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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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As a practitioner of politics, I always find it refreshing to read the work of political philosophers. This allows one to put one’s own practice into a broader perspective and results in either strengthening the foundations of one’s practice or questioning them. Sophie Heine’s book provides just such an opportunity.

For the last twenty years, my involvement in politics has unfolded at the European level, initially as part of the European Green Party, then, since 2009, as a Member of the European Parliament. I am resolutely committed to European political integration and, unlike most of my fellow Greens, I have often resorted to the concept of sovereignty to justify this commitment. That term is usually associated with the nation-state and hence is considered with a degree of suspicion by many pro-EU politicians.

My usual definition of sovereignty is the ability of a given society to autonomously make the choices that allows it to shape its future. Linking to Sophie’s book, it is therefore a positive form of sovereignty (‘freedom to’) rather than a negative one (‘freedom from’). Of course, expressed in that way, one realizes quickly that any sovereignty is bound to be limited: our future is always determined not only by our own choices but also by the laws of nature, or by decisions taken by others – or by our predecessors. However, it is also clear that when the citizens of the largest EU member states barely exceed 1 per cent of the...

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