Constructing a European Civic Society: Vaccination for Trust in a Fair, Multi-Level Europe
Studies in East European Thought, Vol. 54, No. 4, pp. 303-324, 2002
14 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2011
Date Written: 2002
The enlargement of the European Union to include countries of Central and Eastern Europe has already had pervasive impact. The populations and leadership of applicant countries have undertaken massive political and economic reforms, partly with an eye to meeting the membership criteria specified by the European Council in Copenhagen 1993. Likewise, the present member states expect expansion to enhance stability and prosperity, to mention but two intertwined areas of long-standing concern. Expansion also adds urgency to some issues of long standing on the agenda of reform in the European Union.The steep increase in Member States requires drastic reconfiguration of Union institutions, to ensure adequate representation and accountability while maintaining sufficient action capability. The prospect of enlargement is also one cause of the renewed attention and concern for a European identity, to be nurtured by European citizens within a European civic society. Such an identity, citizenship and society seem to be sought for as a medicine or vaccination for some illness, partly in preparation for expansion of the European Union. Thus President Prodi of the European Commission has called for a European “soul” and a “shared feeling of belonging to Europe” (Prodi 1999) when reforming the institutions; and he and others have requested a broad ranging debate in civil society about the future of the Union, “the structure of political life in a Union with 25 or more members.” (Prodi 2001). These comments do not seek to set out a blueprint for institutional design - that would be a misplaced expectation of political philosophy (Follesdal 2000). Instead, I seek to clarify the grounds and some desiderata of a European civic society with an eye to the eastward expansion of the Union. Central elements of these searches for a civic society, citizenship and identity are worthy of reflection: what are the symptoms, what is the diagnosis, and which vaccines are sought for – and which are not?
Keywords: Enlargement, Civic Society, Multi-level Europe, EU, identity, citizenship
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