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For a Sovereign Europe

Sophie Heine

While anti-European forces are still raging, pro-Europeans seem impotent and deprived of a strong, clear and convincing alternative. This book is an attempt to fill that void: reacting to the anti-European wave, it also outlines a strong criticism both of the current EU and of its advocates. Far from the Europeanist defence of the status quo, it proposes an original and radical project of European sovereignty. Its message is both critical and propositional.

This book is therefore original in its method, approach and content. It distinguishes itself from most of the literature on the subject by going beyond the narrow cleavage opposing mainstream anti- and pro- Europeans. In this general polemic, anti-European arguments usually promote a return to sovereignty at the national level, while pro-Europeans justify the existing EU configuration and its so-called "sharing" or "division" of sovereignty. Despite being clearly in favour of a deeper European integration in some fields, Sophie Heine refuses to throw away the classical concept of sovereign power. Relying on a rich literature and deploying a theoretical and strategic argument, she proposes to rehabilitate this notion at a supra-national level while avoiding the common traps of national sovereignty. This allows her to propose a redefinition of European federalism connected to her broader liberal approach.

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Chapter 3: A Legitimate European Government: A Liberal Approach


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A Legitimate European Government: A Liberal Approach

Three elements, absent in the current EU institutions and policies, are fundamental to build the legitimacy of a future sovereign European government: first of all, it has to be democratic. We will discuss different possible definitions of this political regime and will give our preference to the liberal approach. Secondly – and this is also part of political liberalism’s prerequisites – we will highlight that, in order to be legitimate, such a government also needs to be able to produce policies reflecting its citizens concerns, opinions and interests. Finally, its actions will remain legitimate only if the adequate legal framework prevents it from abusing its power in an illiberal way. This can be done by a strict application to the rule of law principle.

The current EU is not democratic

A first condition for a sovereign European entity to be legitimate is that it conforms to democratic criteria. As pointed out by several observers and social and political actors, the current EU setting is far from democratic.

Most pro-Europeans have justified this state of affairs by arguing that the sui generis shape embodied by the EU is a new form of governance which cannot be assessed with the classical tools of political thought. Often, they go as far as to argue that this institutional setting is more advanced and better than the one traditionally encountered in nation-states. This line...

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