United States of Europe
Added: 2017-10-30
Added: 2017-10-30

“Droga” 1929, No. 12, pp. 1029–1033


As concerns the idea for the creation of the United States of Europe, which is now promoted not just privately, but also officially, several distinct aspects have to be analysed if one wants to pass a proper judgment on this project.

The Pan-European project can be perceived primarily as an expression of the mood that has enveloped Europe since the Great War. Everyone is looking for means that would avert the recurrence of this terrible cataclysm, which – as we know – would now be even worse owing to new inventions. In this state of mind, we tend to favour a Europe in which nations go peacefully about their affairs, an image of general European solidarity in view of America’s ever growing dominance, an image of a place where reason reigns over passions. The road towards this goal is supposed to be precisely the creation of the United States of Europe.

The picture, however, becomes much foggier when we look at the project not from the point of view of this widespread yearning for universal peace, but rather from the point of view of the actual shape of those United States of Europe, and from the point of view of the actual content of this peace and solidarity. Will the envisaged United States of Europe be a customs union as Lloyd George[1] wrote recently? The answer can be found in Briand’s[2] exclamation – during a recent debate in the French Parliament, he exclaimed that it had never occurred to him that his project would be considered tantamount to the prevalence of free trade in Europe. So what will be the actual essence of this Pan-Europe? Will it involve a proper edition of the League of Nations, an international arbitration tribunal, a conference on land and sea disarmament, a common bank of issue, intellectual collaboration, etc.? If so, we need to state what the improvement – the refinement – will be. However, there is an even more important point related to these reflections on Pan-Europe. Can such a union be built at all without infringing on the sovereignty of individual states? All propagators and advocates of this idea have assured us that the sovereignty of its individual members will not be jeopardised. However, for people who think in the public law categories applicable to date, this issue is murky and very doubtful.

Let us also present here the third point of view from which the project of the United States of Europe can be considered. To understand what is going on, let us recall the propaganda that was spread so forcefully during the Great War. What was the idea for which millions of people died? The fruits of the war were supposed to include freedom for all nations and the victory of democracy. Anyone who read The Peace Conference by Dillon[3] can recreate for himself the image of all those hopes that gathered in Paris only to be disappointed.[4] Still, the propaganda was required to raise enthusiasm, without which perseverance would not be possible. Those who are mistrustful are now asking whether the lofty slogans of ending the war and defending Europe against America’s hegemony are not being used again as a cloak for egoistic interests of the mighty. They are asking whether noble ideas are not being used to mask the bait that is used to lure the weaker and make them easier to exploit. But there is also plenty of mistrust among the mighty themselves. They are reminding us that Napoleon[5] killed millions of people for the same idea – so is Briand going to succeed peacefully? But it was obvious that this Napoleonic Europe would be a French one, and the issue is to prevent the same from happening now. Still, who can foresee whom this union, if it were to come to pass, will benefit? After all, the Bolshevik dream is world domination as well – will they not try to eat this bread that has been baked by mighty capitalists?

All these considerations, however, are for historians, lawyers and economists. They will, as usual, present a well-founded theory after the fact – otherwise they would not be luminaries of positive science. However, more practical people who respect science but are not interested in such theories want an immediate answer to the question of how to react to a project that is no longer advocated exclusively in private but is instead being increasingly, prominently and intensively deliberated over in the public arena. Here is a practical, clear and firm answer.

At the parliamentary deputies’ gathering in Lwów [then in Poland; the Ukrainian name of the city is Lviv] on 24 November last year, Prince Janusz Radziwiłł[6] said the following about Briand’s projects: “The idea that the United States of Europe should be created, which was promoted by the Coudenhove-Calergi group[7] (and treated as a utopia for many years), has now been eagerly taken up by Briand and by the English government. It is obvious that the creation of the United States of Europe in the strict sense of the word is a utopia today and will remain so for a very long time”.

However, there is a fact that we have to take very seriously and which certainly implies a great danger for Poland: there is much talk not only of actual disarmament, but a discussion has started about economic disarmament as well. This is precisely the idea advocated by Mr Briand. Just like real disarmament, the idea of economic disarmament, which is proposed by powerful states, should be examined in greater detail. In Poland, there are very many idealists. However, policies are formulated by real people. You only proclaim pacifism if your calculations show that it will be profitable. If the issue looks as follows: we are to open our customs borders to stronger states with powerful industries that could kill off our industry completely and thus bring us millions more unemployed, then we have good reason to take the position that economic disarmament is good, but not just with respect to industry but also with respect to agricultural crops.

“This is the position that Poland is taking right now. As soon as our western neighbour repeals its regulations on rates on agricultural products as well as regulations that prohibit the export of our animal products and as soon as Northern America repeals its prohibitions on emigration from Europe that affect our vital interests considerably, and as soon as there is some equality in the movement of capital in Europe, we will be able to discuss this subject effectively as well. In the meantime, and as far as I know, this is also the position of our government, we must take an extremely cautious and restrained stance on economic pacifism”.

I think that the Lwów speech leaves no doubt as to how we should perceive the matter of the United States of Europe in economic terms. However, similar caution is also recommended in terms of public law implications. If the sovereignty of individual states is not to be infringed in the case of the creation of such United States, what will then underlie the Union and provide its legal foundation? If a contract is to be the sole foundation, then the fragility of such a foundation cannot be hidden behind its noble purpose since

the nations’ “holy selfishness”, which leads them to break solemn alliances, is considered even more noble. Suffice it to look at the evolution undergone by the Locarno Treaties.[8] At the time that they were signed, no one was allowed to criticise them in any manner so as not to be branded a pessimist or a person driven by jealousy. However, the Germans showed no such restraint and on the day following the signing of the Treaties, one of their most prominent politicians declared publicly that they would not renounce the lands that had been taken away from them under the Treaty of Versailles. While maintaining confidentiality, of course, I tried to draw attention to the legal deficiencies of the Locarno Treaties, and advised that the French be pushed to put forward an interpretation that would reassure Poland. Still, I was overruled together with my concerns by better lawyers who did not hold such fears. Today, in the French Parliament a statement was made that confirmed the view that Locarno has no meaning whatsoever from the point of view of our security. And yet we still had to sign those treaties so that Poland would not be seen as an obstacle to peace. Statesmen who steer global politics are forced to reassure nations once and again by putting forward some ideas, creating some institutions or entering into some pacts. Each such project is accompanied by expressions of hope that this will be the one to bring salvation. When one measure stops working, another is required. A world of illusion is being built until it is torn apart and demolished by a disease so severe that no measure will work any longer. One such measure that raises hopes for a better tomorrow is the creation of the United States of Europe. Poincaré[9] aptly stated that a single European nation would never arise and thus all comparisons with the United States of America are pointless.

However, let us return to the public law aspect of the Pan-European issue. Certainly, it is possible to construe the concept of sovereignty in different ways and to claim that it has (or has not) been affected by the Union. This is no place for such arguments. However, irrespective of which theory of sovereignty we subscribe to, we must admit that the Union must somehow “bind” its individual members and that some executive authority must be provided for in the event that this “bond” is broken by individual states. Can these states be described as sovereign? However, one could claim that sovereignty in the popular sense of the word, i.e. understood as absolute freedom, independence, etc., is already a myth now, and that in order to perpetuate their existence states bind themselves by signing hundreds of treaties with others, and thus the creation of Pan-Europe would just formalise the existing state of affairs and would in fact be a bold move, anticipating the consequences of the current situation. Again, I cannot examine this standpoint thoroughly from a legal point of view here, but there is one thing I must say. A state is a legal order. The United States of Europe will only make sense if they are also a legal order, i.e. if they are a proper state. If we think in such categories, we must be willing to recognise that a state may exist within a state, which makes sovereignty an absurd notion. However, proponents of the Pan-European idea will probably say: credo quia absurdum[10] [I believe because it is absurd].

It would be wrong to accuse me of skepticism here. This argument is just an expression of caution, which is very much needed at the time when parents and their friends are enthusiastic about the birth of a new child. Only a heartless man would say at that point that the parents will not be able to raise the child. However, caution is required because the birth of a child should not allow the parents to become less prudent in the hope that the child will look after them. You can deeply believe that the United States of Europe are a blessing, but you still need to act as if they were a mirage. This is because there is one more reason for caution, and this is, in my opinion, the most important one.

The state, as I said, is a legal order. An essential feature of positive law (which should not be confused with morality or any kind of legal ideal) is coercion. However, anyone who would think that coercion and coercion only can keep a state alive would be deeply, fundamentally wrong. A state is kept alive by a common spirit. A state must be desired by the people who live in it, otherwise it will fall apart. The same is true about any union. The United States of Europe must be a thing that Europeans yearn for. But do such Europeans even exist? As it is commonly understood, the concept of “Europeans” does not include an entire range of nations, especially Russians. However, even if we use this narrow sense of the word, we cannot fail to see the profound differences that divide Europeans into two camps. Vis-à-vis the positivist Europe, which is rationalistic and brought up on natural sciences, stands a religious Europe, a Catholic one. The latter sees its League of Nations elsewhere and certainly not in Geneva. Can these differences be overcome? It is hard to believe that this will be achieved by speeches made in moribund European parliaments. However, without common spirit no human union can either arise or be sustained.





[1] David Lloyd George (1863–1945) – British politician born in Wales, Prime Minister of Great Britain (1916–1922). At the Paris conference, he opted to weaken Germany’s position and to keep France weak.

[2] Aristide Briand (1862–1932) - French politician, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. A member of the Socialist Party since 1892, co-founder of the L’Humanite daily. He served multiple times as minister of various departments (including Foreign Affairs, Education and Religious Affairs). He was Prime Minister eleven times. He was involved in the formation of the League of Nations, was among the initiators of the Locarno Conference and co-authored the Locarno Treaties (1925) as well as the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928). Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize (1926).

[3] Emile Joseph Dillon (1854–1933) – an English-Irish journalist and linguist, Russian correspondent for The Daily Telegraph (1887–1914), he wrote accounts, among other things, of the Dreyfus trial in 1899 and of the Paris Conference in 1919. Among his works were: From the Triple to the Quadruple Alliance: Why Italy Went to War (1915), Ourselves and Germany (1916), The Eclipse of Russia (1918), The Peace Conference (1919) i Russia Today and Yesterday: An Impartial View of Soviet Russia (1929).

[4] The Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919 by the Entente, the Allied and Associated States and Germany. No representatives of Russia, either Bolshevik or “white”, were invited to the Paris Peace Conference. The Polish delegation was headed by Roman Dmowski and Ignacy Paderewski. The main provisions of the Treaty concerned German borders, the demilitarisation of Germany and reparations.

[5] Napoleon I Bonaparte (1769–1821) – French soldier and politician. On 9 November 1799, he overthrew the government of the Directory and took power as consul; in 1804, he crowned himself Emperor. History will remember him as a brilliant military leader, but he was ultimately defeated by a coalition led by England and Russia and died in exile on Saint Helena. The Civil Code introduced in France under his reign in 1804, called the Napoleonic Code, in many ways constituted a significant breakthrough in regulating legal relationships; it considerably influenced Polish legislation, not only of the Duchy of Warsaw, but also of the Kingdom of Poland.

[6] Janusz Radziwiłł (1880–1967) – Polish politician, prince, Head of the State Department (equivalent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) of the Kingdom of Poland (1917–1918), active in the Party of the National Right, in the Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government and in the Conservative Party; while he was among the architects of collaboration between conservative circles and Marshal Józef Piłsudski after the May Coup d’État, he was critical of some aspects of the post-coup political order (e.g. the methods used to suppress the opposition); deputy to the Sejm [lower chamber of the Polish Parliament] (1928–1935) and senator (1935–1939), imprisoned by the NKVD (1939), the Nazis (1944), and the NKVD again (1945–1947) and finally by the Polish Department of Security; deprived of his property, he retired from political life.

[7] Richard Nikolaus Coudenhove-Kalergi (1894–1972) – Austrian politician, count, the creator of the pan-European idea that assumed that the United States of Europe would be created as a federation among whose goals would be stopping Soviet Russia. Among his writings were Pan-Europa (1923), Pazifismus (1924) and Kampf um Paneuropa (1925–1928).

[8] Locarno Treaties (1925) – a series of agreements between select members of the League of Nations and Germany, which – in exchange for admission to the organisation and being granted a place in the League Council – undertook to respect the inviolability of the German-Belgian and German-French borders. However, Germany refused to provide a similar guarantee for its borders with Poland and Czechoslovakia. The Locarno Treaties were repudiated by Berlin in 1936.

[9] Raymond Poincaré (1860–1934) – French politician, moderate Republican, served as minister multiple times, Prime Minister of France 1912–1913, 1922–1924 and 1926–1929, President of France 1913–1920; during World War I, he made tenacious efforts to defeat Germany and subsequently to enforce the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.

[10] This is a paraphrase of a statement by Tertullian who wrote of Christ’s death and resurrection, respectively: “it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd” and “it is certain, because impossible”.

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