Chapter 3: The Battle for Europe

12. National Situations and Federalist Attitudes
To complete this introduction to my European activities I think it is useful at this point to mention some points in order to better set out the context, the ambitions and the limits of the European federalist actions at that time.
First of all the impact of national institutions on federalist attitudes.
When the various works dealing with the history of the activity of the federalist movements are examined one cannot help noticing a certain national eulogistic tendency. And yet what appears a weak point is rooted in something deeper that federalists themselves have sometimes concealed with stereotypes. In reality every position, including the most supranational or federalist ones, has always been conditioned by the national politics of each individual.
Let us begin with my Italian compatriots who were often shown to be and defined as more “advanced” and more “radical” when it came to the subject of supranational institutions  compared to most of the other movements. The cause of this attitude rose from a certain disillusionment brought on by the political life and national history of Italy. A way was sought at the European level, that would lead towards a modern society to which they could belong. Historical experience had not permitted the creation of a satisfactory national refer­ence framework. A united Italy came about late, in the second half of the 19th century. From then on and until 1898 it had been the practice to concentrate on the problem of the Catholic opposition to the new State. The First World War led to Fascism – a historic caricature of a state plagued by a deep national insecurity. It was only in 1945 that Italy seemed to resolve its principal start-up problem that had prevented its entry into the modern world.
Which road to take? Some people maintained that playing the nation card was more than enough. The template for European federalism responded not only to the common need of all Europeans but also offered the possibility of a shortcut to the resolution of the problems of Italian society in the modern world, hence the very often “more European” attitude of the Italian federalists.
Now that twelve European countries are, since 1st January 2002, in possession of a single currency some signals seem to indicate a supranational reality that is increasingly taking more shape. Italy, always very “European”, appears to be demonstrating some nationalistic reactions which in the past (and sometimes in the present too) were the prerogatives of other large countries. It is perhaps a question of growing pains or simply a way of learning that European Federalism is not there to eliminate or compensate the small, medium or large nations but to complete them at a higher level, to enrich them in terms of civilisation.
Germany had some problems in common with Italy but to speak of them in a “revolution­ary” way caused a good deal more fear than in Italy. This was first of all because the trauma of Nazism had been stronger because of its division into two parts. The problem of the defence against the East, particularly during the Cold War, rendered this country’s federal­ists more “moderate” and at the same time well disposed to a supranational Europe capable of giving a credible response to the need for defence. The crisis caused by the failure of the European Defence Community had forced the Germans to become “atlanticised” (to have at least the guarantee of an American defence, a necessity for them in the absence of a real Europe). Some Europeans, critical of the Germans at the time for being “too friendly with the Americans”, risked pushing them still further towards the choice of a national strategy. Nationalism feeds on itself and on the reactions that it provokes, though in the opposite direction, beyond every border.
As for France it is a country that, like England, has a long “national” history. Although punctuated by failures this history can also boast some excellent successes. For a French citizen, therefore, it was not as evident on the face of it, as for an Italian, that a federal Europe was possible or necessary. Moreover, France has centuries of centralising power behind it, and this has allowed it to survive as a continental State. The French Revolution did not alter anything in this regard in relation with the monarchy, but only sought to be more efficacious.
The French European federalist, therefore, had to overcome some important obstacles. On the one hand he had to understand, and be convinced, that European unity was a new means for solving a new problem: the independence of the French citizens and that of the French nation passes through European unity. A partial, but real, abandonment of national sovereignty is today the condizio sine qua non of every achievement of independence. What may have been valid last century at the level of a single State is no longer so, except on the European scale.
On the other hand, after a long historic period during which the “necessity” for central­isation permeated the deepest levels of their culture, the French naturally find it more difficult to understand a federalist division of powers. Despite its closeness to Switzerland, where – according to the Constitution – the Confederation (which is supranational) guarantees the independence of the cantons, it has not been easy for French cultural centres to realise that European federalism and the European supranationality which it entails do not in any way mean the diminution of the French culture or identity, but rather they guarantee their surviv­­al and development in the modern world. The alternatives are marginalisation and decline for France as for every European country. So it is easier to understand why, in France, the federal­ist movements were much more careful, than in other European countries, to put emphasis on the “integral” federalist doctrine.
In Switzerland it is exactly the opposite. There is no need to explain federalism in this country. They live it, to the point of sometimes being unaware of it. With the Swiss the necessity for linking themselves constitutionally to Europe needs to be justified. This in a country that, following a series of geographic and historical circumstances, has found its happiness, at least since 1847, the date of the Constitution as a Federal State, by keeping itself “above the mix”. It’s a pity that Switzerland was not really committed to explaining and highlighting, as Denis de Rougemont tried to do, the substance of its federalism in a Europe that in any event, in one way or another, will have to, willy nilly, be increasingly federalist in order to live well in this new century. And even democratic federalism cannot be other than increasingly more European.

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