How, then, does one get there? An institutionalist response to Herr Fischer´s vision of a European Federation

This paper addresses Joschka Fischer's vision for Europe by way of institutionalist theory; how and by what instruments can a transition of the EU in line with Fischer's vision be conducted and controlled?

ARENA Working Paper 22/2000 (html)

Johan P. Olsen

Ordinary language makes a distinction between the utopian dreamer and the visionary political leader. The utopian, offering ideal governance and community, presents no clear ideas about how and under what conditions the polity can be moved towards the ideal. The visionary leader, by contrast, has a better understanding of the relationship between human action, institutions and the flow of history. In scholarly literature, however, the distinction is less clear than assumed. There is no general theory of institutional dynamics that explains how and when institutions of governance change and what implications will ensue; neither is there agreement on the role of deliberate intervention and governance in the process.

In this paper, these ideas are developed in the context of Joschka Fischer's scheme for a new European political order, as expressed in his Humboldt University speech. Here, the existing order based on intergovernmental cooperation and a union of states (Confederacy, Staatenverbund) is to be replaced by a European Federation. The scheme was presenting an end-state, the finalité and "the last brick in the building of European integration". The aim of the paper is not to discuss the suggested scheme in great detail, or to make a normative assessment of the desirability of a European federation. Instead, the focus is on understanding what kind of processes might produce radical institutional transformation, of the kind suggested by Fischer. The paper contrasts three theoretical perspectives on institutional dynamics, giving political leadership quite different roles. The last of these portrays the political leaders not as engineers but as institutional gardeners.

A later version of this paper was published in C. Joerges, Y. Meny and J. H. H. Weiler (eds) What Kind of Constitution for What Kind of Polity?, Robert Shuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Intitute and The Jean Monnet Chair, Harvard Law School, pp. 163-179.

Tags: ideas, treaty reform, federalism, institutionalism
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM - Last modified Apr. 21, 2016 8:58 PM