Lisbon has implication on the emerging European public sphere. This implication suggests that the EU citizenry will converge on a Europe-wide basis to discus EU affairs. Though the drawbacks of national logistics, which have hampered European public sphere from blossoming may still exist, but they are minimized by the Lisbon Treaty. EU population can still have elections, but they cannot use votes to change legislation in the many areas where the Union is given power to decide. Though possible, it is a very long process to change an EU law under the Lisbon Treaty. The power to change an EU law now, demands great efforts from a lot of citizens in a lot of countries what I will call a transnational team work. No gain denying the possibility for a vibrant European public sphere coming together to influence and checkmate via collective discussion. With the foregoing assumptions, I conclude that the future is thus bright for the emerging Europe-wide public sphere. 11
  12. 12. REFERENCES BBC News Online (2007) EU leaders agree new treaty deal, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7051999.stm: Retrieved 04 Feb. 2010 Bonde, J. (2008) From EU Constitution to Lisbon Treaty, Foundation for EU Democracy and the EU Democrats. p. 41 http://www.j.dk/exp/images/bondes/From_EU_Constitution_to_Lisbon_Treaty_april2008.pdf" EurActiv (2007) Constitutional Treaty: the “reflection period”, http://www.euractiv.com/en/future- eu/future-eual-treaty-reflection-period/article-155739, retrieved 04 Feb. 2010 Eur-Lex (2008) Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community, signed at Lisbon, Official journal of the European Union, Vol 50, C306 http://eur-lex.europa.eu/johtml.do?uri=oj:c:2007:306:som:en:html, retrieved 26 Feb. 2010 Fondation Robert Schuman (2009) (Updated in December 2009) www.robert-schuman.eu retrieved 04 Feb. 2010 IGC (2007) Constitution, Council of the European Union website, http://www.consilium.europa.eu/showPage.aspx?id=1312&lang=en, retrieved 26 Feb. 2010 IGC (2007) Treaty of Lisbon, Council of the European Union website http://www.consilium.europa.eu/showPage.aspx?id=1296&lang=en, retrieved 26 Feb. 2010 Kubosova, L. (2007), Poland indicates it is ready to compromise on EU voting rights, EU Observer: http://euobserver.com/9/24510. Retrieved 04 Feb. 2010 Treaty of Lisbon (2007) Waterfield, B. and Helm, T. (2007) EU treaty must be re-written, warn MPs The Daily Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/07/23/neu123.xml, retrieved 04 Feb. 2010 12

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